I had an argument with a Steam friend, and the conversation was about the topic of so-called "multiplayer" games. I brought up games like TF2, Dota2, and SR3 as games that define what multiplayer is. My friend, however disagreed, and insisted that co-op and multiplayer are different categories; co-op, where you play along players, and multiplayer, meaning playing against someone else.

Am I wrong to think these are two seperate genres of games? Or are co-op and multiplayer virtually the same?

  • 1
    I always thought of co-op meaning everyone works together (split screen story mode) while multi-player is PvP (though can include teams). Many game menus like to split it up this way as well. As far as official documentation, I have none.
    – Batophobia
    Jul 13 '13 at 6:12

Co-op is a subcategory or game mode of Multiplayer.

Multiplayer covers all games where you are more than one player.

Co-op is short for cooperative and refers a multiplayer game where you play together with other players to complete a common goal against a non-player enemy.

So Co-op games are multiplayer games, but multiplayer games don't have to be co-op games.

Co-op mode is commonly found in shooter games as a way of playing the story mode in multiplayer. Examples of this is the multiplayer/co-op mode in Quake, Saints Row: The Third and Gears of Wars series.

You also find Co-op in many Hack and slash, rpg and music games, some examples of these are the Diablo series, Secret of Mana and Guitar Hero.


I think co-op is a subcategory of multiplayer. More precisely:

  • Multiplayer Basically every video game with more than one player, be it through a network connection or at the same PC.
  • Co-op Several players cooperate in solving a task and do not compete with each other. If there are opponents or enemies, they are controlled by an AI.
  • PVP Players compete with each other. Note that this does not mean that there can be no teams.

So games like DOTA would be multiplayer PVP, while for example Portal 2 would qualify as co-op.

  • 1
    Your definition of co-op includes team vs team battles (like most TF2 matches). The "task" there could be capturing a flag or eliminating the other team. Did you mean it this way?
    – Batophobia
    Jul 13 '13 at 21:28
  • @DavidStarkey Thank you for pointing that out - I didn't even notice :D
    – aetanis
    Jul 13 '13 at 21:43
  • @aetanis What about games like Borderlands, where there is a PvP AND a PvE mode? Is that classified as just co-op? Or multiplayer? Or both?
    – childe
    Jul 13 '13 at 21:53
  • every co-op game is a multiplayer game :D If there is both PvP and PvE co-op, then the first is PvP mode, the second co-op mode.
    – aetanis
    Jul 14 '13 at 16:31

I typically associate co-op as being able to complete what would normally be a single-player campaign, but with a friend instead. Portal 2 had a separate co-op campaign, but you were still just with that one person (and the awesome AI monitoring you).

Multiplayer I typically associate with deathmatch type games, capture the flag, etc.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.