It’s easy to forget that the Xbox 360 has a featured called System Link which allows players to connect consoles through a network to play multiplayer games. Unlike split-screen multiplayer (where people are playing using the same console,) System Link lets you link more than one console to play the same game. It’s worth pointing out that to make use of this feature, you don’t need an internet connection at all, since you’re basically using a wired connection. The reason why not a lot of people are aware of this functionality is because to set up a wired connection, you need at least two consoles, two copies of the same game, two TVs or monitors and an Ethernet/System Link cable. As you can see, this is awfully specific and not a lot of people are willing to go through so much trouble only so that they can play together. Nevertheless, if you miss LAN parties and you prefer consoles to the PC, this is one of the best solutions I can think of.
A couple of notes before moving on. On Xbox’s support page, you can find a descriptive article that explains how to connect two or more Xbox 360 consoles. Additionally, for a full list of titles that support System Link, check out this article on Wikipedia.
Borderlands 2 is, without a doubt, one of the best cooperative experiences you can have on a modern console. Apart from the solid cooperative mode, the game has a great sense of humor, a unique world structure, pleasant cel-shaded visuals and some compelling RPG mechanics. If you take into account all the downloadable content that was released after the game came out and the fact that the game is at least 30 hours long, Borderlands 2 is a no-brainer when it comes to playing with other people on the Xbox 360.
How does it work? Borderlands 2 supports cooperative play. There’s one player per console and up to four players can play the game at the same time.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
I know I could have gone with pretty much any Call of Duty on the series and that older entries in the series hold up remarkably well, but I decided to include Black Ops 2. Should you decide to link at least two Xbox 360 consoles, this game allows you to play both cooperatively and competitively and you can even fill empty slots with bots. There are also several multiplayer modes to check out (including the extremely popular Zombie mode,) downloadable maps, DLC packs and a lot of content to enjoy with some friends.
How does it work? For Competitive Play, two players can play on the same console console and up to eighteen players can participate at the same time. Cooperative Play, on the other hand, supports up to four players.
Diablo 3’s single-player has been praised by critics and long-time fans of the series, but being able to play with other people is also a fantastic feature. Playing cooperatively is one of the best parts about this new entry in the series and the controls on console work remarkably well. If you like loot, action-RPGs and games that allow you to play with your friends, Diablo 3 is one of the best recommendations I can give to you.
How does it work? One player per console and up to four players can play together.
Gears of War 3
Gears of War 3 is, without a doubt, one of the best titles to play via LAN on the Xbox 360, since the third entry in the popular series of third-person shooter comes packed with content. Gears of War 3 is an amazing game in its own right, but once you get tired of playing alone, it’s great to see that it features so many coop modes.
How does it work? There are bots available for empty player slots, you can play the entire campaign with up to three other friends and on top of that, the Horde Mode supports up to five players. In competitive mode though, there are two players per console, so that up to ten players can compete at the same time.
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary
Whenever people hear the words Halo and Anniversary on the same sentence, they probably think of the debacle involving The Master Chief Collection which was filled with bugs and an unplayable multiplayer mode. But they might have forgotten that Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary was an amazing title. Apart from including the entire campaign from the first game, there’s competitive and cooperative modes and playing them with the graphical overhaul, remastered sound and extras such as achievements and hidden collectibles, make this one of the best Halo game ever made.
How does it work? If you link two or more Xbox 360 consoles, you can play cooperatively with up to three other friends. Competitive modes support up to four players per console so that up to sixteen players can play at the same time.
Left 4 Dead 2
Unlike other games included on this list, the Left 4 Dead series isn’t exclusive to the Xbox 360 console, so you might want to check out the PC version as well. But if you’re willing to connect a couple of 360 consoles to play other games featured here, I definitely recommend getting a copy of Left 4 Dead 2.
How does it work? The System Link feature has eight-player support in versus mode (two per console) and four players in any other mode (two per console as well.)
I can’t think of a better two-player cooperative game that’s as strong as Portal 2. The single-player campaign is amazing, but the cooperative one has some tricks up its sleeve that I wasn’t expecting when I first played it. Additionally, once you finish the coop mode, you can check out some of the extra maps.
How does it work? As you would expect, the game allows you to connect two Xbox 360’s to play with a friend. One player per console so that two players can participate in the cooperative campaign.
Quake III: Arena
Usually regarded as one of the best competitive first-person shooters ever made, Quake III: Arena is a title that no fan of the genre should miss. Unfortunately, not a lot of people remember that an Xbox Live Arcade version of the game came out in late 2010. Of course, playing with an Xbox 360 controller isn’t the best way to experience Quake III, but if you’re remotely interested in playing a fast-paced FPS on a console, this is still a terrific version. It’s worth mentioning that this version has higher resolution levels and that the controls work better than you’d expect for a “twitch” shooter of this kind.
How does it work? Competitive: One player per console and up to eight players can play at the same time.
Resident Evil 5
People have strong opinions about Resident Evil 5, especially those who think the fourth entry in the survival horror series is the best (I’m one of those people.) But if you want to play a cooperative survival horror game, you’ll be hard pressed to find something better than Resident Evil 5.
How does it work? One player per console and up to four players can participate at the same time.
Unreal Tournament 3
A lot of people have forgotten about Unreal Tournament 3 and that’s definitely a shame, since the first-person shooter introduced some compelling ideas to the series and brought back some of the most popular ones. For starters, there was a staggering number of modes to participate in, there were also vehicles and a story mode. The Xbox 360 version had five exclusive maps, two exclusive maps, a two-player split screen mode and all the DLC is included in the disc. Unfortunately, there’s no mod support.
How does it work? Two players per console for up to sixteen players at the same time. Also, empty slots can be filled with bots.
Other games worth mentioning: Blur, BioShock 2, Halo Reach, Halo 4, Halo 3: ODST, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Borderlands, Doom 3: BFG Edition, Gears of War 2, Gears of War, Gears of War: Judgement and all the other Call of Duty games.