Jackbox games have become a popular pandemic life pastime, likely because the barrier for entry is absurdly low: One person hosts the game; everyone else pulls out their phones, types a code into a website, and they’re good to go. No need to make an account or download a separate app — just type four digits into a browser prompt and think of a clever username.
It’s for that reason I’m excited about a new feature Valve is currently testing on Steam. The “Invite Anyone” upgrade to the existing Remote Play feature allows you, a Steam gamer, to play compatible games with any of your friends. They won’t need to set up an account on Steam to do so; they’ll just be able to hop right in after they click on a hyperlink (and install an app).
That’s what Valve’s promising in its Steam Client Beta update notes, at least. As for how well this feature works in practice, there’s only one way to find out: by testing it with some games.
To join me on this adventure, start by enrolling yourself in the Steam Client Beta via Steam > Settings > Account. The option to join the beta should be fairly obvious.
Once you’re in, you only have to download any necessary updates to the Steam client.
Then, enable Remote Play in your settings:
To start the fun, launch a game that supports Remote Play, a list of which you can find by filtering your Library using the icon to the right of the search box:
Then, pull up the Steam Overlay (Shift + Tab is the default hotkey) and look for the new “Remote Play Together – Copy Link” callout in your friend listing:
Click on “Got it!,” and then click on the little chain-link icon to the right of the “Remote Play Together – Copy Link” title. This box will appear, at which point your link should be copied to your clipboard:
Then, just send that link to a friend — who will need to have Steam Link installed on their Windows, Android, or iOS device before they click. (For now, this version of Remote Play won’t work with those running macOS; a dedicated Steam Link app isn’t available as of this writing.)
As for how this new version of Remote Play works in practice, I tried it out on iOS and found it super convenient. There is, of course, the caveat that the host will need to pick a game that people can play on a couch together (e.g. Overcooked). Games like the one in my example, Stardew Valley, support remote access, but you both won’t be able to control two separate farmers and play on the same farm together, as that’s not the way the game is set up. If you tried it, you’d both be sharing control of one character, which would be complete chaos. (Or possibly fun? Up to you.)
If you need some ideas to get you going — beyond the always-approachable Lego series of games — Steam’s sale page for remote games is a pretty good list to start with. Remember: A game can’t just be co-op for this to work. It has to be the kind of game where two people with two controllers can sit around one desktop PC to play. Don’t buy the wrong titles assuming that Valve has flung open the doors to allow you to play any game, co-op, with anyone — it hasn’t, not quite.