There are a couple of things to look at when it comes to co-operative games. The first is what they actually are. Co-operative games mean that everyone is working together to beat the game. The group wins or loses as a whole. There are other games that involve two sides, either in teams, or all versus 1, but those will be addressed in another post.
The second thing to consider is if you like co-op games or not. Some people really like playing games in the pursuit of a solo win. They want to do the best they can do, and not have to depend on other people in order to win. I can't blame them for that, maybe they work as part of a team at their job and they want a game to not feel anything like work. Other people thrive in that competitive environment.
If you like the idea of working in a team, perhaps with your family, here's a small sampling of the multitude of co-op games that are in the marketplace these days.
First, let me start with three games that I have not played, but have heard a lot about. Those three are Castle Panic, Elder Sign, and Flash Point: Fire Rescue. Castle Panic and Elder Sign were played on Tabletop (Youtube), and that's one of the better avenues to explore to learn more about them. Flash Point puts you in the role of a firefighter. You have to go into buildings and rescue people before time runs out. It seems like a really cool game, it's won a bunch of awards. I have it sitting on my shelf, waiting for the right group to play it with.
Now, for the games I have played.
Forbidden Island/Pandemic (2-4 Players)
The best thing you can do to learn more about these two, is read my comparison of them in this post.
Both games take about 30-45 minutes. Forbidden Island does tend to run shorter, and is less prone to the fast loss. Forbidden Island is the more kid friendly of the two, but Pandemic is great too.
Space Hulk: Death Angel the Card Game (1-6 Players)
This is not a kid friendly game. The theme is dark, the art is dark, and the game is really tough. I like it because everyone has to work together to best use their abilities. Each person does need to know the game, because there are times where they have to make decisions on their own that affect the entire group. Death Angel does have the greater player flexibility, which I like for those larger groups. The last time I played, we had 5 people, which was too many for any other co-op we had. This is a great game for a group of guys, High School or later. I'm pretty sure the game says 13+, and I'd keep to that.
Forbidden Island wins the price war hands down. It really is the best bang for your buck game on the market right now.
If you get one from this list, it's hard to go wrong with Forbidden Island. Pandemic is deeper than Forbidden Island, but also a little harder to learn. Death Angel is probably the hardest game on the list. I'd say that my group has about a 40% win rate, maybe a bit higher, but I'm not sure.
If you're going to get two, grabbing Forbidden Island and Death Angel for under $35 is an amazing deal, and a lot of game to enjoy.