Unfortunately, Apple (macOS) doesn't support this.
(IMO) it's a weird situation because the hardware supports it and you can actually accomplish it in Windows via Bootcamp. For whatever reason, (I suspect "user experience" because it can get tricky to set up correctly) Apple chose to not implement it.
If not, can anyone recommend an alternative way to connect two monitors + peripherals with minimal cables into the Mac?
The best way is to use a dock
See this post for a solution to connect multiple monitors and multiple peripherals: Easiest way to connect two non-thunderbolt monitors to my MacBook Pro 2017 and charge it at the same time?
You would have to use 2 Thunderbolt cables, but if you get a charging dock over one port you could drive a monitor, charge your device and support your peripherals while another TB port drives the second monitor. This would limit the number of cables to just 2 - which isn't so bad considering if this was 2013, you'd have three - the MagSafe adapter cable to deal with.