Top Ten Tuesday 27

My Top Ten Funniest Games

Disclaimer: There are many top ten lists, but this one is mine. If you think a game is missing here, I either didn't play it, didn't have any interest in it, or I just hate you.

Pre-List Notes

Humor is tough. In all my film classes we were warned repeatedly to never do comedy, and it's a huge rookie mistake. Humor is extremely subjective and comes from a unique combination of writing and delivery that speaks to each person differently. Video games have come a long way since just text on the screen and now we can appreciate a whole range of human emotions on screen from comic relief characters to satire. As the writing has evolved so too has the capacity for jokes, hilarious voice acting, and light-hearted moments that keep us grounded during the all too familiar Murder 'Em All plotlines of today's games. Having recently played The Bard's Tale, a game particularly known for its humor, I decided to see where exactly it would stack up in my personal list for Top Ten Funniest Games.

Top Ten Funniest Games

10) Toejam and Earl in Panic on Funkotron

A brilliantly fun same-screen cooperative platformer (that definitely made my co-op list), this sequel put our titular heroes back on their home planet of Funkotron and tasked with recapturing all the Earthlings that stowed away on their ship. Enemies include typical annoying tourists whose cameras stun you, rich old ladies with ferocious poodles, a ghost cow capable of briefly possessing our heroes, and an inexplicably naked man in a box who....sings at you and throws tomatoes. The game was zany 90s humor at its best full of minigames that shouted words like RADICAL and FUNKY at you, not to mention a kind of 2D version of those Sonic tunnels called the Hyperfunk Zone. Certainly a classic of its era and one in which I always remember fondly and hilariously.

9) The Bard's Tale

"The undead are rising from their graves, even my mother in law! It was tough enough killing her the first time!"

After I started listing out my short list of funny games The Bard's Tale just couldn't compete with some of my favorites. I fear that much of this is because The Bard's Tale is the weakest game on this list, even though I'm trying to judge solely on how much I enjoyed the overall humor in each game. While I did enjoy a lot of the jokes and gags that were presented, I felt like there was a lot of low-hanging fruit to be had with making fun of tired fantasy and video game tropes, especially by the time I played it. But The Bard's Tale does make this list and The Bard is definitely a hilariously snarky character. I especially enjoyed his relationship with the omnipresent narrator, who clearly hates him.

You can read my Final Thoughts on The Bard's Tale right here.

8) Plants Vs. Zombies

Just from the title name you know you're in for a not-so-serious take on some classic tower defense gameplay. The cartoony graphics and silly humor make the game standout from the rest, from the funny misspelled notes the zombies leave at the end of each section to your sole human ally Crazy Dave living up to his name as an obsessed horticulturist. The plants range from potato mines and peashooters and all have cutsy little faces as the faceoff against the relentless zombie hordes, whom are equally adorable with screen door shields and traffic cones. Disco zombies, zombies driving zambonis, zombies swimming underwater using snorkels - the game is one visual gag after another, and it all comes together in one of the best video game music videos ever.

7) Quest for Glory 4

"You attempt to have a meaningful dialogue with the cat. It says 'meow.'"

While LucasArts were known more for injecting humor into their point and click adventure games, Sierra still did a fine job sticking in jokes and jabs throughout their high fantasy adventures, especially my beloved Quest for Glory series. The Fourth installment really hit it out of the park as it added this incredible new aspect called voice acting thanks to the awesome new CD-ROM technology. Sierra got the great Jonathan Rhys-Davis as the narrator and his droll but comforting voice makes plenty of jokes throughout the journey (usually at the Hero's expense), and even the most mundane "That didn't do anything!" always brought a smile to my face. The whole colorful cast of characters were fully voiced as well: from the suspicious Russian Burgomeister to the very Boris Karloff inspired castle gatekeeper, and my personal favorites - the three townsfolk in the tavern, clearly modeled after Jack Nicholson, Rodney Dangerfield, and Robert DeNiro. Their string of ad-libbing over the subtitles is still one of my favorite and funniest moments in video gaming.

6) Grand Theft Auto IV

Consider this entry the entire Grand Theft Auto series - like South Park it's sometimes crass, sometimes clever, but always brilliant satire on modern society and all the crazy things we mock on a day to day basis. GTA4 is the most recent, and the fake television shows alone would be enough to make this list. Republican Space Rangers!

5) Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness

Let me preface by explaining that I have only just recently purchased the fourth and final episode of this wacky and fun role playing series based on famous webcomic by Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, better known as Gabe and Tycho of Penny Arcade. The first three episodes alone easily cement it as one of the funniest game series I've ever played. If you enjoy the webcomic you'll love seeing many of your favorite characters, gags, Jerry's trademark humor and Mike's art style. The first two were developed by HotHead and created somewhat average turn based adventure gameplay, while the last two were developed by retro RPG genius Zeboyd, and Episode 3 was not only an amazingly funny game, but a great throwback SNES era RPG in its own right. What other RPG lets you play as a Crabomancer and fight hobos?

4) Brutal Legend

Eddie: "Ever feel like you were born in the wrong time - like you should have been born earlier when the music was...real?"

Roadie: " the seventies?"

Eddie: "No, earlier. Like....the early seventies."

I've always carried a pretty big torch for Double Fine's criminally underrated and basically commercial failure Brutal Legend. Combining Tim Schafer's love of Metal and light-hearted style humor, Brutal Legend imagines a world where Jack Black gets thrown into an awesome world of Metal album covers with all its wacky denizens. Eddie Riggs forms a resistance group out of the headbangers, razor girls, and thunderhogs among other leather wearing hard rockers to battle the glam rock likes of Lionwhyte, the goth forces of the Drowning Doom, and the ultimate death metal demonic armies of Doviculous. The art style is reminiscent of the best Tim Burton stuff and the writing is pure Schafer awesome. Even if you only think Jack Black or Tenacious D is okay, there's still a lot to love in Brutal Legend.

3) The Secret of Monkey Island

Despite being a huge fan of adventure games, I never played what many consider to be LucasArts' best adventure series, and one of the best adventure games ever made until an HD remake came out a few years ago. I got to enjoy the game with all new updated graphics, painstakiling recreating scene by scene and with a nifty function that with a press of a button could revert the screen back to its original pixelated form. Of course, the writing didn't need updating at all and it's still an incredibly clever and fun tale of an inept pirate wannabe. My favorite standout moment is when hero Guybrush Threepwood has to learn how to duel the pirate way, which is 100% about yelling various insults at each other with swords drawn. A classic adventure.

2) Psychonauts

All of Double Fine's games are generally funny and light-hearted, and Tim Schafer seems to possess a special Pixar type quality that brings us funny and heart warming tales that can easily be enjoyed by adults and kids alike. Double Fine's debut title, Psychonauts, still remains their funniest to date - telling the story of a hopeful young psychic warrior's adventures at psychic summer camp. The concept of levels that took place in the demented citizens minds made for some really great level design and ranged from clever to creepy but all generally enjoyable. Raz was definitely the sane person in an insane world, and the final section took place in an insane asylum, offering up some truly crazy levels. All the various kids and camp counselors are all the right kinds of funny and weird, like something out of a classic Saturday Morning Cartoon.

You can read the very first Final Thoughts I ever wrote on Psychonauts right here.

1) Borderlands 2

While difficult to rank some of the entries in this list, there was never any doubt on which would be #1. The Borderlands series and all its various downloadable content has by far been the most I've ever laughed while playing a video game. From its comic book art style to pitch perfect voice acting and laugh out loud dialogue, this series hits all the right notes for me and tickles my funny bone like no other. From the very first boss fight against Nine Toes in the first game, when your told for no reason whatsoever that he has three balls, you know you're in for a unique experience. While the first game lacked somewhat in a cohesive story, the sequel ramped everything up in such a perfect and satisfying way that I'm not sure how Gearbox can top it. Returning characters and fan favorites were given expanded roles like Mad Moxxi, Claptrap, and Scooter, all the returning Vault Hunters were now featured as important story characters and brilliant new characters that fit the insane and irreverent universe perfectly really stole the game, namely the villainous Handsome Jack and the precocious and demented Tiny Tina. Special mention must also be given to the remarkably amazing downloadable content that has been released, and should be proof that Gearbox can indeed build upon the awesome world they've created. Namely, the character of Mister Torgue is quite possibly the funniest character in all of video gaming, and the most recent DLC, Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep, puts our Vault Hunters playing a parody game of Dungeons and Dragons, called Bunkers and Badasses, that subverts and celebrates all things nerdy and geeky while also creating a unique and fun experience.

Wrap Up

As I said above, humor is really difficult and we all react to it in different ways. I don't begrudge anyone disagreeing with my list; you could easily name your own Top Ten funniest games and not have a single game on here, and that's perfectly fine. In fact, it would celebrate the diversity we have in video gaming that would allow for different types of humor. Or I just need to play more humorous games!

But just know, if you don't find Mister Torgue funny we probably couldn't be friends in real life. EXPLOSIONS!!!!!!