Funny games are something of a rarity. There are lots of games that try to be funny, sure. But with games still in their infancy and many game writers just imitating their favorite movies and viral videos, humor in electronic media has a tendency to fall on its face and then slide into the seventh layer of Hell. Yes, “Double Rainbow” was funny. No, you don’t need to slip it into your action adventure.
Yet 2010 was an amazing year for video games. New Super Mario, StarCraft, Fallout and Civilization games made this an expensive year for fans. And the explosion of the indie scene with successful games like Super Meat Boy and Minecraft changed the standard business model and made it one of the most important.
Fortunately, this massive, bloated year of games produced some amazing, hilarious titles. Games that either pushed interactive humor to new levels or, well, finally got it right. Here are those games.
10. Fallout: New Vegas
The Fallout series has a notoriously fickle tone. Each game opens and closes on heavy-handed narration read without an ounce of irony by Ron Perlman. The stories are melodramatic versions of popular post-apocalyptic tales such as The Road Warrior and Earth Abides.
But beneath that serious, militaristic exterior is an incredibly weird and funny series. Confused robots think they’re signers of the Declaration of Independence. A mutant names the tree growing out of his head.
And New Vegas is no different. The game is packed with jokes, and the exploratory nature of the game makes finding them all the more special. Unlike many games that try to be funny, the humor in Fallout: New Vegas works because it’s optional. You feel like you’re participating. It’s your choice to name the sex robot FISTO. Or not. You can embarrass a cannibal by faking human meat. Or not.
That’s the beauty of it. Take it serious or find the hundreds of jokes hidden throughout the Mojave Wasteland.
9. Dead Rising 2
Like Fallout, Dead Rising’s narrative and main gameplay are standard end-of-the-world affairs. There’s a zombie outbreak and you have to save your daughter and blah blah blah, wah wah wah. Zombies have been done.
But wait. The sheer customizability of this game is what actually makes it funny. Wearing anything, doing anything, and acting like a complete fucking moron around zombies is well worth the price of admission. And you will do it, because you can.
8. Back to The Future: Episode 1
Similar to 2009’s Ghostbusters: The Video Games, Back to the Future uses video games to age beloved comedy characters a few years rather than 25. And the effect really works. While it may not be Michael J. Fox, his approved impersonator sounds exactly like him. And Christopher Lloyd is still forever old.
With TellTale at the helm and original series co-writer Bob Gale consulting, Back to the Future: The Game really does feel like a new movie in the series. Visiting Depression-era Hill Valley is a natural extension of the film’s setting. And even the plot -– 17-year-old Marty meeting 17-year-old Doc Brown -– is a hilarious addition to the series canon.
In the hands of anyone else, this could have been a retread or “relive” of the movies. Instead, TellTale gave us the sequel we thought we’d never get.
7. Poker Night at the Inventory
Of all the games on this list, Poker Night at the Inventory is probably the least fun as an actual game. Essentially a one-player poker game, TellTale’s mash of favorite Internet characters solely works on jokes alone. The A.I. is broken –- characters randomly fold or go all-in for no real reason –- and the graphics engine chuggy.
But the game is funny. Seeing video game characters bicker and threaten each other works far more than it should. The table’s interaction with Team Fortress 2’s Heavy is especially good: the characters are terrified of him and listen to his stories in horrified silence.
6. Kirby’s Epic Yarn
Ostensibly an easy kid’s game, it’s pretty easy to miss the humor in Kirby’s Epic Yarn.
Yet the adorable design concept –- Kirby is drawn into a world made of cloth – draws out the humor in weird, unexpected bursts. When you least expect to laugh, Kirby throws a line like this at you:
That isn’t a weird mistranslation. Unlike earlier games with a similar style such as Yoshi’s Story, the game isn’t try to be extra precious. Instead, the writing and the level design inverts the cuteness and uses it to its advantage. You don’t just “aww” your way through a cotton snowball level. You tear it apart with your yarn tank.
5. Super Scribblenauts
Super Scribblenauts is the Zombo.com of games: you can do anything. Anything at all. The only limit is your imagination.
And much like Dead Rising 2 this creates room for incredible, hilarious creations that work within the game. You can play it straight and solve the puzzle or make a giant Santa Claus fight a flying T-Rex. The fact that the programming lets the creations interact so well -– and actually advance you in the game itself –- earns this title a spot on the list.
4. Super Meat Boy
Super Meat Boy is a video game obsessed with video games. A tribute to the old, difficult platformers of the past, SMB combines hard gameplay with ironic nostalgia that never feels forced. Everything is pitch perfect, from the amazing levels (it’s probably the best overall game on this last) to the perfect ‘80s-style commercial.
Little moments, such as the level-opening cinematic tributes to old video games, make you laugh and say, “Oh shit. I totally forgot about that.”
Designed by Ron Gilbert (The Secret of Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion), DeathSpank has the feeling of an interactive Adult Swim cartoon. While some of the jokes are a bit on the nose, most hit hard and work really well within the context of the game, which focuses on a brave adventurer trying to find an artifact (of course called “The Artifact”) and use it to defeat evil (of course an evil that has no idea why it’s being evil).
The humor in the game comes from its play on common adventure and role-playing game tropes. While it’s not the first to do it (the Cary Elwes written and voiced Bard’s Tale covered similar territory), DeathSpank does it with such excited stupid gusto that you can’t help but love it.
2. Hamlet, or the last game without MMORPG features, shaders and product placement
At its core, Hamlet is a parody of video game adaptations. Video game adaptations of movies are notorious for adding “boss” characters that never appeared in the film or monsters when there weren’t any. YouTube “Home Alone” and “video game.” Kevin didn’t shoot mafia gangsters with a water pistol in Home Alone 2. Director’s Cut!
Hamlet uses this tradition to create an ironic take on the Shakespeare play, if it were adapted by terrible game developers. You play a scientist time traveler. There are sea monsters and piranhas. Ophelia is savable. Why? Because that’s what happens when you adapt something into a video game.
No competition, this is the funniest game of the year. And it’s free. If you have a PC, and if you love comedy, you must download this game.
Written like a bad sitcom, Octodad is a game about a loving father and adoring husband who is desperately trying to hide the fact that he’s an octopus. As said octopus, you have to use your tentacles to complete mundane tasks that would be impossibly easy with human hands and feet. The first time you’re asked to pick up something off the nightstand -– only to sweep off everything with your tentacle –- you’ll see why this game is brilliant.
But where Octodad goes above and beyond is its subtle touches. When Octodad has to check his daughter’s closet for monsters, you think the minigame is to just struggle to move around boxes and explore the small room. Until you come across a French chef hiding in the back, promising to devour you.
Octodad is filled with moments like these. It’s a bad novelty sitcom in which you’re the main character. On television, the concept would be abysmally stupid. In game, it’s also abysmally stupid. But living the experience makes it just work. Struggling to be a father while also being an octopus is so weird it works. The writing and the gameplay are independently funny, creating an interactive comedy experience unlike any other.
Life is tough when you’re an octopus dad.