Humour in games is a hard thing to pull off, but with DeathSpank making some noise, and Duke Nukem dusting off his pithy one liners once more, we figured it was about time we took a look back at some of the funniest games of all time. It's a subjective list, to be sure, but we think these ten have earned their place as true gaming comedy classics.
Honourable mentions go to Resident Evil for having the worst plot translation and voice work ever, PaRappa the Rapper for turning a gangsta scene into something colourful, absurd and side-splittingly funny, Command and Conquer for having the hammiest, OTT acting and Elite Beat Agents for being utterly, incomprehensibly Japanese. Seriously, check out this video...it's insane.
10. Postal 2
Bizarre weapons, snappy one liners from a protagonist simply named The Dude and, of course, some epic cameos from Gary Coleman, Postal 2 was utterly insane...and all the better for it! We don't really see games like this much any more. Yes it was bloody, violent, at times pretty sick, but it was also hilarious, over the top, tongue-in-cheek and often satirical, lampooning our frustrations over mundane activities like picking up a Christmas tree, buying milk or cashing a cheque and utterly rife with dark humour. In what other game can you use a cat as a silencer I ask you!
9. Anything Zombie Cow Studios Have Ever Made
If you didn't play Privates - an edu-game that sees you storming the interior of a woman's private patch hell bent on removing STDs through run and gun gameplay - then I suggest you do so now. Every game ZCS has released has been designed to make people like me chuckle, guffaw and ROFLMAO. Admittedly, some of their point and click adventure games take clear cues from titles further up this list, but that doesn't stop side quests where you have to steal Hitler's poo from being funny.
8. GTA IV
Rockstar have always been excellent at incorporating satire into their games, particularly when it comes to GTA, with billboards, radio chatter and conversational throwaway lines all designed to make us chuckle. GTA ramped that up even more with over an hour of TV shows, ten times that in radio broadcast genius and even a comedy club where you could go and see comedic celebrities like Ricky Gervais perform. Then there's the classic Rockstar gameplay, part of which is emergent and freeform anyway. You try importing the Benny Hill theme onto a custom soundtrack and racing around town Carmageddon-style.
7. Sam & Max Hit The Road
As Edge once said of adventure games, it can be hard to feel anything in particular for the characters involved but, as they also conceded, when it came to Sam & Max Hit The Road that all got blown out of the water just because the game was so damn funny. Kicking things off with an investigation of a disappearing bigfoot from a nearby carnival, the game's strength lies not just in visual gags, but - a staple of LucasArts adventure titles of the Nineties - some cracking dialogue. One of the first games to incorporate full voice-acting, Hit The Road marked the start of something of a golden age in funny click titles. Like every good comedy series, replaying it just yields more and more clever little humorous vignettes you missed the previous times around.
Bully, another title that probably could have made this list, owes a lot to Earthbound. Sticking a middle digit up at traditional RPGing, EarthBound featured schoolkids dealing with everyday issues and battling enemies like cranky old ladies, piles of vomit and new age hippies who attack you by calling you names. Stuffed with cultural references, and possessing one of the finest soundtracks to any game ever, EarthBound's truest strength proved to be its humour, riffing on American culture from the other side of the Pacific Ocean. As such it was often a little warped, misplaced and sometimes nonsensical, but that stop it from making us giggle...lots.
5. The Monkey Island Series
We owe Ron Gilbert a lot, we really do. Without him, the adventure boom of the Nineties might never have happened, we might never have heard of Tim Schafer, Guybrush Threepwood or LeChuck. Monkey Island taught us that games could be both clever and funny, puzzling and chuckle-worthy at the same time. There are a whole bunch of brilliant, witty, wonderful games that have suckled at the teat of Gilbert's great games and could slot in here, from Full Throttle to Day of the Tentacle, but Monkey Island is the series that really made us all pay attention.
Portal surprised us all by arguably being the Best Thing inside the Orange Box...and that box contained Half Life 2! But it also starred one of the finest video game characters of all time: the wonderfully passive-aggressive mainframe GLaDOS. Portal also had one of the finest, funniest end credit scenes largely thanks to a certain song about cake by Jonathan Coulton. Bizarre mind-games, the unrequited, childish love of an intelligent machine, the promise of baked goods and therapy sessions and forging friendships with a painted cube made us do more than just think...it made us laugh too.
3. Conker's Bad Fur Day
There was once a time when Rare took risks, none more so than when they transformed Conker from another cutesy little platforming hero for kids into a foul-mouthed pillar of adult humour. Now Rare's trademark goofy humour had boobs on it and popped caps in asses. Conker's Bad Fur Day didn't sell massively, it was never going to, but it netted itself such a cult army of rabid fans that when Rare jumped ship to Microsoft, they brought the little critter back. He's a drunken, rude, crude, apathetic, lazy lout...and he's incredibly funny.There's a musical number by a giant poo for crying out loud!
2. Grim Fandango
Arguably involving the best video game writing to date, Grim Fandango - the game that follows travel agent for the deceased Manny Calavera - is bursting at the seams with weird and wonderful characters, brilliant one liners, bizarre situations and shimmering Schaferian wit. It's better than Monkey Island...there, I said it. Whilst I wait for the inevitable backlash, here are some of my favourite quotes:
Manny: This deck of cards is a little frayed around the edges, but then again so am I and I've got fewer suits...
Manny: My scythe... I like to keep it next to where my heart used to be.
Hector: Oh Manny... so cynical... What happened to you, Manny, that caused you to lose your sense of hope, your love of life?
Manny: I died.
[Manny looks at a hamburger in a Land of the Living restaurant]
Manny: I can't reap a hamburger - cows are a whole other bureau, not to mention the lettuce.
1. Wario Ware: Smooth Moves
Anyone who has ever played this game will know exactly what I'm talking about. Wario Ware is a pure instrument of fun that taps into exactly what the Wii was designed for in the first place: laughing at people doing ridiculous things. It's not limited to the Wii, though, from the absurd game modes (balancing turtles anyone?) to the even more bizarre instructions that involved nose picking, umbrella steering, ninja dodging and chasing OAPs, combined with crazy music, disturbing sound effects and a feeling of joyous bewilderment. How many times have you stepped up to bat only to go 'WTF?!' as your friends laugh at you wildly hopping around like a baffled kangaroo? My count is in triple figures.
It's the only party game you'll ever really need and anyone who says they've never cried tears of mirth watching their manliest mate hula drunkenly is lying.