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Comedy in Games

Submitted by on Monday, 25 January 20107 Comments

When I first started writing this story, the idea was to have a list of ten PS3 games which have made me laugh. Unfortunately, after I got up to four, thinking of any others suddenly became about as easy as completing Demon’s Souls single-handedly (i.e. not very easy at all). I honestly couldn’t think of any other games which I can legitimately describe as being funny (excluding games like Damnation and Rogue Warrior of course, which are funny for a completely different reason).

The following games have three things in common: they’re all fun to play, have likeable characters, and crucially, have all made me laugh. Needless to say, this article contains minor spoilers.

Brütal Legend

What I like about this game is that you can tell they had just as much fun making it as I had playing it. Oh yeah, and you play as Jack Black… sorry, I mean Eddie Riggs. Anyway, I’m a big fan of Jack Black, so I had high hopes for Brütal Legend long before I actually played it, and thankfully it was every bit as good as I hoped. True, it’s not quite as pretty as a lot of other games, and the RTS-style Stage Battles are a complete pain, but the story and voice acting is spot on.

In a way, the amount of enjoyment you get out of the game depends on how many of the metal references you get, and it’s great to see cameos from the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, and Kyle Gass. It also deserves a special mention as the only game I’ve actually laughed at when a character is decapitated.

Grand Theft Auto IV

Nobody does satire quite like Rockstar North. It’s almost impossible to walk ten metres in Liberty City without stumbling across either an innuendo or a reference to popular culture (or most likely both), and for me that’s what makes Grand Theft Auto IV so great.

The incredibly flamboyant and brilliantly voiced ensemble cast is also a major source of the humour, be it Brucie talking about his ‘bull shark testosterone’ abuse, Roman hiding from the Russian Bratva in a bin, or Niko’s straight-man cynicism of anything American. It’s also the only game in this list that features actual comedians, namely Ricky Gervais and Katt Williams.

Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time

Four words: Captain Qwark in drag. I’d always had my suspicions about him, but they were finally confirmed in Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time. He only dresses up as a female nurse in order to work undercover and infiltrate Doctor Nefarious’s space station – yeah, that old chestnut. We’ve all done that at least once, right?

Also returning from Tools of Destruction is the Groovitron, a weapon which when deployed forces any character within the blast radius to dance. As all enemy types (even bosses!) have a unique dance, a lot of my time on the game was spent mindlessly chucking out a Groovitron whenever I saw a new NPC. The cutscenes are also hilarious, and rival Pixar not only in terms of their humour, but also in terms of their quality.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

With unparalleled graphics, varied gameplay and incredible story, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a truly triple-A title. Add in the fact that it has an incredible sense of humour, and you’ve got one of the highest rated games of all time.

The cast is perfect, and the banter (which is often adlibbed by the actors) is extremely funny. Despite the many impossible-odds shootouts and high melodrama of the story, the game somehow never takes itself too seriously, with Nathan Drake (once again, superbly played by Nolan North) always only a matter of minutes away from his next witty one-liner.

If writing this article has taught me anything, it’s that comedy in games is a very hard thing to pull off effectively, which is probably why so few developers attempt it. I cited these four games in particular because they are all fantastic in their own right; although they are all funny it’s only a contributing factor, and not the sole reason for their greatness.

In my opinion, for comedy to work in a game it has to be prominent enough to be noticed, but not to the extent that it becomes the main selling point and overpowers everything else in the game. All four of the games listed above succeed in this, and show that a little comedy can go a long way.

What did I miss? What games do you find funny, and why? Tell us in the comments…