What makes YOU laugh?
What makes you laugh? Is it fart jokes or biting satire? Or maybe something in between. Humor is like a fingerprint. We all laugh — and so do other species like rats, dogs, and other apes — but what tickles our specific funny bone is hard to pin down and makes us unique. Lots of games make a stab at being funny. Most of them fail because it’s devilishly difficult to hit the sweet spot for a large group of gamers.
But maybe developers are starting to get more thoughtful about this because we’ve seen several genuinely chuckle-worthy games in the past year. To me, anyway. I’ve previewed or reviewed nearly two hundred games over the last 16 months or so. At least a handful have made me laugh. You know, out loud and not just in my head. Here are a few of them.
Psychonauts 2 (2021)
Tim Schafer’s long-anticipated follow-up to Double FIne’s classic action/platformer from 2005 was widely praised for its thoughtful exploration of human minds and emotions. It also has pretty engaging action and platforming. For me, though, it was the game’s humor that stood out. It’s a mixture of sight gags, cultural satire, and snappy, well-written dialogue. If you enjoyed Pixar’s Inside Out, you’d probably buy the brand of humor Psychonauts 2 is selling.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2021)
You can take away my nerd card right now, but I’m not necessarily obsessed with superhero culture, either the Marvel or DC flavors. Having said that, I make exceptions for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and a few chosen characters from the DC stable. I enjoyed the hell out of both Guardians films and was kind of amazed by Eidos-Montreal’s Guardians of the Galaxy game. Besides having a great story and surprising emotional range, the game’s writing was brilliant, clever, and funny in precisely the same way the films were.
Trombone Champ (2022)
There are two hilarious things about this weird little music game. First, the premise sounds like a bad joke made this one time at band camp. Second, playing the game results in some hilariously lousy music. What isn’t a joke is that it’s a real game with lots of content and genuinely challenging gameplay.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands (2022)
Gearbox’s Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is a spinoff of Borderlands and a sequel (of sorts) to Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep. Not everyone loved the game’s loot system, but aside from that, Wonderlands has fantastic action and a great story. It also has an insanely good cast of voice actors and writers that give them thoughtful and funny things to say. Although a totally different experience, Wonderlands breaks the fourth wall and comments on roleplaying games a little like The Stick of Truth did back in 2014.
New Tales from the Borderlands (2022)
The original Tales from the Borderlands is still considered one of the best spinoffs from the Borderlands franchise. A fantastic roster of characters populated Telltale’s adventure game. New Tales from the Borderlands likewise has a phenomenal quartet of leads, absolutely nailing it in both performance capture and vocal delivery. I’ll admit that the game’s quick-time events are pretty uninspired, but the humor makes up for it. As I said in my review, if those characters and humor were in the service of a real action game, it would be GOTY material.
The remaster of Destroy All Humans 2 (2022) looked great and reminded me how funny the original could be. Some of the jokes are a little dated, of course, but most of the humor still hits, and the game’s satire of 1960s action and sci-fi holds up. Conan Chop Chop (2022) is a cooperative action RPG with a cartoon art style and humor that leans hard into the silliness of Conan lore.
Have any games made you laugh this year? Let us know!