3 Hilarious Indie Games That Will Make You Laugh Out Loud
As gamers, we sometimes need a break from killing, puzzling, or being overwhelmed by all of the earnest feels. Too often, the medium takes itself far more seriously than it needs to and overlooks the fact that, like film, there is as much scope for comedy in gaming as there is for drama.
Since many triple-A studios are happy to just pump out the latest dour iteration of whatever franchise their publishers think will sell, it's often down to the indie community to bring the heart of humor to the masses. We're not talking about the likes of Goat Simulator -- which, while amusing for ten minutes, was more physics experiment than game.
There have been a number of standout titles that have justifiably succeeded because of their comedy, not despite it. So if you're looking for a giggle -- and in the current climate, the gods only know we need one -- check out these three offerings, and set your gaming dial to "chuckle".
If you're looking for absurd humor, Jazzpunk will deliver everything you want and more. Part exploration game, part avant-garde take on the spy genre, it refuses to take itself seriously for even a moment. While you have objectives such as infiltrating a "consolate" building, many of its finer moments come from traipsing around the sandbox world and interacting with the random assortment of people and things scattered throughout.
Side quests are as ridiculous as they are funny. You'll help a frog retrieve a "Starbux" password code it dropped in the road by playing a game of Frogger, where failure results in him wearing more and more casts and bandages. Maybe you'll be transported into a virtual pizza which spoofs The Shining, and makes you fend off angry toppings with a pizza cutter. Alternatively, you could end up in a cinema, throwing popcorn at other members of the audience for no good reason.
Jazzpunk succeeds despite not having a strong narrative thread or cohesion to its gameplay. It throws a lot of wacky ideas into the ring, and while some of them fall flat, there are are plenty more just around the corner to drag you back in. It rewards exploration, and searching around for the next bizarre joke is basically the point. It's a short game which could easily be completed quickly if you decided to speedrun it, but that would miss the point entirely. It's an experience to be savored and prodded, coaxing out its humor from every refuse-filled alley or deliberately locked door. If you ever wanted to degauss a pigeon, Jazzpunk is the game for you.
The Stanley Parable
If Jazzpunk is an out-and-out comedy, then The Stanley Parable derives its laughs from far more subtle elements -- the deconstruction of gaming itself. You play as Stanley, a silent office worker whose mundane life pushing buttons is upended when the computer he is working on stops giving him orders. He is forced to leave the comfort and safety of his office, and explore the building to find out what happened.
Unlike other first-person games, this story is narrated entirely by an unseen and haughty Englishman who directs Stanley to where he should go. The comedy -- and indeed, the entire point of the game -- originates in the choices Stanley makes, whether following the narrator or not. If you choose to defy the narrator, he becomes more and more annoyed, suggesting with increasing forcefulness that Stanley return and follow the correct path.
While the game offers little more than rudimentary mechanics such as opening doors and pressing buttons, its brilliance lies in the game's reaction to you willfully disobeying its instructions. Galactic Cafe have catered for every possible path you take and decision you make -- going down in an elevator when it tells you to go up, taking the right door instead of the left, and so on -- and the fourth wall is broken more times than you can count. There are at least seventeen endings and a plethora of Easter eggs to discover. When a second narrator steps in and starts deriding the first, you'll be shaking your head at how such a simple, yet fiendishly funny concept hadn't been realized before.
For all the laughs though, The Stanley Parable is also a deeper look at our own actions as gamers, programmed to follow the set route laid out by designers through visual markers, and constrained by the lack of alternatives to simply treading the line that a studio has laid out. The game even represents that idea visually, ultimately resulting in the game world breaking before your eyes as the narrator snarkily berates you. It's a hilariously dry meta-treat which all gaming fans need to experience.
As much of a revelation for its take on the platforming genre as its humor, Shovel Knight successfully delivers a robust and interesting throwback to NES-style gaming, while simultaneously delighting players with its corny dialog and spade-based puns.
Though the gameplay and aesthetic may feel at times like Ghosts 'N' Goblins meshed with DuckTales, Shovel Knight valiantly forges its own path, giving you the option of destroying checkpoints for mega moolah and potentially sabotaging your game in an innovative risk/reward mechanic. Peppered throughout are wonderful characters, engaging bosses, and enough bad jokes to warrant eight hours of anyone's time.
It may not be a full-blown comedy, but Shovel Knight goes one better by layering the laughs onto a seriously impressive base game. It's occasionally self-referential, but never overly so; Kratos appears as a boss, but the rewards for defeating him make his appearance more than worthwhile. The insults flung between Shovel Knight and his foes never overstep their boundaries, and the entire experience is one of reverence to the genre, bolstered by pithy putdowns.
Still, if you fancy adding a dash of puerility to your game, you can always unlock Butt Mode which replaces many of the game's proper nouns with the word "butt". Seriously, it's never not funny. You're welcome.
Which indie games have made you laugh out loud? Let us know in the comments!