The art of gaming has evolved from an unassuming pastime into a vehicle for entertainment. Video games are required to captivate gamers on a multitude of levels through the use of in-depth narratives, developed characters, beautiful visuals, engaging gameplay, and entrancing musical numbers. With all that to perfect, and a culture that often celebrates mature themes in gaming, it’s no wonder that comedy is often left out in the cold.
What many games lack, and some fail to appreciate is the amazing effect that hilarity can have in delivering a memorable and entertaining experience. I’m not talking about the typical button-mashing elation that every gamer experiences or the joy attributed with besting a challenging boss. What I’m describing is the gut-busting feeling of happiness received after laughing your ass off, that particular moment when a snarky comment catches you off guard resulting in an unforeseen cascade of laughter. Take a look at 10 instances of humor done right in video games by utilizing music as a medium to deliver wit and absurdity.
10. “Walkie Talkie Man” – Elite Beat Agents
Description: In America, the Men in Black represent the highest level of classified intelligence for the government. In Japan, members of the most secretive government agency are referred to as Elite Beat Agents. When someone facing a crisis reaches their breaking point, Commander Kahn dispatches the agents to help those in need. “Walkie Talkie Man” illustrates a young man and woman feverishly attempting to acquire a moment of alone time when they are continually interrupted by the children whom they are forced to baby sit. Besides the difficulty of parenting, this song proves that just about every problem in the universe can be solved with a sports-driven mindset and the use of football fundamentals.
9. “Banjo Kazooie Opening” – Banjo Kazooie
Description: What in life could possibly fulfill the same level of satisfaction as watching a bear named Banjo play a banjo while his partner-in-crime Kazooie plays a kazoo? With the addition of the flashy Mumbo Jumbo, the stage is set for a spotlight stealing, multi-instrument laughter-fest courtesy of the platforming classic, Banjo Kazooie. Never has a battle for musical superiority been so entertaining.
8. “DK Rap” – Donkey Kong 64
Description: Donkey Kong may not possess the poetic flow of Tupac or the rhyming skills of the Notorious B.I.G., but when joined by his crew, musical masterpieces ensue. Rivaling other Nintendo 64 platformers such as Super Mario 64 and Banjo Kazooie, Donkey Kong 64’s claim to fame was the catchy opening song that has characterized the franchise for more than a decade since its release. Imagining video game characters busting a flow is ridiculous enough. Add an assortment of monkeys into the mix and you truly have a masterpiece of mammoth or I should say gorilla proportions.
7. “The Great Mighty Poo” – Conker’s Bad Fur Day
Description: There was once a time when even the utterance of anything pertaining to bowel movements, flatulence, or body parts tickled the immature funny bone in all of us. Even though we are forced to grow up, to view life under a new lens of seriousness, games like Conker’s Bad Fur Day remind us that a little childishness isn’t a bad thing. If battling a heaping mound of singing poop doesn’t instigate a chuckle from you, then I certainly don’t know what will.
6. “Death to Squishies” – Ratchet & Clank Up Your Arsenal
Description: The music industry is saturated with mediocre pop stars that sing about trivial matters and somehow receive fame from it (cough, cough Justin Beber). Courtney Gears from the Ratchet and Clank series is a different type of celebrity. Her message doesn’t reflect love or teen angst, “Death to Squishies” is a song about the annihilation of all organic life. There is something comical about portraying such a nefarious message to the beat of a bubbly pop song. Maybe our adolescent idols could learn a thing or two?
5. “Full Tank” – PaRappa the Rapper
Description: A game ahead of its time, PaRappa the Rapper set the bar for rhythm gaming while offering a unique graphical style, quirky soundtrack, and bizarre plot. “Full Tank” graces this list at number five not only because toilet humor is second to none, but also due to the narrative illustration. The winner of the free style moves one step closer to the bathroom; the loser is confined to a very sticky situation. Literally. I don’t think quirky quite summarizes the scenarios depicted within this game.
4. “Scientist Salarian” – Mass Effect 2
Description: A trusted addition to Commander Shepard’s crew, Dr. Mordin Solus was a paramount figure in creating the genophage, a biological weapon that doomed the entire Krogan race. Despite his cold, logical nature and burden of guilt, Solus reveals an unexpected facet of his life; he was once a Broadway performer. Witness perhaps his most memorable moment within the entire series, his rendition of Gilbert and Sullivan called “Scientist Salarian”.
3. “Still Alive” – Portal
Description: Released in 2007, the first-person puzzle game was wholly embraced by the gaming community due to its reimagination of the genre, extreme originality, and a darkly humorous story. “Still Alive” written by Jonathan Coulton perfectly encapsulates the internal struggle between test subject Chell and artificial intelligence GLaDOS which thrusts players in into a series of brain teasing challenges with the promise of receiving cake as a reward. If there is one message to get across, it’s that the cake is a lie.
2. “There’s a Zombie on Your Lawn” – Plants vs. Zombies
Description: Plants vs. Zombies is a gritty yet sickeningly cute tower defense game that allows players to use different types of flora and fauna to prevent hordes of zombies from feasting on the brains of the residents. When containment, guns, and grenades fail, there is only one hope against a horde of flesh-eating zombies, a slew of unassuming vegetation with an attitude. “There’s a Zombie on Your Lawn” is a surprisingly catchy tune that illustrates the funnier and in this case, cuter side of a zombie outbreak.
1. “Want you Gone” – Portal 2
Description: We have now arrived at the pinnacle of the video game comedy scale with the successor to Valve’s popular puzzle adventure game, Portal 2. Similar to its predecessor, the second installment primarily consists of a series of puzzles that must be solved by using the teleporting prowess of the portal gun. Despite the years that have gone by while the protagonist Chell was in stasis, GLaDOS is not only still around, she is as insulting, sarcastic, and witty as ever. After two games worth of tricks, traps, and shenanigans, GLaDOS reaches a point of surrender, she’d rather let Chell go than endure any more trouble due to her presence. “Want you Gone” is a song that embodies the antagonist’s exhaustion while still incorporating as many insults, low blows, and instances of verbal abuse as possible.
Can you think of any more instances of comedy done right within the video game world?