Five of the Best is a weekly series about the incidental details we don’t celebrate enough. We’ve talked about all kinds of things so far from Game Over screens to Scares and Villains – there’s a whole Five of the Best archive if you’re interested. But there’s so much more to talk about too.
Five of the Best works like this. Various Eurogamer writers (and friends) share memories and then you – probably outraged we haven’t included the thing you’re thinking of – can share that thing you’ve been thinking of in the comments below. Then we all have a lovely chat about it. Your collective memory has never failed to amaze us – don’t let it stop now!
What’s your favourite joke – Aliens: Colonial Marines? No, no, I don’t mean that. But what is your favourite joke? Do you have one? I can never think of one when someone asks. I cheated and had to Google one. Try this: What do pirates say when they turn 80? Go on, guess. “Aye matey!” Good, isn’t it? How about: Why did Beethoven get rid of his chickens? All they said was “Bach Bach Bach”. Or maybe: How do you make a tissue dance? Put a little boogie in it!
I think the point here is that I shouldn’t write jokes, but thankfully there are funnier people writing them in games so I don’t have to, so here’s to laughing, here’s to jokes, and here are five of the best. Happy Friday one and all!
Monkey Island magic
I encountered Monkey Island so early on in my life that I sort of expected all games to be as witty and elegant as this one was. But there is one joke right at the end that absolutely blew my tiny mind.
The game’s over and the baddie is defeated. The hero and the governor are watching fireworks in the sky – a classic victory scene. You still have dialogue options though. And what options.
“Just goes to show,” I chose, or words to that effect.
“Just goes to show what?”
“Never pay more than twenty dollars for a video game.”
Okay. Already funny. But we’re not done.
“What’s a video game?” asks the governor.
“I don’t know,” I reply. “I don’t know why I said that.”
World of Warcraft gets silly
World of Warcraft – have I gone mad?! No, well, I don’t think so but then I would say that. WoW isn’t known as a funny game, although if you factor in the people you play with, it can be hilarious. Back when the game launched there was a Eurogamer guild on Bloodscalp called Elite Guard (shit name but it had the initials EG) and the guild chat was hilarious. I’d never laughed so hard at, effectively, a chat room. And the laughs kept on coming over many more weeks and months. Happy days.
But that’s not why I’ve listed World of Warcraft here. It’s here because of the jokes characters tell. If you type the command /silly into the chat box and press enter, the character you’re playing tells a joke. There are hundreds of them, a handful for each race and sex combo.
For instance, the undead male character – my main – would say, in a gravelly, sardonic voice: “Roses are gray, violets are gray, I’m dead and colorblind.” I nearly spat my coffee out when I first heard it. He also might say: “Hey diddle diddle, the mucous and the spittle. The corpse sank in the lagoon. The murloc said ‘mmmmm’ to see such a sight, and the dwarf spanked the baboon.”
This blew my mind. I cannot overemphasise how different, how alive, how charismatic this felt after coming from mute MMOs like Dark Age of Camelot. Characters didn’t do anything of the kind there, they had no voice. And I tell you what, I stood in that Undead starting area in Deathknell for ages doing nothing but standing still and telling myself jokes, lapping it up, cackling at every one.
Assassin’s Creed 2 plumbs the depths
Modern day Assassin’s Creed games are – among all those sweeping, expensive-looking vistas and blockbuster action set-pieces – wonderfully warm, witty things, graced with ample charm and good humour. That’s generally been the case since the thigh-slapping high seas adventure of Black Flag, of course, but before that – based on my admittedly hazy memories of the earlier games, at least – you’d be lucky to encounter even the slightest moment of whimsy in what was an often unwaveringly po-faced and rather self-important series.
So imagine my surprise when – after the interminable, joy-free drudgery of the original game, and the somewhat mirthless opening hours of its Renaissance-Italy-set sequel – Assassin’s Creed 2 suddenly, and out of nowhere, let rip with a moment of sublime silliness. I might even go as far as to call it the greatest video game joke of all time, but I suspect it only left such an unshakeable impression because it had all been so dreadfully serious up until then.
Partway through Assassins Creed 2, you see, beloved hero Ezio runs into his uncle out in the Italian countryside. Thrilled to see his nephew again, the jovial moustachioed gent, a local to the area, spreads his arms wide and warmly exclaims – what else? – “IT’S-A ME, MARIO!”.
Everything about Portal 2
If you asked me what I thought was the funniest video game I’ve ever played it would almost be reflex at this point to gush about the writing in Portal 2. I’ve played a lot of games with good jokes, with funny moments, but there’s nothing like Portal 2’s wall to wall dedication to making the player laugh in as many ways as possible. “We didn’t jettison everything, but I absolutely do not want to try and resurrect a three-year-old meme. That seems like it would be kind of sad. It’s not a good idea.” writer Erik Wolpaw told Gamasutra back in 2010, and he wasn’t messing around. Portal 2’s consistently quick-witted gags come from not just depth but breadth, in my humble opinion. There’s the format go-tos of slapstick and ‘random’ humour that we’re probably all a bit sick of by now but they’re intertwined with irony, meta-humour, darkly-comic scenes and self-poking jabs at the absurdity of the sights around you. All of this is then bolstered by a stellar voice acting cast with honest to god comedians like Stephen Merchant playing the companion-turned-villain Wheatley.
My favourite joke of the game concerns the villainous side of Wheatley, destroying everything around him in a fit of incompetence and arrogance at the climax of the game. He has to be taken down but just like his predecessor, his clumsy but ultimately terrifying power over the automated systems of Aperture science makes him nigh on impossible to defeat. It’s a true masterpiece of a final boss battle – sheer self indulgence and bombast with rockets flying, bits of equipment exploding all around you and a cast of ridiculous personality spheres shouting out a million jokes a minute as you pick them up and chuck them around.
This game is absolutely dedicated to its comedy and could only end in one big joke, one big deconstruction of just how ridiculous the very concept of this portal gun technology is. How terrifyingly dangerous it would be in the real world. You’ve shot portals onto more surfaces you can count but they only work when you hit something that’s painted white. Why? I have absolutely no idea, but do you know what’s really big and white? The goddamn moon. That’s how you finish a boss battles in Portal 2, you shoot the boss into fucking space.
The unintentionally hilarious Heavy Rain
I’m welling up just thinking about this one. The mother of all cry-laugh inducers. Where to start? I like the cars, that bit’s very good. I love the doors – top detective, flummoxed by doors. The ice, which he can’t stand on but everyone else seems to be walking over just fine. The weird skidding around every corner! Why can’t he corner?! Why do I have to press a button to get him to go around a corner like a normal human being?! Why does it not matter if you fail to press any of the buttons?! Why are the button prompts in there in the first place if they don’t matter?! Gold. I have to assume it’s funny on purpose. It has to be – too funny not to be, too po-faced everywhere else for this bit to not stand out – and honestly the game’s so much better for it.