I’m a big fan of “elevated” video games designed with serious intent—think Papers, Please or This War of Mine—but sometimes I want the opposite. Sometimes I want to play a game that is as dumb as possible, a game so funny and ridiculous, it becomes literally impossible to think about anything while playing it. (It’s disassociation time!)
The 14 games here fit that bill. They won’t make you change your worldview or experience emotional catharsis. Instead, they’ll make you shake your head, snort, laugh, and maybe mutter “what the actual fuck?” under your breath. Which is what we all need right now: Meaningless incredulity, to distract us from all the things that deserve our incredulity.
Trombone Champ (2022)
The world didn’t know how badly it needed a Guitar Hero-style game about playing the trombone until Trombone Champ was released. This games takes a classic comedy premise—funny noises are funny—and builds a game around it. Thankfully, the game is actually good, and when you add in hilarious in-jokes about gaming itself, adorable muppet-like avatars, and a million “boner” and “toot” puns, you end up with a classic of thoughtless digital comedy.
Don’t Sh*t Your Pants (2009)
From the deepest depth of the Flash game era comes Don’t Shit Your Pants: A Survival Horror Game. As you might expect from the title, the goal of this text-adventure/puzzle game is to avoid soiling yourself. Sounds easy, until you try it. And you should try it. It’s hilarious. There are multiple endings to unlock, and the game rewards out-of-the-box thinking. (Try typing “shit my pants” at the first prompt.)
Katamari Damacy (2004)
No list of “what the hell?” games would be complete without Japanese import Katamari Damacy. In this truly one-of-a-kind game, you are the Prince of the Cosmos, trying to rebuild the solar system by rolling an adhesive ball around the Earth. The ball grows larger and larger until you’re picking up cars, buildings, and mountains, gathering enough mass to make new galaxies. It’s addictive, colorful, and so damn fun—a true classic. (Even if you don’t play it, mellow out to the soundtrack.)
Platforms: PlayStation 2, Microsoft Windows
Who’s Your Daddy? (2015)
In this casual online game, players are either devoted, loving fathers or malevolent infants. Dads try to protect babies, while babies try to find the deadliest thing in the house they can touch, swim in, or eat. So it’s pretty much like a real parenting. Who’s your Daddy is hilarious, and a welcome change from gaming’s usual fixation on shooting everything.
Platforms: Windows, MacOS, Linux
Cho Chabudai Gaeshi (2010)
I’ve never played this game—it’s only in arcades, and isn’t very common in the U.S.—but it’s so strange I had to mention it. Cho Chabudai Gaeshi, or “Super Table Flip” in English, is played with a table-shaped controller. You watch a scene unfold and bang the table as your character grows more and more angry. Before long, when you can’t take it any more, you flip the table, sending plates, cups, and everything else flying. It’s weird that someone turned a meme into an elaborate arcade game, but if there’s anything more mindlessly fun than flipping over a loaded table, I can’t think of it.
You’ve probably been walking for years, but do you really know how walking works? QWOP illustrates how badly it would go if you had to consciously control your leg muscles. It’s as simple as possible: There are four buttons, and the goal is simply to walk/run forward for 100 meters, but it’s maddeningly, hilariously difficult to not pitch forward onto your face, fall backwards, or otherwise fail. Maybe it’s more fun to watch other people become enraged by QWOP than to play it yourself, though.
Goat Simulator (2014)
In Goat Simulator, you are the world’s scariest chaos agent, an enraged goat, and your mission is go nuts and wreck everything. While the game’s creative mayhem and exploration is really fun, my favorite element of Goat Simulator is how glitchy it is. The developer intentionally left all manner of physics and reality-destroying “mistakes” in the game that only add to its strangeness and comedic value.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Android, Windows, MacOS, Linux
Cow Clicker (2010)
Cow Clicker isn’t funny to play; it’s funny that it existed. Like the social games it parodies, you start by giving the developer your personal data on Facebook in exchange for a chance to play. Then you click a virtual cow. You can only click once every six hours, unless you spend real money on “mooney” that lets you skip the cooldown and customize your cow. Developer Ian Bogost created the game as a pointed jab at the manipulative mechanics of social games like FarmVille, but of course CowClicker actually became popular, with over 50,000 people clicking cows. In 2011, Bogost responded with the “Cowpacolypse,” during which all players’ cows disappeared. So Cow Clicker became a game where players click an empty space where a video game cow used to be. Devoted fans apparently kept clicking nothing until Cow Clicker disappeared in 2019.
Surgeon Simulator (2013)
If you’re hoping for a realistic approximation of medical procedures, you will be very disappointed in Surgeon Simulator. Instead, imagine trying to perform exacting medical procedures like removing organs or repairing capillaries while wearing oven mitts. Plus, you’re drunk. It gets over-the-top gory and ridiculous very, very quickly.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Android, Windows, MacOS, Linux
Human Fall Flat (2016)
In this puzzle/platform game, up to eight people play as rotund, rubbery dudes who waddle around solving physics puzzles in ridiculous ways. The intentionally kludgy controls ensure lots of mistakes resulting in hilarious mishaps and unexpected chaos. It’s silly, slapstick comedy with no redeeming social value, like a digital version of the Three Stooges.
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Android, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S, MacOS, Windows, Linux
Sneak King (2006)
You wouldn’t think a game made to advertising a fast food chain would be so great, but Sneak King is, in fact, so great. It’s a stealth game where you play as Burger King’s mascot, a foppish, terrifying monarch. Your job is to sneak up on unsuspecting commoners, give them hamburgers, and entertain them with a silly dance. It’s crazy fun game, well worth way more than its original price of $3.99.
Platforms: Xbox 360, Xbox
Job Simulator (2016)
This virtual reality game lets you work at a variety of virtual jobs. Unlike your real job, instead of watching the clock, you’ll be causing insane amounts of chaos in the robot-run office. I know I promised that all the games listed here would be mindless, but I lied. Job Simulator’s abstraction of the tasks and politics employment makes a subtle point about how ridiculous most work is, but you don’t have to think about it, I promise. It’s probably best not to think about it, actually.
Platforms: Oculus Quest, PlayStation 4, HTC Vive, Microsoft Windows, Valve Index, Windows Mixed Reality
Just Die Already (2021)
If the idea of geriatrics going wild is funny to you, check out Just Die Already, where you play as an angry elder bent on destroying as much as possible as you search for a colorful way to shuffle off this mortal coil. Like Goat Simulator, the fun is in the physics, the cartoonish graphics, and the discovery of novel ways wreck the world.
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
I Am Bread (2015)
In I Am Bread, you are bread. You flop around in bread-like ways, traversing the landscapes of a small house and avoiding your natural enemies like water, ants, and mold. Your goal is to become toast in any way you can, from starting fires to using a hair dryer. This physics-based game has weird controls (you are bread, after all) and a totally surreal premise that work together to make you forget everything else but flopping to the damn toaster already.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Android, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, iOS, macOS
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