Funny video games are fraught with peril. Often, the funniest games of yesteryear have aged poorly (looking at you Leisure Suit Larry). Humor writing is often rooted in the here and now, which makes it hard to create something that will be just as funny today as it will be tomorrow. Comedy is society protecting itself, as the saying goes, so as a society inevitably changes, old jokes often reveal hard truths that are more often than not a bit disturbing.
From a game developer’s perspective, being funny is a lot harder to pull off in a game than being scary or dramatic. Such games can still contain a little joke here or there to lighten the tension. In gaming, humor is often best used sparingly.
Except when it's not.
Humor can thrive at the other end of the scale, albeit in rare instances. Some games can be so zany, so over-the-top, so infatuated with their own absurdity that they manage to work. What’s more, some of them manage to become timeless classics.
Goat Simulator is truth in advertising.
This ridiculous sim from Coffee Stains Studios puts players in the cloven hoofs of a seemingly average goat. There’s no slick origin story, no sci-fi mishaps, no Adam Sandler voiceovers. Instead, there are collision physics and hitboxes and mayhem galore. The mechanics are similar to a skating game like Tony Hawk, as your goat tears through levels destroying things you rack up points and combos for more points. These can range from the mundane to the hilariously unexpected, as this delightful clip from jacksepticeye illustrates:
That’s not to say the game is without any direction. The main driver of the gameplay, beyond the belly laughs, is unlocking an escalating series of “mutators” that transform your goat in a variety of ways.
Your starter goat is already basically indestructible with an incredibly sticky, stretchy tongue for dragging stuff around. But with mutators, you can be a big ol’ giraffe, summon Skyrim-inspired dragon shouts, or fly through the air with the aid of rocket packs or magic.
You don’t just get mutators immediately though, you unlock them doing zany stuff throughout the map. That’s essentially the hook of Goat Simulator: you’re only limited by your imagination as you explore ways to wreak havoc. Smash enough stuff, and you unlock a funny joke or a reward, which keeps you smashing just a bit longer. If you think, “Well ... real goats don’t really go about smashing stuff?” think again!
Goat Simulator manages to stay as funny now as it was on its release seven years ago because of its delightfully simple concept. There isn’t any pithy dialogue or character stereotypes or cringe-worthy gags. Like any good sandbox game, it is at its best when you set your own (albeit stupid) goals. What happens if you turn on ragdoll physics on that trampoline? Can I lick the speeding car? Should I push that boulder towards that picnic? Yikes, ouch, yes, and absolutely yes.
If this all sounds a bit too silly for you, that’s what makes it perfect for Xbox Game Pass. It’s not something you’d probably buy for yourself, but it’s fun enough to try for a weekend at no additional charge. Sit back, relax, and get your goat on.
Goat Simulator is available on Xbox Game Pass and for sale on Steam, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch.