Our Best Comedy Game 2017 is West of Loathing, as voted for by the PC Gamer global team. Below, the writers who enjoyed it this year share their thoughts. Check out the rest of our GOTY awards and personal picks.
Chris Livingston: Some worlds you explore for loot or collectibles, some for secrets or bits of story, some for beautiful scenery. Open world stick figure RPG West of Loathing will have your scouring the world for jokes (there's plenty of loot, too). Even with the main and side quests complete, it's a world to linger in until you feel certain you've uncovered every last scrap of humor, read every last item description, absorbed every last line of dialogue. The writing is clever and fun, packed with both referential humor and big, broad laughs—even the options menu has a few jokes in it. Truly funny games are exceedingly rare and hard to come by, and West of Loathing is the best comedy I've played in years.
Jody Macgregor: West of Loathing is such a well-written game, and those are so rare, that it's easy to underestimate how funny its stick figure wild west can look. Dynamite Dan is surrounded by craters and covered in soot, but has a huge grin on his smiley-button face. My crazy horse, named Crazy Horse, has ridiculous googly eyes, and having unlocked the Stupid Walking skill I get around by doing the worm, imitating John Cleese, and dragging my butt like a dog. There are dopey gags squeezed into the RPG systems too—my Beanslinger has a collection of campfire cookout abilities like setting enemies on fire or summoning a Bean Golem to be my friend, and every now and then I get a powerful, and powerfully dumb-looking, new hat. Other games throw in some funny banter, West of Loathing is a riot from top to bottom.
Phil Savage: If you're not into Kingdom of Loathing-style irreverence, I imagine this sounds interminable. It clicked for me, though, mostly because the writing feels so earnestly good natured. West of Loathing invites you into its surreal, silly world, and does everything it can to make you feel like your its best friend—welcome, entertained and, at times, imaginatively mocked.
It's reminiscent of classic adventure games, where every click promises a new joke. But adventure games used comedy to mask the frustration of being stuck—a carrot to make arbitrary puzzle design less of a chore. West of Loathing's jokes are the very point of the game. It's an RPG, yes, but one light enough that combat never feels like a challenge, and the puzzles are open ended enough that even failure leads to a valid and funny outcome.
It's the best comedy game not because it's a funny RPG, but because it's an RPG that's designed around comedy. The rewards for success are jokes. The punishments for failure are other, different jokes. The sidequests are jokes. The NPCs are jokes. Random bits of scenery... you get the point. If you stripped away the funny out of most comedy games, you'd be left with a functional but bland game. But the comedy is so integral to West of Loathing that I'm not sure it would even work without it.
For more West of Loathing words, check out Chris Livingston's review.