Great moments in PC gaming: Going to year 2 in Grim Fandango

Great moments in PC gaming are bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.

Grim Fandango

Developer: Lucasarts
Year: 1998

Grim Fandango is a beautiful adventure, and never moreso than during Year 2. That’s the part set in Rubacava, an art-deco Casablanca where we leave hero Manny Calavera sweeping floors and return a year later to see him at the head of his own casino, a local hero. That transition alone is a beautiful bit of game design, but it’s what follows that really cements it.

Where most games ultimately make you some kind of outsider, with little or no real place in the world save maybe as its local bruiser/gunslinger, Grim Fandango opened up Rubacava with the idea that you know everybody, and more importantly, everybody knows you. Whether it’s picking up that at some point Manny has made contacts with the police, or the unrequited love between him and Carla the security guard, it’s an immersive and even heart-rending place to explore. After all, you’re not there during the good times, but picking up the story as Manny prepares to burn every bridge in the probably futile pursuit of the woman he let down. You arrive as a king. You leave back at square one, on a chase rooted more in guilt than any hope of salvation.

And oh, that music. That wonderful, wonderful music. Rubacava is one of the greatest towns in gaming, give or take a couple of particularly painful puzzles. It’s not a place you’d likely want to live, but it’s a great place to have lived. If only secondhand.