Eleven Great Playable Video Game Satires

By Kyle Orland in Lists!
Friday, August 6, 2010 at 10:00 am
Games like You Have to Burn the Rope take the piss out of games.
Music has "Weird Al" Yankovic. Pop culture has Saturday Night Live. Saturday Night Live has 30 Rock. And gaming has... these games, which call attention to some of the more ridiculous aspects of our favorite hobby by emulating them all too perfectly. 

Get ready to have your mind blown!

(Note: I stuck with free-to-play PC and web-based games for this list, which leaves off a lot of worthy console satires like Half-Minute Hero, Conker's Bad Fur Day, Retro Game Challenge, Work Time Fun, Takeshi's Challenge, and even more traditional games like WarioWare Inc. and Eternal Darkness. Check them all out, satire fans)

Cow Clicker

I can't describe this game any better than creator Ian Bogost himself: "You get a cow. You can click on it. In six hours, you can click it again. Clicking earns you clicks. You can buy custom 'premium' cows through micropayments (the Cow Clicker currency is called 'mooney'), and you can buy your way out of the time delay by spending it. You can publish feed stories about clicking your cow, and you can click friends' cow clicks in their feed stories. Cow Clicker is Facebook games distilled to their essence." Plus you don't even need Flash installed.

I will never fully understand people who play through awful games just to get the Achievements and increase their Gamerscore. But I do feel like I can connect with them a little better after playing Achievement Unlocked, a game that's about literally nothing but collecting Achievements for some rather random actions. Most of the fun here is in simply trying to figure out what the cleverly-titled Achievements want you to do. The rest of the fun comes from that little wave of satisfaction you get when you hear the little noise that means you've completed one more pointless task on the way to that storied "100% complete." *contented sigh*.

Also play: Achievement Unlocked 2 and This is the Only Level, both by the same developer.

Figuring out some counter-intuitive method to beat a seemingly invulnerable foe is a key part of countless games. Not this one. As if the title wasn't enough of a clue, the game itself gives you step-by-step instructions on exactly how to burn the rope, which turns out to be painfully easy and quick to do. It's a bit simple as satires go, but an incredibly earnest manual and the best self-referential closing credits theme this side of Still Alive help round out the experience.

(If you do not understand why this game is brilliant, play Heavy Rain or watch this video. Then watch this music video, which also happens to be called "Press X to Jason")

Even in the most "realistic" games, we take it for granted that death is not the end -- that we'll be able to restart from the beginning of the game at the very least. Not so for this simple platformer, where death is realistically permanent. Even if you try to reload the page, you'll simply see the horrible aftermath of your untimely death (or the boss' untimely death, if you're really lucky). While there are ways around this restriction, it nice to finally see a game that at least tries to treat death as the unalterable matter it really is.

We're used to games requiring that we earn money/experience/doodads to upgrade things like weapons, spells and character traits. Upgrade Complete takes this idea to its extreme, asking you to spend in-game money to upgrade everything from the games' graphics and sound effects to basic features like a menu screen and save system. You even have to buy seemingly inconsequential bits like the title screen and copyright text. And the funny thing is, you'll want to. BECAUSE IT'S THERE!

progress quest.jpg
Who has the time to invest the dozens (and sometimes hundreds!) of hours of mindless, repetitive grinding required to make it through today's modern role-playing games. Well, you do, as long as that role-playing game is Progress Quest. It's the RPG that does all that tiresome playing for you, allowing you get on with your freaking life. While I've been writing this feature, in fact, I've also gained two levels, three new spells, and completed over a dozen quests, including one that apparently involved chicken-fetching. Yup... I am just that good.

"I don't understand how, but your opponent, the Left Paddle, somehow managed to return that ball. It seems as if it will bounce over your paddle. What do you do?" 

Play also: Champions of Guitar, a text-based Guitar Hero.
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