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Clownloadable Games

I need to start spending more than five minutes on thinking up titles for lists.

Yes, this is a list about clowns. Not just in any role though: strictly those that appear in their own game as playable characters. You can pull a thousand different violent, evil, insane clowns from this medium; in fact, you're almost as likely to bump into a psychotic thug in jovial greasepaint in a video game as are you at the Gathering of the Juggalos. Instead, I want to recognize the few clowns out there that - as the (or a) playable character - are meant to be at least sympathized with to some extent, if not worth actively rooting for.

There'll still be a few decidedly unmerry-andrews here and there on this list but overall these are clowns of renown. Fools that are cool. Jesters that were never... bester. Let's just get on with this.

(As always, feel free to suggest your own contributions to the list in the comments below, and I'll be sure to add and accredit them appropriately. I imagine I must've purposely avoided a lot of clown games as a kid on principle.)

List items

  • The Simpsons' alternately height-of-his-fame/all-washed-up jokester Krusty the Clown is a man with a troubled Jewish upbringing that he hides behind a facade of workmanlike buffoonery. None of the many storylines from the cartoon that focus on the saddest clown since Pagliaccio explain why he would need to remove rodents from a theme park with elaborate mice-killing mechanisms staffed by Bart and Homer. This reverse-Lemmings puzzle game is actually pretty decent; a stark contrast with all the other Simpsons games of the era.

  • Kid Klown's klutziness is key in this chaotic catastrophe of a kerfuffle and holy crap how many more K sounds can I get out of this sentence? As you spend a great deal of Crazy Chase in constant motion, you could view it as a precursor to the many momentum-focused endless runners of today. It's possible I could just be insanely pursuing a tenuous connection, however.

  • Malcolm, the erstwhile antagonist of the Kyrandia series, manages to escape his fate as a piece of granite in this third game and goes about getting revenge on the wet and rather dim hero Brandon. Though very much a mean-spirited villain, he's actually innocent of the one irredeemable crime everyone is pinning on him. As with many ideas in the Kyrandia series, the premise is a neat twist on a common fantasy trope.

  • While platformers ruled the school on the 16-bit consoles of the 90s, they created a reasonably well-regarded niche on home computers as well. Harlequin was a glorious looking game for its time and had quite a few inventive ideas as well.

  • The Fool of The Fool's Errand is an uncharacteristically bright jester, who solves a great many diabolical puzzles (also representing other Tarot arcana) in pursuit of his fortune. As with the modern Fez, there's a bit of a meta-element behind the game: solving the individual puzzles alone is but part of a larger whole.

  • Whatever the heck NiGHTS actually is notwithstanding, the eponymous trickster spirit is clearly of the jester persuasion. I shall not elaborate further, however, lest the curse of Gerst were to befall me for even mentioning this Saturn cornerstone.

  • Mr. Do doesn't quite have the pertinacious reputation of the similarly honorific'd Mr. Domino, but he does have a long and vaguely respected video game career of skulduggery and boulder-dashing (to hint at two other games of a similar nature). Avoid enemies, eat cherries and wonder how a clown got so good at digging. Probably those giant claws they all have, right?

  • Pandemonium, as with MediEvil, were a series of action platformers which didn't seem to survive beyond the original PlayStation's lifespan. I never got the chance to play them new, as I jumped onto the Sony bandwagon with their second console, but I hear they were pretty decent. It also features a clown as a playable character, which is perhaps the more pertinent piece of information.

  • Another game from my youth, Black Lamp put you in control of a very ponderous jester trying to resurrect a kingdom crawling with enemies by replacing its collection of colorful, protective lamps. The titular black lamp was always the hardest to recover, as it was invariably guarded by a colossal dragon.

  • Snacks'n Jaxson, a homeless clown who is purported to "love to eat", is one of those cases where someone has a particularly lucid nightmare and decides against their better judgement to use it as inspiration for art. Or, in this case, a game set in a pseudo-3D tunnel where a clown with a telescopic neck eats floating food while also protecting the window behind him from same. It's a variant on Breakout, but I don't mean to diminish its imagination. Instead, I'd prefer to seal that imagination away where it can't hurt and/or horrify others.

  • Turning away from eldritch horrors posing as clowns, we... nope, we're right back to where we were with this, a game based on the eerie simulacrum of "an Earth clown" that is Ronald McDonald. Anyone who has seen enough weird Vocaloid videos (thanks VGK!) or SaltyBet streams knows that thing isn't human. It's not fooling anyone.

  • Fine, there's also Sweet Tooth. Jaffe's murderous clown makes It look like Them (I guess I just find giant ants less scary than monster clowns).

  • (Thanks BeachThunder!) I'd almost forgotten this little adventure from the recent wave of Steam/GOG point-and-clicks we've been blessed with of late. I'm going to be spending the rest of today trying to remember who Sadwick reminds me of. Besides Strong Sad.

  • (Thanks endaround!) I gotta imagine this is the first ever game with a clown protagonist, right? Clowns probably didn't have their fearful reputation as far as back as the 70s. I bet parents even let their children go near them! What an age of innocence.