By Jared Jones
After months of seemingly endless dick-teasing and subsequent rug-pulling, South Park: The Stick of Truth was released today to rave reviews. As a huge fan of both the show and the original N64 game, I celebrated the milestone by unsheathing my own stick of truth at a local GameStop to slightly less enthusiastic reception (it was like those cultureless 12 year-olds had never even studied Renaissance art before).
But while sitting in a holding cell with a dozen or so pissed off soccer moms calling for my head on a plate from outside, I couldn’t help but reflect on the Comedy Central franchise’s fascination with video games — and truly, Japanese culture in general. Trey Parker and Matt Stone are gamers, no doubt, and their love of all things SEGA, Nintendo, and Xbox One (or PlayStation 4!)-related has permeated many a South Park episode over the years, if not become the focus of a storyline entirely. So to honor the South Park gang’s latest achievement with The Stick of Truth, I’ve taken it upon myself to catalog and rank the show’s video game-centric episodes so you f*cking noobs will still have something to complain about on this joyous day and all will be well in the world.
“Guitar Queer-O” – Season 11
As a guitar player for some six years before Guitar Hero was shat upon this earth, I cannot begin to describe my frustration with this game. For a game that attempts to narrow 24 frets worth of musical possibility down to five buttons, Guitar Hero somehow manages to be both fart-sniffingly pretentious and woefully inept in practically every way imaginable. The controls suck, notes don’t synch up with how they’d actually be played regardless of what skill level you’re playing at, and don’t even get me started on that pathetic excuse for a whammy bar. Guitar Hero is the nerd that couldn’t read, metaphorically speaking, and South Park rightfully raked it over the coals with season eleven’s “Guitar Queer-O.”
The central plot of “Guitar Queer-O” was essentially every story of rock superstardom ever, an episode of Behind the Music (not to be confused with “Behind the Blow”) flipped on its head and told through the eyes of the digitally-obsessed mongoloids who are going to being running this country in 20 years (*sits back in rocking chair*). While the episode was mainly an excuse to parody coke parties, heroin overdoses, and the pratfalls of fame, there was actually a decent if well-worn critique of the digital age at the heart of “Queer-O” (Author’s note: What? This is the only time I’ll be able to get away with saying “queer” and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let it pass me by).
“If they spent half the time learning a real instrument as they do playing that game, who knows what they could accomplish,” remarks Sharon Marsh in the opening scene of the episode. The answer is weed, Sharon. Whether it’s video games or instruments, all roads lead to a sh*tload of weed.
The Black Friday Trilogy – Season 17
I’m not ranking the “Black Friday” trilogy so low just because it was essentially a ad campaign for The Stick of Truth. After seventeen relatively hilarious seasons and one of the greatest animated movies of all time, Parker and Stone have more than earned the right to shamelessly promote themselves. If they decided to devote a trilogy to the new flavor of Lays next season, who would honestly call them out for it? (But seriously, fuck Cheesy Garlic Bread)
No, I rank the latest South Park trilogy so low because its story could have been told in two episodes at the most, not three episodes spread out over four weeks. I know that Trey and Matt likely had little do with the spacing of the episodes, but this is my list so whatever, f*ck you.
The repetitive G.R.R Martin dick jokes aside, The Black Friday trilogy deserves its due credit for the “Brack Friday Bunduru,” a beautiful poignant Peanuts moment, and its brilliant skewering of the most abhorrent “holiday” in American history since Texas abolished “Queer-Bashing Day” in 2009 (Author’s note: I recant my previous Author’s note). And should South Park decide to steal my Lays flavor trilogy idea, might I suggest “You’re not my real father” as the flavor worth parodying.
“Good Times with Weapons” – Season 8
Season 8’s premiere, “Good Times with Weapons”, is not a video game episode per se, but it is done in the style of Japanese anime and is video game-esque in its plot, so I felt it deserved a mention here. Besides, any episode of South Park that features a song parody — in this case, the excellent “Let’s Fighting Love” – is worthy of praise. And if that episode also features Butters being painted up like a dog and nearly euthanized after a role-playing game gone awry, you’d be a fool to not place it on any list no matter how shoehorned it’s inclusion is.
“Go God Go” Two-Parter – Season 10
Another multi-part story based around the release of a gaming console, “Go God Go” pits Eric Cartman against atheists, robot dogs, and his own dickish past-self in a race to find a Nintendo Wii in a desolate future before boredom consumes him.
Unable to wait the three weeks for the Wii to come out, Cartman opts to freeze himself and enter suspended animation until the console is released. Unfortunately, Cartman is buried by an avalanche and awakens some 500 years in the future, where the Wii is all but a distant memory and you’ve already seen this episode 100 times, haven’t you? You’re simply scanning through my list to point out any omissions/faults with my logic without even reading the paragraphs, you say?
THIS IS WHAT YOU’VE DONE TO OUR ATTENTION SPANS, BUZZFEED WRITERS. MAY LUCIFER HIMSELF FIND MORE WAYS TO TORMENT YOU IN HELL THAN YOU COULD EVER POSSIBLY HOPE TO LATER LIST WITH CAT GIFS.
“Chinpoko Mon” – Season 3
A precursor to “Good Times with Weapons,” season 3’s “Chinpokomon” is a standout amongst hardcore fans of the show and critics alike, as the episode was nominated for an Emmy when it aired back in November of 2000. Although the episode is light on video game humor, it does mock the Dennō Senshi Porygon controversy to hilarious effect, and again, pays tribute to/rips on Japanese culture and its impact on American Youth.
Explaining to you what “Chinpokomon” takes aim at with its central plot would be an insult to your intelligence and a waste of my valuable time, so I’ll just say that Alabama Man and Wild Wacky Action Bike are toys that I would definitely let my future kids play with on a busy street if they were actually sold in stores. God, I hate my future kids.
“Best Friends Forever” – Season 9
“Chinpokomon” may have been nominated for an Emmy, but season 9’s “Best Friends Forever” actually walked away with an Emmy in 2005 for its portrayal of the Terry Schiavo case and surrounding media frenzy. Not that Parker and Stone gave a shit.
In an episode that once again deals with the addictive, all-consuming quality of video games, “Best Friends Forever” places Kenny McCormick in a battle with inevitable death after his obsession with the new PSP ends with him being run over by an ice cream truck and left in a persistent vegetative state. But it is the marker-sniffing angel Peter who truly steals the show in “Best Friends Forever,” especially when describing the battle between Heaven and Hell waged through Kenny’s golden PSP as “Ten times bigger than the final battle in the Lord of the Rings movie!”
“Make Love, Not Warcraft” – Season 10
As someone who has never played World of Warcraft, I must admit that I was incredibly surprised by how effective I found “Make Love,” which was later voted by fans as the best episode of season 10. Unlike the litany of Game of Thrones references that passed over my head during the “Black Friday” trilogy (again, never seen an episode), the jokes about the addictive power of Warcraft and its effects on one’s social life (and general health) found their mark more often than not in “Make Love.” Maybe it’s because I gained 20 pounds and refused to speak in anything but Hylian while beating Ocarina of Time as a child, or maybe it’s simply because jokes like “How do you kill that which has no life?” rank among the best in South Park’s long history. Not to mention that any episode featuring a Randy-centric plot is guaranteed for a few big laughs, but you already knew that, didn’t you, r-tard?
“Towelie” – Season 5
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that not only does Towelie rank among the greatest characters in all of South Park, but is quite possibly the greatest character in the history of pot-smoking cartoon towels (I know, a dubious distinction if there ever was one). That Towelie is called “the worst character ever” by Cartman as the episode bearing his name closes only reinforces the idea that Parker and Stone knew exactly how much potential this particular one-note character had. The way Towelie is introduced for the first time, by simply wandering on camera and uttering his trademark catchphrase with zero foreshadowing whatsoever? Awesome. Simply awesome.
Oh yeah, the plot. “Towelie” centers around the boys’ quest to retrieve their beloved Okama Gamesphere from the clutches of terrorists or a secretive paramilitary group or aliens. Whatever, f*ck you. The plot doesn’t really matter, because in the eyes of the boys, everything takes a backseat to the Gamesphere — an obvious riff on the Nintendo GameCube, which was released shortly after the episode aired. But with abortion jokes, pot jokes, and a fake commercial thrown right in the middle, “Towelie” is the video game episode that stands above them all. And if you don’t like it, then you can giiiiit out.