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

The Secret of Monkey Island

Cover art for The Secret of Monkey Island

(Image credit: Lucasfilm Games)

Year: 1990
Developer: Lucasfilm Games

There’s an article series I love on Vulture called The Great Bits, in which comedian John Roy breaks down what makes jokes from comedians like John Mulaney and Maria Bamford truly masterful. This is my take on a Great Bit, about a perfectly executed joke in the Lucasfilm Games point-and-click-adventure The Secret of Monkey Island. It’s most beloved for its insult swordfighting, but my favorite moment comes shortly after that, when goofball hero Guybrush Threepwood has his first encounter with ghost baddie LeChuck.

LeChuck, in disguise, ties Guybrush to a “fabulous idol,” which looks like it’s made out of solid gold, and tosses him off a pier into the ocean. In this situation I would proceed to drown immediately. But The Secret of Monkey Island uses this scene to tell at least three extremely good jokes in a single screen.

Guybrush Threepwood, underwater

(Image credit: Lucasfilm Games)

Instead of panicking and drowning, Guybrush just walks around casually on the seafloor, tethered to the fabulous idol sunk into the sand. This is a callback. Great punchlines often start with a setup or bit of detail that seems throwaway at first, and then they layer on more and more elements until you’ve forgotten all about that setup. Here Monkey Island is delivering a punchline about a joke it made at the very beginning of the game. Guybrush really wants to be a pirate, and when the pirates in charge of who gets to be a pirate ask if he has any special skills, Guybrush says “I can hold my breath for 10 minutes!” Ha! Except, as we learn hours later, he literally can.

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