If you were between 9 and 19 with internet access in the early 2000s, you probably remember (or were at least aware of) Homestar Runner. For the uninitiated, Homestar Runner was a web series of flash cartoons known for its absurdist humor and distinct voice acting. The highly quotable nature of the show, most notably the Strong Bad Emails, became kind of a pre-meme meme amongst the throngs of young people religiously checking the site for updates. There are plenty of Twitter threads dedicated to which Homestar Runner phrases worked their way into your daily vernacular to prove it. (Mine are “the jibblies” and “consummate v’s.”)
Homestar Runner also had an entire section of the site dedicated to original games, many of which were shockingly good considering they were made by two brothers just like, for their strange ad-free cartoon website. Having spent an insane number of hours playing these games sometime around 8th grade, I have taken it upon myself to create the ultimate ranking, mostly so I have an excuse to play them again.
(Some quick housekeeping: I am only counting the playable games released under the “Videlectrix” moniker. The creators of Homestar Runner have, since the late 2000s, released a series of standalone episodic games called Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People, and a few itch.io entries. I’ve not played those, so I can’t speak to their quality.)
#20. Old Games
“Old Games” refers to a collection of quick n’ easy little games that were on the site in its infancy. These are more like Homestar Runner themed games as opposed to games that exist within the Homestar Runner universe, if that makes sense. They’re fine, but you and I both know that’s not what we’re here for.
#19. Marshie’s Malloween Mix-Up
Listen man, I fuckin’ hate the Marshie character. Something about them really just freaks me right out. And Strong Bad agrees, stating all Marshie content should be rated NC-17 for “Needlessly Creepy times 17.” I also am pretty horrible at Ikaruga-style “color” games like this; they scramble my little lizard brain. Since I’m the only one putting this ranking together, I get to declare that this game sucks. Sorry.
#18. 50k Race Walker
Though the concept of Race Walk is funny — you can’t go too fast, else you get a fault — just alternating left and right arrow keys is too boring to justify the laugh. It kind of reminds me of QWOP in that it is designed specifically to annoy me, personally, and once again my opinion is the only thing that matters right now. You got that, editor?
(Editor’s note: Yeah fine, I don’t know what any of this shit means.)
#17. Population: Tire
God, these fucking cursor bouncy games that were all the rage in the browser-gaming era blow ass. This is actually a rare example of a game I loved as a kid, but revisiting it gave me agita. It is definitely satisfying to get a nice string of bounces going, but the thrill is short-lived and the likelihood of irritation is not. Also, there’s a Wii version of this game for some reason, which isn’t really doing it any favors.
#16. Make-O Your Own Stinko
I’m not quite sure it qualifies as a game, hence the lowish rank. This is a StinkoMan comic panel generator that could be construed as a dress-up game I guess? It originated as an easter egg in the Strong Bad Email “web comics,” but was added to the Games menu shortly after. I love pixel art in general, so it’s an easy sell for me. But not exactly what one thinks of when they think of Homestar Runner games, so it’s sitting down here on the list.
#15. Kid Speedy
I wasn’t able to replay this one as the game is busted on the current HSR site. I remember it being fine, but not awesome. I do love the concept of “don’t get last place,” but the whole “junk food slows you down” thing is a little cringe in 2022. There’s a joke somewhere in here about dairy and how that actually speeds you up when you have to take a shit but I’m too lazy to really get it together.
#14. Pigs on Head
Ah, Pigs on Head. A good old fashion stackin’ stuff game. As the name suggests, you just stack pigs on someone’s head. Elegant. Timeless. Easy, but not too easy. Not stupidly frustrating or cheap either, and it has a distinct visual style that is different from many of the other games on this list.
#13. Secret Collect
Secret Collect is an Atari-style top-down game where you, a red square that represents Strong Bad, use the arrow keys to collect squares that are not Strong Bad. Each level is a simple maze with a distinct end point and a few obstacles, including squares that increase your speed. This is a surprisingly good time, and scratches the fast-paced VVVVVV itch without the maddening difficulty.
In RhinoFeeder, Strong Bad needs to feed a rhino while dodging snakes. It’s a delightfully dumb concept, it has straightforward mechanics, and it’s a good way to waste 20 minutes. Also, this will just make you think “no step on snek” to yourself until you eventually have to make yourself stop and get some fucking work done, Colleen.
#11. Where’s Egg
Okay, this one surprised me. Your goal as a 8-bit detective is to, uh, locate an egg that one of your suspects is hiding. It’s a “one tells only truths” puzzle combined with some simple investigative map-hopping. The branding/theme is also Soviet Russian, so that lends itself to some good fake translation goofs. And like, philosophically….where is egg, really? Deep stuff.
#10. Dangeresque Roomisode 1: Behind the Dangerdesque
Strong Bad as a character would definitely be into the noir thing, and it wound up being the perfect vehicle for a LucasArts-style single-room adventure. Danger-desque (get it?) is a later entry that I don’t recall playing much as I was in high school at this point, but I do remember finding all of the very asinine ways to get a Game Over a hoot. And for some reason, I really want to watch the Big Lebowski now.
(note: I watched a walkthrough of this as it is not yet supported by the Ruffle flash emulator)
#9. Hall Runner
A solid combination of vector graphics and text-adventure mechanics: dodge shit and answer “obstacle quizzes” from various enemies. You’re given three choices every time you encounter an obstacle: jump, fight, or talk, and are awarded points according to the success of your pick. The catch is that you don’t know what the obstacle is until after you’ve chosen your action, so it winds up leaving a bit more to fate than I usually like in a game, but this is a pretty good time.
I too tend to jump, fight, or talk to my enemies regardless of type or status. This explains why I’m playing Homestar Runner games by myself instead of having friends.
#8. Duck Guardian I
Duck Guardian I is one of the longer Homestar Runner games, with 33 waves to beat. As you may have suspected, your goal is to guard the ducks from a variety of falling enemies and usher them to safety. The right blend of tricky, silly, and kind of cool to tick all the boxes. But Jesus fucking Christ, man, this gets stressful. Look at this little pixel ducky and tell me you’re not invested emotionally and will totally not need therapy after it inevitably dies.
Rest in Peace, Lil’ Durck.
Quoted regularly by me to this day. No notes.
#6. Awexome Cross
Awexome Cross is a crappy side-scroller where you time jumps using the spacebar, but for some reason I totally love this game. It’s way too short to be this high on the list but I can’t help it. It’s goofy, fast, and addictive as anything, and you play as The Cheat, who is my favorite HSR character. I still have a hoodie from 2004 that I bought with my own money that has The Cheat on it, though it definitely has dry rot and I should probably just cut him out and use it as a very punk back patch or something. He deserves a place of honor.
#5. Thy Dungeonman I and II
I’m a sucker for a text adventure. Your goal is simple: get ye flask. A perfect combination of stupid, funny, and direct. I grouped the first two Thy Dungeonman’s into one because they play virtually the same; they’re more like episodes of the same game rather than distinct titles. These are shockingly immersive and have that quintessential Homestar Runner weirdness while still working within the confines of the genre they’re parodying.
#4. Thy Dungeonman III
TDIII is mechanically very similar to I and II with the addition of some great retro graphics. That’s enough for a bump in ranking. Come on, look at this opening screen!
Trogdor is perhaps the Strong Bad Email that has the most cultural reach – even people who aren’t super familiar with the HSR universe probably remember the Trogdor the Burninator song.
The Trogdor game is very simple: stomp on peasants, but not knights, which will one-hit kill you. That’s it. There’s a surprising amount of levels in this game, even though the schtick is very straightforward. But man, this game can get its one-beefy armed claws into you and then you’ve been playing for an hour when you’re supposed to be writing a ranking. And then you’re desperately Googling to see whether or not you made up the fact that the Trogdor song was in Guitar Hero and HOLY SHIT?
#2. StinkoMan 20X6
StinkoMan is a Mega-Man clone that has all your standard 2D platformer mechanics, with some very fun anime panache and a truly bangin’ soundtrack. This shit is well-made, decently-long for a browser game, and just challenging enough to drive a 13-year-old insane. I personally put enough hours into this game that I think my mother was looking for a therapist for me because of it.
The 10th and final level was actually released in 2021 after a 12-year gap, and a worthy end to such a delightful saga. They also added a “new” mode vs the “classic” mode, which adds mid-level checkpoints and more health for those looking to not tear their hair out playing this fucking thing. Cannot recommend this enough.
Bonus points: there is a Minus World!
#1: Peasant’s Quest
Peasant’s Quest is at the top of my ranking for a number of reasons. It has, in my opinion, the exact perfect mix of being a genre homage and making fun of said genre at the same time. The overly-complex and obtuse fantasy RPG is a great target for this, because while these types of games were extremely influential and important to many people, the fact of the matter is that you legitimately cannot beat most of those games without a manual. I played Peasant’s Quest a few times as a kid and you can bet your ass I used a walkthrough. I have a very distinct memory of finishing Peasant’s Quest for the first time, only to realize I had collected 149/150 points. I was infuriated. Apparently, you get a secret point by closing a drawer in a house early on.
The creators also consider Peasant’s Quest to be their greatest achievement. I’m inclined to agree. The game uses a fairly direct copy of the Sierra AGI engine (used in King’s Quest, the title’s namesake) and the Brothers clearly did all the work of rebuilding it out of love. The music, the setting, the truly hysterical dialogue, and the fact that your character is named Rather Dashing all come together for a slam dunk. And as a bonus, you get some in-universe continuity, as your entire titular Quest is to seek revenge on — you guessed it — The Burninator himself.
Play the games (well, some of them–a handful are busted) here thanks to the Ruffle Flash emulator.