Trombone Champ toots its way to victory as our favourite comedy game of the year—and also one of the best rhythm games, too. For more of our GOTY picks, head to our end of year awards hub.
Jody Macgregor, AU/Weekend Editor: Folks get a kick out of watching Trombone Champ, the best and probably only trombone-based rhythm game we’ll ever need, but it’s even more fun to play yourself. Mousing up and down (I uninverted the controls) while pressing a single key is so straightforward you know every mistake you make was your fault.
But where the sound of a guitar hitting a bum note is a distressing jangle, the farty parping of a clumsily played trombone is pure comic bliss. No offence to tromboners, but it’s a silly instrument. There’s a reason Monty Python picked a John Philip Sousa military march to be their theme music, all bombast and self-importance, completely ruined by three trombones tooting away.
Mollie Taylor, News Writer: Trombone Champ managed to elicit the kind of guttural, delightfully awful cackle from me that hasn’t exited my body in years. It’s stupid fun and I love its liberal use of royalty-free music, with the occasional dash of trap thrown in. It’s a game you can’t be mad ’cause bad at, because being bad makes the experience so much more wonderful.
Chris Livingston, Features Producer: The best games are the ones that don’t just teach you something when you fail, but make failing just as much fun as succeeding. And whether I’ve tooted well or horribly in Trombone Champ, I’ve never not had an absolute blast. It’s an easy game to dismiss as a joke—and an excellent joke, because it’s hilarious—but it’s also a genuinely great, not to mention extremely challenging music rhythm game.
And it’s not just the tooting to accompany songs that have no business being lightning-paced compositions like Take Me Out to the Ballgame, it’s the ridiculous cinematic assault of each song’s background scenes which try to force your eyeballs away from the speeding notes. Spiralling carousel horses, dancing violinists, scores of baboons (and occasionally a pug) appearing and vanishing in time with the music. The jokes and gags in the background come as fast and furious and funny as the songs themselves. Accomplishing an S-Tier performance feels not just like you’re a musical prodigy, but a survival expert.
Morgan Park, Staff Writer: I have 33 minutes logged in Trombone Champ on Steam, but if you believe that the true spirit of “playing” Trombone Champ is more than just the person behind the mouse, then I’ve actually played more like nine hours. That’s how long I’ve watched my friend try to S-Tier every single song over Discord, and though he probably wouldn’t admit it, I’m having more fun than him. When he’s nailing every note, the trombone’s comical sound register melts into the background of Bach’s masterpieces, and when he totally bones it up, I get to giggle at the funny sounds. I’ve probably ruined a few runs myself with ill-timed laughter, but Trombone Champ is so inherently ridiculous that we usually end up cracking up together.
What impresses me most about about Trombone Champ aren’t the songs themselves, but the surprisingly robust progression behind it all. Apparently there’s an entire card collecting mechanic that highlights actual historical trombone players like they’re from the hottest new Hearthstone booster set? And you can feed the cards to a baboon to unlock a secret ending? Forget the fact that this is a small indie game made by a handful of people, that’s an amazing idea that any of the three thousand iterations of Guitar Hero or Rock Band could and should’ve thought of first.