Few things make my six-year-old son laugh more than absurdist humor. It’s my go-to when I really want to watch him struggle to keep his drink in his mouth and not shooting out of his nose at highway speeds. That’s why we love Supermarket Shriek, an arcade time trial racer where a man and a goat team up to dash around increasingly death-defying (often death-obeying, to be honest) supermarkets in pursuit of beans, detergent, and the rest of the irresistible sale items they just can’t live without. It’s absurd, but also absurdly well made, hard to put down, and even at its most unforgiving, it’s some of the most fun we’ve had gaming all year.
Supermarket Shriek’s control scheme seems amazingly accessible and simple, but the game’s difficulty curve and its endless antics come in mastering this deceptive setup. If you’re playing in single-player, two buttons are all you’ll need to steer your cart around stores as you dodge huge axes, hit stunt jumps over fire pits, and smash into pyramids of produce like the Kool-Aid Man summoned to a ’90s ad. In the hair-pullingly hilarious co-op mode, each player is designated with either the left turn or right turn ability, and getting your kid, partner, or whomever else to cooperate welcomes the same “are you kidding me?!” co-op interactions as the genre benchmark for the fun and cute dissolution of meaningful relationships, Overcooked.
Supermarket Shriek works in all modes, single-player or co-op, and even offers a party mode for up to eight players. We haven’t played with that many yet, but extrapolating what we did see, it would be total pandemonium in the best way. In co-op, you can even use voice controls to scream your way around the stores in real life, rather than just your man and goat combo doing that in the game for you.
While we still have some of the late-game levels to beat, not one has seemed subpar so far, and no two seem similar. The studio consistently drew up new wacky ways to send this odd couple down the aisles, and it will become your mission, like it has become ours, to nail that drift out of the veggie aisle, to time your curves just right to not miss a single can of beans, and to beat the toy truck to the finish line. The game is so well made, even as you can often fail so much, it never feels like you have been cheated. It just takes another, better try. It could even teach your kids — or you — something about perseverance and laughing at failure, trusting victories are within reach.
With several level types, fun cosmetics to unlock, and one of the smoothest, most rewarding arcade experiences we’ve played in a long time, truly Supermarket Shriek isn’t just our Family Game of the Week, it’s one of the best games of the year. No further qualifiers needed. It’s fun, challenging, and will have everyone in your house, especially the kids, laughing at the obstacles each level brings, and the many funny ways you’ll fail.
Platforms: Xbox One (Switch, PS4 coming soon)
Genre: Top-down arcade racer
Price: $17.99, included in Xbox Game Pass
Co-op modes: Up to eight players local in party mode, two players local in story mode
ESRB Rating: E
Developer: Billy Goat Entertainment
Publisher: Billy Goat Entertainment