These are what we call the 'YMMV items.' Things that some people find in this work. We call them 'your mileage might vary' because not everyone sees these things in the same way. This starts discussions in the trope lists, a thing we don't want. Please use the discussion page if you'd like to discuss any of these items.
That said, he's still pretty detached from what we traditionally consider "reality", even when he's allowed to be violent. And, conversely, just because the violence was "toned down" doesn't mean he's a fluffy ball of cuddles, either.
To quote Max in the cartoon: "The simulated 3D carnage makes me tingle like a prom queen!".
And he still sneaks in lines like this:
Max: What, no concealable weaponry, road flares, or black capsules? What if we get captured!?
Sam: Ha ha! You kill me, little buddy!
Max: (quietly) Only if we're taken alive, Sam.
Big Lipped Alligator Moment: The mariachi scenes in "Ice Station Santa", "Moai Better Blues", and "Night of the Raving Dead" (though an explanation for these events is offered in a later episode). If you count the individual episodes separately, the scenes are a Big Lipped Alligator Moment. If you count the whole Season, they aren't.
Played for laughs. In Sam & Max Hit the Road, while fighting for the phone, Sam flings Max out the window, then talks to the commissioner. While he's talking Max comes in through the door, and nonchalantly and asks Sam what the mission was. Being tossed out a third story window is humorously never brought up.
Broken Base: The voices, since each series has a different set.
Cliché Storm: The videogame made by the COPS, which is just tic-tac-toe.
Critical Dissonance: "Moai Better Blues" is one of the best reviewed episodes in the Freelance Police series. Fans, however, tend to be more divided. With some complaining about the limited locales and rather obscure puzzles once you reach the "Secret Underground Cave."
Crosses the Line Twice: A whole lot of the jokes, but think about this: Sam and Max have an entire wing of hell dedicated to them, and filled with all the people they've sent there, intentionally or accidentally.
Genre Savvy: Hugh Bliss, seeing as his entire operation is based on forcing the spread of unending joy and happiness Max is the closest character to representing a Chosen One to defeat him. Turns out not only did the villain know this in advance, but was waiting for the two to show so he could dispose of Max as fast as he could.
Harsher in Hindsight: In the animated series episode They Came From Down There, Mack Salmon tries to take Max's brain to make him a slave, it fails. Fast forward to The Devil's Playhouse episode 3, They Stole Max's Brain!, and we see the frightening effect of what could have happened if Mack had succeeded.
In one episode, Sam and Max take in a little boy with uncontrolled psychic powers, who was being used by the military as a superweapon, and Hilarity Ensues. His powers are disturbingly similar to the more seriously handled ones gained by Max in The Devil's Playhouse, and it's not helped by the fact that the duo use him while crimefighting as a psychic weapon.
In The Final Episode, Sam and Max try to recall how they met The Geek. Max recalls being a Pharaoh. In The Devil's Playhouse, Max's body gets possessed by the Pharaoh Sammun-Mak who dresses almost exactly the same way Max remembered being dressed as the flashback - and the season establishes that Max is a multidimensional Hive Mind, adding in a great recipe for Fan Wank.
The loading screen animation is basically Max's head, on fire. This becomes much less funny after the climax of "The City That Dares Not Sleep", in which Max's head catches fire from psychic overexertion shortly before he explodes. It's unclear though if that was the Maimtrons or Max.
The following lines of the World Of Max song from the end credits of Season 1 are either this or Hilarious in Hindsightdepending on whether or not you sympathize with The Narrator:
A conscience is a curiously useless abnormality
A useless abnormality, a useless abnormality
A growth, of sorts. A growth of sorts.
Hilarious in Hindsight: The animated series, Santa Claus appears in his typical, jolly role, but when he was included in the games, he was very noticeably less jolly.
In one episode, there's an evil dummy from an old TV Show, granted it's the evil half, but, in The Devils Playhouse: ''Beyond the Alley of the Dolls', the main antagonist of the episode is an evil Ventriloquist's dummy called Charlie Ho-Tep.
Disney, where series creator Steve Purcell currently works, now owns both LucasArts and Marvel.
In the first episode of the cartoon, Sam and Max encounter a locked door, in which the person on the other side says "What's the password? And if you say Swordfish, I'll lose it!!" in the Talltale game episode "The Mole, The Mob and the Meatball" Sam can attempt to answer Swordfish as a password.
In Day Of The Tentacle in one hallway of the Colonial Edison mansion along the wall of historial presidential figures is Max in colonial clothing. note at the time Lucasarts had a running gag of inserting Max cameos in as many games as they could Here he is yet again associated with Presidents.
Max: Well if that doesn't get us into hell, nothing will.
Since it's about destroying a building with several people in it, including a dying child (whom Sam and Max will make sure gets to Hell), in order to raise a killer robot... That also counts as Crossing the Line Twice.
At first, it was pretty hard to take Hugh Bliss seriously as a villain... at least until he separated Max's bliss by severing his hand, tearing out his stomach, and ripping off his tail.
Particularly when he finally really snaps and screams "DIE, BUNNY" before attacking Max, who'd been one of his biggest fans until right then. This is one of the only times in the games where Sam doesn't hesitate to shoot a villain.
Damning Santa Claus's soul to Hell, although they did bring him back.
The episode where they bring him back actually reveals that there's a whole wing of Hell devoted to people who Sam & Max have, either directly or indirectly, had a hand in the death of; even relatively blameless victims get sent here, so Sam & Max's involvement is the only relevant factor.
Like You Would Really Do It: The consequences of psychic power use was foreshadowed clearly throughout The Devils Playhouse, but who would've believed that there wouldn't be a last-minute save or sudden wacky solution or Deus ex Machina? You get a grim 10-minute closing sequence to ruminate on that.
Sam: You want a lawyer?! Here's an attorney from Smith and Wesson!!
Sam and Max's gruesome deaths at the end of the episode "The Invaders" though it turns out it's actually a VR program and the "aliens" are the real Sam and Max playing. Lampshaded by Sam when he hopes most kids won't be traumatized by the scene of them dying a few seconds ago.
In episode 106 when Max's psychotic trigger happy side becomes it's own being you have to decapitate it's hand, to restore it back to Max anyway, once you do, right before he disappears in a puff of smoke, he has a look of complete horror on it's face the look of one just realizing he only has seconds to live.
Also Max's gluttonous side devouring you. *Cue close up of his mouth opening and filling the screen, and Sam and Max inside his stomach in the next scene* of course you can escape each time but when you realize that he is an aspect of Max this seems to imply that Max can eat things much much larger than himself whole if he wanted, the only reason he doesn't is because he normally has restrain, something this pure aspect of hunger lacks.
A glitch in the ending credits to Season 1 note This only seems to happen on certain computers, and even then most likely only with the GOG version has several NP Cs growing really tall and skinny and their fingers becoming massively long. It is outright terrifying.
Porting Disaster: The frame-rates of the Season 1 and Season 2 ports to the Wii will suddenly drop down to the teens, or single digits, on the drop of a hat. Certain sequences are almost literal slide-shows. Additionally, the controls where not adjusted to compensate for the fact that you're using a Wiimote, not a mouse. Mix in poor Wiimote detection, the frame-rate and you've got yourself a point-and-click adventure which is both difficult and a literal pain to play.
Tear Jerker: Max's presumed death at the end of Season 3. Even if he didn't die, it would still be impossible for him to return to Sam. Luckily, his alternate reality self is still there to fill the gap of his present self. He even waves goodbye to Sam before teleporting away for the last time.
When Papierwaite tells Sam that Max's tumor became infected with dark matter and they won't be able to operate normally, instead of stepping back from the problem and trying to think of a solution like he normally would, he weakly, almost childishly, asks if Papierwaite can "make it better." This being Sam & Max, he obviously immediately follows with another hilarious quip; but he sounds so defeated when he says this, it cranks Sam's woobie factor Up to Eleven.
The Scrappy: The Soda Poppers. Recognized in canon as the Scrappies when they turn out to be not only a central part of Sam's personal hell, but the very final bosses who, it turns out, had been controlling Satan and been the secret rulers of hell all along.
Harry Moleman is becoming a scrappy of his own right. Also, in Episode 303, Sammun-Mak became a Replacement Scrappy.
They Changed It, Now It Sucks: Some fans' reactions to the announcement that the upcoming Season 3 will replace the Point-and-Click interface with a controller-friendly one, similar to Wallace & Gromit. Never mind that this is for the console games only.
Also, the complaint that Max's Future Vision makes the puzzles too easy.
Not to mention the complaints about Bill Farmer and Nick Jameson not voicing Sam and Max. (Telltale tried to get them to voice said characters, but they couldn't)
The Woobie: I dare you to tell me that you didn't feel horribly guilty for everything that's happened to Max by the end of 305.
First of all, he's forced to electrocute himself by his own best friend - you can actually hear him screaming in pain while it's happening. Second, the electrocution leaves him with severe brain damage, which means he loses most of his memory and is made even more simple than before - so he's left doing nothing but happily grinning and mumbling for the rest of the episode, even as Sam struggles to restore it. Third...and this is the real Tear Jerker...at the very end, his head really does catch fire, and when the last Maimtron hits, you realize he's actually on the verge of genuinely exploding, just as he's been warned about from the very beginning. Again, you can hear him crying out in pain; the absolutely heartbreaking expression on his face makes it clear that he's suddenly realized what's happening. The very last you see of him is a small wave goodbye to Sam before he teleports off to spare the city.