Five Surprising Video Game Cameos by Musicians


Yeah, this didn't work out too well.
  • Yeah, this didn't work out too well.

In this day and age, it's become almost commonplace for artists to plug songs into a video game. Heck, there's an entire freaking genre dedicated to translating music into video game form.

While musicians and their labels frantically rush to get a song in the latest FIFA title, there's a small subset of artists that have actually appeared in a video game in some form or fashion. It's been hit or miss, to say the least.

For example, virtual representations of Metallica and the Beatles appeared in well-received music games. And Def Jam created several excellent fighting titles featuring popular rappers.

Then there are the times when certain musicians appear in a game almost at random. And not all of these instances are positive. In no particular order, here are some of more off-kilter video game appearances from notable musicians:

Beastie Boys in NBA Jam

NBA Jam was a huge draw back in the 1990s, and one of the neat features was the ability to unlock celebrities as secret characters. But while it was all well and good to compete as then-President Bill Clinton or Will Smith, players could also take control of any of the three Beastie Boys. The caricatured versions of Adrock, MCA and Mike D. were resurrected in more recent versions of the game, as seen in the above video.

While the Beasties are certainly legendary enough to get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it's a bit of a stretch to say that they could compete with the likes of Brad Lahous or Blue Edwards. George Clinton - who was also featured on console versions of NBA Jam - could definitely set some nets on fire.

Michael Jackson in Space Channel 5

The King of Pop had a video game to coincide with his film Moonwalker. Jackson later made an appearance in Space Channel 5, a game that featured a futuristic character named Ulala dancing in the not-so-distant future.

Interestingly, Lady Miss Kier - the former lead singer of Deee-Lite - sued SEGA for apparently pilfering her persona for the main character. That suit was unsuccessful, and Deee-Lite's song "Groove is in the Heart" appeared on the game Samba de Amigo.

Phil Collins in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories

Phil Collins and violent entertainment seem to be attached at the hip. That's because the occasional Genesis frontman was a surprise guest on the spinoff to Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Collins serenades the player with a stirring rendition of "In the Air Tonight," complete with a legendary drum fill that's adored by RFT Music scribe Ryan Wasoba.

GTA games have a propensity to sprinkle in random guest stars. For example, Ricky Gervais performed a cheeky comedy set in Grand Theft Auto 4. Lego Freddie Mercury in LEGO Rock Band

As mentioned, there have been plenty of rhythm games released that focus on a particular band. And for the most part, all of those titles do a fairly good job at creating a virtual representation of the artist. But things can be a little dicey when musicians appear in more general music games, such as LEGO Rock Band.

Notwithstanding the game's fairly solid soundtrack, LEGO Rock Band featured a rather meandering career mode that dragged at times. There never seemed to be much justification why there was a need to mix Rock Band with LEGOs. And there wasn't much of a rhyme or reason to include LEGO-ized versions of Queen's Freddie Mercury in the game.

True, the novelty of a LEGO Mercury was fine for a bit. But the limited movement of the characters got old after awhile. Things didn't exactly get a whole lot better with LEGO David Bowie or LEGO Spinal Tap.

Kurt Cobain in Guitar Hero 5

As awkward as guest appearances in LEGO Rock Band were at times, they were generally harmless. And more importantly, Harmonix made the wise decision to attach characters to particular songs. That meant that LEGO Freddie Mercury wouldn't appear on screen if a player made the curious decision to select "Word Up!" by Korn. The toy version of Queen only appeared during songs such as "We Will Rock You" or "We Are the Champions."

That wasn't the case in Guitar Hero 5, an underrated title that featured one of the best soundtracks ever in a music game. Unfortunately, it was also the game that allowed for a digital rendition of Kurt Cobain to be utilized on all songs. And considering the Nirvana frontman's rather unsettling cause of death, it's a little weird to have him singing "YMCA" or "Wannabe."

Needless to say, Courtney Love and surviving members of Nirvana weren't exactly thrilled with this decision. Members of No Doubt were equally perturbed in the way the band was portrayed in Band Hero. That group ended up filing a lawsuit against Activision, the company behind the series.

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