?For as long as there have been videogames, the games industry has desperately courted the attention and approval of Hollywood. So they bought it. From celebrity pitchman George Plimpton shilling for the Intellivision back in the ’80s to 50 Cent starring in a pair of mediocre GTA clones, as soon as the games industry had money, there were celebrities willing to lend their voice and/or likenesses to their games.
The following list covers 10 strange appearances of famous faces in videogames. You’ll notice an absence of games like Micheal Jackson’s Moonwalker or Shaq-Fu — obviously, there’s nothing surprising about Britney Spears appearing in Britney’s Dance Beat. Instead, this list focuses on smaller appearances and cameos that are a little more subtle and a lot more surprising (we’ll save those crappy celebrity cash-grab games for another list).
10) Kristen Bell in Assassin’s Creed Unlike a lot of celebrity appearances in games, Veronica Mars star and nerd-crush Kristen Bell does a decent job handling the voice work in the Assassin’s Creed games. But even with a pretty respectable likeness — and the fact that she’s in the game from start to finish — Bell’s appearance in the game is so downplayed that many gamers may not have recognized her. Why did she agree to do it? Why did she also agree to be in AC2? We’re not sure, but we’re glad she did.
9) Phil Collins in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
Several famous voices have appeared in the GTA games, but Phil Collins was the first to lend his face along with his voice. Complete the mission “In The Air Tonight” and you’ll have a chance to buy a ticket to see Phil in concert! At the concert, he performs his famous song of the same name in its entirety — assuming you shelled out $6,000 for the ticket. Hey, the game takes place in the 1980s. He was popular then. 8) Greg Proops and John DiMaggio in MadWorld
Calling Whose Line Is It Anyway host Greg Proops a celebrity may be a bit of a stretch, and his MadWorld co-host John DiMaggio is even less well-known. But this is a nerd site, and Proops was both a Star Wars character and appeared in Flight of the Conchords, so he definitely counts by dork standards. And most TR readers probably know DiMaggio as Futurama‘s Bender, so he definitely counts as famous on this site. Together, the duo provide off-color commentary for the ridiculously violent MadWorld, and their banter is easily one of the best parts of the game.
7) KISS in Tony Hawk’s Underground
The Tony Hawk games are no stranger to cameos, and KISS are no stranger to selling out, so it makes perfect sense that the two would join forces. If you’ve ever wanted to see poorly animated simulacrums of KISS perform a 20-year-old song in a videogame, man, Tony Hawk’s Underground is the perfect game for you!
6) Gary Coleman in Postal 2
Either Gary Coleman has a good sense of humor about himself or he really needed some money when Postal 2 was in development, because his in-game character is an angry, violent sociopath. Then again, his appearance in the game is based on an actual incident in which Coleman assaulted a fan — although that didn’t end with a shootout. Coleman returned in the Postal 2 expansion “Apocalypse Weekend.”
5) The Rock in Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run
For several years, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was tied to a movie based on the Spy Hunter games. The movie never happened (although it’s once again rumored to be in the works), but, in a case of unfulfilled corporate synergy, a game did. Unfortunately. The Rock’s in-game character ran like he had a load in his pants and the driving sequences are even worse. When I played this game back in the day, I drove my car through a mountain. 4) Dana Plato in Night Trap
Gary Coleman isn’t the only cast member of Diff’rent Strokes that was sucked into the world of crappy videogames. His co-star, the late Dana Plato, starred in one of the most notoriously terrible games of all time, Night Trap. The “Full Motion Video” game starred Dana Plato as an undercover agent of the Special Control Attack Team (SCAT) investigating the disappearance of young girls in the Martin family house. Not only did Night Trap totally suck, but it is one of the games featured in the 1990s congressional hearings that lead to the Electronic Software Ratings Board. 3) Bruce Willis in Apocalypse
Apocalypse starred Bruce Willis as the voice and sorta-likeness of Bruce Willis as a fugitive scientist battling against an evil ex-coworker who is trying to bring about the Apocalypse. Makes sense, right? This PS1 shooter received average review scores, but is nonetheless the most influential game on this list. Apocalypse developer Neversoft used its engine for it’s next game — a little title called Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. So without Apocalypse, we never would have had that horrible KISS clip above.
2) Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino and Jennifer Aniston in Steven Spielberg’s Director’s Chair
Steven Spielberg demonstrated with games like Boom Blox that he genuinely understands the appeal of videogames and how to make a fun product that doesn’t rely on its famous creator as a selling point. Maybe he learned how to do it right from the time he did it so very, very wrong. Steven Spielberg’s Director’s Chair is a big pile of shame. Editing a small stockpile of hammy clips into an equally hammy movie is no gamer’s idea of fun. 1) Christopher Walken and Friends in Ripper
You don’t need to know anything about this 1996 FMV game beyond what you see in the trailer. It’s got Gimli the Dwarf, The Penguin and Walken being Walken. In other words, it’s amazing.
J. Matthew Zoss is the editor of Topless Robot’s sister site Joystick Division. For more video game coverage, visit joystickdivision.com.