Musicians take on other media all the time. Madonna was in A League Of Their Own. Ice-T is in Law & Order. MC Hammer has an Instagram account. But surprisingly few have dedicated themselves to starring in video games.
These brave few give fans a whole new way to interact with their favorite artists. Sometimes the results are awesome, and sometimes they’re terrible. But even the worst of these endeavors fail so spectacularly as to be fun all over again. Let’s celebrate some of the games that feature our favorite musicians because they don’t already get enough praise and money, dang it.
If you mixed ‘90s dystopian future movies like Demolition Man and Tank Girl with the mindless explosions and overt racism of modern Michael Bay flicks, then top it off with an Aerosmith cherry, you’d end up with Revolution X. Of all the arcade games of my youth, this one gobbled up more of my quarters than any other. It’s a pretty great arcade shooter, if you don’t put too much thought into it.
In the game, the corporations and government are trying to ban music, television, and video games, targeting the youth of America and kidnapping the symbol of youthful rebellion, the band Aerosmith. Adults are jerks like that, am I right? It’s outrageously campy, as you fire flaming CDs at future warriors on roller blades and spear-throwing natives alike. Steven Tyler will toss the keys to Aerosmith’s car to you through the screen, so that’s pretty dope. Save your allowance to play this one. It’s worth it.
’WU-TANG: SHAOLIN STYLE
Starring: Wu-Tang Clan
The Wu-Tang Clan have always fancied themselves ninjas, and Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style stayed true to that theme. It’s basically like a Ninja Turtles movie with way more violence and slightly fewer turtles. All of the members of the rap group at the time appeared in the game, and some actually lent their voice talents to the characters. A controller in the shape of a “W,” horribly ill-conceived and generally sucky, was released with the game as well.
In the story mode, you fight through the 36 Chambers, which might sound familiar if you’re a fan. What you might not be familiar with is the rap group’s ability to dismember, bisect, explode, or rip heads off of their enemies, Mortal Kombat style. The game was pretty unique in that it allowed four fighters to take each other on at once, though the controls, camera angles, and graphics have aged like fine milk. Still, the audio bites and cutscenes are fun.
’DROPKICK THE FAINT’
Starring: The Faint
The title of this game could not be more spot on. It’s a how-far-can-you-launch-stuff flash game that’s really satisfying, whether you hate The Faint or love them. The concept is very simple, and it only takes about a minute or two to play through. And by “play through,” I of course mean dropkick every member of the band.
The game is inspired by the band’s song “Dropkick the Punks.” You play as a punk hanging out behind The Faint’s rock concert, waiting to exact sweet revenge. You charge up your attack, drop your leather jacket, and run onto the stage to boot each band member over the crowd and out the front door. Your character gives some funny lines, like, “I hate my dad.” For that reason, it’s worth a couple plays, but you’ll have no problem closing the browser window after five minutes.
’THE BEATLES ROCK BAND’
Starring: The Beatles
You’ll never be a member of The Beatles. That’s something you’re just going to have to live with every day for the rest of your life. But if you want to click-clack a plastic guitar in time with their songs while experiencing the acid-trip-like visuals that they were undoubtedly picturing in their drug-fueled rise to the top, this game can at least give you that. Seriously, though, The Beatles Rock Band’s visuals are really beautiful.
You strum, drum, or sing along through The Beatles’ career much in the same way as any other rhythm-based music game, but it’s The Beatles, so that makes it better. If you’re a fan of the band, you’ll probably love reliving some of their greatest and most memorable performances. And if you’re a Rolling Stones kind of person, get out.
’50 CENT: BULLETPROOF’
Starring: 50 Cent
I didn’t choose the upper-middle class suburban life, it chose me. But if you’re like me and you want a one hundred percent accurate depiction of how the other side lives, this game probably isn’t that. Or maybe it is. I wouldn’t know. But considering how many times 50 Cent has been shot in real life, calling his game “Bulletproof” seems disingenuous.
If you’ve ever asked the question, “What if Fitty had gone into the criminal underworld instead of rapping?” then you will probably enjoy the plot of this game, and you should probably stop calling him Fitty. Alternatively, if you’ve ever wondered what a linear Grand Theft Auto game with poor controls would be like, this will satisfy your curiosity. But it features the voice acting of 50 Cent, the G-Unit crew, Dr. Dre, and Eminem, which makes it worth checking out.
’FALL OUT BOY TRAIL’
Starring: Fall Out Boy
At first glance, Fall Out Boy Trail is just an Oregon Trail rip off. And at second glance, it still is, but there are a few new twists and turns that add some humor to the game. For example, some of the members of Fall Out Boy might start lactating or growing mustaches. And the band requires McNuggets for sustenance on their journey. But your travelers can still die of good ol’ dysentery. They’ll never cure that.
In all honesty, it shares enough in common with the original to give that nostalgia kick, but there are a lot of additions that make the game surprisingly able to stand on its own appeal. The original Oregon Trail elements are there, albeit with replaced items and events, but there’s also a Guitar Hero-like mini game with MIDI versions of the band’s songs, there are laser fights with surf zombies, and there are boss battles. It’s an amped up version of the classic for those who spent their childhood mastering it, giving old fans a new challenge. As long as you can stomach some Fall Out Boy, at least.
’MICHAEL JACKSON’S MOONWALKER’
Starring: Michael Jackson
You may think it’s too soon, but this game came out in 1990, and I think that’s plenty of time. It showed Michael Jackson as he always believed himself to be, a magical man whose moves were so powerful, they hypnotized enemies into dancing themselves to oblivion. And for some reason, Bubbles the chimpanzee was there, and he gave Michael the power to become a metal robot warrior.
The arcade game featured synthesized versions of some of Jackson’s most popular songs, like “Smooth Criminal” and “Beat It,” the latter of which was appropriate considering the game’s beat-em-up style of play. The goal of the game was to fight through the enemies, save kidnapped children, and defeat Mr. Big. It incorporated Michael Jackson’s real life powers of dancing and firing magic blasts from his hands. The King of Pop left quite a legacy, and this game is probably going to last longer than any of his other work, maybe.
Mike Clark is a Chicago-based writer and video game/comedy/dog enthusiast. He will defend to the death the idea that blowing in a Nintendo 64 cartridge will make it work better despite scientific evidence to the contrary. Tweet your best hate @MikeClarKent.