We’ve all heard the voices of movie stars, musicians, and other celebs in video games. Usually, they play original characters with no resemblance or obvious connection to themselves, as with the star turns in the Mass Effect and GTA series.
However, plenty of other people have lent their famous faces to games too, either appearing as themselves or in the type of role they’re known for. They may well be the lead in the game (even mentioned in the name), or they might just show up as a supporting character.
Either way, having celebrities feature in games is a nice touch and (sometimes) a neat marketing gimmick. We’ve picked 12 of the best, so let’s get to it …
- 1 Phil Collins in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
- 2 Keith David in Saints Row IV
- 3 Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 3: The Redemption
- 4 Jet Li in Rise to Honor
- 5 Bruce Lee in Return of the Legend
- 6 Snoop Dogg in True Crime: Streets of LA
- 7 Gary Coleman in Postal 2
- 8 Hugh Hefner in Playboy: The Mansion
- 9 Gene Simmons in Tony Hawk’s Underground
- 10 Shaquille O’Neal in Shaq-Fu
- 11 Jackie Chan Stuntmaster
- 12 Burt Reynolds in Saints Row: The Third
Phil Collins in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
Phil Collins: surely one of the most respected names in the music industry, with a fine body of work. As a major player on the 80s’ scene, who also featured in an episode of Miami Vice, it made perfect sense for him to appear in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories.
This spin-off of the 80s-set main game features Mr Collins as himself in a terrific way. Rather than just having him appear in a club or as a brief cameo, he gets involved with all kinds of shenanigans, with players required to escort him from place to place.
He also performs a full version of ‘In the Air Tonight’ later in the game, but buying one of the ridiculously-expensive tickets might put you off.
Keith David in Saints Row IV
Keith David is no stranger to video games, having voiced David Anderson in the Mass Effect series and Julius Little in earlier Saints Row games. He’s also appeared in many movies, including classic sci-fi gems like John Carpenter’s The Thing and They Live.
So, it made total sense for David to play a version of himself fighting off aliens in Saint’s Row IV. It’s a terrific touch, and for fans of the actor and the sci-fi movies he’s appeared in, the ‘He Lives’ mission is a treat from start to finish. It even has Roddy Piper show up to fight him, a nod to the pair’s massive brawl in They Live.
Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 3: The Redemption
Arnie lent his likeness and voice work to the first game based on Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, but as anyone unfortunate enough to have played it will remember, it was a bit of a mess.
However, he appeared again in Terminator 3: The Redemption, which was a much better game overall. This was also played from a third-person perspective, which let you make the most of stepping into Arnold Schwarzenegger’s boots. He also had a ‘quote’ button, which triggered one of several one-liners – which was impossible to not over-use as you took out hordes of terminators.
Combined with the fast-paced action and constant feeling of being on the run, Arnie’s input really makes you feel like you’re in a Terminator movie (one of the brilliant ones, too!).
Jet Li in Rise to Honor
Jet Li lent his likeness, vocals, and name to 2004’s Rise to Honor. This game utilized motion-capture too, ensuring the in-game version of Mr Li moved like the man himself (or, at least, as closely as the technology allowed!).
While the game wasn’t a masterpiece, it was still great fun, and featured an innovative multidirectional fighting system, not unlike the Arkham series’ combat. Rise to Honor captured the feel of being in a martial-arts movie pretty well, with plenty of satisfying sound effects and well-conceived action sequences.
Bruce Lee in Return of the Legend
Bruce Lee needs no introduction. He’s inspired various video-game characters (including Marshall / Forest Law in the Tekken series, and Fei Long in the Street Fighter franchise), but has also taken the lead in various titles as himself or a character with the same set of skills.
The most well-known Bruce Lee game is probably Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, based on the 90s movie of Lee’s life starring his late son, Brandon. However, the game’s high difficulty and lack of character choice made that something of a mixed bag.
Perhaps the best Bruce Lee game is Return of the Legend. This little-known Game Boy Advance adventure features a solid likeness of the man himself, neat sound effects, and plenty of dynamic action. Still, Dragon is still worth a play for the stylish visuals, which still impress today.
Snoop Dogg in True Crime: Streets of LA
True Crime: Streets of LA was a GTA clone that put you in the shoes of a maverick cop with mad martial-arts skills. It was a solid little title, even if it didn’t have too much to keep you coming back for.
One of the most distinctive elements was the inclusion of a certain well-known rapper. Snoop Dogg himself was available as an unlockable character, activated by collecting enough scattered Dogg Bones (or by cheating!).
He looks and sounds spot-on, and kicking virtual butt as one of the most famous rappers of all time is as much fun as you’d expect.
Gary Coleman in Postal 2
The late Gary Coleman played a pretty big role in the notorious Postal 2. His first appearance sees him conducting a huge book-signing, which ends with him taking on the cops in a nasty gunfight.
He later appears alongside zombies and other questionable people, taking on the Postal Dude. He even rides on the shoulders of another character deeper into the game, and becomes the leader of a group of small ‘Cole-Men’ intent on ruling over taller people.
It’s pretty hard to dislike this stuff, no matter what your feelings towards the game itself.
Hugh Hefner in Playboy: The Mansion
Playboy: The Mansion was a fun little Sims clone, allowing you to supervise The Hef’s rise to power. Not only did you get to make the famous mansion your own, you also got to hang out with various Playboy models (and even build relationships with them, as well as having a little, er, ‘physical fun’, too).
Playing as The Hef isn’t all fun and games, though. You have to get monthly editions of the magazine out, which involves holding photographic shoots (you actually get to perform these), interview famous people, and more.
Gene Simmons in Tony Hawk’s Underground
Gene Simmons is a legendary rock star, famous as much for his music as for his iconic look (as part of Kiss).
However, quite why he’s an unlockable character in Tony Hawk’s Underground is something of a mystery (as is the use of Iron Man), but no explanation is needed. Not only does Gene look terrific on his board (with his make-up and black garb), but he also has cool custom moves, too.
One of these revolves around his famously-long tongue: he kics the board up off the ground, before latching onto it with said appendage. For another, he spits fire over his board – which is about as rock-and-roll as skateboarding gets, surely?
Shaquille O’Neal in Shaq-Fu
Oh, boy. This is surely one of the weirdest celebrity appearances in a video game ever.
Shaq’s still a big name today, but back in the 90s, the dude was mega-famous. Even famous enough to take the lead in a slice of the ultimate 90s-genre: the fighting game.
While in Tokyo for an all-star basketball game (for charity, natch!), Shaq’s inconveniently pulled into a strange world, and forced to fight through a series of battles. Oh, and if that weren’t freaky enough, the big bad is an evil mummy.
In terms of the visuals and the gameplay, Shaq-Fu works, though it’s far from the quality of Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat. Still, it’s worth playing just for the sheer bizarreness of it all.
It’s a convoluted concept, to be sure, but if you’re going to put Shaq into a fighting game, how else would you do it? Have him beating up other NBA players? Brawling with celebs for charity?
Actually, we quite like both of these ideas …
Jackie Chan Stuntmaster
Jackie Chan is the perfect lead for an action-packed game, and 2000’s Jackie Chan Stuntmaster on the PS1 worked brilliantly.
The visuals might look a tad weird now, but they’re colourful and smooth enough to still be fun. The gameplay itself is fast-paced and kinetic, just like you’d expect.
Jackie used motion-capture to make sure his virtual double moved as realistically as possible, and it shows.
Burt Reynolds in Saints Row: The Third
Legendary actor Burt Reynolds voiced the slick Avery Carrington in GTA: Vice City, but actually appeared as himself in Saints Row: The Third.
He also gets to be a homie, and seeing Burt himself taking down enemies alongside your character is as awesome as you can imagine. This version of Mr Reynolds is the Mayor of Steelport, the game’s core setting, and wears a huge cowboy hat. Of course.
What’s your favourite celebrity appearance in a video game? Let us know!