9 of the weirdest pop star video games you might have forgotten
by Tyler Munro
January 7, 2014
One of the best ways to hide from the cold is to curl up with your favourite record or video game. Or ideally, your favourite music themed video game. There are some obvious choices, like any number of the branded Guitar Hero games or the latestRock Band pack, but there are far more dedicated options for the musically inclined gamer.
From Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker to 50 Cent’s terrorist shoot-’em-up, insanity has long been a constant in popstar video game tie-ins. Above, in the latest episode of This Exists, we run through some of standouts and less-than-standouts, and broke down the info below. And while you’re here, make sure to subscribe to This Exists for your weekly dose of musical randomness.
Released in 1982, Escape started it all for video game tie-ins. And with a plot that saw the band dodging “love-crazed groupies” on the way to their scarab shaped tour bus, this Atari 2600 “classic” is a fine example of the kind of craziness we’re talking about. Case in point, you can grab power-ups from your in game manager—the Kool-Aid Man.
One year later, the band would endorse Journey, an eponymous arcade game that saw each member traveling through space to recover their instruments.
Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker
Arguably the best and most infamous game on this list, Moonwalker is based off the equally insane movie of the same name. Levels have the King of Pop turning into a robot and spaceship, and they’re less artistic liberties, more faithful interpretations. Its story is much more innocuous than it sounds on paper: in the game, Michael’s on a mission to find some innocent kids. But hold your horses, party-poopers. He’s trying to save them from their kidnappers the only way he knows how: with high kicks, hat boomerangs and some shape shifting.
Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Released for the Commodore 64 in 1984, one hit wonders Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s video game is a completely batshit release that revolves around the player’s search for “the Pleasuredome.” To win, you need to fill your sex, war, love and faith meters to 99 per cent.
Also, you have to solve an atheist murder mystery for some reason.
Like we said, these things are insane.
Devo’s Adventures of the Smart Patrol
Adventures of the Smart Patrol is definitely a Devo game, which is to say it’s eccentric, confusing and potentially better for it. Okay, that’s a lie: the game sucks. As one Gamespot reviewer said, the game is “utterly devastating,” writing that Adventures of the Smart Patrol is “is hardly a game at all, but rather a haphazardly stuck-together collection of sounds, pictures, crude animations, and slipshod segues in want of a working plot, pointless or otherwise.”
The game is riddled with the band’s sense of humour, with scatological jokes firing off at an apparently steady pace, distracting from the game’s already confusing pace and play-style.
The Residents’ Bad Day on the Midway
Bad Day on the Midway differs from the rest of this list in that it wasn’t a total disaster. In fact, it was at one point optioned for a Ron Howard-produced, David Lynch-directed TV series. The show never materialized, and the game’s legacy faded as a result, but the puzzle-oriented game was an award winner nonetheless, gaining praise for its moral ambiguity and innovative gameplay.
The best barometer of Prince Interactive‘s weirdness is that it was released at the height of his popularity as time as “the symbol,” which means it’s a Prince game released when Prince wasn’t actually Prince.
The story is this: there isn’t one. Think Myst, but with the plot as an afterthought to shameless self-promotion. But if there were a vague semblance of a plot, its this: You traipse through Paisley Park Studios on a tour to find pieces of Prince’s love symbol. At the end, you can find a private club where artists like Eric Clapton, Little Richard and Miles Davis are talking about Prince. Or the symbol. Or whatever the hell we’re supposed to be referring to him as circa 1994.
50 Cent: Blood on the Sand
The fact that 50 Cent has two video games is insane in its own right, but the 2009 follow-up to 2005’s Bulletproof is a special kind of crazy. Unlike the first game, Blood on the Sand puts the rapper in setting allegorical to the war on terrorism. In the game, 50 Cent and G-Unit are playing a shot in an unnamed, war torn Middle Eastern country when the promoter reneges on their payment, instead offering up a diamond encrusted human skull as collateral. That gets stolen, the crew gets mad and in their trek to get it back learn a valuable lesson about evil, or… something.
Def Jam Vendetta and Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style
Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style was so violent you had to enter a code to see the blood and gore as intended. Of course, it had Mortal Kombat-style fatalities, which you can check out in the handy video compilation above. Def Jam Vendetta, meanwhile, was a game that sought to combine pro wrestling and rap—and it did way better than ICP ever could, even featuring a boss battle against DMX. In spite of this, they were both surprisingly playable, well intentioned games.