Band Theft Auto: 8 Rock Star Video Game Cameos

After the death of GWAR’s Dave Brockie, a petition was launched to have Oderus Urungus included as a playable character in the latest version of Mortal Kombat in tribute to the late frontman. It got us thinking, which rock stars have popped up in our video games over the years? Beastie Boys popped up on NBA Street V3 and James Hetfield was a playable character on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD. Nothing out of the ordinary, really. But here’s eight games which really caught our attention…

JOURNEY Games: Journey Escape (1982), Journey (1983) “You must lead all five members of Journey through waves of pesky characters and backstage obstacles to the Scarab Escape Vehicle before time runs out,” explains the exciting manual for Atari platform oddity Journey Escape. On the way from stage to spaceship, players are warned to look out for ‘Shifty-Eyed Promoters’ and ‘Love-Crazed Groupies’ (“They will flock to you and can easily relieve you of $300”). 1983’s self-titled sequel, in which the player travels the universe in search of Journey’s instruments, was more cutting-edge; the bands’ heads appeared as digitised black-and-white photographs on 8-bit cartoon bodies.

HENRY ROLLINS Game: Def Jam: Fight For NY (2002) Rollins is your personal trainer as you punch, kick, grapple and fling your way to the top of the New York tough-guy underground (only achievable by throwing Snoop Dogg out of a window). Rollins is on hand with savvy pointers like, “Even the worst kind of ass-kicking can be turned around with the right weapon” and “To improve your charisma, you need to dress with style”. As you’d expect Hank’s an almighty opponent (he’s the only character with four fighting styles), but it seems unsporting not to have any Rollins Band on the hip-hop-centric soundtrack.

GENE SIMMONS Game: Tony Hawk’s Underground (2003) Skate your way to victory in Story Mode on Normal difficulty to unlock the Hotter Than Hell level. Then you get to heelflip, kickturn and hang ten nose manual (or indeed bail hardcore) in the form of Gene Simmons, wearing full Demon get-up, at a KISS concert arena. As Gene, the player can additionally unlock an axe-shaped skateboard and the special grab move Lick It Up, enabling the armour-plated bass monster to kick the skateboard in the air and catch it with his big tongue.

**PHIL COLLINS Game: ** Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (2006) Phil turns up for a concert in 1984 Vice City, but unbeknownst to him, his manager Barry owes three million dollars to the fearsome Forelli family. Sure enough, the local mafia have put a price on Phil’s shiny bulbous head, and in a series of player-controlled missions it’s Vic Vance’s job to keep Collins alive (look out for the lighting rig, Vic!). After a cracking performance of In The Air Tonight, Barry pays off his debt and Phil hangs around for a few days’ holiday in Vice City. That’s surely asking for trouble.

**OZZY OSBOURNE Game: **Brutal Legend (2009) Of course, Brutal Legend is the most metal video game of all, crammed with rock star guest appearances including Lemmy as the mystic healer Kill Master, Rob Halford as pyromaniac biker The Baron, Jack Black as lost roadie hero Eddie Riggs and Lita Ford as warrior queen Rima. But Ozzy’s cameo as the upbeat and chummy Guardian Of Metal is surely the game’s most iconic turn, this immortal ‘Keeper of Timeless Secrets’ undercutting great lines like “You’ve got demon flesh on your bumper” with his most unassuming Brummie drawl.

AVENGED SEVENFOLD Game: Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2 (2012) Complete the game and at the end of the credits there’s a fun sketch in which Black Ops’ Nicaraguan narco-terrorist Raol Menendez and 95-year-old wheelchair-bound ex-Marine Frank Woods are waiting to go onstage and play a gig with Avenged Sevenfold. M. Shadows and Synyster Gates turn up and slap Menendez about (“People who see us and don’t know Avenged Sevenfold are gonna think we’re a bunch of dicks!” chuckled M. Shadows of the sequence). A psyched-up Woods then jumps to his feet, admitting he only uses a wheelchair because he’s “fucking lazy”.

AN ALL-STAR CAST. SORT OF. Game: Rock Star Ate My Hamster (1989) A cynical-but-affectionate parody of the 80s music biz, this quirky management strategy game for Amstrad, Spectrum and Commodore allowed the player to form a supergroup from dozens of irreverently renamed rock stars – the noisiest combo possible being Izzy Asbeen (Ozzy), Lumme (Lemmy) and Ted Newsagent (Ted Nugent). Guide your band to Number One via rehearsals, gigs, potentially fatal publicity stunts, bogus benefit shows, overpriced video shoots and Taiwanese bootleggers. Be warned: band members might randomly perish in plane crashes.

KURT COBAIN Game: Guitar Hero 5 (2009) The inclusion of the late Nirvana frontman on the popular rock game was welcomed, by some, like a farting dog on a broken down train. It was weird enough to see the grunge avatar perform Smells Like Teen Spirit, but it was weirder still to see him pirouette and strut through Bon Jovi’s You Give Love A Bad Name. His bandmates Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic were not impressed and released a statement saying, “The name and likeness of Kurt Cobain are the sole property of his estate — we have no control whatsoever in that area. It’s hard to watch an image of Kurt pantomiming other artists’ music alongside cartoon characters. We feel he deserves better.” Quite.

Chris Chantler

Chris has been writing about heavy metal since 2000, specialising in true/cult/epic/power/trad/NWOBHM and doom metal at now-defunct extreme music magazine Terrorizer. Since joining the Metal Hammer famileh in 2010 he developed a parallel career in kids' TV, winning a Writer's Guild of Great Britain Award for BBC1 series Little Howard's Big Question as well as writing episodes of Danger Mouse, Horrible Histories, Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed and The Furchester Hotel. His hobbies include drumming (slowly), exploring ancient woodland and watching ancient sitcoms.