There have been many crossovers and mash-ups in the world of video games, most notably titles like Nintendo’s Smash Bros., Square RPG Kingdom Hearts, fighters like Capcom’s Vs series, and the antics seen in Mortal Kombat and Soul Calibur. As odd as some of these guest appearances may be, in most instances they make some sense, or the characters in question fit. This isn’t always the case, though, and sometimes special guest appearances or cameos go that little bit further to stretch normality, and strain any logical reasoning for including extra stars.
Sometimes games include guest appearances to capitalise on pop culture, and other times there’s little to no real reason for cramming names and faces into a world they really have no business being in. These are the kinds of cameos we’re interested in. The kind that makes you do a double take and question any and all reasoning for their inclusion in the game.
The inclusions here are based upon legitimate cameos or guest appearances that are included in each game, and we’re not going to include unofficial mods. We’re also not counting inclusions like special skins that simply change the look of a player character. With that in mind, let’s begin.
Revenge of Shinobi
Keen players will no doubt notice the copyright text you see when firing up this classic Sega Genesis title that mentions Spider-Man. However, it isn’t until you reach the end of level six that the wall-crawler himself shows up to do battle with Joe Musashi. He demonstrates all of his super powers, and although players may best him, he doesn’t die, instead he morphs into another hero, this time from DC. Batman enters the fray, although his powers aren’t quite as accurate, being able to fly and all.
During the game, Joe also encounters two and a half other cameos, including an obvious nod to the Terminator, complete with two-stage attack, eventually revealing a robotic endoskeleton. Before this, the character turns green with each hit, just like The Hulk. Later, Joe even goes up against Godzilla, sans fins, but still obviously the mega monster star. That’s a lot of special guests for one ninja to handle.
Later versions of the game made changes due to copyright issues, with Batman being turned into ‘Devilman’, and Godzilla becoming a skeleton dinosaur. Spider-Man was also put into a pink costume after the rights expired.
It’s never explained quite why Spider-Man or Batman felt the need to fight another good guy hero. Maybe Joe was auditioning to become a super hero, and it was an initiation, or maybe they just didn’t like him.
The Adventures of Quik & Silva
Where do I even begin with this one? As most readers have probably never even heard of it, I should probably explain what Quik & Silva is.
The Adventures of Quik & Silva was a platform game released on the Amiga (and Atari ST later) back in 1991 on a magazine coverdisc (Amiga Fun), and it was an average title that didn’t really do anything special. What it did do well, however, was populate its levels with a roster of other games characters in a “I can’t believe they didn’t get sued,” manner.
So, who made the list? Well, the better question would probably be, who didn’t? The game is widely believe the be the first appearance in home video games for Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog (who has previously appeared in Arcade title, Rad Mobile as a rear view mirror ornament). He appeared in the game as an enemy, of all things, around a month before the Mega Drive game was released. It also included obvious rip-offs of characters like Mario (as a Zebedee-like head on a spring), Bub the dragon (Bubble Bobble), Pogo (Nebulous), The R-9 ship from R-Type, Robotic Giana Sisters, and even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, only as more realistic turtles with coloured masks.
It’s a cavalcade of litigation content, that’s for sure, which was actually made by Factor 5, best known for the Turrican series, under the proxy name of New Bits on the RAM. This was presumably done to avoid any legal issues with the Factor 5 name, which seemed to work.
The arcade basketball game, NBA Jam, is still one of the best, and most enjoyable digital representations of the sport, albeit a very unrealistic one. It’s two-on-two action makes for fast, frantic games, with spectacular dunks and flaming basketballs. It’s also notable as former US President, Bill Clinton graced the wooden floors.
Using a code, players could actually unlock Mr Clinton himself, as well as the First lady, Hilary Clinton. There were also codes to unlock other real life people, such as Will Smith (as the Fresh Prince) and Al Gore, as well as other Midway creations like Mortal Kombat fighters.
It’s clearly crazy to include such real world people in a basketball game, especially child pop starts… oh, wait.
Yes, they had to, didn’t they? The far more recent basketball game from 2K, NBA 2K13, went and did just that, shoehorning in a current teen pop sensation. It features none other than Justin Beiber as a playable character. Not only that, but the Biebs has not only grown, from his actual 5”7′ to a whopping 6”4′, but according to the game’s stats, he’s also one of the best basketball players ever, even better than most of the real world pros in the game. Wow.
Obviously, realism isn’t the order of the day here, and it’s a simple pandering to the mass market, but that doesn’t excuse this as being an odd, and downright silly celebrity cameo. Other celebs in the cameo line-up include Kevin from The Office, Leon from Curb Your Enthusiasm, and, possibly even more bizarre than Bieber, Pauly D from – eurgh – Jersey Shore.
Street Fighter 2
Street Fighter 2 is hardly the most culturally sensitive game ever made, portraying characters from around the world as larger than life stereotypes for the most part. Zangief, the Russian combatant is no exception, being a hairy chested, and bearded wrestler who wears a Soviet Red cloak sporting the Hammer and Sickle logo. This cartoon depiction of Russia was helped along by a cameo from none other than former Soviet Union leader, Mikhail Gorbachev.
Gorbachev is seen in the game during the ending sequence for Zangief. He’s dropped off by helicopter, and proceeds to congratulate Zangief for demonstrating Russian superiority. The pair then indulge in a cossack dance, just to further compound that stereotypical panache.
Before Doom there was Wolfenstein, and this was the first commercial success for the FPS genre. Doom would make it mainstream, but Wolfenstein is where it began. It’s also here where we got to kill one of gaming’s most popular enemy forces, the Nazis. Set during World War II, players took on an army of the Third Reich within the titular castle. Eventually, after progressing through the maze-like structure, the final target was reached, which was, of course, Adolf Hitler.
This isn’t really an odd cameo, you may think, and it’s not really. What’s odd is that Hitler wasn’t simply in the game, but was sat inside a robotic power suit. Hmmm, okay then. Once this suit was destroyed, a rather buff-looking fuhrer dual wielded two massive miniguns. I had no idea the Nazi leader could lift.
Hitler wasn’t only limited to video game depictions of the second World War, and he also did a stint in some fictional battles too. One of these was in Capcom’s Bionic Commando. In the original Japanese version of the game, you were actually up against the Nazis, and the final boss, who was resurrected during the story, was Hitler himself. He’s killed by Spencer at the end of the game.
For the American release, the game was censored. The Nazis were changed to the ‘Badds’, and Hitler was renamed Master-D. His portrait in the game was untouched, however, so he was, for all intents and purposes, Hitler. And yes, his head still explodes.
This isn’t an actual cameo per se, but it certainly warrants a mention. If you’ve been unfortunate enough to play this amazingly bad Mega Drive title, you may have seen some graffiti scrawled on the walls within the castle’s inner reaches. This says ‘Gamers rule’ and ‘Saddam was here.’
Now, there may well be another Saddam doing the rounds in this medieval castle, but it’s not a name you hear very often, and when you do, it’s usually related to a certain Iraqi President, who, at the time the game was released, was in the media pretty much every day due to the Gulf War and all that controversial stuff. He obviously still found time to make his presence known in video games whilst being the world’s most famous bad guy.
Breath of Fire
Capcom’s successful RPG series, Breath of Fire is set in a fantasy world full of magic and monsters. It’s certainly not set in the real world, or the world of tournament fighting for that matter. So, it’s more than a little odd to find none other than fan-favourite street fighter, Chun Li, practising her moves in the town of Bleak. Well, I guess everyone needs a quiet place to train. I could think of more suitable places, though, ones that are much easier to get to by bus.
Duke Nukem 3D
The classic FPS, Duke Nukem 3D was in direct competition with id Software’s Doom, not to mention other FPS releases of the time. The Duke series has always been filled with pop culture references and adult humour, and it’s often poked fun at other games.
One of the most notable has to be the Doom cameo. In E1L3 (Death Row), you find a chapel with a cross. Hitting a switch turns the cross upside down, revealing a cave behind. Here you’ll find a dead Doom marine. Upon discovering this Duke exclaims “That’s one doomed space marine!”
Quite how a space marine ended up in the world of Duke 3D is unknown, but given the upside down cross with obvious references to Hell, maybe he fell through a portal from Mars and landed here. Hey, it could happen.
Here’s another FPS crossover cameo, and another one that’s also less than flattering for the source material. Shadow Warrior, from Duke 3D creator 3D Realms, is basically a Japanese Duke Nukem, with a very stereotypical, and racist, caricature as the main hero (You got Lo Wang!).
During the game, there are many Easter eggs, from Monty Python bunnies and mentions of using the Force, to locating a tied up Lara Croft in a secret room. Lo Wang comments that she’s raided her last tomb, and players can even shoot her, with gory results.
Also after a bit of exploring, you can find four dead turtles, complete with masks. Could this be a TMNT reference? Well, yes, of course it is. If there was any doubt, Lo Wang confirms it as he exclaims “cowabunga!”
3D Realms doesn’t only take pot shots at competing games and licenses, it even pokes fun at its own IPs. One example can be found in the gory FPS, Blood. A room can be found with a very mutilated, yet familiar corpse dressed in blue jeans, red vest, and sunglasses hanging from the ceiling. This is clearly Duke Nukem, at least it looks like him. Give him a jab with your pitchfork and the likeness is confirmed as protagonist, Caleb, says “Shake it, baby!” An obvious reference to Duke’s penchant for strippers, stealing his catchphrase.
Super Mario RPG
There aren’t many Nintendo crossovers that surprise us these days, not with the likes of Smash Bros pitting so many stars against each other. However, sometimes there are odd instances you don’t expect. One in particular is found in Super Mario RPG. Well, there are actually two, with one being Link, who’s found in the Rosa Inn. This isn’t as odd, as the setting is a little more fitting for the fantasy warrior, but the second guest is a little more out of time and place.
Catching forty winks in the Mushroom Kingdom’s castle is Samus Aran of Metroid. Apparently, she’s “resting up for Mother Brain.” She’s found resting in bed, still in her power armour, and her ship is probably parked out back ready to lift off and take her to the planet Zebes. She could at least give the plumber a hand.
Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament 2
The fighters in the Tekken series are a skilled bunch. Some have even had their own spin-off games where they moonlight as super spies. For the most part, however, they stick to what they know. That is, apart from the killer OAP with the crazy hair, Heihachi Mishima.
When he’s not indulging in a bit of wanton violence, and fighting his own kids, ol’ Heihachi likes nothing more than to play a few games of tennis. At least, that’s if Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament 2 is anything to go by. Heihachi Mishima pops up in this game, along with other Namco stars. If he get angry, and screams “You cannot be serious!” Run.
Grand Theft Auto III
Grand Theft Auto may be considered the greatest open world sandbox of its type, beating rivals like Saints Row to the curb, but back when GTA III was released Rockstar’s title found itself with a harder fight, this included going up against other titles like Driver. This competition made it into the game, and during one mission you had to chase down and kill what was obviously the main character of the Driver games, Tanner. Yeah, the mission was even called Two-Faced Tanner, just in case anyone thought it was mere coincidence.
GTA even made fun of Driver‘s lack of on-foot action, as your Yakuza handler, Asuka says “Our source in the police has informed us that one of our drivers is a strangely animated undercover cop. He’s more or less useless out of his car, so we’ve tagged it with a tracer. Make him bleed.”
Just Cause 2
This isn’t a cameo by a character, but more of a guest appearance by an actual setting. In the open world of Just Cause you can find an isolated island that’s clearly themed on the TV series Lost. The island, which is situated to the north west of the game’s map features a crashed plane, with an arrow pointing into the jungle. If you search in the direction of the arrow you’ll eventually find a hatch that looks exactly like the one featured in the early run of the series. It’s also possible to see the smoke monster from the series roaming the island.
Fortunately, the rest of the game makes much more sense than the climax of the TV series. Yes, it still hurts.
Valkyria Chronicles is a superb, often overlooked gem of a strategic game on PS3. Its cartoon visuals belie a deep and challenging title, one that rewards genuine tactical play and clever planning. It also features cameos from another classic, Skies of Arcadia.
As you progress through the game and begin to recruit more soldiers to your cause, three familiar faces appear. Vysa, Aika, and Fina are all present and correct, and they’re also amongst the best soldiers in your squad. As your soldiers in the game can permanently die, this makes you care all the more if you’re a fan ofSkies of Arcadia, and you’ll find yourself trying your hardest to keep the team alive. As cool as their appearance is, like many on this list, it’s strange to see them in the game, which has nothing to do with the world of the original RPG.
The Witcher 2
More of an Easter egg than a cameo, but one that’s too cool to ignore. In The Witcher 2‘s opening tutorial level you’ll happen upon a rather unlucky individual who’s fallen to his death. This person is found on top of a broken hay cart, and is wearing a white and red robe.
This is clearly an assassin, either Altiar or Ezio, from Assassin’s Creed after a leap of faith has gone awry. Well, as has been proven, such leaps of faith would be impossible anyway, and any attempting the leaps seen in Ubisoft’s series would be pavement art, regardless of how much hay they land in. The Witcher 2 devs obviously agree, and included this fact in their own title.
Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes
This is a cameo that’s much more plausible, given the relationship, but it’s no less surprising when you first encounter it. During one of the game’s extra missions you have to rescue a VIP. This is one very real VIP too, about the most important to the whole Metal Gear saga, as it’s none other than Hideo Kojima himself. Yes, the acclaimed designer put himself in his own game, with a perfect likeness, right down to his glasses.
You have to wonder if Kojima knew about the imminent debacle between himself and Konami, which lead to him leaving the company, and Konami removing mention of him and his studio from Metal Gear packaging. It’s not going to be so easy to remove his digital self from Ground Zeroes, though, making this a lasting reminder that Metal Gear is his legacy, no matter how hard Konami may try to hide it.
There’s also the mission ‘Deja Vu’ where Snake has to erase Metal Gearlogos from the game, which then thanks players for their support. This is another possible foreshadowing , but that’s another story…
Space Channel 5
This could be a surprising cameo, or one that’s entirely expected, depending on your opinion and appreciation of the guest star, who many consider as being a bit out there, so to speak.
Ulala’s cosmic rhythm game is set within a futuristic TV channel, and features the anime presenter dancing with aliens and a slew of other characters. One of these is the late king of pop himself, Michael Jackson, known here as ‘Space Michael’, clad in skin-tight space suit. He appears in the last report of the first game, and is rescued by Ulala, before joining in the dance-fest. Jackson lent his likeness to the game, and performed the voice acting for the role. He returned in the second game in a larger role.
True Crime: Streets of LA
Few characters could lend more of a street-vibe to a game as the special guest star of the ill-fated True Crime series. By collecting ‘Dogg bones’ spread around this GTA-style sandbox world, or using a cheat code, players could replace the normal protagonist, Nick Kang, with rapper Snoop Dogg. Yep, for no apparent reason, you could become Snoop, enforcing the law and throwing plenty of izzles around as you went.
This wasn’t a simple skin replacement either. Snoop actually recorded a voice over for his video game avatar, and there were specific missions for him to partake in, making this one of the more ridiculous, but fully implemented cameos.
Ready 2 Rumble: Round 2
Both Michael Jackson and the Clintons return for Cameo duty in the boxing title, Ready 2 Rumble: Round 2. The fantastical pugilism sim featured both Bill and Hilary Clinton, known in the game as Mr President, and The First Lady, as no actual permissions were given to use their names. Michael Jackson was a different story, however.
Jackson not only gave his permission for his likeness to be in the game, he apparently did the motion capture for the fighter too. We all knew he had some smooth moves, but not within the squared circle.
Mercenaries 2: World In Flames
US presidents and presidential candidates seem to be popular cameos in games, and Pandemic’s military sandbox sequel is no different. Although most fans consider this the weaker game of the two, Mercenaries 2: World in Flames had some top flight help from both Barack Obama, and crazy gun nut, Sarah Palin.
At the time, both were running for President, but they still found time to intervene in this conflict for Venezuelan oil in a DLC add-on. This may be a little more characteristic for Palin, who’s high calibre hunting sprees are infamous, but it’s very strange to see the usually calm and composed Obama taking down all comers with automatic weapons and hijacking armoured vehicles. That’s what you call a proactive war on terror.
One of the most vulgar games ever made, Postal 2 is a first person shooter filled with all sorts of violent, racist, and questionable content. It’s also got a whole lot of Diff’rent Strokes star, Gary Coleman in it.
Yep, for some reason, and 70s and 80s TV star makes an appearance in this game, dressed in a white suit. He’s located in the local shopping mall, and you’re after his autograph, only the session usually ends with Coleman pulling out a machine gun and, erm, going postal. This is made all the more awkward as Coleman apparently assaulted someone in real life who was attempting to get his autograph, not to mention his many other brushes with the law.
Even more surprising, this cameo is actually totally legitimate, and Coleman willingly lent his likeness to the game. He even did the voice acting. In truth, it was kind of funny, but it was hardly a flattering portrayal, and as his career was on the decline, along with his health, it’s a shame.
The Fight Club game wasn’t very good (that’s an understatement), but it was a good enough platform for Nu-Metal front man, and 12 year old pin-up fodder, Fred Durst to appear in. Alongside characters from the movie, including Meat Loaf and his moobs, Durst was a selectable scrapper.
He officially gave permission for his likeness to be used in the game, and even did the motion capture. He’s not selectable from the start, though. To unlock Durst, you have to first complete the game, something most sane people would never want to do in the first place.
Apparently, his initial involvement before being a character was to contribute some music to the game, but he wanted to be a character instead, lucky for us.
Call of Duty: Black Ops
One of the strangest, but easily one of the best cameo inclusions ever is found in Call of Duty: Black Ops. After completing the game, players unlock a special zombies level that includes past presidents, JFK and Richard Nixon, Secretary of Defence, Robert McNamara, and Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro. The extra level comes with its own intro, and it’s possibly one of the best zombie maps in the game. JFK and Co. take up arms and work together within the Pentagon to put an end to the Nazi zombie assault in a cheesy, but nonetheless cool extra that’s a great reward for completing the game.
Tony Hawk series
The Tony Hawk games are a gold mine of strange cameos, and throughout the series we’ve seen all sorts of guest appearances, with characters more famous for other things performing kick flips, ollies, and 360s in the skate parts and streets featured in the long-running sim.
Guests have included a large range of famous and fictional characters, including Spider-Man, Wolverine, Darth Maul, Jango Fett, Shrek, Iron Man, members of Metallica, Gene Simmons, tattoo queen, Kat Von D, and MCA, to name only a few.
All of these have always been created and rendered in great detail, and although the series may have flagged in quality and appeal (let’s not even get started on the bug-ridden mess that is THPS 5), it’s always been a draw for the world’s famous faces.