Music has been an important part of video games since the early days of the arcade. Many games have featured music from popular artists to add even more prestige to their games, and games like Guitar Hero let players perform their favorite songs on stage from their own living room.
Some musicians have even taken it a step further and created games entirely about them, with mixed results. These artists have given fans a chance to play alongside or even with them on quests ranging from the real to the extremely bizarre.
Journey’s 1981 album Escape was one of the highlights of the band’s discography, featuring many of their greatest hits. The album was so successful that it even inspired its own Atari 2600 video game the following year. Players take control of band members as they navigate a constantly scrolling screen, dodging obstacles like groupies and concert promoters while trying to reach their spaceship.
Players won by successfully getting all 5 party members to safety. The gameplay wasn’t necessarily innovative, but it did feature an 8-bit version of the classic “Don’t Stop Believing” anthem.
The Spice Girls were a popular group throughout the 90s and still have a huge following. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for their video game project, World of Spices.
The game focuses on preparing the titular girl group for a TV performance, allowing players to choose the setlist for the performance, choreograph the group’s dance moves, and operate the cameras during the performance to create a music video. . The game featured several popular Spice Girls songs and could save a large number of performances for replay. Although the game was poorly received, it was quite successful upon release.
Queen: the eye
Queen has been one of music’s most enduring artists for decades. Having already branched out into movie soundtracks, getting into video games was the logical next step for them. The Queen game that fans finally got, however, was probably very different from what they expected.
Queen: the eye is an adventure game set in an authoritarian dystopia where free speech has been banned. Players controlled a man sentenced to death for discovering old rock music and had to destroy the villain eYe. Although the game was not well received, its soundtrack, consisting of remixes of original Queen songs, won it fans.
Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style
Whether or not fans expected kung fu combat against mystical ninjas in a Wu-Tang Clan video game, that’s what they got in this 1999 version. Up to four players could take controlling the members of the legendary hip-hop group as they fight to stop a kung fu master from taking over the world.
The game featured fun multiplayer combat and incredibly over-the-top violence, along with music from the band. Shaolin-style was well received upon its release and still has a loyal fan base to this day. Special editions even included a controller shaped like the band’s signature W logo.
Aerosmith Revolution X
Similar to Queen’s The eye, Aerosmith Revolution X also features a classic rock band in an oppressive dystopian future. The members of Aerosmith have been captured by an evil totalitarian government, and it’s up to players to save them. The game was a rail shooter similar to many others at the time and featured a solid soundtrack of some of the band’s greatest songs.
Revolution X was first released in arcades and was considered one of the best arcade games of its time, and although later console ports were not as well received, the game was still very successful.
Moonwalker by Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson was actually featured in several adaptations of his anthology film Moonwalker, but the Sega Genesis version is perhaps one of the most popular. Playing as the King of Pop himself, players were tasked with traversing levels to rescue the children from the clutches of the evil Mr. Big.
Jackson battled enemies with his various dance moves as versions of songs like “Thriller” and “Smooth Criminal” played in the background. The gameplay was ridiculous but entertaining, and the game was released to rave reviews. It even went down in history as one of the hidden gems of the Sega Genesis.
Def Jam Series
One of the most important video games based on musicians is the one that has perhaps the least to do with their music. the Def Jam is made up of fighting games centered on hip-hop artists. Players can take control of famous rappers like Snoop Dogg, Lil’ Kim and Ice-T as they make their way through the New York underground.
The games are surprisingly complex, with incredibly deep combat mechanics that were developed as the series progressed. With a massive cast of playable artists and multiple games to play, Def Jam is one of the most successful musician ties of all time.
KISS: Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child
Now that KISS has been featured on just about every product and made plenty of hilarious appearances, it was only a matter of time before they got their own video game. The nightmare child was based on a comic book series by veteran comic book creator Todd McFarlane and featured surprisingly little actual KISS, centered in fact on a tribute band.
The first-person shooter was enjoyable but not outstanding, and the environments and enemies were gruesome enough for the source material. While it’s certainly not a bad game, Circus Psycho is a game that fans will probably either love or hate.
Iron Maiden: Legacy of the Beast
Iron Maiden are one of the greatest and most beloved metal bands of all time and have in fact been featured in several video games, with 1999 Ed Hunter being another notable example. Their current game, however, Legacy of the Beast, is proof that the band is still going strong after more than 40 years.
A turn-based RPG, The Legacy of the Beast lets players fight enemies as different incarnations of Eddie, the band’s iconic zombie mascot. With customizable characters, multiplayer compatibility, and the band’s epic music, the game even saw appearances from other metal mascots.
50 Cent: Bulletproof
An odd choice for a musician’s licensed game, 50 Cent: Bulletproof is also certainly far from being the strangest. Armored is an action-packed thriller featuring the rapper on a quest for revenge after being shot by mysterious muggers. The game’s third-person shooter mechanics were poor, but they make up for that with an excellent soundtrack of 50 Cent’s music and a surprisingly solid story, if a little on the nose.
Armored was popular enough to even receive a sequel in 2009 blood on the sand, which revised a little better. Both games are considered by many critics and fans to be very flawed, but admittedly very fun.
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