Music and Rhythm Gaming’s Top 10 Hits

Music and Rhythm Gaming’s Top 10 Hits

Attaching the name of a famous musician or band to a music game is a good way to draw people into buying the title. In fairness, it’s also a good way to repel people from the game if they’re not fans of the lady or gentleman on the box. Either way, an endorsement from a celebrity artist gets people talking about the game in question, and that’s pretty important if you want your titles to catch an eyeball or three in a busy market. Here are ten of the biggest names in music that were ever attached to a video game, and what resulted from these wild, weird and oftentimes spectacularly disastrous or entertaining attempts at crossing over to mainstream high-tech success:

Journey Escape (1982, Atari 2600) — Video games let you wrap yourself in worlds of imagination, where you can rescue royalty, slay dragons, and save the season when you take command of pro sports teams. So heck, why not save the members of Journey from being fleeced by photographers, shifty managers, and groupies who look like hordes of candy hearts? It’s your one chance to hear “Small Town Girl” as an Atari-grade chiptune. Don’t stop believing, man.

Crüe Ball (1992, Sega Genesis) — Crüe Ball combined pinball with the window-rattling tunes of Motley Crüe (emphasis on “window-rattling:” check out the game’s amusing opening movie) to create an instant silverball classic. Video games and heavy metal: Is there any other combination that could make a ’90s-era parent bristle like a tomcat backed into a corner? Still, kids ate it up like Dr. Feelgood albums, making this early licensed console gaming tie-in a surprisingly catchy interactive treat.

Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker (1989, Arcade/Sega Genesis/Home Computers) — Michael Jackson’s career was–well–let’s call it “troubled.” Moonwalker, an action game punctuated by Jackson’s music in the background (but no “Thriller” in the graveyard level!) exhibits no less insanity. A surprisingly fun and entertaining side-scrolling brawler where you rescue children from suited thugs, it features Bubbles the monkey as a power-up, a robot upgrade for Jackson himself, and a finishing move that causes all on-screen enemies to dance to their deaths. Amusingly, many remember it fondly as a pioneering example of music game crossovers done right. If nothing else, it serves as an early indicator that Jackson wasn’t bound to pass away in the manner of mundane mortals.

Spice World (1998, PlayStation) — Spice World shrinks the UK’s beloved Spice Girls down to chibi size and puts you in charge of formulating their dance routines with a whole lot of button pushes. Hope you like the Girls’ music and are aching for embedded footage of interviews, though, as JC Herz from The New York Times best summed up the game with the following epithet: “It didn’t have to be.” Then again, influenza, rabies, and splinters don’t “have to be” either, but, like the Spice World game, we got ’em anyway.

Guitar Hero: Metallica (2009, Xbox 360/PlayStation 3/Wii) — Even by 2009, Activision was having difficulty introducing the Guitar Hero series to digital downloads, but a full retail release seemed proper for Guitar Hero: Metallica, a dedicated band-specific tribute which features a track list containing the best-known works from the veteran heavy metal act. Despite its lack of downloadable content, and one-track set list, the game – which plays like a best-of, greatest hits retrospective and/or interactive collector’s box set – is generally well-liked by critics and fans.

50 Cent: Bulletproof (2005, PlayStation 2/Xbox/PSP) — When Fiddy was asked to voice CJ Johnson in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, he made it very clear that he would only lend his voice to one video game character: Super Mario. Just kidding: 50 Cent said he would only play himself in video games, which led to the creation of 50 Cent: Bulletproof. The shooter game has clumsy mechanics and did not score favor with reviewers or players, though some admit that the game’s storyline is surprisingly compelling. Either way, despite the critical drubbing, it still sold a million units and spawned token sequel Blood on the Sand, testifying to Curtis’ chart-topping power at the time.

Blues Brothers (1991, NES/Game Boy/Home Computers) — The Blues Brothers’ mission from God took them across many of the game consoles and computers that were available in the early ’90s. A side-scrolling platform hopper, the cinematic duo’s first adventure plays quite a bit like Chip N Dale for the NES, and the story involves getting the Brothers to their concert on time. In addition to later sequel The Blues Brothers: Jukebox Adventure (1993), a next-generation follow-up, The Blues Brothers 2000, hit the N64 near the start of the millennium and was mercifully forgotten, mostly consigning their past interactive adventures to obscurity in modern times.

SingStar Queen (2009, PlayStation 2/PlayStation 3) — Is this the real life? No, it’s just fantasy. A karaoke game, to be specific. SingStar Queen lets you and your buddies sing along to the legendary band’s greatest hits. As an added bonus, if you go off-tune, the ghost of Freddie Mercury descends from Heaven to slap you (Disclaimer: Does not happen. But it should.).

The Beatles: Rock Band (2009, Xbox 360/PlayStation 3/Wii) — When the instrument-based music genre was at the height of its popularity, no-one would have put money on seeing music by The Beatles in a Guitar Hero or Rock Band game, let alone a dedicated game. As it happens, the world is just full of surprises. The Beatles: Rock Band – a stunning, career-spanning retrospective with dozens of familiar songs, gorgeous classic set pieces and the direct involvement of Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and Yoko Ono themselves – helped introduce a whole new generation to the music their parents got high with. Good times.

All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros (1986, Famicom Disk System) — And now to end on something a little different. All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros is a rare version of the original Super Mario Bros for NES. The game altered the usual Goombas and Koopas to look like famous Japanese DJs and pop stars. It was a giveaway by “All Night Nippon,” a popular Japanese radio show that’s still on the air. Needless to say, the game was never officially available in any form in North America. If it had been, though, it’s fun to imagine the ’80s-era singers and DJs Mario could have squashed. Think about it: You could jump on Twisted Sister, though lead singer Dee Snider would probably bite back.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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