The 5 Most Baffling Celebrity Appearances in Video Games

Video games are the only place celebrities don't have advantages over everyone else. The average game hero is an immortal warrior so far beyond human weakness they only drink the blood of their enemies to have something to spit over the corpses. Switching that out for "someone a bit fitter or prettier than normal" is often a letdown.

Most of these games are so forgettable they act as Faraday cages to cancel out celebrity. But some make so little sense, and make the star look so stupid, the only explanation is programmers finally getting revenge by proxy on every popular kid from school.

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5
Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City

The 5 Most Baffling Celebrity Appearances in Video GamesElectronic Arts

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In the '90s, Mario suffered from King Midas syndrome: He made lots of money, but everything in the world was turning into platformers. Games about movies were platform games, games about earthworms were platform games, games about basketballers were platform games, and basketball is already a game.

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It didn't go well.

The 5 Most Baffling Celebrity Appearances in Video GamesElectronic Arts
Renamed from Michael Jordan Sucks at Something Besides Baseball.

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Chaos in the Windy City came out a month after Shaq Fu proved that programming non-basketballing basketballers was how you made computer games feel existential despair. When an idea as awesome as Shaq Fu doesn't work, trying again is applying a Band-Aid to someone who's just received last rites from Jesus. But by 1994, Michael Jordan was more famous for magic and miracles. And almost infinitely more famous for gambling debts. He'd put his name on dirty underwear if you paid him. In his game, you restore health by picking up Gatorade and Wheaties, making it the first time the player collecting things gave someone else money.

The 5 Most Baffling Celebrity Appearances in Video GamesElectronic Arts
Think of the Money, Money.

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The plot proved they spent all their word-money on "Michael" and "Jordan." Dr. Max Cranium has kidnapped every Chicago Bull except MJ, because that "Dr." stands for "Durrrrr." We don't have to call the game uninspired, because publisher Electronic Arts already did that: Character in Place Name is how babies tell that even the writer got bored with their "Learn to Read" book.

The gameplay involves marching in straight lines around endless sparsely populated areas searching for hidden goals. That is so opposite of basketball that white men can do it. The game is so bad it made Nintendo Power's Top 10 Worst Games of All Time, and Nintendo Power's official function was saying Nintendo games were great. This game alone allowed Space Jam to happen by preventing it from being the stupidest thing Jordan would ever do. Finally, you face Max Cranium ...

The 5 Most Baffling Celebrity Appearances in Video GamesElectronic Arts
... and laugh and laugh and laugh.

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A basketball-themed villain, living on a basketball court in a suit of basketball armor, and he moves to '94 Chicago to piss off Jordan. That's like planning your crime spree in Gotham when your only weakness is child-endangerment.

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4
Chuck Norris Superkicks

The 5 Most Baffling Celebrity Appearances in Video GamesXonox

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In 1983, Atari tried to save the timestream from Chuck Norris jokes by releasing the worst one: Chuck Norris Superkicks. The last technology to ruin martial arts expertise this badly was gunpowder.

The 5 Most Baffling Celebrity Appearances in Video Gamesvia GiantBomb
But when real-life murderchips turn us all into invincible cyborgs, they'll look exactly like this.

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Norris needs to rescue a hostage from an unnameable terrorist (the writer just couldn't be bothered to waste an alias on imminent Norris foot-fluid). Unfortunately, Atari Chuck is worse at working his limbs than Atari Pac-Man is. The game is played on a controller with only one button, and pressing that button doesn't do anything. All moves are special moves, so you have to press the button in conjunction with the correct stick direction, while standing still, while enemies attack from every direction. Desperate flailing as you try to do martial arts means achieving nothing while everyone beats you to a pulp. And we don't buy video games to simulate the real effects of trying karate in a fight.

The 5 Most Baffling Celebrity Appearances in Video GamesXonox
He's either shitting himself or laying eggs. Both are poor combat technique.

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But before you can karate Professor Anonymous Von Terrorbad into moppable form, you must avoid the worst video game villain ever coded: grass. Superkicks is set in a dystopian Pokemon future where stepping into tall grass dramatically reduces your life expectancy. (There were bound to be side-effects of training every random creature in the world to fight everything to the death.) Grass runs down the clock, and Chuck can't actually die any other way -- he just runs out of time. Making the game an amazingly accurate representation of both his movies and his movie career. If the timer hits zero, the hostage dies and you lose, so most gameplay consists of carefully walking down the garden path, and being a kid too young to understand how that phrase means the makers are laughing at you.

The 5 Most Baffling Celebrity Appearances in Video GamesXonox
Eh, still better than Top Dog.

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3
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson: Rockpocalypse

The 5 Most Baffling Celebrity Appearances in Video GamesWWE Inc

Did we learn nothing from "Michael Jordan in: That Man Is Made of Balls"? Years after a 2D Jordan refused to basketball all over town, we get Rockpocalypse, a non-wrestling game starring a wrestler. Rock "The Dwayne" Johnson makes perfect sense for the wrestling games genre, or even the Scorpion King games genre, but WWE Presents: Rockpocalypse is neither.

The 5 Most Baffling Celebrity Appearances in Video GamesWWE Inc
"Can we use a different picture for the title screen? It's just that it's NOT a wrestling game and so I thought-
No, you're right, I'll shut the fuck up."

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If you pictured Rockpocalypse as a spectacular showdown between over-the-top wrestling moves and an end-of-the-world disaster movie, well done on being better at WWE games than the WWE. Their budget for this touchscreen time-waster barely stretched to the title. Rockpocalypse cost more than every other line of code in this put together, and tapping through the resulting game is less fun than tapping out of a cross arm-breaker.

The 5 Most Baffling Celebrity Appearances in Video GamesWWE Inc
Useful tapping tips for iPad owners who don't know how iPads work.

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Swipe the screen and Rock, The beats the shit out of his own film crew, who are scattered around a Hollywood set larger and more sparsely populated than the Moon. Why is a multimillionaire movie star pounding the snot out of the backup Foley artist? Because an evil dude, presumably pissed about watching Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, has released a pathogen that turns everyone into vicious minions. Or at least that's what you're told. Everyone looks anonymous and totally normal, but you must still destroy their infected evil. Rockpocalypse might have the worst plot of all time, but it's a fantastic psychotic breakdown simulator.

The 5 Most Baffling Celebrity Appearances in Video GamesWWE Inc
"We're here to help you, Rock! That's why we're not using guns even though you've crippled 20 people!"

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The rest of the story is revealed through hidden text files, because someone grossly overestimated how much people playing a WWE "touch the screen to trigger noises" game want to read.

The 5 Most Baffling Celebrity Appearances in Video GamesWWE Inc
"Swear to God, this was originally a novel about the dangers of groupthink and paranoia,
but I thought, 'Nah, it should be an iPad game starring The Rock.'"

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2
Britney's Dance Beat

The 5 Most Baffling Celebrity Appearances in Video GamesTHQ

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Britney's Dance Beat makes you pretend to audition to be a backup dancer for someone else. That's not a game, that's machines training children to consider silicon-mining a promotion. It doesn't even let you pretend to be the celebrity, making this the first celebrity game officially worse than a copy of its own soundtrack and a hairdryer pretending to be a microphone.

The 5 Most Baffling Celebrity Appearances in Video GamesTHQ
BRITNEY'S dance beat. Not yours.

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You're not Britney, and you don't even get to dance. In 2002, dance games were doing well, with huge arcade machines and home dance mat peripherals, but Britney's Dance Beat is dedicated to disappointing in every possible way, making players tap on a regular controller instead. You spend your time watching a hand sweep around a circular clock face so that you know when to press some buttons. It's less a simulation of dance stardom than data entry.

The 5 Most Baffling Celebrity Appearances in Video GamesTHQ
No, you can't interact with EITHER of the TWO Britneys. You're the poorly lit chick blocked by a cloud of shapes.

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That's the whole game. It could have been the first DDRPG, leveling up from innocent Mouseketeer to jailbait superstar, drug-addled headcase, and auto-tuned has-been Fembot. Instead, your highest hope is her permission to hang out near the back of her stage and try not to embarrass her. If you do well, your big payoff is watching a much worse version of a music video that's already been played on every television monitor in existence while you tap buttons like a Drinking Bird with delusions of grandeur. The game has five songs and all the interaction mechanics of a rotary telephone.

1
Gallagher's Gallery

The 5 Most Baffling Celebrity Appearances in Video GamesAmerican Laser Games

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Gallagher, who made millions of dollars by smashing fruit, got a video game in 1992, and in it you don't smash any fruit. Gallagher's only skill is winning fights with inanimate objects. And even then you suspect he had to practice. American Laser Games missed the chance to invent multimillion-selling Fruit Ninja two decades early despite that being their only sane option. Instead, they released Gallagher's Gallery, taking a one-note comedian and muting his only note.

The 5 Most Baffling Celebrity Appearances in Video GamesAmerican Laser Games
Make sure you mention the space-saver design. Kids will want to know about that.

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The game alternates shooting levels with Gallagher sketches, and both utterly destroy words randomly pulled from a dictionary. You blow away cafeteria food ...

The 5 Most Baffling Celebrity Appearances in Video GamesAmerican Laser Games

... an electric lamp ...

The 5 Most Baffling Celebrity Appearances in Video GamesAmerican Laser Games

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... a fishbowl with the fish still inside ...

The 5 Most Baffling Celebrity Appearances in Video GamesAmerican Laser Games

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... and that's just to prove that you're ready to take out an airplane.

The 5 Most Baffling Celebrity Appearances in Video GamesAmerican Laser Games
Just like Gallagher?

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Congratulations -- you've funded cruelty to animals and taken to terrorism because the watermelon dude told you to. Fail and you face the harshest punishment of all: Gallagher jokes. "Why, you couldn't hit the ground with a hat!"

The 5 Most Baffling Celebrity Appearances in Video GamesAmerican Laser Games
"I brought all of this from home, if that wasn't obvious."

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Worst of all, you can't shoot Gallagher. Even though he's the final boss.

The 5 Most Baffling Celebrity Appearances in Video GamesAmerican Laser Games
The game's logo was cruelly false advertising

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He's trying to smash a watermelon with his giant sledgehammer. You must stop him by shooting the hammer out of his hands, just as any worthwhile human must prevent any Gallagher routine by any means possible, but Gallagher himself is immortal. A mind-ruining horror concept kicking the shit out of anything Lovecraft ever wrote.

The 5 Most Baffling Celebrity Appearances in Video GamesAmerican Laser Games
You don't lose when this happens. You lost when you started playing.

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Gallagher has since ensured this wasn't the worst thing he's ever done by devolving into a racist, sexist, bitter, xenophobic nutjob. He's Fox News with produce. But American Laser Games knew that if we could stop him, human productivity would stop too. No one would ever work again; we'd be shooting simulated Gallaghers all day, every day, forever. Instead, we're stuck watching something we hate laugh at things that aren't funny. They replaced the Duck Hunt dog with something even more annoying, so Gallagher's Gallery isn't just the worst video game with a celebrity: It is the worst anything ever programmed.


Jason attended a Gallagher show as a kid and has been in therapy ever since. Further his suffering by sending him pictures of watermelons over Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

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