Celebrities are known for making hilarious cameos in a variety of pop culture side projects—and there’s no project too obscure. For example, the Super Bowl’s halftime commercial break is a who’s-who of celebrity appearances. But they also appear in smaller projects, from airline safety videos (British Airways, Rowan Atkinson) to animated cameos (Eric Andre in Archer).
But few celeb cameos are as satisfying as video game appearances. First, they’re often unexpected. Second, developers aren’t afraid to blend genres to capitalize on that shock value. Lastly, a celebrity might even make a meaningful contribution to the game… or at least make it more memorable.
Even in the world of slots, which cover a vast range of themes from mythology to Americana, celebrities are a common touch from developers. Players have tons of options available online, so a big-name star can help a title stick out from the pack—no matter how fringe.
For example, Ellen DeGeneres got her own slot game based on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Even Dennis Rodman got his own slot spinoff with a project from Playtech, simply titled Dennis Rodman. But that’s not the oddest celeb video game appearance—keep reading for five of the most amusing celeb cameos in major video games.
Phil Collins in Grand Theft Auto (Vice City Stories)
The Grand Theft Auto franchise focuses on varying degrees of crime in an open-world Los Angeles layout. The seedier the activities on offer, the more fans are interested in this Ubisoft game. So, if there’s one brand that GTA doesn’t mesh with, it’s soft rock.
Still, 80s soft rock legend Phil Collins became the first celeb to ever play himself in the video game series in Vice City Stories. Best of all, the side quest is titled ‘In The Air Tonight’. First, players must defend Collins as he preps for a concert by mowing down haters (literally)… they then have the option of watching him perform the song live.
Shaq in UFC Undisputed 2010
Shaquille O’Neal is the King of Cameos. Players in UFC Undisputed 2010 can unlock his character in the Undisputed mode, where they can compete as Shaq in the Heavyweight division. Though he’s introduced as a generic ‘MMA Fighter’, but everyone knows that his main discipline is ‘Shaq-Fu’.
Jimmy Kimmel in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
Jimmy Kimmel isn’t the first celebrity to appear in the Call of Duty franchise. In fact, the video game has done a stellar job of incorporating truly gritty and emotional roles for celebrities. From Kit Harrington to Kevin Spacey, players have been able to play with and alongside some of their favorite stars.
Developers took things in a different (and very meta) direction. First, Kimmel plays himself—no acting involved. Second, characters are taken directly onto the set of his talk show, where Kimmel does his thing and introduces the world to its saviors.
Ricky Gervais & Katt Williams in Grand Theft Auto IV
What began with a Phil Collins concert quickly spiraled for creators of the GTA franchise. So far, other celeb appearances include model Cara Delevingne to legend Burt Reynolds. Each adds a unique dimension to the story. Developers took things in a new direction in GTA IV. During one mission, players can channel surf—and they’ll find two stand-up routines from comedians Ricky Gervais and Katt Williams, which they can watch in their entirety.
Abraham Lincoln in Fight Club
When Fight Club was first released, many fans glommed on to one of the main celeb characters: Fred Durst. At the time, Durst was flying high as the lead singer of Limp Bizkit, known for his wild antics and anarchic attitude. He was a shoo-in for the video game.
However, developers snuck another celebrity into the game’s Story Mode. Along with Durst, players can choose to unlock another character: Abraham Lincoln. In the book Fight Club, the main character mentions wanting to fight Lincoln, who was known as a rough’n’tumble wrestler during his youth.