These days with your Marvel vs. Capcoms and Kingdom Hearts and Smash Bros., video game crossovers seem to be a dime a dozen. But back in the day it was extremely unlikely to see one game character pop up in another one’s title, and even less likely that the appearance even made any sense.
Although most of these walk-ons were shameless attempts to capitalize on whatever happened to be big in pop culture at the time, some of them were motivated by much less obvious influences. And those are the ones we’d like to present to you in this collection of the 12 craziest cameos we’ve ever seen in video games.
12. Hitler in Wolfenstein 3D (1992)
Even before Doom, Wolfenstein was really the first commercial success for the first-person shooter genre. Set during World War II, Wolfenstein 3D sees protagonist BJ Blazkowicz sent out on a mission to sabotage the Nazi’s regime and foil their schemes. But, over the course of things, he’s captured and imprisoned under the grounds of Castle Wolfenstein. It’s then up to the player to take on an army of Third Reich soldiers stationed within the castle.
Now, you could make the argument that in a game which features Nazi killing as the focal point, the appearance of Hitler shouldn’t really be considered a cameo, but this isn’t exactly the same Hitler we’ve come to know and despise. No, this is a robotic Mecha-Hitler, and he’s not going down without a fight. After you manage to destroy his power armor, the fictionalized fuhrer (who looks like he’s been hitting the gym and doing some serious lifting) comes at you with some massive dual-wielded mini guns into you turn him into a pile of pulpy giblets. Kudos to developer id Software for giving us the opportunity to live out this dream.
11. Bill and Hillary Clinton in NBA Jam (1994)
NBA Jam is an arcade sports classic. The frantic two-on-two action and spectacular high-flying dunks made this one of the most popular games when it was released on consoles in 1994. It was also known for being jam-packed full of secret characters and features that could be unlocked using special codes. With the right code, you could hit the court with secret celebrity players like Will Smith, Al Gore, and even former U.S. President and First Lady, Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Getting to play as the White House residents was a totally mind-boggling novelty at the time. Was it real? Was it legal? It didn’t matter, it was awesome. Now, when people look back on the fascinating life of Bill Clinton, he’ll be remembered not only for being a solid president who loved playing the saxophone, but also an aggressive baller who could shatter back boards with a quintuple flip dunk. Oh, and maybe that minor scandal with the Lewinsky girl. Boom-shaka-laka!
10. Spider-Man and Batman in The Revenge of Shinobi (1989)
The Shinobi series is one of those beloved franchises that will always have a place in old school gamers’ hearts. While most people remember The Revenge of Shinobi for all the fast-paced, side-scrolling ninja action, what they might not recall is the disclaimer text that appears right before the game’s main title screen. If you happened to pay any attention to it, you might have noticed the copyright notice saying Spider-Man is a licensed trademark of Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc.
Now, you might ask, “what the hell is Spider-Man doing in a Japanese game about ninjas?” And the answer is, we have absolutely no idea. The wall crawler just mysteriously shows up at the end of level six and starts trying to kick your butt with all sorts of web attacks. He doesn’t even bother to tell us what he’s doing there in the first place. And as if that weren’t strange enough, once you get a few hits in on him he morphs into Batman! Or at least a vague facsimile of Batman. The fact that he seems to have real bat wings that he uses to fly around makes us think they couldn’t afford to secure the rights to the real caped crusader. Although, since later versions of the game made changes that saw the Batman-esque character get turned into Devilman, it’s probably safe to bet that DC stepped in and put a stop to it anyways.
9. Hitler in Bionic Commando (1988)
Wolfenstein 3D actually wasn’t the first appearance of Hitler in gaming. He actually popped up years earlier in Capcom’s famous side-scroller Bionic Commando.
The American release of the game featured a futuristic 1980s setting where you battled a group of enemies aptly named the ‘Badds’ who were led by a fanatical ruler named Master-D. But in the original Japanese version of Bionic Commando you were actually fighting against the Nazis and the final boss, who was resurrected over the course of the story, was Hitler himself. It also featured one of the most satisfying endings in video game history as players were treated to a graphic depiction of Hitler’s head exploding.
8. Chun-Li in Breath of Fire (1993)
Another successful Capcom title was fantasy RPG Breath of Fire. Full of magical spells and monstrous creatures, this game certainly didn’t feel like it was supposed to be set in the real world, but that didn’t seem to deter Capcom from throwing in a Street Fighter character.
Located within the town of Bleak is a magician who promises to make 100g disappear before your very eyes. If you answer “yes” twice, then “no” twice, then “yes” once more, you’ll be shown a brief clip of Chun-Li practising her moves in a vacant room that looks like it could be a prison cell. Word has it she got jailed for using all those cheap lightning kicks.
7. Bill and Hillary Clinton in Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2 (2000)
What’s with the Clinton’s appearing in video games? The Ready 2 Rumble Boxing games have always featured a roster of playable characters that were stereotyped versions of famous people, but in Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2, things got a bit out of control.
The decision by the developers to include the then-President and First Lady as boxers was likely made to capitalize on the media bonanza that was the Lewinsky scandal. It was definitely hilarious seeing a grey-suited Hillary lay a beat down on old Bill while making spiteful political remarks like “The White House isn’t the only house I dominate!” and “I’ll give you a background check!”
If you choose to play as Bill, your first matchup in the single-player mode is a fight against a woman who you can easily defeat using your special move, which happens to be some sort of bizarre reverse humping maneuver.
6. Lara Croft and the Ninja Turtles in Shadow Warrior (1997)
Shadow Warrior is essentially the Japanese Duke Nukem. You play as trained bodyguard Lo Wang who is on a mission to avenge his master who was killed by evil creatures sent by a former employer.
Much like the Duke Nukem games, over the course of playing through Shadow Warrior you encounter a number of amusing easter eggs, such as Monty Python’s killer bunnies and references to Star Wars’ the Force, but there are two cameos that stand out among the rest—particularly for the unflattering way in which they’re shown. The first is the depiction of Lara Croft seen chained to a wall in a secret room. Upon finding her, Lo Wang comments “she’s raided her last tomb,” after which you can proceed to blast her to gory bits if you feel so inclined.
After a bit more exploring you might come across another cameo in the form of four dead turtles wearing familiar masks. And just in case you had any doubts that this was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reference, Lo Wang confirms it by exclaiming “cowabunga!” when you see them.
5. Justin Bieber in NBA 2K13 (2012)
You’d probably be hard-pressed to find anyone who’d think to associate Justin Bieber with sports prowess. But even if you did, his 5’7″ stature would probably make him more of a contender for being a horse jockey rather than an NBA baller.
To make Bieber’s character more useful for NBA 2K13 players, developers jacked up his height to a ridiculous 6’4″ and then maxed out all his stats. He’s even better than dominant players like Lebron James and Kevin Durant.
Exactly how Bieber was able to go from sitting court side at Kobe’s games to dunking on him in NBA 2k13 is anybody’s guess, but it might have something to do with the game’s pop heavy soundtrack.
4. Mikhail Gorbachev in Street Fighter II (1993)
The Street Fighter franchise remains a juggernaut in the gaming world for its tight combo system and highly-competitive gameplay. But one thing it’s never been is a game to shy away from portraying characters as massive cultural stereotypes. Case in point—the Russian bear hugger Zangief. This beefy, hairy-chested wrestler enters the stage with a red cloak prominently displaying the Soviet logo, and if you manage to go the distance and beat the game with him, you’re treated to cameo from none other than former Soviet Union leader, Mikhail Gorbachev.
Gorbachev can be seen in Zangief’s ending game sequence getting off a helicopter and congratulating the pile-driving champion for once again demonstrating Russia’s supreme superiority to the world. The two of them then proceed to get down with a traditional cossack dance—yet another flamboyant stereotype.
3. Gary Coleman in Postal 2 (2003)
Anyone who’s heard of the Postal games knows that they’ve been incredibly controversial. In Postal 2, players essentially go on a serial murder spree for no apparent reason. You can kill helpless civilians, burn people alive, and douse pretty much whatever you want with a never-ending stream of urine. It was actually banned in a number of countries because of its “abhorrent content.” But it also features Gary Coleman.
In the game, Coleman can be found in the mall signing autographs. Sure, you could wait in line to see him like the rest of the fans, but most people who play this game will probably just cut to the front of the line and immediately star whizzing in the pint-sized TV star’s face. If you do so, Coleman will retaliate by whipping out a huge assault rifle from his pocket and hosing you with lead.
Funny enough, Coleman actually provided his own voice and likeness to the in-game character. Which is both hilarious and sad considering it was one of his last performances.
2. Shrek in Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 (2004)
Fans of the Tony Hawk series of skateboarding games might recall that the franchise began losing some of its luster around the time that Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 hit the shelves. It was by far the most juvenile entry in the series and seemed to be placate to the same crowd of people who loved watching prank shows like Jackass. But that’s not even the strangest part.
Players who beat the game on easy mode would unlock the loveable ogre Shrek as a playable character. In the past, Tony Hawk games have featured cameos from characters like Spider-Man and Darth Maul that might be considered cool by the skater community. Somehow Shrek just seems out of place in a world filled with stoked dudes and gnarly grinds. Especially if you turn on “Super Blood” mode and see him lying in a pool of his own vital fluids every time he bails.
1. Fred Durst in Fight Club (2004)
Originally released for the Playstation 2 and Xbox, Fight Club isn’t exactly a game that’s remembered with fond memories—likely due in no small part to a cameo appearance from nookie-loving Fred Durst.
If you can tolerate the horrendous fighting mechanics long enough to actually beat the game, you’ll unlock Fred Durst as a playable character. He got involved with the project after the developers asked him to make a remix of one of his songs to be used on the game’s soundtrack. Hilariously, Durst suggested that he instead be inserted as a special unlockable character rather than subject players to more of his mind-numbing rap/rock renditions.
Even though the game turned out incredibly sucky, in the end, we still think you made the right choice, Fred.