The acting world has had lines drawn in the sand that has eventually faded. Before, being in film or TV was a significant difference. You would want to be on the big screen, but now it does not matter as both are great gigs to snag when working in Hollywood. Now that it is acceptable to cross into another medium, we have started to see more recognizable faces in our games. The list I compiled contains some of the crazier and wilder celebrity appearances in video games. Some of which literally blew my mind, making it hard to comprehend. Others, looking back now, make sense, but a lot has changed over the years. It is not just Troy Baker or Laura Bailey popping up in the most anticipated releases anymore.
11. Jeff Goldblum (Call of Duty: Black Ops III)
Maybe it is eccentric personality, but I am always caught off guard when The Fly and Jurassic Park actor stars in anything (in a good way). Outside of being blown back by his character in Thor: Ragnarok, it was a bigger shock when he came out in the third Black Ops entry for the zombie horde mode.
Nero Blackstone had a successful life as a magician. Due to unknown reasons, he became a laughing stock in his field. To make his backstory more tragic, he is framed for the death of his wife. The Shadowman pays his accountant to put the blame on our unlikely hero to put him further down the hole that he finds himself. Of course, the cherry on top of this dung sundae is when he wakes up with three others in a part of Morg City surrounded by the undead. You don’t want to be this guy.
10. Peter Dinklage (Destiny)
Peter Dinklage made his name from the HBO adaption of George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones series of novels. During his time on the once-popular TV show, which would go down as one of the most hated final seasons in history, he starred in Bungie’s new IP, Destiny.
It was cool seeing him in a different role, but his performance was criticized. Despite the fan reception, he was replaced not because of his poor line delivery. To be fair, he had some bad lines to deliver, but the writing of the game was notorious for having difficulties. The real reason was availability. He would be swapped with Nolan North from Uncharted as this is in his wheelhouse, plus he does not have to travel the world to film a long-running series that still had quite a few more seasons to go before it concluded.
9. Stephen Merchant (Portal 2)
Stephen Merchant has had quite the career. Everything from starring in films like Logan and Jojo Rabbit to producing The Office (UK). The Emmy winner may not be remembered as your friendly robot companion Wheatley in Portal 2. You need some kind of help with the obstacles you will have to get over along with the evil GLaDOS (Ellen McLain).
8. JK Simmons (Portal 2)
Going even bolder with a celebrity appearance in a video game, Valve signed on JK Simmons to play the role of Cave Johnson, the founder of Aperture Science, the company that holds you in its facility to perform these mind-bending tasks.
Simmons won his first and so far only Oscar in 2014’s Whiplash, where he played a brutal music professor and conductor. For us gamers, we know him best as J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies that spanned through the early 2000s. The list will go on and on of his notable work, whether it is musicals like La La Land or cartoons like BoJack Horseman.
7. Liam Neeson (Fallout 3)
2008 was a big year for Liam Neeson and a diverse one too. The actor found himself exploding onto the action scene with Taken. On the flip side, he landed into the English translation of Ponyo. But what we want to look at is his time as your father in Fallout 3.
While a lousy father who abandons who, he does have a heroic mission that could save lives if it works. James aims to purify water, a rarity in the wasteland as most of it is radiated. You go on the search for him, which in classic Fallout fashion, it is full of death and outrageous decisions you get to make on the way.
For me, this was one of the first times I recognized an actor being in a game. Back then, we did not always get a face to match the voice, or if we did, it did not look that good as visuals in video games were not what it is today in the 13 years since Bethesda’s epic RPG.
6. Conan O’Brien (Death Stranding)
One of the wildest celebrity appearances in video games is easily Conan O’Brien in Death Stranding. Sure, he has a video game segment on his show and has dabbled in that world before. He has done more than wet his feet with acting across film and TV too. What stands out more is not only that he stars in Kojima’s star-studded game, but it is his face, making it quite shocking when first revealed that it felt like a joke.
Either way, I do find the use of his face to be a good thing. Mainstream figures popping up in video games can help people’s perception of games or think of it in a different, hopefully positive, light.
5. Guillermo del Toro (Death Stranding)
The only non-voiced entry on this list with Hellboy and The Shape of Water director and writer Guillermo del Toro. He may not voice Deadman (that belongs to Jesse Corti from Beauty and the Beast and Zootopia).
Before moving forward for people who did not play or pay attention to Death Stranding, yes, that is his character’s name, and no, this is not the only weird name in this world.
The filmmaker was meant to collaborate with Norman Reedus and Kojima in Silent Hills. Once the drama with Konami exploded, Kojima started his own studio. With that, he snagged the two for his new company’s debut.
4. Keanu Reeves (Cyberpunk 2077)
It is quite fitting that an iconic rockstar should be played by Keanu Reeves. The reveal of the John Wick and Matrix star to appear as the character was one of the most surprising events that took place during E3 in 2019. Then things got better when he came onto the stage and responded to an audience member with “you’re breathtaking!”
While in my review, I felt his performance was passable as he is a fine actor, but his dedication to characters is what works best. He was a good fit, and it was pretty great having this conflicting relationship with this breathtaking silver handed man.
3. Sean Bean (Hitman 2)
Mark Faba was the first elusive target in Hitman 2, and he was played by the man who dies in everything, Sean Bean. The Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings star only had one role to play for IO Interactive’s sequel to the rebooted trilogy, and that was to be sent to Hell by you.
I felt so awkward having to kill him, but I was also stoked about my mission. He knows his typecasted fate, and it is delightful that he recognizes this to the point of coming on to be one of Agent 47’s victims.
2. Gary Busey (Hitman)
Even wilder than the big Bean was seeing the seventh elusive target in the first reboot of Agent 47’s career as the world’s best assassin with Gary Busey (Point Break). The reveal alone was crazy to see, as expected with anything with him. I remember blowing him up with a rubber duck, which I felt was a fitting end.
1. Gary Busey (Killing Floor 2)
The reason behind this article was written as the other night playing Killing Floor 2; my buddies told me we had to play Santa’s Workshop, a map that takes you through a series of objectives to help Badass Santa, who is voiced by Busey. This is absolutely the wildest celebrity appearance in video games, at least in my experience.
The ripped Kris Kringle is on a mission to build a bomb to kill his arch-nemesis, Krampus. You must help by repairing his shop and gathering supplies while fighting hordes of monsters, or as he calls them, “the naughties.”
While playing, my friends and I were unclear if it was improved or not. Okay, I know it wasn’t improved. While Tripwire’s zombie shooter goes off on the deep end of wackiness, this felt more off the rails. That said, listening to Busey speak seemed rather normal of him as he told me about magic and how we need to kill his demonic rival.
What did you think of this list of video games that have a celebrity popping in as a character? I know I missed plenty of cameos and characters who have a famous voice that gives them life. I would love to know your favorite appearances. Let me know in the comments.