Top 5 Friday: Really Famous People in Really Obscure Video Game Roles

Turns out Michael Scott isn’t responsible for Steve Carrell’s most cringe-worthy dialogue by a long shot…

(Note: This list only includes celebrities who actually performed in the game rather than just having their likeness used, such as Bill Clinton in NBA Jam or Abe Lincoln in the Fight Club game.)

5. Brian Cox, Manhunt (2003, PS2, Xbox, PC)

Manhunt has become something of a footnote in Rockstar’s history, which is unfortunate, because the game is actually quite good and was one of the first indicators that their in-house development had a lot more to offer than just GTA (its highly inferior 2007 sequel probably didn’t help matters much). The premise of the game is that you are a participant in an ongoing snuff film, with an unseen narrator barking orders at you, alternately cheering you on and chastising you. This narrator is brilliant Scottish actor Brian Cox, who’s biggest contribution to geek culture is probably as Stryker from X2: X-Men United, though you may also know him from The Bourne Identity, Braveheart, and/or Scooby Doo and the Samurai Sword. A neat feature allowed the player to wear an actual headset, which would have Cox’s narration delivered through the earpiece, both furthering the immersion in the game’s world and allowing you to really savor his delight as you suffocate people with plastic bags.


4. Jeff Goldblum, The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997, PS1, Saturn)

Jurassic Park‘s video game history is spotty at best, with most of them at least tending to be among the better-looking games of their era and often allowing you to play as a dinosaur (which can never be a completely bad thing unless you’re dead inside). To those ends – and only those ends – The Lost World for PlayStation was a success. Although it was loosely based on the events of the second Jurassic Park novel and film, the game largely features nameless, generic human characters and doesn’t let you play as anyone remotely resembling Jeff Goldblum, Vince Vaughn or Julianne Moore. However, those players who – against their own better judgement, no doubt – managed to not only play through the entire game, but did so getting all of the game’s collectibles, were treated to a surprise cameo by Mr. Goldblum, being, well…Jeff Goldblum. If you can watch him talk for 10 seconds without smiling, we can’t be friends. I have no idea what the hell is supposed to be happening at the very end of this video, but it doesn’t matter. You don’t question a Jeff Goldblum performance…you just let it wash over you. I’m almost certain his appearances on Portlandia are completely ad-libbed – the script probably just says “And then Jeff Goldblum spends 3 minutes being Jeff Goldblum.”


3. Steve Carrell, Outlaw Volleyball (2003, Xbox)

In spite of the juvenile humor and characters as offensively cliched as they are scantily clad, Outlaw Volleyball is actually a very well-made volleyball game, and for my money the best of the handful that were released around that time – you can keep your Dead or Alive volleyball and it’s obtuse gift-giving system and pointless casino games. Anyway, Outlaw‘s announcer was Steve Carrell, who in 2003 was primarily only known for his appearances on The Daily Show and hadn’t yet had his star-making turns in Anchorman and The Office so his agent was still bringing him paychecks like this. In fact, such was the dimness of his star power at the time that his name doesn’t even appear anywhere on the game’s packaging. I suppose he wasn’t as big of a selling point as the “17 half-naked characters including Trixie the college co-ed” or the “Over 50 skimpy outfits per character, including string bikinis” – both of which are actual bullet points on the back cover. The commentary isn’t laugh out loud hilarious in and of itself (unless you’re 12), but his delivery makes the lines funnier than they ought to be and he never half-asses his performance even when he’s referring to a Native American character’s breasts as “tomahawks” or talking about peeing on train tracks. Fun fact: His performance in this game landed him his role in Little Miss Sunshine.


2. David Bowie, Omikron: The Nomad Soul (1999, PC, 2000, Dreamcast)

Even though it was only his first game, games-as-movies-as-games pioneer David Cage was able to land some heavyweight talent for his futuristic cyberpunk adventure game. Not only did The Artist Formerly Known As Ziggy Stardust play two different characters in the game (alongside wife Iman who also has a role), he reworked some of the songs for a then-upcoming album specifically for use in the game and even reportedly collaborated on story and design ideas. A sequel was planned but never materialized, meaning that Bowie would have to return to just being one of the most influential musicians of all-time and father of an award-winning director. What a Real Cool Cruel World. Also, this game is definitely the best David Cage game ever made featuring the word “Soul” in its title, even if the other one ups the star power with the mind-blowing triumvirate of Norman Osborn, Juno, and Dwayne Wayne.


1. John Goodman, Pyst (1996, PC)

It’s not just Goodman’s performance that is obscure here. Chances are, you’ve never even heard of Pyst, a parody of Myst that, by all accounts, was pretty much as awful as it sounds and for some inexplicable reason featured the Rosanne star and Coen Brothers muse in actual live-action footage. Maybe you’ve heard of some of developer Parroty (get it? get it??) Interactive‘s other games: Star Warped, X-Fools, and Microshaft Winblows 98. No, of course you haven’t. You probably think I’m making all of this up. Clicking on the various links thus far will prove me right, but if you’re too lazy to bother, you can always just listen to the song in the video below, an original song written and recorded for the game and sung by…yep, John Goodman. He REALLY believed in this project, apparently. I know Roseanne’s ratings were slipping a bit by this point, but surely there was a better way to cope than this. Maybe this is the REAL reason Dan had his hearMt attack. What…too soon?