Much like the acting industry, voice acting is… an industry. We have all seen our favorite actor appear in at least a film or two that their heart plainly wasn’t in, but a paycheck surely was. With this considered, we can be reasonably unsurprised that similar mercenary roles have been sought from Hollywood’s finest, often with a degree of anonymity that live action films cannot provide.
Of course, the veil often won’t unsheathe itself and with this article I hope to highlight the sort of titles cast-members would probably like us to forget. This includes mere cameos, but also entire titles centered around the slumming stars sometimes with likenesses kept intact. Memories will be unearthed, laughs will be had, Mickey Rourke will show up a lot, all delivered on Sick Critic’s behalf. Now, let’s begin.
Actor: Ron Jeremy
Appears as: Himself and Mayor Chomo
Developed by the appropriately dubbed Trashmasters and disowned by prior series developers Running With Scissors, Postal III can at least rest easy, having scored an endorsement from none other than Ron Jeremy. In the third installment of the reigning sadistic lunatic simulator franchise, Ron appears as the manager of Pron World and the mayor of Catharsis alike, joining the modestly-statured likes of Gary Coleman and Verne Troyer as previous members of the Postal universe.
Despite being placed in the uncomfortable position of being able to die twice in one game, Ron does his best to fit right inside the world of perversions Postal III offers to those who can actually play through it. Detached from the Postal canon in a follow-up release, Postal III nonetheless serves as the most high-profile video game Ron Jeremy has appeared in next to BoneTown, “The video game where you get laid!”; and the only game in which he has appeared alongside Uwe Boll and Osama bin Laden.
Actors: Micha3l Madsen, Mick3y Rourke, Mich3lle Rodriguez, Ving Rham3s, and Iggy Pop
Appear as: Tanner, Jericho, Calita, Tobias Jones, and Baccus
With Ving Rhames in the passenger seat, Driv3r sends you in pursuit of a series of unusual suspects. This includes Mickey Rourke as the main antagonist Jericho, but also Michelle Rodriguez and Iggy Pop portraying opposing crooks. Relative to lofty expectations, Driv3r remains possibly one of the biggest flops in video game history, as an influx of false acclaim from bribed publications gave way to the revelation that the released title was not even finished.
However, there are admittedly some pretty sleek looking cutscenes to account for a void of stable gameplay or graphical textures; Ving Rhames specifically pulling double duty as the narrator, bringing some degree of cinematic flair to the table and Tanner’s sidekick Tobias Jones, a character important enough to be the only one with a last name. Michael Madsen plays main character Tanner with slightly less investment but performs above the par the game sets regardless. If only someone was at the wheel of complete game design.
True Crime: New York City
Actors: Laurence Fishburne, Christopher Walken, Mickey Rourke (again), and Beetlejuice (amongst others)
Appear as: Detective Marcus Reed, FBI Agent Gabriel Whitting, Terrence Higgins, and Zeke
The second aspiring Grand Theft Auto competitor on this list, True Crime: New York City pulls out all stops in terms of casting to attempt to distinguish itself from the glut of open world titles playing catch-up with GTA. The incomparable Laurence Fishburne takes the reins of portraying our main character Marcus Reed’s father, an established crime lord who now suspiciously sounds like Morpheus. Meanwhile, PDNY detective and your literal godfather Terrence Higgins is played by Mickey Rourke making his triumphant return to the shovelware industry with this here title.
As Marcus Reed rises through the New York justice system, he meets new characters from all walks of life; chiefly FBI Agent Gabriel Whitting played by Christopher Walken, a fixture of the True Crime series that in itself makes me wonder how it didn’t beat GTA. We additionally encounter the ever-so eloquent Beetlejuice portraying mental patient Zeke, delivering the sort of dialog that cannot be transcribed on public platforms. With its ambitious GPS accuracy rendition of Manhattan and a cast of this stature, it’s a pity the rest of the game is barely even average, but if you wanted to see Christopher Walken star alongside Mickey Rourke and Beetlejuice in the same property, this is your chance.
Actors: Michael Madsen (again), Bill Bellamy, and Ron Perlman
Appear as: Detective Jack Frozenski, DEA Agent Marcus Hill, and Captain Joe Kowalski
Leading yet another would-be GTA competitor, Michael Madsen portrays Detective Jack Frozenski operating alongside DEA Agent Marcus Hill (played by Bill Bellamy) in a title that asks the burning question, what if you could take various narcotics at literally any moment in a third person shooter? Narc has very little to offer players beyond this, but the cast does their best to elevate the material above the rote tale of begrudgingly administered justice.
Both Frozenski and Hill are playable while Ron Perlman’s Captain Joe Kowalski seems to be in as much of a hurry to finish his contributions as Midway was to get this title out the door. “Just Say No”, the saying goes and many players said no to purchasing this doped-up, dumbed-down GTA rewrite. That wasn’t the case for our voice cast though, who considered the high of getting their paycheck worth the comedown the title’s negative reception brought about.
Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard
Actors: Will Arnett and Neil Patrick Harris
Appear As: Matt Hazard and Wallace Wellesley
A meeting of the dysfunctional sitcom actor minds, Will Arnett and Neil Patrick Harris came together to star in Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard, the Duke Nukem Forever no one asked for, in advance of the release of the Duke Nukem Forever no one wanted. Will Arnett portrays Matt Hazard, a disgraced video game protagonist trying to catch a second wind on next-generation consoles. The only problem is, his developers are trying to kill him, lead by Neil Patrick Harris. Thus a romp through video game trope after video game trope encountering wizards and Master Chief alike ensues.
Say what you will about the gameplay Eat Lead offers, it may be the most in-step celebrity voice actors have been with the game tone. Will Arnett and Neil Patrick Harris prove relentlessly amusing together and individually, and are the bulk of what makes the game worth completing. From what I’ve seen, it’s the most fun celebrity voice actors have seemed to have with appearing in a video game property and though the humor remains shackled to a T-rating, it at the very least surpasses The Simpsons Game and the eventual Duke Nukem Forever. And as for our actors, at the very least it’s no Smurfs 2 or The Nut Job.
Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust
Actors: Artie Lange, Jeffrey Tambor, Carmen Electra
Appear as: Al Jones, Larry Laffer, and Ginger Vitus
A bust indeed, Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust doubles as not only one of the worst video games this respective author has ever played, but also as Happy Madison’s lone foray into video game writing (through the presence of lead writer Allen Covert). What may have been a theoretical prototype for Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star was first a sexually charged errand-running simulator with a shockingly stacked supporting cast.
Jeffery Tambor portrays previous franchise protagonist Larry Laffer who is now the uncle of this title’s protagonist, delivering his material with a perversely admirable degree of theatricality that the digitized character on-screen cannot hope to convey. This contrasts with Artie Lange’s Al Jones who delivers his lurid dialogue with the erotic allure of a prostate exam. Carmen Electra’s presence as Ginger Vitus (not an STI, mind you) may be more understandable but is saddled with an especially tragic character model, albeit also the closest thing to a multi-faceted character (progressive!).
Al Lowe was long removed from the Leisure Suit Larry series he had created by this point, to be replaced by a higher budget and ultimately a more pathetic product. The window dressing its cast serves as puts up a good facade (and they certainly put forth better performances than the game deserved), but ultimately there’s no money shot here.
Actor: Mickey Rourke (AGAIN)
Appears as: Dick Marcinko
The world is in dire spirits, lighting is dim 24/7, and “goddamned cockbreath commie motherf*ckers” run rampant. Under attack by the North Koreans and the Soviet Union (linked hand-in-hand to plot our demise), the United States can only trust in one man to protect them; Dick Marcinko. Portrayed by Mickey Rourke as the natural culmination of all of his prior voice acting experience, the real-life Dick Marcinko is now profane, pro-freedom. and patriotic to the extent of jingoism. Rourke delivers dialogue that sounds like an extended Xbox Live monologue with shameless zeal, making the otherwise stock-standard playing experience transcendent.
The game effectively resembles alpha aggressive action films like Commando not exactly through gameplay, but a ridiculous tone as Marcinko can’t resist making a punchline or taunt out of the massacre he repeatedly commits. Rourke delivers hopelessly out of place calls of “Rock n Roll motherfuckers” and speculates that “the Great Leader must have a tiny dick” in a game that was once supposed to pride itself on its historical accuracy. Rogue Warrior is a trashy disaster but it seems to know that down to a credits sequence that superimposes Dick’s tirades onto a preset hip-hop beat. It is rare to see a voice actor make their mark on a game to the degree that Mickey Rourke does, as his name may as well have replaced Dick’s on the cover, and it leads to an experience that is as hilarious as it is mortifying.
Actor: Phil Hartman
Appears as: Blasto
An arguable precursor to the Ratchet & Clank series, and one of the last properties the late Phil Hartman contributed to, Blasto had an arsenal of prestigious names behind it, but ultimately missed its mark. Nonetheless, Hartman gives the sort of gonzo performance you would expect from the star as he portrays Blasto, allowing plenty of Uranus jokes to ensue. This, alongside, a decently distinct visual palette carries the gameplay, which although early to the shooter platformer genre, mostly just exhibited growing pains that would be ironed out in later titles.
Blasto unfortunately can only be bothered to delivered a few repetitious one-liners during gameplay ad-nauseum and the charm of the cutscenes generally fails to translate to the gameplay itself. The “lazer-toten’ love magnet” doesn’t quite realize his full potential as a character even as he proves to be the title’s highlight. Despite the resoundingly muted reception the game faced, a sequel was planned before Hartman’s deeply unfortunate passing. As this game stands, it remains a passion project that disappointed but could have laid the framework for a successful franchise.
SpyHunter: Nowhere to Run
Actor: Dwayne Johnson
Appears as: Alex Decker
A movie tie-in to a film that doesn’t exist, SpyHunter: Nowhere to Run was an ambitious but misguided turn towards on-foot action for the vehicular combat franchise, allowing Johnson’s Alex Decker to slam down jabronis left and right. In its attempt to compete with renowned Bond titles like Everything or Nothing, Nowhere to Run stretched the franchise’s appeal thin when it wasn’t working against its strengths entirely. The already multi-faceted SpyCarBoat is forced to co-exist with meandering attempts at stealth and stilted shoot-outs. The high-octane setpieces integral to third-person espionage and especially vehicular combat games conspicuously underwhelm leaving the competent gameplay to be just that.
The charm that can be gleaned from the title can be credited to Dwayne Johnson’s presence as he manages to elevate the otherwise derivative title much in the way he does the millionth disaster film he stars in coming to theaters soon. What more or less appear to be WWE wrestling moves are brought into the title as enemy takedowns in an admirably ridiculous manner. The plot is mostly obligatory and intrusive but Johnson is game to appear enthused and the novelty of his physical likeness being animated into the game is a sight to behold. We can commend Midway for an elaborate attempt even as the franchise’s prospects became more-and-more dire.
Actor: Vin Diesel
Appears as: Milo Burik
With one future Fast & Furious star having thrown their hat into the vehicular combat gaming ring, it only makes sense that the star of the series would get his own soon after. Not being deficient in ideas at all, Midway bankrolled another blockbuster mission-based driving game, this time, an open-world seventh generation console title. You follow Milo Burik (played by Vin Diesel) in a mock Barcelona sandbox full of destructible architecture and indestructible civilians (this was T-rated after all).The game is marginally more ambitious than SpyHunter: Nowhere to Run while offering more-or-less the exact same divide between driving sequences that could have used less limitation and on-foot sequences that could have been excised entirely.
It’s unfortunately an incredibly plain attempt down to Vin’s performance where he effectively plays… Vin Diesel; an admitted improvement on Driv3r but soon completely outclassed by Driver: San Francisco. Wheelman’s franchise potential was cut short much like SpyHunter’s with yet another attempted movie tie-in that is nowhere to be seen. The cut-and-paste idea job that lead to its genesis yielded much of the same results as it did the first time. The company as a whole called it quits soon after more-or-less definitively marking this experiment as a failure.
Actor: Bruce Willis
Appears as: Trey Kincaid
This list has become a bit of a downer in its last leg, so let’s take some time to laugh at Activision. Apocalypse is a shockingly decent action platformer that positioned its developers in the midst of an intriguing dilemma, how do you upgrade a supporting character to lead status, when all of their dialogue has already been recorded? Bruce Willis was not originally the lead character of Apocalypse, and had already licensed his presence in full to Activision with no intent of returning to re-evaluate the title. This was of course, a terrible idea, one that developer Neversoft (who never managed to meet Willis) had no ability to combat, having nearly declared bankruptcy until Activision picked them up for this title (I guess this isn’t much of a lighter entry).
Crowned as the reluctant protagonist Trey Kincaid, Willis repeatedly unloads incoherent one-liners that dodge the exposition being delivered to him and players alike. The result isn’t too different than it would be if Chris Tucker was to suddenly replace Willis in The Fifth Element. Willis is constantly talking to a mystery character (the original protagonist) that more generous players could substitute themselves for, while others can just remain entirely confounded. In gameplay, Willis’ grunts are allowed to stand in for absent dialogue while his constant punchlines consistently make no sense. You almost find yourself in the midst of an aural uncanny valley, where the game appears to be an A-List title with an ambitious story dealing with the occult, but is packed end-to-end with complete gibberish. The fact that it’s wrapped in an entirely playable game makes it more perplexing and amusing alike.
If that wasn’t a roller-coaster of misguided passion and apathetic performances alike I don’t know what is. It is obvious that the spectrum of quality in the video game industry is just as widespread as that of Hollywood films, with the territory only growing shoddier when the two worlds collide. Many a list on film adaptations via video games and vice versa have been produced highlighting often laughable attempts, but it was a privilege being able to document the many video game vanity projects occupying the industry as well. I hope you all learned something and notice that the lack of these titles in the current generation may not entirely be a coincidence.
Enjoys paying less than 20 dollars for a game, especially when it is one people have forgotten about. Wants to be a character in the next Jet Set Radio and hopes you enjoy the site. Has a pet rabbit he nurtures and takes photos of. Still pushing for a Stuntman Ignition remaster 11 years later. Still hasn’t played Fortnite.