15 music videos that rip off games magnificently

MTV may now be home only to would-be celebrities and attention-starved whores, but there was once a time when it played nothing but music videos, back when the M stood for “music” instead of “malaise.” In fact, music videos hit their stride in the mid-to-late 1980s, right as NESes were being installed into every living room in the world. With a shared history that’s intertwined the art forms from the beginning, it’s no surprise that we’d occasionally see videogame influences creeping into videos. What follows are 15 of the best videos to feature games that – while mostly made up (and therefore cheaper) – make clever use of the medium’s well-worn conventions. And because MTV is all but dead as an avenue to see them, you may as well watch them here.

Michael Jackson feat. Janet Jackson

We'll start with what’s easily the most-seen video on this list, Scream from Michael Jackson's HIStory album. That was a simpler time for MJ, when he was only strange and accused of molestation, not run out of the US and a sad joke. The possibility of a comeback seemed just one duet with a sibling away, and this stupidly expensive and incredibly dated video seemed like just the ticket.

In case you didn't see it at the time, we'll remind you that this was once considered amazing-looking, with such pinnacles of CG as a floating guitar. But the peak of the video’s effects was seeing the futuristic space videogame the Jacksons played, which was Pong, except the paddles were bent at a right angle. As silly as it is seeing them play a game that looks doable on a DS, it makes for a nice moment of brother-sister bonding. Looking back, it was probably just one of many ploys to get us to believe Michael was normal, or even human.

Kelly Watch the Stars

Oppositely, here's one from the “less is more” school of video-making. Experimental electro-pop Frenchies Air are featured in this video that also takes the only game that everyone on earth knows - Pong - and makes it the center of a dramatic sports battle. This one will probably age better than Scream, but only HIStory will tell.

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Ugh, this song was inescapable for one summer, playing all the time on every radio station (radio being what people listened to before iPods). Anyway, this hit from the Peppers goes in the “cheap-looking and dated” column. Our guess is the band was really tired/hung over and didn't want to film anything.

"Can't we just stand in front of this blue screen and you guys just put in whatever?" said Flea. "What would we put in the rest of the video around your sleepy/strung out faces?" the director replied. Then they noticed another person in the room was playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater and Crazy Taxi, probably at the same time. The rest is Dreamcast-level graphics HIStory (sorry, last time we'll do that).

Happy Up Here

Okay, time for honesty: we had never heard of this video or band before researching this article, but we're pretty happy we found them. The difficult-to-pronounce Norwegian trip-hop band has been together since 1998, but only recently made a splash Stateside. Partially it's because of the great song, but this video is too badass not to be a big part of the excitement.

Unlike most of the videos on the list, this “fake” game is set in reality, as a live-action Space Invaders battle explodes above the cityscape. The special effects are understated, but work wonders for defining a reality. Soak it in, Atari/Taito nerds - this is the closest thing you'll ever get to a Space Invaders movie.

Mindless Self Indulgence

Mindless Self Indulgence, the electro-punk-industrial heavyweights, have been around for 12 years, one of a growing pile of sad facts that make us feel ancient. This recent video is a real standout for them, taking place in an empty city that is  a mass of polygons and gamer culture. The fake game in question comes in at the middle, as we briefly leave the CG band and enter a Final Fight-type arcade game starring MSI.

Special attention should be paid to the director, M dot Strange. This independent filmmaker works in digital animation largely by himself, and has produced a hauntingly gorgeous film, We Are the Strange. Check out his blog for more info on this one-man army of animation.

Next page: we go 8-bit crazy!


  • crossed23 - May 13, 2009 1:53 a.m.

    Take me out with Star Wars is absolutely awesome.
  • minimaxi - May 7, 2009 11:53 a.m.

    seriously people, that black out band is awesome, I crapped my pants laughing. It's a shame that the vocalist's already smoking marijuana at such an early age. Tsk tsk kids nowadays....
  • vitoruss - May 5, 2009 3:43 p.m.

    And who could forget Judas Priest's "Freewheel Burning"? The kid in it is playing a fake arcade racing game called 'Freewheel Burning' but when it shows the screen, POLE POSITION! It's a sweet song too, if you're into 80s metal.
  • DagDabreemie - May 3, 2009 3:08 p.m.

    Was Eiffel 65 trying to use game concepts in their Blue video?
  • Auroron - May 3, 2009 11:17 a.m.

    I can't believe you haven't heard of Røyksopp before, they are TEH shit.
  • Luigi49 - May 2, 2009 5:33 p.m.

    Ilove Californacation when it first came out. The Austrian band one was funny with the pac man parody but i have never heard anything as bad as the last song. It just a rich wannbe rockstar with no talent and to much money.
  • Stabby_Joe - May 2, 2009 4:12 p.m.

    I only got to 16 seconds on the last one... *shudders*
  • SandroTheMaster - May 2, 2009 11:39 a.m.

    Huh... look at that. My memory isn't as far gone as I had judged, as I actually remembered where I had heard Tandem before. It was in a little episodic CG short that aired in Adult Swim here in my country (I'm not sure what the name was or if it aired in the original Adult Swim). It was a good short, artistic to say the least, about a hobo and his giant anthropomorphic cat. It was very sad, but always ended with the characters dancing the Tandem.
  • R_U_Guys_From_British - May 1, 2009 9:14 p.m.

    Eminem's latest "we made you", in the video hes rapping whilst in the guitar hero guitar neck scrolls behind him. worth mentioning.
  • GR_HenryGilbert - May 1, 2009 4:37 p.m.

    @ Matt Cundy Crap, I love Go Team!, but had never seen that video. It totally belongs on the list. Thanks
  • onesweetdream11 - May 1, 2009 3:10 p.m.

    If you like that Architecture in Helsinki video. (I loved that song, didn't even know about the video thx). Check this other video out by the same animator. Its ULTIMATE!
  • symphonicdeathpop - May 1, 2009 12:19 p.m.

    Wow the Happy Up Here video is just amazing! I'm a huge Röyksopp fan actually, but I had never bothered to watch that one... glad I did though. Also love the Kelly Watch The Stars vid. And that last song was just too epic.
  • KonkeyDong25 - May 1, 2009 11:24 a.m.

    How did you guys mis this. It's almost a burnout advert.
  • Matt Cundy - May 1, 2009 8:04 a.m.

    Epic Ms Pac-Man chase in The Go! Team's 'Junior Kickstart' video:
  • revrock - May 1, 2009 5:21 a.m.

    I can't believe Dio's "Last in Line" isn't on this list...
  • IIIJabbaIII - May 1, 2009 1:37 a.m.

    thanks GR, that last "band" made my eardrums explode. That kid sounds like he's gargling with his nose. That was painfully awful. I think that "song" is tied with that morse code game as one of the most annoying things on GR :P
  • Wolf007 - April 30, 2009 11:27 p.m.

    I should have taken the warning. Now all I hear is a spoiled brat wailing about video games. The people who produced that had to be stoned.
  • Mittenz - April 30, 2009 11 p.m.

    Yeah! That drummer in blackout band is really feeling it in the beggining, WOOT ROCK ON MOFO'S!!!
  • GR_HenryGilbert - April 30, 2009 10:25 p.m.

    Yes, thanks to everybody at GR with their suggestions. Even if I didn't use yours, like with Dire Straits, I still appreciated it. By the way, I left out the famous 3D Dire Straits video because while it is polygonal, it doesn't really look like a game. That was my stern judgment and I stand by it.
  • garnsr - April 30, 2009 10:16 p.m.

    Has anyone ever played a game with the case on their lap? MGS, maybe, but no Xbox game.

Showing 1-20 of 55 comments

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