He made "Thriller"
Y'know, we were wondering if we could keep on. Because, this Top 7, it's got a lot of power, and it makes us feel like... it makes us feel like...OOOOOOH! Say what you will about his personal life, but there's no denying that Michael Jackson was one of the greatest entertainers of our time. June 25 marks the anniversary of MJ's untimely death, and while he'll best be remembered for his astounding body (of music), the man behind the moonwalk also made SHAMONE! a mark on the video game medium.
We want to honor the King of Pop's memory by HEE HEE! taking a look at how MJ lives on in the virtual realm. Oddly enough, only one game on this list revolves around dancing--but even catching a glimpse of the digitized Michael brings a smile to our face. With that, here are the unlikely video game appearances AOWWW! that continue to prolong MJ's legacy.
7. Michael Jackson The Experience
When it comes down to it, this is the only Michael Jackson video game that makes any kind of logical sense. This motion-controlled rhythm game could've been the ultimate MJ tribute, teaching you how to bust out his unmistakable moves step-by-step. The Experience came in two flavors: Move or Wii remotes could only track your white-gloved right hand, but gave you convincing MJ impersonators to look at, while the Kinect version could detect your full-body moves and voice but offered little in the way of visuals or progression.
Unfortunately, the end result was less than spectacular, but the game still sold like hotcakes. That's just what happens when you put the King of Pop on the cover of anything. Besides, aren't we all just living day to day in search for an excuse to imitate MJ's musical prowess? Come to think of it, you can basically play this game for free--just load up a YouTube video of a song, kick it up to HD, and ignore the accuracy feedback. You'll probably have just as much fun as the real deal.
6. Planet Michael
Every MMO has them: Players whose only purpose seems to be dancing in public for hours on end. In fact, their /dance emotes often mimic the moves of the King of Pop himself. So why not turn this peculiar virtual lifestyle into the premise for an entire game? Planet Michael materialized about a year after the pop sensation's 2009 passing, with the promise of delivering an entire virtual world for MJ fans that preferred dancing for world peace instead of traditional medieval fantasy MMOs.
It was unclear if every player could embody MJ himself, a la Marvel Heroes, or if they were just passionate performers exploring the backdrops of Michael's music videos. We'll likely never know, as Planet Michael has gone dark since 2011, with nothing more to show than three screenshots of player-devoid ghost towns. Ah well--perhaps its for the best that the only virtual Neverland is reserved for Kingdom Hearts.
5. Plants vs. Zombies
"Thriller" did zombies before they became such a cultural touchstone, with MJ's classic music video demonstrating that there could be a lighter side to the undead. From that moment onward, you couldn't wear a red leather jacket without someone assuming you were a Jackson superfan, a zombie, or both. Flash forward to May 2009, when PopCap Games put out its adorable tower defense/gardening game Plants vs. Zombies.
With dozens of zombie variants, you knew there had to be an MJ reference in there somewhere. Sure enough, the Dancing Zombie moonwalked onto your lawn during the game's second chapter, wearing the iconic Thriller jacket, a white sequined glove, and Jackson's unmistakable Jheri Curls. Unfortunately, the timing on this homage couldn't have been worse--Jackson died a month after PvZ was released, turning the tongue-in-cheek reference into a depressing parody. PopCap did the right thing by swapping out the character at the request of the Michael Jackson estate, turning the Dancing Zombie into a Disco Stu doppelganger. But we'll always remember this groovy stiff as he was in his original incarnation.
4. Michael Jackson's Moonwalker (Arcade)
Take a bunch of awesome Michael Jackson music videos, stitch them together, and insert Joe Pesci as an evil, kidnapping drug dealer. You basically just made Michael Jackson's Moonwalker, the feature film that wasn't so much a movie as it was a collection of bizarre shorts. You'd think that kind of premise wouldn't carry a quarter-devouring arcade game--but Sega would beg to differ. It wasn't a rhythm game, either--Dance Dance Revolution and its ilk were still eight years away back in 1990. Instead what we got was an isometric shooter starring an electricity-blasting Michael or three.
Players got to control MJ in his suited "Smooth Criminal" form, zapping thugs with lightning or forcing them to spontaneously burst into impressively animated, enemy-decimating dance. On the path to foiling Pesci's diabolical Mr. Big, you had to rescue the young kids from the movie and shapeshift into a gigantic mecha-Michael. It made absolutely no sense to those who hadn't seen the movie, and little more to those that had, but that didn't make it any less fun.
3. Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2
The Ready 2 Rumble franchise was a nice halfway point between the cartoony caricatures of Punch-Out!! and the three-dimensional fisticuffs of Fight Night. But the secret characters in Round 2 were classic Midway, including such unlikely boxers as Bill and Hillary Clinton and Shaquille O'Neal. But by far the best--and strangest--inclusion was Michael Jackson, voiced by the man himself and able to dish out quite a beating.
With a modified military costume and a sparkly, ivory right glove, the boxing version of MJ certainly looked the part. And because R2R encouraged copious mid-match taunts in the name of RUMBLE meter-building, Michael's moves were a boon to his boxing abilities, letting him moonwalk and heel-spin his way straight to a super mode. Plus, few things in life are more intimidating than MJ calling out his rival pugilist with a triumphant "HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"
2. Space Channel 5 Part 2
During the development of the first Space Channel 5, Jackson approached Sega, asking to get involved with the call-and-response rhythm game. At the time, SC5 was too close to completion to accommodate MJ's likeness much, so he was relegated to a cameo appearance as a backup dancer during the game's final stage. Thankfully, he had one more chance to shine in the game's 2002 sequel.
Space Michael, as he was known, became the Channel 5 Station Chief for SC5 Part 2, complete with voicework from Jackson and a sleek chrome spacesuit. According to his in-game profile, Michael used his dance energy to save the planet from aliens 500 years prior to the Ulala's swingin' report show. His role in Part 2 was no less glorious, with a much more prominent role and a slew of his trademark moves and routines woven into select stages. What game could possibly top that? Well...
1. Michael Jackson's Moonwalker (Genesis)
The Sega-made Genesis version of Moonwalker shares the same premise and setting as the arcade iteration, but the gameplay works far better as a 2D beat-'em-up. Jackson traversed night clubs, the mean streets of "Bad," and the zombie-infested graveyard of "Thriller," complete with digitized versions of his tunes that made even the Genesis sound chip listenable. Despite the stages being little more than a hide-and-seek search for the kidnapped tykes, the gameplay was freaking sweet. Why? Because Michael Jackson has magical powers.
MJ's health bar doubled as his magic supply, forcing players to choose between full health and such almighty abilities as sparkling-boomerang-hat throws and dance routines that incorporated then eliminated every enemy on the screen. There was also a host of secret moves that served no purpose besides making you feel awesome. Hold up on the d-pad, and MJ stands on his toes; hold down the attack button then move, and you'll moonwalk every which way. You could even bust out full-on pelvic thrusts when low on magic. Add in hilarious Earthworm Jim-style emoticons between stages, and you've got the greatest Michael Jackson game ever made.
Do you remember the time
Those aren't MJ's only video game homages. For instance, even though he didn't appear in the game, Jackson was slated to contribute music to Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (which led to the amazing photo-op above). Which virtual appearance of the King of Pop is your favorite? While we're at it, which music videos/songs of his get you moving? We're quite partial to "Smooth Criminal," ourselves--that lean is just too good.
And if you're looking for more pop culture references, check out 8 celebrity roles that are impossible to take seriously and The best uses of pop music in video games.