Michael Jackson: From Bad to Worse with Moonwalker.
Ostensibly holding out for a video game system that could more accurately portray his angular nose, Michael Jackson's [official site, wiki] window opened with the technological improvements provided by Sega Genesis. "Moonwalker [wiki]" hit stores in 1989 and featured synthesized versions of such M.J. hits as "Billie Jean" and "Beat It." The music, however, didn't sound nearly as sketchy as the game's concept - to follow the superstar as he danced his way through graveyards and pool halls looking at (that's right) kidnapped children. What's fun about that?
Evading danger often involved unleashing a funky moonwalking wrath upon the captor and his cohorts, at which point good and evil called off the fight in order to bust a move together, à la the "Thriller" video ... oh, and the "Beat It" one ... oh, and "Bad."
KISS: The Big Pinball Kiss Off.
KISS [official site, wiki] became famous in the mid-70's for their heavy metal meets heavy makeup style ... and for their ability to bilk fans out of money via an onslaught of consumer products. During the band's comeback in the mid-90's, they realized that their 1979 pinball machine had become quite the collectible, and promptly took the next logical step: converting it to the video game world. The "KISS Pinball" package for home computers and gaming systems wasn't exactly a smash success.
Bit its dim sales didn't scare KISS away from releasing yet another video game, "Psycho Circus," which failed as miserably as its attendant album.
Aerosmith: Not So Revolutionary Revolution X.
The goal, which might better be explained by lead singer Steven Tyler's psychiatrist, involved players saving the band from the clutches of a child-snatching villainess named Helga. If they succeeded, they were treated to a special ending in which they were allowed to destroy all of Aerosmith's trophies. Some fans wondered why such a violent act of vandalism would be considered a prize, but most "Walk This Way"-saturated radio listeners (and, let's be honest here, Aerosmith band members) saw the poetic justice of the ending.
The Journey's Half the Battle.
Thanks to the "Don't Stop Believin'" moxie of Journey [official site, wiki] and the blocky goodness of the Atari 2600, one of the first blessed unions between band and video game occurred in 1982. Dubbed "Journey: Escape," the game challenged players to guide each band member past "hordes of love-crazed groupies, sneaky photographers, and shifty-eyed promoters to the safety of the Journey Escape Vehicle." It was surprisingly successful, despite dismal graphics that made it difficult for players to discern between the pixelated blocks representing the shifty-eyed promoters and those symbolizing the band members - ironically implying that musicians looking for royalty rights off video games weren't shifty-eyed promoters themselves.
Buckner & Garcia: A Good Pac-Man is Hard to Find.
While it's usually the bands that lend their fame to video games, it's apparently possible for video games to lend fame to bands - or at least one. Jerry Buckner & Gary Garcia [official site, wiki], a musical duo inspired by the video game craze of the early 80's, were the toast of the town when their pop-culture ditty, "Pac-Man Fever [wiki]," hit the Billboard Top 40 in 1982. But they didn't stop there. Buckner & Garcia cashed in on the country's obsession by translating their clever idea into an entire album. Favorites such as "Froggy's Lament," "Ode to a Centipede," and the classic "Do the Donkey Kong" gave kids everywhere lyrics they could relate to, as well as finally bringing attention to the plight of ape-harassed Italian plumbers everywhere.
The article above appeared in the March-April 2005 issue of the mental_floss magazine, and is featured in Neatorama in partnership with mental_floss. Be sure to visit mentalfloss.com, buy their magazine, read their blog and feed your brain!