A good cameo can be very useful. An actor appearing in a remake of movie they starred in can lend credibility to the new version, for example. Other times a well-picked cameo can elevate the comedy of a scene, or simply be cool.

There’s no overstating the coolness factor of guest appearances. Sometimes people appear as themselves, sometimes they appear as someone else, as a sort of Easter egg for perceptive audience members.

Ten of the coolest video game cameos
GameReleaseGenreDeveloperSale
Brutal Legend 2013-02-26 Adventure Double Fine Productions 72%
Saints Row IV 2013-08-22 Adventure Deep Silver Volition 69%
Call Of Duty Black Ops III Zombies Chronicles 2017-06-15 Adventure Treyarch
Death Stranding Directors Cut 2022-03-30 Action Kojima Productions 74%
Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order Deluxe Edition 2019-11-15 Action Respawn Entertainment
Hitman 2 Gold Edition 2018-11-13 Action IO Interactive 82%
Sacred 2 Gold 2012-12-21 Adventure Ascaron 89%
Marvels Spider Man Remastered 2022-08-12 Action Insomniac Games 45%
Jurassic World Evolution 2018-06-12 Simulation Frontier Developments 94%
Cyberpunk 2077 2020-12-10 Action RPG CD PROJEKT RED 63%
Metal Gear Solid V The Definitive Experience 2015-09-01 Adventure Konami Digital Entertainment 78%

Cameos happen mostly in movies, but video games certainly aren’t strangers to the idea, and there’s been quite a few which are worth discussing, including their context and why it works so well.

The list of celebrities in video games is, of course, not exhaustive, and doesn’t include, for example, Burt Reynolds in Saints Row: the Third. It’s still a good look into the cross-pollination between movies (mostly) and video games.

Rock and metal legends – Brütal Legend

Release date:2013-02-26
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Double Fine Productions

Brütal Legend’s cast is truly impressive, especially so if you’re a fan of rock and metal music.

First of all, there’s of course Jack Black. He appears as himself in the live-action intro, but he also lent his voice and likeness to the protagonist, Eddie Riggs. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The game also has a few guest appearances from true legends. Let’s give them a quick look.

Ozzy Osbourne (Black Sabbath) is the Guardian of Metal whom you visit for upgrades. Rob Halford (Judas Priest) is the Baron, a leader of pyromaniac bikers. Meanwhile Lemmy Kilmister is the Kill Master, a bassist who music heals others. They lent their appearances and voices to the game, so you can have the unique experience of having your ride customised by the Prince of Darkness.

Key features
  • A mix of open world action game and a real-time strategy
  • A digital tribute to rock and metal
  • Excellent licensed soundtrack
  • The game also stars Tim Curry, but just the voice, not his likeness

Keith David, Roddy Piper – Saints Row IV

Release date:2013-08-22
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Deep Silver Volition

Saints Row is no stranger to cameos, but SR4 has probably the best one so far, because it’s layered.

First of all: SR4 stars Keith David as himself, and also pokes fun at the fact that he sounds just like an old boss of the 3rd Street Saints…because Julius was voiced by Keith David too. Now it gets funky. The game story involves many simulations, which is where the big cameo moment comes in.

One of these sims involves a younger version of Keith David (as Keith David) fighting a young version of Roddy Piper, a wrestler. If that doesn’t ring a bell, you clearly haven’t seen the John Carpenter classic They Live. Not only is this a cameo from both main characters of the movie, but ALSO a clear reference to one of the key scenes from it. It’s brilliant, creative, and very entertaining.

Key features
  • Two cameos and a movie reference, quite a treat!
  • An over-the-top action-adventure game
  • Robust player character customisation
  • You get superpowers and supermobility

Movie and TV stars – Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies

Release date:15-05-2017
Genre:FPS
Developer:Treyarch

One of the maps in Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies modes is star-studded in a way that doesn’t seem real, but somehow is.

The Call of the Dead map features: Danny Trejo (Machete), Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy), Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead, Guardians of the Galaxy), and Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street). It’s Machete, Buffy, Yondu, and Freddy Krueger.

Floyd Campbell Call of Duty

As an additional treat they are up against George A. Romero as a zombie. Unfortunately (yet understandably) Zombie Romero isn’t voiced by the real director. But that’s fine, there are still four excellent cameos to enjoy. That comes as a cherry on top of an already very enjoyable co-operative zombie-killing experience that is the, by now long-running, CoD Zombies mode.

Key features
  • Kill zombies with Buffy and Machete
  • Co-operative multiplayer
  • Convoluted, delightfully B-movie story
  • A different CoD Zombies instalment features David Hasselhoff

Actors, director, late night show host – Death Stranding

Release date:2022-03-30
Genre:Action
Developer:Kojima Productions

Given Hideo Kojima’s love of cinema and media, it comes as no surprise that Death Stranding, his fully unleashed project, features several famous appearances.

First of all there’s Sam Porter Bridges, the game’s protagonist, played by Norman Reedus, and Clifford Unger, played by Mads Mikkelsen. There’s also Wandering MC, portrayed by Conan O’Brien, a legendary late night show host.

There’s also a partial cameo, limited to appearance: Guillermo del Toro as Deadman. Since Kojima wanted Del Toro to be able to focus on filmmaking, the Spanish director was scanned into the game, but two actors did the voice and performance capture work instead. Admittedly, with the game’s excellent graphics it can feel a bit weird to see Reedus’, Mikkelsen’s and Del Toro’s exact likenesses.

Key features
  • Four high-profile cameos
  • A bizarre, but fascinating game
  • Form connection between locations in the game and between players
  • Complicated story

Forest Whitaker – Jedi: Fallen Order

Release date:2019-11-15
Genre:Action
Developer:Respawn Entertainment

This one has a bit of a legacy. See, 2019’s Jedi: Fallen Order is Forest Whitaker’s third time as Saw Guerrera, a freedom fighter against the Empire.

He first appeared in the role in Rogue One in 2016, and a year later voiced the character in Star Wars Rebels. Although Guerrera was originally (and then in the recent The Bad Batch show) voiced by Andrew Kishino, Forest Whitaker has a much higher profile.

At this point Forest Whitaker has become synonymous with Guerrera, and he’s even coming back to the role in the Andor TV show. As a result, his presence in Jedi Fallen Order isn’t surprising at all, but it is quite cool to wreck Imperial Stormtroopers alongside Ghost Dog and a character present in the franchise since 2012 at the same time.

Key features
  • An extended cameo of Forest Whitaker as Saw Guerrera
  • A great Star Wars adventure
  • Return to already visited places with new Force powers to reach new locations
  • Engaging combat system similar to Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Sean Bean – Hitman 2

Release date:2018-11-13
Genre:Action
Developer:IO Interactive

Sean Bean has a reputation for having an extraordinary number of on-screen deaths.

It is, therefore, rather amusing that in his cameo in Hitman 2 he plays Mark Faba, a man known as “The Undying” because of how many times he escaped death. Now he’s facing his greatest challenge: Agent 47, a grim man known also as Tobias Rieper. The Undying vs grim Rieper, you understand.

To adds a reference to an excellent cameo, if you manage to eliminate Faba you get an Explosive Pen. Not only is it useful, but it’s also takes straight out of GoldenEye, a Bond movie where Sean Bean played Alec Trevelyan. The downside is that The Undying was an Elusive Target, which means the mission was only available for a limited time. Perhaps The Undying will return, however.

Key features
  • Sean Bean as the Undying, a perfect cameo
  • Plenty of ways to complete assignments
  • Large, detailed maps housing several missions
  • Elusive Targets are special missions available only for a limited time

Blind Guardian – Sacred 2

Release date:2012-12-21
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Ascaron

A half-forgotten action RPG, Sacred 2, featured something extraordinary: an actual in-game concert of a fantasy version of the famous power metal band Blind Guardian.

The band has performed a song “Sacred Worlds” for an audience composed of fantastical creatures populating the game’s world. All you had to do to see the concert was complete a quest… called “Blind Guardian”, of course.

Oh, and the quest giver? He’s called Hansi. As in: Hansi Kürsch, the lead singer of the band. This quest and the concert itself are a true treat for any fans of power metal and a chance to catch a break from all the other quests in the game. It’s also really funny to see a proper concert venue and a modern sound console being operated by creatures like orcs or goblins.

Key features
  • A power metal concert performed by one of the best-known bands in the genre
  • A solid 3D sequel to a great hack’n’slash
  • Several playable characters
  • Tonnes of loot and plenty of enemies to get it from

Stan Lee – Marvel’s Spider-Man

Release date:2022-08-12
Genre:action
Developer:Insomniac Games

One of the last cameos by Stan Lee, Marvel’s best-known creators happened in Marvel’s Spider-Man by Insomniac.

He plays a short order cook who says a few nice things to Peter Parker and MJ in a restaurant. It’s not a lot, but it came shortly before Stan Lee’s death in 2018, so it is among Lee’s last appearances, alongside Into the Spider-Verse and some posthumous cameos in Marvel movies.stan-lee-marvel-spiderman-video-game

 

In a way this cameo is something of a goodbye from Lee to Peter and MJ, before Peter gets tangled up in the game’s plot. After so many years of Stan Lee appearances it’s certainly going to be weird not to see him in more comic book movies and games. Thankfully Marvel’s Spider-Man is a fantastic game and a perfect Spidey game, so it’s a proper send off for the comic book legend.

Key features
  • A short and sweet cameo
  • An excellent superhero AND Spider-Man game
  • A quasi-sequel switched Peter Parker for Miles Morales, and it’s awesome too
  • Plenty of iconic villains to beat up

Jeff Goldblum – Jurassic Park Evolution

Release date:2018-06-12
Genre:Simulation
Developer:Frontier Developments

There are three obvious cameos a Jurassic Park could have, but only one of them could be considered perfect.

With no disrespect to Sam Neill and Laura Dern, their cameo potentials are lesser than Jeff Goldblum’s. Who wouldn’t want Dr. Ian Malcolm guiding them through the process of running an obviously very safe and fully functional park featuring titanic reptiles.

Jeff Goldblum – Jurassic Park Evolution

Goldblum also returns for the role in Jurassic Park Evolution 2, so if an even larger collection of dinos isn’t enough, there’s your reason to care about the game. Either way, even without Jeff Goldblum adding his odd charm, Jurassic Park Evolution is a solid sim, quite adept at capturing the more mundane side of running a dinosaur-filled theme park. And then an accident disrupts a smooth operation.

Key features
  • Jeff Goldblum returns to his role of Dr. Ian Malcolm
  • There’s a career mode and a more relaxed snadbox mode
  • Plenty of accidents and emergencies can happen, forcing you to address them
  • A few dozen of dinosaur species

Keanu Reeves – Cyberpunk 2077

Release date:2020-12-10
Genre:Action RPG
Developer:CD PROJEKT RED

Keanu Reeves starring in a prominent role in CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077 is probably the most high-profile video game cameo of all time.

It has, in fact, been turned into a meme in two variants: Reeves’ wholesome moment from E3 2019, and his character, Johnny Silverhand, telling the game’s protagonist V to wake up, because they’ve got a city to burn.

Silverhand is a character drawn from the game’s source material, the tabletop RPG Cyberpunk 2020, an ex-military punk rocker with a silver arm prosthetic. Reeves himself has a history with the cyberpunk genre, having played Johnny Mnemonic and, more famously, Neo in Matrix. By lending his likeness and voice to Silverhand, Keanu Reeves has become eternally synonymous with the character.

Key features
  • A cameo so well-known you already knew it from the memes
  • Keanu becomes Johnny Silverhand, a notable character from Cyberpunk ttRPG canon
  • An open-world adventure in a near-future metropolis
  • Interesting story involving a very peculiar chip

Digital hospitality

That concludes our list of cool guest appearances and inspired casting choices we had a chance to enjoy in video games. Some were big, others tiny, all of them are memorable and worth bringing up. They are also a good reason to check these games to see if, alongside clever casting, their gameplay is up to your tastes too.