Although they’re not as big a deal as they used to be, licensed games were a part of video game history. Between the ’80s and 2010s, tie-in games almost about anything or anyone were greenlit. Some of these titles included games inspired by famous bands like Journey, ranging from mundane to odd.
Journey was popular enough to inspire two games (one for the arcade and Journey Escape for the Atari 2600), but their fame and games faded into obscurity as time passed. Unfortunately, the same fate befell these other bands and their games. While some endured as weird but fun nostalgic memories, others were all but lost to time.
10 Journey (1983) Pit Players Against Obsessive Alien Fans
In the ’80s, Journey was one of the biggest acts, and arcades were one of the most popular pastimes for kids. Bally Midway capitalized on these disparate trends by combining them into the arcade game Journey, an anthology of minigames where players helped the band Journey escape alien fans.
Specifically, aliens stole Journey’s instruments, and players helped them retrieve them in time for the concert finale. The final level had players assuming the role of a roadie who kept said alien fans in control as Journey rocked out. As silly and novel as this sounds, Journey was declared one of the worst arcade games ever.
9 Beatle Quest Was A Text Adventure Featuring The Beatles’ Lyrics
The Beatles’ music (especially the songs that came from their psychedelic phase) lends itself well to visual storytelling, as seen in the likes of their musical cartoon Yellow Submarine. With this in mind, it may seem odd that the Beatles’ music was used for a Commodore 64 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum text game in 1985.
In Beatle Quest, players took the role of the Keeper of the Archives, who collected histories of ancient Earth. Some ancient texts are Beatles songs, and knowledge of their lyrics helped players progress. Beatle Quest was really more of a trivia game for dedicated fans, but it was successful enough to get a trilogy that was scrapped mid-development.
8 Def Jam Rapstar Ditched The Street Fights For Sing-Along Fun
To most gamers, “Def Jam” is synonymous with a gritty fighting game, not the record label. The allure of the Def Jam games was seeing established rappers like Busta Rhymes, Method Man, Snoop Dogg, and more fight each other, and this carried the franchise over four hit games. But then Def Jam shook things up with Rapstar.
Rapstar was a karaoke game not unlike Lips; only this time, players sang famous rap songs. Rapstar wasn’t bad, but it was a far cry from the rest of the Def Jam series, and fans tend to ignore it. It’s also worth noting that Rapstar is currently the last Def Jam game, and the franchise has been dormant ever since.
7 KISS: Rock City Let KISS Help Players Start Their Music Careers
Given KISS’ reputation of lending their likeness to almost everything, it may be surprising to know that they have a very limited number of official video games. Their most well-known games are pinball titles and an edgy DOOM clone in Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child, but they also have a laidback management sim.
In Rock City, players control an amateur band who gets career advice from KISS, who are depicted as edgy demigods. Rhythm-based minigames set to KISS’ music are spliced between the slice-of-life segments. As uneventful as this mobile game may sound, Rock City is actually one of KISS’ better-received tie-in materials.
6 Give My Regards To Broad Street Had A Sequel In A Video Game
Give My Regards to Broad Street was a 1984 musical drama that starred three of the Beatles portraying fictional versions of themselves. To put it bluntly, it was Paul McCartney’s transparent vanity project and failed commercially and critically. But, for whatever reason, this movie got a game for the Commodore 64 and the Sinclair ZX Spectrum.
The game was a sequel to the movie, and players took control of McCartney as he embarked on another adventure for his missing master tapes. The game version of Give My Regards to Broad Street was brutalized, and only its soundtrack garnered praise. At best, the game came with a fold-out map of London.
5 Revolution X Had Aerosmith Lead A Musical Uprising
The weird thing about Revolution X wasn’t just that Aerosmith’s music was powerful enough to inspire a revolution in a dystopian future, but that it’s not the only game to use such a plot device. Momentarily ignoring this coincidence, this was the premise of Revolution X: an Aerosmith-themed shooter that dominated 1994.
At the time of its release, Revolution X was one of the most popular games, and its solid gameplay earned it high praise and a lasting legacy. It was popular enough that it was ported to home consoles. Although the ports were bad, Revolution X endured as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to one of the biggest rock bands of the ’90s.
4 Queen: The Eye Challenged A Dystopian Dark Fantasy With Queen’s Music
The second licensed band game to feature rock music influencing a revolution against an oppressive system was The eYe, built entirely around Queen’s music. Released for the PC on five discs, The eYe was the kind of adventure game that only the most diehard Queen fans could mildly appreciate because of how bad it was.
The eYe’s graphics and gameplay were criticized for feeling outdated when it was released in 1998. Unfortunately, listening to Queen’s music was the only redeeming quality anyone got from it. For what it’s worth, The eYe’s concepts and ideas were put to better use in the jukebox musical We Will Rock You, which was better received than the game.
3 Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style Cast The Wu-Tang Clan In A Wuxia Game
If their name didn’t make it any more obvious, the members of Wu-Tang Clan are fans of kung-fu movies and other popular entertainment. The rap group’s lyrics were filled with shout-outs and soundbites from Hong Kong movies, and they pushed their love of kung-fu to the next level with Shaolin Style (or Taste the Pain in other regions).
Released for the PlayStation, Shaolin Style was a fighting game where Wu-Tang Clan’s nine members were playable characters. Depending on the mode, players either fought in co-op or free-for-alls. Although it was criticized for unresponsive controls (especially the custom W-controller), Shaolin Style was praised as an obvious passion project.
2 Hail To The King: Deathbat Starred Avenged Sevenfold’s Mascot
Fans of the heavy metal band Avenged Sevenfold can easily recognize their mascot, the Deathbat, which was iconic enough to get a whole game dedicated to it. Hail to the King: Deathbat isn’t just an origin story of sorts for the Deathbat, but also a dark fantasy retelling of the art for Avenged Sevenfold’s album, “Hail to the King.”
In Hail to the King, players controlled Andronikos, the resurrected King of the underworld and the Deathbat’s latest incarnation. Players regained dominion over the underworld while Avenged Sevenfold’s music blared in the background. The game wasn’t exactly groundbreaking but as far as licensed games go, Hail to the King wasn’t half bad.
1 Holy Diver Was An Unofficial Fan Tribute To Dio’s 1983 Album
Based on its pitch, Holy Diver for the Famicom seemed like the ultimate crossover. The game took its title from Dio’s album of the same name, and it featured Ronnie James Dio, Ozzy Osborne, Zakk Wylde, and Randy Rhoads in an epic fantasy war against The Black Slayer. The problem is Holy Diver wasn’t actually licensed by the names involved.
Holy Diver is an unofficial fan tribute to the aforementioned 80s music icons, and because of copyright issues, Holy Driver remained exclusive to Japan from 1989 to 2018. However, Holy Driver became an urban legend among Western gaming archivists, and they finally got their official NES copies in 2018 through Retro-Bit Publishing’s collector’s editions.
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