This week we lost one of the greatest musicians to have ever graced us with his presence. David Bowie was a one of a kind performer, whose supernatural persona made him seem so iconic and otherworldly that it’s hard to believe he’s gone. His popularity transcended beyond that of just the music industry, however. Some of you may have been exposed to the late singer’s music through a video game at some point or another. Let’s take a look at some of his most memorable appearances and references.
The Goblin King
I, like many others from my generation, was first introduced to David Bowie through the 1986 film, Labyrinth. Produced by George Lucas and directed by none other than Jim Henson, the cult classic features some bizarre cinematography, over the top Henson “puppetry”, and of course, Bowie doing his best to look like a Final Fantasy villain. The movie spawned a game on the Commodore 64, and it was obviously developed by Lucasfilm Games. If you’re a fan of LucasArts’ classic adventure games (Maniac Mansion, The Secret of Monkey Island, Full Throttle, Grim Fandango), you’ll be surprised to know that this was their first ever game. It’s based on the film by the same name, although it takes many liberties and doesn’t follow the same plot. David Bowie makes an appearance in all his Goblin King glory, and the soundtrack contains chip tune versions of the movies memorable songs, performed by Bowie.
Lego David Bowie
There’s no shortage of David Bowie songs in numerous games. The very first Rock Band included “Suffragette City” in its setlist and the original Guitar Hero had “Ziggy Stardust”. Amplitude, Karaoke Revolution, and SingStar also gave fans some of the most popular Bowie songs to choose from. None rhythm games like many of the GTA’s and even Alan Wake contain his songs in their soundtracks as well. The most notorious (and adorable) appearance, however, has to be Lego Rock Band’s inclusion of “Let’s Dance”, which features David Bowie singing in lego form. You’re welcome.
The Man Who Sold the World (MGS)
Hideo Kojima loves David Bowie. The Metal Gear franchise has so many references to the singer, it’s almost safe to say it’s not all coincidence. In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Zero at one point during the virtuous mission asks to be called by the name “Major Tom”, obviously a reference to the song Space Oddity. This leads Snake to say “can you hear me, Major Tom”, a direct quote from the song. The fight against cobra member “The Fury” also contains strong references to the same song. Fury was once selected to be the first human in outer space (although that didn’t pan out) and once you defeat him, you can hear him say: “I’m coming home. I see the Earth”. Major Tom (Coming Home) is a song by Peter Schilling and it was unofficially written as a tribute/sequel to David Bowie’s Space Oddity, about an astronaut’s tragedy in space. See for yourself in this fan created video:
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain continues tradition and contains even more references to the singer. One of the game’s first trailers features Midge Ure’s “The Man Who Sold the World” which was originally written and performed by Bowie. That song plays a huge part in the narrative of Phantom Pain, including the game’s final mission, by the same name. Big Boss and Miller’s military group in the game, Diamond Dogs, is of course, also a song by David Bowie, from the album by the same name. While we’re at it, here are some lyrics from Diamond Dogs. Notice any similarities to the Phantom Pain’s hospital opening?
“As they pulled you out of the oxygen tent. You asked for the latest party. With your silicone hump and your ten inch stump”
Lastly, Omikron is a strange released on the Dreamcast. Stories of this game have started to pop up lately as David Bowie was heavily involved in the development of the game, mainly the soundtrack. In the game, Bowie plays the role of Boz, a mystical entity that appears to be purely in electronic form. His wife, Iman, also lends her voice as a character in the game. It’s interesting to note that David Bowie had some input on some of the game’s story and design.