In addition to the huge body of massively successful music that troubled pop star Michael Jackson left behind, he also both contributed to and starred in several video games during his life. His final game appearance was a glorified Just Dance spin-off focused entirely on his music, and prior to that, he appeared in Space Channel 5 and Ready 2 Rumble Boxing as versions of himself. He also may or may not have contributed to the soundtrack of Sonic 3, but we'll likely never get the full, straight story behind that one.
Where Michael and video games most famously crossed paths, however, were in the video games based on his bizarre sci-fi movie Moonwalker. The primary adaptations were the Sega-developed arcade and Genesis incarnations of Moonwalker, but there was also a lesser-known version created for computers of the time. Michael himself is credited for the concept and design of the Sega ones, so you know that means they are as authentic to the Michael Jackson experience as they are a predictably unsettling extension of it.
15 Using Kids As Power-Ups
Perhaps the most cliched joke involving Moonwalker is: "So is Michael the hero of this game, or the villain?" In other words, is he actually rescuing all these children, or were they hiding from him in the first place?
Either way, given the questionable nature of Michael's relationship to children, it's hard not too read too much into the decision to set the game up so that touching children powers him up/restores his health.
14 Crotch Grabbing At The Push Of A Button
It stands to reason that dancing is going to feature prominently in a game that stars Michael Jackson, no matter the genre. Sure enough, all of Michael's most iconic dance moves are present and accounted for in Moonwalker, from the moonwalk (duh) to the zombie dance from "Thriller" to... yes, even Michael's signature crotch grab.
But what's extra bizarre is that, in the Genesis version of the game, you can literally just press a button at any time and have Michael grab his crotch. Does it serve any gameplay purpose? Nope, it's literally just there to be there. They didn't even try to work in an excuse for it.
13 Moonwalker + Mortal Kombat
Despite whatever he did or didn't have going on in his personal life, Michael's actual artistic output was generally family-friendly and rarely ventured into edgy territory. Beyond the creepy subtext that this list focuses on, this also applies to the Moonwalker games... mostly.
A major exception are the strange computer ports of the game, which decided to have levels focusing on the bizarre first half of the Moonwalker movie and its motorcycle sequence. In the motorcycle stage of the game, Michael can run over his enemies and leave them a red, gory smear on the road. Fatality!
12 Is That A Battering Ram, Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?
Maybe there are items on this list that require a bit of imagination to see the creepy side of. But there are also things that were absolutely, no-doubt-about-it intended to be questionable, including the very, um... excited robot boss in the arcade game.
There's really no other way to think about a robot with a phallic-looking battering ram positioned just between its legs that came jutting out with a thrust of the robot's body. Still not convincing that it isn't just our overactive gutter minds making something out of nothing? Just take a look at the shadow the robot and its weapon casts on the ground beneath it...
11 Michael Fights Dirtier Than Diana
Because Michael's animations and move sets in the games are based largely around his dance choreography, his avatar moves, jumps, and attacks in unusual— yet admittedly cool-looking— ways. This extends to his basic kick attack, which is made to resemble his iconic stage kicks rather than that of a martial arts expert.
That being said, his dancey kick animation has the side effect of putting his foot right at crotch level of his enemies, meaning that he is kicking every single gangster in the game squarely in the family jewels. Expecting Michael to fight fair was naive, we suppose.
10 Enemies Are Forced To Dance Themselves To The Grave
It isn't just Michael who dances in the Moonwalker games. True to its source material, full of synchronized dance numbers involving large groups of people, Michael's funky moves will often inspire every enemy on screen to become powerless to resist the rhythm and they will break out in a choreographed dance routine.
What happens at the end of these big dance numbers? All the enemies perish. That's right... rather than just quickly dispatching of his enemies, Michael cruelly forces them to dance first. In the Genesis version, they simply drop dead at the end of their dance— but the arcade version has them dance until they literally explode.
9 Exploding Bags Of Cocaine?
The Moonwalker movie saw bad guy Mr. Big— played by a clearly-in-on-the-joke Joe Pesci, acting to the rafters— planning to drug children because why not? Much of this was only hinted at in the Genesis and arcade games, but the computer games dealt with it much more directly.
As a matter of fact, one of your objectives in the game, according to the instruction manual, is to "destroy Mr. Big's drugs." To do this, you drive into what looks like three bags of cocaine, causing them to explode and spill the white powder all over the street. Doesn't seem like the most effective way to dispose of drugs and keep children from getting to them.
8 The Weirdest Enemy Taunt In Video Game History
We can't imagine that Sega actually paid for Joe Pesci's likeness for use in the Moonwalker arcade game, but they sure did a pretty good job of making the digital Mr. Big look awfully similar to him. Nowadays, Mr. Pesci would definitely have a very valid lawsuit on his hands for that one.
Either way, the video game Mr. Big is as equally over-the-top with his one-liners as his movie counterpart, tossing off hilariously eye-rolling quips like the best 80s action villain. However, there is a part in the game where he "taunts" Michael with the line, "I love you Michael... to death!" Okay then.
7 Short Skirt, Long Jacket
As a game artist, you have to be very careful about your color choices sometimes. Case in point: There are enemies in the Moonwalker arcade game that are wearing flesh-colored pants, which make it look like they in fact aren't wearing any pants at all.
To make things worse, these seemingly pants-less enemies are also wearing jackets, giving them a sort of flasher vibe. How this escaped the notice of the people working on this game is anyone's guess. That is, assuming it actually wasn't an accident.
6 A Crotch-Grabber 'Til The End... Literally
If there is one thing you can't take away from the Moonwalker games it's that they have stunning animation and really excellent sprite work. Michael moves with a realism or fluidity rarely seen in non-rotoscoped video games of the era.
Of course, with Michael himself consulting on the game, it's no big surprise that the attention to detail on his character model was sometimes questionable. Take for example the animation in the arcade game where he gets knocked over by rolling barrels: Even in that moment, Michael thinks to grab his crotch and then continue to hold onto it as he falls face-first onto the pavement.
5 This Arcade Game Will Self Destruct In 5, 4, 3...
Despite the popularity of the Moonwalker arcade game, you don't see very many of them in the wild anymore. The assumption might be that people are ashamed to associate themselves with Michael's questionable legacy, but there is actually a completely different reason: the game was designed to kill itself.
Moonwalker was built with what is commonly referred to as a "suicide battery," which was a battery that would render the entire game inoperable when it died. And, it's a battery, so of course it eventually died. "Reviving" a Moonwalker arcade board isn't impossible, but it's very difficult, as it was designed to force arcade owners to pay Sega themselves to do so at great expense.
4 The Always-Problematic Bubbles The Chimp
Look, we all muse about how fun it would be to have a pet chimp, but most of us never actually go through with it. Michael Jackson isn't most of us, and so he had his pet chimp Bubbles who, for a time, was a household name and a celebrity unto himself.
Michael's relationship to Bubbles always seemed... weird. Bubbles was only briefly mentioned in the Moonwalker movie but didn't appear in it, which makes it all the more bizarre that the chimp plays such a prominent role in all versions of the game, immortalizing in digital form one of the strangest "friendships" in celebrity history.
3 Are They Wearing Diapers?
Sega knew that the best way to come at a Moonwalker game was to primarily focus on the latter half of the movie, which mostly revolved around the "Smooth Criminal" segment and the action set pieces of Michael transforming into a car. But the non-Sega-developed computer games went all-in, and decided that the borderline-frightening claymation half of the movie be equally represented.
The heavyset, scooter-riding dudes from that part of the movie also make their way into the game— only, given the primitive graphics, they look more like large men riding around in wheelchairs and wearing diapers. Again, we can't be positive this was completely unintentional, all things considered.
2 Creepiest. Screen Filler. Ever.
A commonality among computer games of the late-80s and early-90s was to have the actual "action" only comprise about half of the screen, with the other half filled with artwork and HUD information. Moonwalker was no different, with the bottom portion of the screen showing a mini map, various score, and timer indicators.
The right column of the screen during the motorcycle stages saw Michael standing on his toes, enjoying what appeared to be the squeezing of his own rear end. As if that wasn't disturbing enough, that level also saw you collecting pieces of a rabbit disguise, culminating in him wearing a nightmare fuel bunny head.
1 When A Promise Sounds More Like A Threat
Should you manage to beat the Moonwalker arcade game— no easy feat as it was designed to be a serious quarter muncher like most arcade games of the era— you are treated to an ending sequence where Michael, now transformed into a spaceship (?), flies away from Mr. Big's destroyed lair.
As far as the text that follows, well... we'll just let its creepiness speak for itself: "And the children [Michael] saved? Well... they're smiling. Because deep down in their hearts, they know that Michael will return one day to share with them another wondrous and magical adventure."