It’s shocking that more athletes aren’t in non-sports video games. It’s possible that the heavy marketing haven’t happened until recently, now that everyone has a platform, for good or bad. These are huge personalities that thrive in the limelight. You’d think that more video game athlete cameos would be a thing outside of their own sports games.
There are streamers in the NBA, F1 Racing, and MLB. If somebody told me that a superstar like LeBron James or Mohamed Salah had a substantial role in a video game, I’d highly consider grabbing a copy. Who wouldn’t want to see a laughable acting performance in a Hideo Kojima game, or some huge athlete cameo in a video game like Cyberpunk 2077? With that said, lets check out some video game athlete cameos that may surprise you.
Conor McGregor – Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare tried so hard to bank on then-current fame. Infinity Ward decided to enlist the acting services of Kit Harington of Game of Thrones fame, and Conor McGregor. At the time, these were huge plays to draw interest in a fairly mediocre game.
One could imagine how much money they had to pay to bring McGregor in the game as Captain Bradley Fillion. He was arguably the biggest fighter in 2016, being a two-division champ. Too bad his acting skills are nowhere near as good as his fighting skills back then. RIP Call of Duty in space.
4/10 – yikes.
Jason Statham – Call of Duty
Jason Statham is an athlete and you can’t say otherwise. Before he was an action star, he used to represent Britain internationally on their diving team. Sure, he missed on the Olympics, but he did compete in the Commonwealth Games, which is a feat in itself.
Now that we got his credentials out of the way, he was a voice actor for Call of Duty back in 2003. Sgt Waters runs a battalion operating in Germany, undergoing high stakes missions to hinder Germany’s advances in the war. It’s typical Statham stuff, infiltrating enemy bases and blowing up some V2 rockets. Statham just doesn’t resemble his character in the slightest, and always has a shirt on.
8/10 – I’d follow Sgt Waters to the end.
Shaquille O’Neal – UFC Undisputed 2010
This will be the only sports game exception on this list for video game athlete cameos. Shaquille O’Neal’s Shaq Fu is on full display if you figure out the code to unlock him on UFC Undisputed 2010. He has no business in this game, but here’s Shaq Diesel throwing elbows in The Octagon. He’s still 7’1” in the game, but they hardcore nerfed his weight to be in the 280 lbs range. He was easily over 340 lbs back in 2010, so they probably did this to keep him from being in Michael Vick Madden 04 territory of being over-powered.
The code to unlock Shaq requires you go to the main menu and press: Right, Up, Left, Right, Down, Left, Up, Right, Down, Left, X, Y, Y, X, Start. I highly doubt anyone will need this code since this game is a decade old, but just in case.
5/10 – meh cameo. At least it’s Shaq.
Randy Couture, Ric Flair, and Gina Carano – Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3
This needs to be tackled all at once. We can honestly look at former cast members of Command & Conquer and laugh at how high profile they are while acting out a trash script (James Earl Jones, Tim Curry, Peter Stormare, just to name a few). For all intents and purposes of this article, we hone in on two retired MMA fighters and The Nature Boy.
Randy Couture plays Commander Warren Fuller of the Allied Forces in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3. All the game’s cutscenes are super cringey and over or under-acted, depending on whether you think Couture’s performance is hammed up, or if it’s because he’s not a very good actor (see: The Expendables).
Gina Carano has been making her rounds as Hollywood’s tough girl since her time on American Gladiator. Recently, she played Cara Dune on Disney’s The Mandalorian. Carano was one of the featured characters on Red Alert 3, playing Soviet Commando Natasha Volkova. It’s tough to take her character even somewhat seriously due to the strange over-sexualization of literally any female character in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, with Carano playing as the game’s featured pin-up girl.
Ric “The Nature Boy” Flair plays Commander Douglas Hill. While his character only shows up for challenges, Flair made plenty of promotional appearances, one of which was a series of him wrestling a Soviet bear. The Nature Boy was getting reacquainted with his roots.
Randy Couture – 3/10 – super yikes.
Gina Carano – 4/10 – yikes with out-of-place sex appeal.
Ric Flair – 10/10 – can’t give The Nature Boy anything less than perfect.
Roddy Piper – Saints Row IV
There’s something about wrestlers as an athlete cameo that work seamlessly in video games. The showmanship somehow translates into the game. They play to the campy delivery expected from these iconic wrestlers. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper is one of the few old school wrestlers that had huge commercial success acting in films, TV shows, and playing himself in Saints Row IV. If there was a video game that would be perfect for his wrestling persona, it’s the Saints Row franchise.
Piper only hangs around for one mission, basically recreating John Carpenter’s movie They Live. Piper starred in it, alongside Keith David, who plays a Vice President version of himself, as he has to fight Piper. It’s super bizarre and very niche. It’s also a huge gag if you’re in on the joke. Saints Row IV basically recreates the whole alley fight scene.