Have you heard the good news? Don’t worry, I’m not handing out pamphlets for Kingdom Hall. And not because I don’t reject conditional immortality, but because while I agree that the apocalypse is imminent, my idea of Armageddon is a lot less biblical, and a lot more Army of Darkness.
However, what I lack in good news, I make up for in obvious statements, such as: video games have voice actors. Surprised? Well, believe it or not, characters were once as silent as a Louis Le Prince film. Sure, we had enchanting melodies to accompany those walls of text, but that memorable band of colorful characters suffered from congenital deafness and a severe social phobia. While this probably taught a lot of kids to read, and could have kindled a passion for education that would later drive them to a PhD, a successful practice, and a marriage proposal from Frida Gustavsson, having a fully voiced cast is well worth the shift manager position at Kinkos. Yes, some franchises have kept those old-fangled mechanics, sparking nostalgic bouts of giddiness for those who long for the days of silent friends. Yes, some games are about as cinematic as Human Centipede, and contain that B movie cringe worthy voice acting that is both awful and amazing.
Then there’s The Last of Us, Red Dead Redemption, Halo, and Mass Effect. Games with a superb atmosphere, story, world and performances. They can be inconsistent at times, but such are humans; we can be incongruous, inappropriate, fallacious and stilted. We’re not perfect. But we’re doing more than capturing voices and scripted dialog. We’re capturing movement, emotions, energy and attention. Technology has catapulted beyond prerecorded lines and a handful of polygons; with games offering a deeper level of interactivity than films, and housing some Oscar-worthy performances (before the Oscars were a joke and people like Jennifer Lawrence were given statues), there’s nothing left to do but choose our favorite ones.
Here’s our top 5 voice actors in gaming (this list is in no particular order):
There’s no denying that Nolan North has the charismatic, boyish charm of a young Shaun Cassidy or female Ellen DeGeneres. And while he’s well known for his portrayal of hyperbolic action-hero Nathan Drake in the Uncharted series by Naughty Dog — in which his body and voice were captured for our entertainment, Nolan has been in every single video game ever made. Well, that’s probably not true, but he has been in quite a few. Yes, that’s enough to make him a worthy candidate, but here are a few characters he’s played that you may have heard of: The Penguin (Batman: Arkham City), Deadpool (Deadpool), the Assassin’s Creed series (Desmond Miles), The Prince (Prince of Persia), Hades (God of War). Hell, the guy even had a role in 50 Cent: Bulletproof. It’s safe to say that there isn’t a developer that hasn’t at least considered hiring Nolan North for something, and taking into account the wide variety of roles he manages to perform, I hope his reign continues for years to come. Watch this Nolan North interview with SBTV to hear his jokes and opinions about his characters and voice work.
It’s hard to believe that the combat-happy Aeryn Sun is also the witty witch from Dragon Age, but Farscape fans know what Claudia Black is capable of — with or without a Pulse Rifle. As the voice of Chloe Frazer in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves — a character created by Amy Hennig to be a darker version of Nathan Drake — Claudia was required to combine stage, film, and voice acting during the capture, as her interactions with other characters determined much of her personality in-game. Yes, that’s enough to make her a worthy candidate, but here are a select few characters she’s played in case you’re unfamiliar with her work: Morrigan (Dragon Age: Origins), Matriarch Aethyta/Admiral Xen (Mass Effect II, III), Whitney Chang (The Amazing Spider-Man), and hopefully many more to come. Hell, she even had a role in Crysis. With Morrigan making a return in Dragon Age: Inquisition, we’re looking forward to hearing a lot more of her. Watch this interview with Emily Rose and Claudia Black to hear about their work on Uncharted 2.
When you think of a convincing voice acting talent or a nice healthy head of hair, you think of Troy Baker. He has both of those things. If Troy Baker wanted to, he could sleep with your girlfriend tonight. I’ve made peace with this, as long as he does it as Action Bastard from Shin-Chan. With his most recent work being the voice of Joel in The Last of Us and Booker DeWitt in BioShock Infinite — two critically acclaimed games — it seems like Troy is following the path of similarly named Troy Donahue in teen idol sex stardom. That’s probably very inaccurate, but we’re not entirely sure. Of course, doing a couple of amazing games and being a talented musician should be reason enough to make him a worthy candidate, but here are a select few roles he’s played in case you’re not convinced: Two-Face (Batman: Arkham City), Snow Villiers (Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XIII-2), Jake Muller (Resident Evil 6). Hell, he even had a role in Dragon’s Dogma. There are few actors with his range of abilities, and since it’s likely that he destroys anyone that begins to show promise, it’s a wonder Troy and Nolan have yet to go Super Saiyan Saga on one another. Watch Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson talk about their work on The Last of Us.
There are some actors that don’t need an introduction, and Mark Hamill is one of them. I mean, come on. He’s Luke Skywalker. We have to be nice to him, did you forget who is father is? But his spot on this list doesn’t come from his role in films, or his many incredible performances in animated shows over the years, or even his family ties. It’s not his Hobgoblin, Firelord, or even Maverick that earned him a spot in nearly every top voice actor list. Sure, those are all worthy of acknowledgment, but there’s one role Mark Hamill is known for other than Luke; The Joker. Considered to be one of the most chilling, dark, and deranged versions of the crazy clown, Mark Hamill’s Joker is one of the greatest achievements in video game history. Acting in both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, Mark brought the Joker to life in ways no other actor has ever managed to. Yes, that alone qualifies him for a spot on this list. And as far as I’m concerned, his role/s in the Regular Show make it all the better. Watch this GamerLive interview with Mark Hamill about his role as Joker in Arkham Asylum.
What can be said about Steve Blum that hasn’t been said about… well, someone with an impressive amount of voice work. You can’t deny the captivating performances this man has delivered over the years, I mean, he is Spike Spiegel after all. And while he’s considered by many to be the king of anime, there’s a layer to the onion that is the career of Steve Blum that doesn’t involve giant eyes, flat-chested teens and elaborate hairdos. Sure, his voice acting career across dozens of animations established his position as a household name, but that’s not the reason he made our cut. No, we’re more interested in his video game acting career, which is as long — if not longer — than his list of television voice work. If you’re still not convinced due to some aneurysm, here is a list of select roles he’s played: Wolverine (Deadpool, Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, a variety of X-Men titles), Scott Mitchell (Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Future Soldier, Tom Clancy’s End War), Garcia Hotspur (Shadows of the Damned), and many, many, many, many (you get the picture) more. Watch CBmania’s interview with Steve Blum, and learn about some stuff he talks about.
There are many amazing voice actors in gaming, and a lot of you may be wondering why your favorite isn’t on this list. Well, as you know, we’re not mind readers yet and it’s impossible to please everyone, so we’ve decided to focus on pleasing ourselves. We hope you enjoyed our list. Here are some honorable mentions: John St. John (because he made the corny Duke lines more manly and awesome), Tara Strong (because she belongs in anything that mentions the words voice and work in the same sentence), Jim Cummings (if evil had a voice, it would be his; also, he voiced Winnie the Pooh).