When it comes to analyzing video games, the first features that most gamers pay attention to are typically graphics, gameplay, controls, and (if available) story. Sound is another feature that lots of gamers take into consideration, though it’s normally the music and individual sound effects (gunshots, explosions, FTL jumps, roars of wildlife, etc.) that get the most attention in that category, usually. But what about the voices of the characters we love to play as, fight alongside, or do battle with? In this article, we will be focusing on the talented individuals who have very specific and important roles in the video games we enjoy so much, and that would be bringing life to our favorite characters through exceptional voice work. Join Gaming Respawn as we go over our Favorite Video Game Voice Actors!
There are a number of great voice actors out there that I feel deserve special recognition for their memorable performances in video games, though many of them also lend their talents in animated features and even appear in shows and films. Among my most recognized voice actors in video games are Robin Atkin Downes (the Prince in Prince of Persia: Warrior Within and Kazuhira Miller in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain), Jeffrey Pierce (Specialist Cross in Prototype and Tommy in The Last of Us), Crispin Freeman (Helios in God of War III and Sundowner in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance…as well as his phenomenal performance as Alucard in the Hellsing anime), Troy Baker (Joel in The Last of Us, Delsin Rowe in Infamous: Second Son, and Talion in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and the upcoming Shadow of War), T.C. Carson (Kratos in the God of War series), Linda Hunt (Gaia/Narrator in the God of War series), Cam Clarke (Liquid Snake in the Metal Gear Solid series), and Phil LaMarr (Vamp in the Metal Gear Solid series and Sig in the Jak and Daxter series).
And I must also make a special mention to the late John Cygan, may he rest in peace, for his incredible performance as Solidus Snake in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Oh, and Vernon Wells for his outstanding voice work for Samael in the Darksiders games (let’s hope they bring him back for Darksiders III and any other possible sequels).
Aside from the talented individuals I mentioned above, there are two particular voice actors that I would have to label as my top favorites, and they would be Clancy Brown and David Hayter (I swear I’m not stealing David Hayter from you, Mike, he’s just that awesome). Well, for that small section of gamers who are unaware, David Hayter is the voice of Solid Snake (whose real name is also David, coincidentally, or perhaps not coincidentally), as well as the younger version of his father, Big Boss/Naked Snake, in the Metal Gear Solid series (except in Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain). The guy has apparently done some other voiceovers for video games and anime, not to mention some screenwriting for films like the first two X-Men movies and Watchmen, but he is simply going to be mostly recognized for his incomparable performance as Hideo Kojima’s fictional government agent-turned-mercenary. It’s not just the gruff and grizzled voice of Snake that David Hayter nails down, he also manages to bring true depth to the character with perfect delivery of his lines, conveying just the right amount of genuine anger, sarcasm, annoyance, and even some happiness to each and every word he says and grunt he makes. To me, Solid Snake is the original badass of video game characters, and it’s all largely thanks to David Hayter.
As for Clancy Brown, this guy really gets around and has some incredible range. Most people (at least in my age range) will likely recognize Clancy Brown for his roles in certain films, such as the utterly sinister and intimidating Kurgan in Highlander and Drill Sergeant Zim in Starship Troopers. Clancy Brown is also the voice of Mr. Krabs in SpongeBob SquarePants and Lex Luthor in the Superman and Justice League animated series. As far as doing voiceovers in video games goes, he again has an impressive portfolio, and the ones I know him best for include the likes of Dr. Neo Cortex and Uka Uka in the earlier Crash Bandicoot titles (from Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back all the way to Crash Nitro Kart), Baron Praxis in Jak II, Hades in God of War III, and more recently, Alec Ryder in Mass Effect: Andromeda. Like I said, this guy has some real impressive range, and his naturally deep voice with its low bass lends itself very well to playing the roles of villains. But someday, I hope to see Clancy Brown take on a more prominent voiceover role in a video game rather than the usually short-lived support roles or occasional villain roles with limited lines he normally seems to get, he deserves more recognition in the video game field.
I would have to lead with Tony Jay in Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, whose voice I described as “the voice acting equivalent of rich, gooey chocolate fudge cake” back in my original write up of the game here on Gaming Respawn (http://www.gamingrespawn.com/featured/4242/retro-respawn-legacy-of-kain-soul-reaver/).
Jay’s voice will be recognisable to most people who had the joy of watching animated shows in the 90s and 00s, such as Gargoyles and Tailspin. It’s such a perfect voice for villains and otherworldly beings, parts upon which Jay excelled at playing. The calm authority and minacity that he brought to Megabyte in the show ReBoot had a pronounced effect on me in my younger days. I used to always fear for the show’s heroes when they came up against him and his machinations.
Voicing The Elder God in Soul Reaver, Jay gives the role an immediate impact with his delivery. The way he belts out “Raziel” never fails to bring a smile to my face. His voice is just perfect, utterly perfect. Losing Jay in 2006 was a tragic loss to the arts. You could get a real sense that he truly enjoyed his work, and he contributes to an excellent voice cast that gives Soul Reaver such a powerful atmosphere.
Another name that I expect will be mentioned a lot in this feature is that of David Hayter, the original voice of Solid Snake before he was unjustly replaced by Jack Bauer. I loved the way Hayter brought so much to Snake. From “Kept you waiting, huh?” to “They’re armed with five-five sixers and pineapples,”, Hayter gave Snake an indisputable charm from the game’s very beginning.
Regardless of how many tv shows and movies Kiefer Sutherland has made and will make, the voice of Solid Snake will always be David Hayter to me. That’s Snake’s “real” voice, and anything Sutherland does is nothing more than a pale imitation.
It’s such a shame that Hideo Kojima gave into his Hollywood hard-on and decided that he needed a “name” for Metal Gear Solid V. He can argue otherwise, but I think we all know that any justification he gives is a load of arl arse. Kojima wanted a picture of him and the bloke from 24 who was a “real star”, and he kicked Hayter to the curb to get it.
But for those of us who enjoyed that remarkable run Hayter had with the character, he’ll always be “our” Snake, regardless of what happens from here on in.
Before I go, I must give an honourable mention to Michael Shapiro for his superfluous performance as the eternally creepy and malevolent G-Man in the Half-Life series. He brings terrifying life to that character, and I certainly find him incredibly unnerving.
I don’t wish to break the illusion for our readers, but for the most part we don’t have any idea who will be writing about what when we sign on for these group content assignments. So, I’m sort of taking a shot in the dark when I say that I think my reasons for picking my favorite voice actor might be the weirdest.
My pick is for James Arnold Taylor, a man whose voice acting credits range from Ratchet to Spider-Man, from video games to Hayao Miyazaki movies. Over the course of his career as an actor, the man has amassed over 200 credits to his name. So, which of the innumerable works he participated in can I be choosing? Which stunning work of fiction made me love this man so much? Well…it’s Final Fantasy X. Feel free to judge me now.
While Final Fantasy X is an extremely popular game and gets much love, the voice acting is not considered one of its strong points (a’la the infamous laughing scene). Despite this fact, it was my first introduction to a man who would eventually become involved in every part of my media-consuming life. While his work in Final Fantasy X was far from his best, his distinctive and easy to listen to voice has been part of some of my favorite characters. He’s brought to life Ratchet, Spider-Man, Johnny Test, Milo from Atlantis and even Leonardo of the Ninja Turtles. In short, he’s my favorite for the same reasons that my oldest, crappiest jumper is my favorite, he’s comfortable and familiar.
My favourite voice actor is very well known for his role as the Joker from the Batman Arkham games. He is also very well known for other shows and movies, the most popular one being his work in Batman: The Animated Series.
When he played the Joker in Batman: Arkham Asylum, I fell in love with him as a voice actor. Maybe it was the way he brought Joker to life, I don’t know, but the way he made me feel back in Arkham City with arguably the biggest scene in the trilogy was amazing, and it made my heart stop, so I am going to tell you about a few of my favourite Joker moments from the Arkham games (with Mark Hamill as the voice actor, obviously). Warning: There may be some spoilers.
The intro to Arkham Asylum:
The game starts you off with capturing Joker and bringing him back to the asylum where he belongs. You then have to walk Joker for a good five minutes or so to his cell, and along the way he says some interesting stuff and makes a few jokes. This was a good sign that the game was going to be great, considering all the other Batman games before it were not quite so intriguing…
The surprise Joker gag:
Beware, this one is a major spoiler for Arkham City, but this is my favourite ending to a game I have ever played. So, throughout all of Arkham City, you think that Joker has stolen your cure and used it on himself, only to find out that he hasn’t and that Joker wasn’t even Joker the whole time! It was, in fact, Joker’s “evil twin”, the shapeshifter Clayface, posing as him. This twist is great, and it led to one of the most iconic video game moments I have ever seen. After Joker attacks Batman and causes him to drop the cure that he so desperately needed, Batman then says a hugely memorable line: “Do you want to know something funny? Even after everything you’ve done, I would have saved you.” And Joker’s response was simply, “That actually is…pretty funny.” That cutscene still gives me goosebumps, and it is still as good today as it was several years ago when the game first released, and this demonstrates how well Mark Hamill performed when he took on the role of the Joker.
That’s all for my favourite video game voice actor. There were other moments, but these were honestly my favourites, and of course, Hamill is known for taking on other roles, I just liked his performances as the Joker the best.
One of my favorite voice actors has to be Vic Mignogna. Not only is he one of my favorite anime voice actors, but he also provided voiceovers in some of my favorite games, such as Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice, Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten, Persona 3, Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, and the two Fullmetal Alchemist games for the PlayStation 2. He’s also in a number of Dragon Ball games as well. I know Vic Mignogna is mostly known for his anime roles, but I especially enjoy games that are related to anime and roleplaying games (RPGs), and a big reason why I have a strong preference for them is because I know that they will very likely have good voice acting. If you know of Vic Mignogna from any of his other roles from anime, he has one of those voices you can recognize right away if you are familiar with his work.
Although my favorite performance by Vic Mignogna was when he voiced Mao from Disgaea 3, the first game I ever played in which he did voice work was Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel back in 2003 for the PlayStation 2. So it’s probably because of nostalgia that I tend to play games he is in, but other times it’s because the games are good and I have lots of fun with them – like with most of the Dragon Ball games that have Broly in them.
Another one of my favorite voice actors is Johnny Yong Bosch because, much like with Vic Mignogna, I have always enjoyed his work over the years in different anime and video games. Some of my favorite games that he was involved with include the .hack//G.U. series (Rebirth, Reminisce, and Redemption), Dissidia Final Fantasy, Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice, Devil May Cry 4, and Persona 4. I enjoyed every single one of the games he did voice work in. I cannot go over all standout performances in full detail or mention why each character Johnny Yong Bosch voices is great because it would take a long time, although I will say that my favorite performances of his would have to be his roles as Firion in Dissidia and Kuhn from the .hack//G.U. series. The memories of growing up and watching him in shows and anime, like Power Rangers and Bleach, help me to really appreciate his talent in voice acting. I can tell he brings his all to every role he plays. He is one of those actors whom you can pinpoint right away if you are a fan.
When you check out Nolan North’s credits on IMDB, two things stand out. The first is volume, like most voice actors, the man works constantly across games and animated series and has a total of 353 titles, all the more impressive considering he only started seriously voice acting in 2003. The other is variety, ever since that first video game appearance (which, in a glorious precursor of his eclectic career to come, was as a fish in the Cat in the Hat videogame), he’s taken on everyone, from gruff soldier types to wisecracking superheroes via crazy German scientists and malevolent demons. Chances are you’ve played dozens of games and not even realised he was in them, such is his chameleonic ability to do whatever is required of him. Personally though, three roles stand out; his turn as the perpetually confused Desmond Miles in the Assassin’s Creed series, his menacing cockney Penguin in the Batman Arkham games and, of course, everyone’s favourite treasure-hunting rogue Nathan Drake in the epoch-defining Uncharted saga.
(above video courtesy of PlayStation Access)
Nathan Drake has defined Nolan North’s career and made him arguably the most famous voice actor on the planet, but the relationship goes both ways. Much of what makes Drake who he is comes from Nolan North; from his sense of humour, from his improvisation and from the way he’s always been an essential component of the Uncharted development process. Much of this is down to Uncharted’s developers, Naughty Dog, taking the at-the-time revolutionary step of constructing their own motion capture studio during the development of the very first Uncharted game in 2007 and, just as importantly, using the same actors for motion capture and dialogue. It was a decision that fundamentally changed North’s role in Uncharted and had significant repercussions for the industry. To create an engaging and emotionally complex video game, Naughty Dog was saying, it’s not enough to just treat your actors as hired hands who turn up, say a few lines into a mic and leave again.
Instead, you have to make them a key part of the process which, in the case of Uncharted, meant giving them room to improvise, shape their characters and become truly emotionally invested in the game’s development. It also meant staging cutscenes almost like a play or a scene from a movie, with North & co. wearing those iconic ping pong ball suits to capture every nuance of emotion and body language. In short, it was one of the first times a game allowed its actors to act rather than just talk. And in Nolan North, Uncharted found its perfect Drake. According to long-time series writer and creative director Amy Hennig, it was evident from the first audition, North capturing the humility and vulnerability that counterbalance Drake’s cocky quips and define him as one of the greatest, most human computer game characters in history. Over the course of three games (Drake’s Fortune, Among Thieves, and Drake’s Deception), Naughty Dog kept raising the bar until by 2016’s Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, they had the expertise, the experience and the actor to tell a truly remarkable story; one that not only incorporated the rapid-fire dialogue and blockbuster sequences that the series was famous for but dug deep into the psychology of its protagonist and explored issues of aging, regret and the near-unbreakable bond of family.
However, though 4 was a masterpiece, playing it was a sometimes bittersweet experience as it apparently marked the end for Nathan Drake, bringing to a close a staggeringly commercially and creatively successful partnership between game studio and actor. Of course, Nolan North will keep working, that’s what he does, but one can only hope that for his next big gaming project, he finds a developer that will incorporate and value him the way that Naughty Dog did, if they do, the results will no doubt be spectacular.