No matter how badass or intimidating a character is designed or what kind of grab bag of powers he/she has under their belt, it all means nothing if they don’t have a great voice to uphold their heroic or sinister attitudes and egos. Even the best protagonists, antagonists or supporting characters can be ruined by a poor voice acting job or an ‘out of place’ voice that doesn’t match the characters actions and look. Voice actors are the most overlooked stars of the gaming industry but contribute what is one of the most artistic aspects to it. They take characters that are mere polygons and give them the personalities required for them to be believable. Here are some of the best voices of the industry in no particular order.
Terrence ‘T.C.’ Carson
Known mostly for his role as Kratos in the God of War series, Terrence or ‘T.C.’ has also portrayed many other characters throughout gaming history including Mace Windu and Darth Vader in many Star Wars games as well as characters in Everquest II, Saints Row, Unreal Tournament 3 and Tron: Evolution. His role as Kratos brought the exact kind of unique and savage voice that cemented Kratos in many people’s minds as more than just another protagonist with anger management issues in yet another hack and slash game.
Though most modern gamers would recognize his voice from the more recent Mass Effect series as Admiral David Anderson, his most memorable character and best performance as a gaming voice actor is definitely as The Arbiter from the Halo series. The Arbiter’s storyline coupled with Keith’s powerful but calm voice contributed greatly to the success of Halo 2 which rocketed the series even further into the mainstream success it has today. As cool as Master Chief may have been up until that point, The Arbiter quickly became a fan favorite even faster than the Chief. Keith David is no stranger to voice acting either, having starred in many memorable cartoons, animated movies and games such as Placescape Torment, Saints Row, Modern Warfare 2 and so on.
Though the bulk of his voice acting work is obviously voicing Captain Picard in just about every Star Trek game, Charles Xavier in most X-Men titles and various other roles such as Zobek in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, Stewart’s best performance in gaming is by far his portrayal of Emperor Uriel Septim VII in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Although his role was short lived, his monologue is the first thing you hear in the game and it does a great job at setting up the feel of the game right off the bat. With anyone else’s voice it would have ended up seeming either too ‘RPGish’ or too epic. Stewart was also certainly much better than many other voices featured in the game.
Gideon Emery voices the protagonist Sam Gideon in the surprisingly overlooked gem of a title, Vanquish. His voice brought character to Sam (a more lively version of Solid Snake who only smokes half as much) where he could have easily been made into another generic western protagonist with a suave Nathan Drake type voice. Gideon also played Balthier in Final Fantasy XII and has contributed his voice to just about every major game franchise you can think of, including Dragon Age, Dungeon Seige, Gears of War, Battlefield, The Sims, Call of Duty, God of War, Red Faction and Mass Effect.
Wiethoff’s only voice acting work to date is for John Marston the extremely memorable protagonist of Red Dead Redemption but it shouldn’t be his last by any means. The voice he provided Marston with kept the character from being just another gritty lone ranger in an already overly saturated genre and overall Rob’s performance was fantastic. If you were to replace it with a more generic, bland or monotone voice the potential of the character depth would have been lost. Here’s hoping his skills will be included in future games as well.
Troy is a voice acting titan and his catalog of roles is vast, including both video games and anime. You’ll hear his voice in both the upcoming Bioshock Infinite as Booker DeWitt and The Last of Us as Joel. Some of his past work includes Kai Leng in Mass Effect 3, Ryu Hayabusa in the Ninja Gaiden series, Snow in Final Fantasy XIII, the default voice in Saints Row: The Third, Vincent in Catherine, Alec Mason in Red Faction Guerrilla and Two-Face in Batman: Arkham City.
Another newby to voice acting work is Logan Cunningham who did the Narrator’s voice in Bastion, and what a voice that was. Although he may not have any other work under his belt, what he contributed to Bastion played a great deal in the game’s charm and experience and without it the game would have been a more generic hack and slash without much else to make it stand out. No other voice would have been able to pull off the persistent narration without becoming annoying or repetitive. If there’s a great to make your mark in the voice acting industry, it’s by making your voice a major part of a game like Bastion.
Gary Oldman is one of my favorite actors of all time and doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves (although we was nominated for an Oscar last year.) His older voice acting work is limited to Spyro games as Ignitus and some supporting characters in Medal of Honor: Allied Assault and the first True Crime game, but then Call of Duty: Black Ops came around (following his smaller role in World at War) and suddenly everyone coincided the game with the name Viktor Reznov. Reznov is probably one of the best characters to come out of the Call of Duty series, comparable even to the infamous Captain Price. He captures both war battered mysteriousness and hidden badassery in one well written and well voiced character. I didn’t realize that Gary Oldman of all people was the one who portrayed him until later since the character sounds almost nothing like Oldman’s normal voice. That’s talent for you.
Courtnee is known more for her voice overs in animated movies than videos games and her catalog of video game voice overs is slim, but her voice is amazing. Aside from doing various voices in the English version of Kingdom Hearts, her most recent work is voicing Elizabeth in the upcoming Bioshock Infinite and the amount of depth and emotion her voice adds to the character is great. People have become attached to her character even before the game has been released resulting in several well done cosplays popping up at gaming conventions already. The amount of quality voice acting that game seems to contain is ridiculous. The video below demonstrates how real voice acting pros do their magic.
Stephen Fry is the king of lighthearted narrations, having been the narrator for games like Little Big Planet and any Harry Potter game that featured a narrator. The only times he’s actually portrayed a character was as the Cheshire Cat in the Alice in Wonderland game and his most memorable role as Reaver in the Fable series. He brought plenty of expression and personality to the character and the game with his performance.
Anyone who is a fan of Femshep (female Commander Shepard) knows the name Jennifer Hale. It’s her biggest and most popular role so far but far from one of her first. Her voice has been in games dating back to 1996 like X-wing vs Tie Fighter and she earned her merits as Naomi Hunter in Metal Gear Solid, Ophelia in Brutal Legend, Samus Aran in the Metroid Prime trilogy and Bastila Shan in The Knights of the Old Republic. Mass Effect brought forth one of her most brilliant performances and over time fans grew to love Femshep even more than the original male Shepard because her voice actually had character to it rather than sounding robotic and detached.
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