Voice actors in videos games largely go under the radar. If it’s a famous film actor starring in a leading role, then it’s often common knowledge and is hammered home through a game’s marketing team. These ‘famous’ actors receive the acclaim that they may or may not deserve, but what about the guys and girls who work endlessly to fuel our favourite hobby with little to no recognition in return?
Recently, I’m sure you are aware, I’ve been playing Dying Light. It’s a hugely expansive game and it’s pretty much eaten up all of my 2017 so far. Kyle Crane, the protagonist of the game, is voiced incredibly well. You gain a real liking for the guy you’re playing as and it helps the story to progress and tick along nicely. To me, it was a voice that sounded weirdly familiar. I could never quite put my finger on where I’d heard those gritty, american tones before so I had to look it up.
Kyle Crane is played by Roger Craig Smith. Doesn’t ring a bell? Well that’s exactly why I thought to write this up, and broaden my mind a little in the process. Turns out, the guy is practically video game royalty. Roger Craig Smith also voices Ezio Auditore da Firenze from the Assassin’s Creed series, as well as Chris Redfield from Resident Evil and Sonic from… well… Sonic The Hedgehog. He’s had parts in Red Dead Redemption, Final Fantasy games, Lego games, Tekken, Metal Gear Solid, Epic Mickey, Disney Infinity… there are absolutely tons! All of this explains why I heard familiarity whilst lopping the heads off of undead.
So what other voice actors are out there, that we should have all picked up on whilst playing our favourite games? I thought I’d do a list of some of the big names in voice acting that perhaps do their work in the dark.
I can smell a top-10 coming!!! So, here goes, My personal top-10 best and most prestigious voice actors:
10) WES JOHNSON
The legendary Wes Johnson. He provided voice acting for three installments of The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim. He voiced Lucien Lachance, the Gray Fox, the Arena Announcer, Sheogorath, Hermaeus Mora, Emperor Titus Mede II and was the default voice for Imperial males in Oblivion… well, they only had like 4 voice actors for the whole game so go figure.
He’s certainly a hero over at Bethesda, as he appeared in Fallout 3 as the nefarious Mister Burke as well as the Super Mutants Fawkes and Uncle Leo, the Protectrons, Sentry Bots, and Scribe Bigsley. In Fallout 4 he reprised of the Protectrons, as well as playing The Silver Shroud and Moe Cronin.
He’s worth a follow on Twitter too.
09) ASHLEY JOHNSON
No relation to big Wes. She is relatively new to the scene but that hasn’t stopped her from quickly making a name for herself. Ashley Johnson delivered an outstanding performance in The Last Of Us. Not only does the actress ground the suitably post-apocalyptic setting of the title, she seems to bear the emotional core of it as well.
Ashley Johnson has also done some work with acclaimed developer Telltale Games too. In the past she has voiced Gortys from Tales From The Borderlands and also Petra from Minecraft: Story Mode.
Despite the short repertoire, there is no doubt that this talented, budding actor will be around for many years to come.
08) ROBIN ATKIN DOWNES
Robin Atkin Downes plays the villain Paavo in Alter Echo and this was one of his first major voice acting roles. From there, he’s gone on to perform the voices for Minh Young Kim from Gears Of War, Sebastian Van Heerden (amongst millions of other characters) from Mass Effect and Sean Devlin in the massively underrated The Saboteur. He’s had plenty of minor roles too, from numerous male voices in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Online, The Witcher 3, Dragon Age: Origins and Fallout 4. Yep, he sure likes his RPGs.
07) STEVEN BLUM
Steven Blum has had a career stretching well over 20 years. He’s known for pretty much everything. No, seriously. Although he’s had some bigger roles in the past, he’s never really been the main character and has always played minor roles. The biggest he’s done is probably voicing Tank Dempsey in the Call Of Duty series, so I’m pretty sure that he won’t be going short of cash thanks to his biyearly pay-cheque, that’s down to the game’s zombie mode featuring in every Treyarch title. Packing one of the gruffiest and most manly voices on the planet has allowed Steve Blum to pretty much crop up in anything. It could be a futuristic shooter, JRPG, FPS, MMO, Platformer, etc. Steve Blum is in everything and is essentially the where’s Waldo of gaming.
Some other roles include Grayson Hunt from Bulletstorm and actually got nominated for an award! The NAVGTR Award for Lead Performance in a Comedy. Steven Blum also plays Wolverine in quite a few X-Men games, namely in both X-Men: Legends games, Spiderman: Web Of Shadows, Marvel VS Capcom 3, and Deadpool.
He’s featured in hundreds of titles, and with a voice like that, is it any wonder?
06) LAURA BAILEY
Laura Bailey has some serious voice acting skills. She can effortlessly portray very different and distinctive characters. For example, were you aware that Serah from Final Fantasy 13 and Lady Comstock from Bioshock: Infinite are voiced by the same person. You did? oh… really? I think you’re lying.
Furthermore, Laura Bailey has been roped in to provide sample voices in games that allow customisable characters: Saints Row and Dragons Dogma are just a few.
As with literally every single actor on this list, she’s done some work with Bethesda. Obviously, she’s featured in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim but then again, who hasn’t?
05) SIMON TEMPLEMAN
Simon Templeman has a pretty well-spoken career in both film and video game voice acting, which makes him surprisingly unique on this list. Videogame-wise, he is known for his roles as Kain in the video game series Legacy of Kain, Jacob Danik, the main antagonist in the video game Dead Space 3, and as Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir in Dragon Age: Origins.
He plays numerous minor roles in such games like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth, Darksiders II and Mass Effect. So aye, some pretty big titles in there.
04) JOHN DIMAGGIO
I mentioned Steven Blum higher up the list – or lower, depending on how you interpret it – and his gristle-ridden voice. Well he’s been trumped here. If I asked you to name a videogame character with a husky voice, this would be your guy.
No, no, no. Not Master Chief Goddamnit!! It would be Marcus Fenix, surely? Well, as well as voicing everyone’s favourite trash-talking robot in Futurama, John DiMaggio voices the Gears Of War hero. He’s the Hammer Of Sauron in Middle-earth: Shadow Of Mordor and also plays the Brutes in Halo. Obviously. I mean, that voice can only do so much. Anything that’s big and mean looking, he plays it. Even Rhino from all the Spiderman games in the world, ever.
03) JENNIFER HALE
The Queen of voice acting. Anyone that has dedicated their time to the Mass Effect games using a female Shepherd, then there’s no denying you already have a strong connection with Jennifer Hale. Considering the male counterpart is a tad on the monotonous side, I think it’s fair to say that Jen owns the franchise just as much as the players own their decisions. That isn’t her only major role though as Hideo Kojima repeatedly casts her in Metal Gear Solid even if it’s playing a different character. Her range is impressive as well considering the action heroine Shepherd and helplessly naive Emma Emmerich are totally different characters, yet they each remain exceptionally voiced. More recently she even managed to pull off a British accent voicing Rosalind Lutece in Bioshock: Infinite.
Jennifer Hale is iconic to female voice actors around the world and remains relevant today. So much so that in 2013, she was recognized by Guinness World Records for “the most prolific videogame voice actor (female)”.
02) NOLAN NORTH
If Jennifer Hale is the queen of voice acting, this man might just be the king. Nolan North’s voice work includes characters such as Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series, Desmond Miles from the Assassin’s Creed video game series, Ghost from the Bungie title Destiny, the Penguin in the Batman: Arkham video game franchise, Cpt. Martin Walker in Spec Ops: The Line, David in The Last of Us, several characters in various pieces of Marvel media (duh! Deadpool!), Superboy in Young Justice, himself in Saints Row IV, and Edward Richtofen in the Call of Duty Zombies storyline.
01) TROY BAKER
So, do I continue with the royalty metaphor? Personally, I don’t think that this the status of ‘king’ is a high enough accolade, so Nolan North can keep that crown. Troy Baker is something else. He plays protagonists in both Bioshock: Infinite and The Last of Us hitting grand slams with performance that deserve award recognition. He is without a doubt the hardest working voice actor working and the closest thing to a leading man in gaming. Check out the ‘Making Of The Last Of Us’ video below if you really want to understand what I’m getting at. It’s literally a feature-length movie, so get comfy.
Do you agree that videogame voice actors receive far less recognition than those in similar industries?
Maybe it’s just me and my ignorance, but I never realised just how much work each one of the above voice actors had actually done. I knew vaguely of their names before piling up my research, but the sheer number of roles they’ve each taken on is quite staggering.
I’ve thought of loads of honorable mentions, but I think I’ll talk about them in a later post. Having said that, if I’ve missed out anyone you love listening to, let me know! I may have completely forgotten about them.