Last week at Bit Cultures, we called attention to the struggles being faced by voice actors in the video game industry. With this week’s top ten, we sought to highlight some of the best performances in games to illuminate the tremendous value of these talented artists. Our original thought was to rank our top ten favorite performers, but ultimately felt such a list would be in disservice to the immense talent these individuals possess. Alternatively, we choose to highlight ten of the best particular roles in video games. These roles were judged and chosen for their depth, emotional range, and believability. Though facial recognition played some factor in certain roles, we ultimately chose our top ten based upon standout voicework. It was one of our hardest lists to date, and we would feel remiss if we did not mention several standout performances that ultimately did not make the cut. These included: Lee Everett (Dave Fennoy, The Walking Dead), Geralt of Rivia (Doug Cockle, The Witcher), Solid Snake (David Hayter, Metal Gear Solid), God of War Narrator (Linda Hunt, God of War), and Mario (Charles Martinet, Super Mario Bros.). Without further ado, here is our top 10 picks:
Contributions by Zach, Rafael, and Sierra
* Videos in entries may contain spoilers
10. Commander Shepard (Jennifer Hale) – Mass Effect Series
As the main character of the Mass Effect series, it is only fitting that the strong Commander Shepard have a strong voice actor. Jennifer Hale, though not a gamer herself, has always been completely dedicated to bringing her characters to life, even often rejecting lines and dialogue that didn’t fit the character’s personalities. Named the 2013 Guinness Book of World Records “Most Prolific Female Videogame Voice Actor,” to say Jennifer Hale is a talented voice actor would be a massive understatement. While she has voiced many well-known characters including Naomi from Metal Gear Solid and Samus from Metroid Prime, she is most well-known in the gaming world for her portrayal of “FemShep”, the female version of Commander Shepard. It is because of Jennifer Hale’s dedication to her work and attention to detail that Commander Shepard is such a beloved and relatable character, making the Mass Effect Series more immersive than would be possible with just a standard performance.
9. Detective Cole Phelps (Aaron Staton) – L.A. Noire
L.A. Noire was an interesting experiment for Rockstar Studios. The studio was one of the first to utilize MotionScan, a set of 32 high-definition cameras which accurately capture an actor’s facial expressions with painstaking clarity. Aaron Staton arrived to portray the lead character of the 1940’s Los Angeles noir story. While the title itself suffered from various issues, Staton nailed the portrayal of a former Marine turned police officer. His work is exceptional not only through his vocal delivery but in the language communicated by each and every physical gesture in both body and face. While much of the game’s detail is accredited to the technology behind it, Staton’s acting is what ultimately made the venture worthwhile. The game’s reliance on true-to-life interrogation sequences would be lackluster if not for the believable performance. As a result, L.A. Noire stands as one of the best achievements for actors in video games.
8. Maximillian Roivas (William Hootkins) – Eternal Darkness
Played by William Hootkins, Maximillian Rovias is a playable character in Silicon Knights’ Eternal Darkness. Max, after inheriting a house from his father, discovers a forgotten city beneath the mansion. The house soon fills with paranormal bonethieves and it’s up to Max to seek the truth of the property. Despite the short time players explore the Rovias mansion as Max, Hootkins passionately crafts a bewitching and grueling performance. His voice acting conveys a lost madness perfect for Eternal Darkness and its atmosphere. Hootkins’ final scene, especially, is chilling and darkly vibrant as Maximillian’s mind has become twisted; the words Max yells echo strongly and bounce off the asylum walls, but find no listener save his absent sanity.
7. GLaDOS (Ellen McLain) – Portal
As the only voice in Portal, GLaDOS manages to be one of the most sinister robotic villians in existence, and add a touch of humor and much needed life to the popular puzzle game. For all intents and purposes, GLaDOS is Portal. She is credited as being one of the most memorable video game villians and although each player’s time with her is short, she manages to turn the game into an exciting journey as she goes from being the only helping hand the player gets, to a sinister and murderous antagonist, adding a sort of dark humor to the series. A well-seasoned veteran to the voice acting world, Ellen McLain, the voice of GLaDOS, made her what she is, despite being “super likeable” as stated by the Valve staff who said that it was sometimes difficult to give her such evil lines to speak for GLaDOS. The cognitive dissonance between Ellen McLain’s sweet appearance and GLaDOS’s nasty demeanor almost serve to remind us how talented Ellen McLain is as a voice actress. Not only did she manage to breathe life into a villainous robot, she gave GLaDOS her characteristic “computer voice” through mimicking a text-to-speech program and then having her voice slightly processed in the editing stage. This was a triumph…..
6. Handsome Jack (Dameon Clarke) – Borderlands 2, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, Tales From the Borderlands
“Hey you, Cupcake. Come here!” Let me tell you about the magnificent bastard that is Handsome Jack. The Hyperion warlord is a character that manages to incite hatred and endless laughter simultaneously. He is the kind of guy who always has a good joke, so long as the laugh’s not on you. His voice actor manages to deliver a performance that ranges from dry, to witty, to flat out evil, often within the same lines. If you could imagine the voice of a deranged individual who wears a prettier man’s face on top of his own (literally), it would sound like Dameon Clarke. Easily one of the funniest and most likable villains in video game history, you can’t help but lament what a douchebag he turns out to be. He truly believes he is a sort-of Messiah, and that you, the Vault Hunter, are the real evil. But it’s also fun to hear how creative he gets with name-calling in the meantime.