The first videogame to introduce human voices was Dragon’s Lair in 1983. Since then, voiced characters have become a narrative necessity. Videogame productions – and budgets – have increased to rival film productions. As a result, we’ve seen the rise of some truly incredible voice actors take characters, and performances, to the next level.
I’ve compiled my personal Hall of Fame of voice actors, and some of my favourite performances of each. Voice acting for games is a challenge, often involving working alone or remotely, and often without the support of the rest of the cast. In no particular order, here’s a list of 25 of the best in the business, and some of the games they’ve been in. Some of them are industry stalwarts, some who have played specific characters to the point where the actor and character are almost synonymous. Some are performances that are just plain hilarious!
Jennifer Hale is a videogame VA legend. She has voiced characters in 122 games since 1995 and holds the Guinness World Record for the most prolific female voice actor. She appears in games like Halo, World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Baldur’s Gate, Mass Effect, Metroid Prime, Metal Gear Solid, Spider-Man, BioShock Infinite, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and many more. My personal favourite is Commander Shepard in the Mass Effect series, creating a believable, unique character that fits perfectly to the choices of the player.
Steve Blum has 774 credits as an actor – 440 of those in video games, according to the most recent IMDB listing. That’s a phenomenal number. As of 2017, he holds the Guinness World Record as the most prolific voice actor in video games. With his trademark deep voice, he’s brought main and supporting characters to life since his first title, Full Throttle, in 1995. He also hosts a number of podcasts and learning resources for voice actors, as well as inspiring his fans through conventions and talks. His most notable games include Madworld, Call of Duty, Mass Effect, Diablo 3, Dragon Age: Origins, God of War, and many, many more!
Having voiced a huge variety of characters since 1999, Nolan North is another true veteran of the industry. He’s appeared in over 120 games including Fable 2, Everquest 2, Call of Duty, and The Prince of Persia. most of the games I’ve played and enjoyed have featured Nolan’s skills somewhere! His most notable work as Nathan Drake in the Uncharted series from 2007, truly raised the bar in motion capture and performance. It earned Nolan a Game Award for Best Performance and contributed to Uncharted 4 winning a BAFTA for Best Game in 2017. Uncharted 4 in particular received high praise for the subtle intricacies, that came through in the relationships between the characters.
Nathan Drake’s brother Sam, is played by Troy Baker, another stalwart of the videogame voice acting industry with 125 games under his belt. His most acclaimed role as Joel in The Last Of Us, a broken man in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Charged with protecting Ellie (voiced by Ashley Johnson), these professionals developed a believable bond over the course of the game. Aside from this, he’s played Gul’dan in World of Warcraft, Pagan Min in Far Cry 4, and the Ranger Talion in Middle-earth – Shadow of War. He’s fast become, alongside North, one of the most well-known actors in gaming. He has even played the Joker in the final instalment of the Batman Arkham series, which was a great silver medal when compared to the true master of the Joker…
Ok, so Mark Hamill isn’t actually known as a voice actor first and foremost, but he is the Joker. His career as the iconic supervillain started in the 1992 Batman animated series. His performance in the Batman Arkham series is still a fan favourite, a role he has reprised through the entire trilogy of games. He had also voiced characters in Wing Commander, Icewind Dale, Spyro, and Darksiders. Mark Hamill has had side parts in many games since 1993. Interestingly, he hasn’t actually voiced his most iconic character, Luke Skywalker, in any of the Star Wars games.
Where would Mister J by without his Harley Quinn? Canadian Tara Strong played the iconic character in the Arkham games. Her highly professional acting skills contributed to the game’s 2016 BAFTA award. Among a massive list of credits across animations, TV, and films, she has been voicing videogame characters since 1998, including Icewind Dale, Spyro, Psychonauts, and Kingdom Hearts 2 as well as regular parts in other games. Tara played her first lead role at 13, in the animation ‘ Hello Kitty’s Furry Tale Theater ‘, and her skills and experience have been in high demand ever since.
Doug has been voicing characters in video games since 200. His most well-known character voice was so influential, whoever, that Henry Cavill studied it for his most recent TV role. Doug’s voice is unmistakable as Geralt of Rivia in the Witcher series. His unmistakable voice and acting chops are so iconic that Cavill, an avid gamer himself, adapted a similar style for the monster hunter in the Netflix Witcher series. Doug Cockle was ultimately nominated for a Golden Joystick award for his performance. Aside from his videogame work, he also works as a freelance actor and was previously an Arts lecturer at the University of Bournemouth in the UK.
If you’re using Windows 10, Jen Taylor is the voice of your computer. More specifically, the voice of Cortana. As the character in the Halo series, it was fitting that she became the voice of the OS assistant when the concept was adopted by Microsoft. Over the course of the series, the relationship between the Master Chief and Cortana has developed into one of the biggest tag teams in gaming; and arguably a heroine in herself. More than just an AI assistant to Master Chief, a unique and deep character was born, in no small part due to her quality performance skills. Jen is also known for playing Princess Peach in the majority of Mario based games since 1999.
With 21 games at the time of writing under his belt, most of which are AAA titles, Keith David has applied his skills to some incredible games and is also a well-known film and TV actor. He’s one of a few of the names on this list who played themselves in Saints Row 4, but his most iconic role so far is definitely the stoic Captain David Anderson in the Mass Effect series. Other games he has featured in include Marvel Heroes, Mortal Kombat, Halo, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
The unmistakable voice of Solid Snake from the Metal Gear series. David Hayter has voiced every iteration of the super-soldier from the series, since the original Metal Gear Solid back in 1999. It was one of the greatest games for the original Playstation, and was definitely one of my favourites! His acting skills have continued to give Snake a very distinct character and personality that has evolved with his adventures. His latest outing with Metal Gear Solid: Phantom Pain received critical acclaim as one of the best games in 2018 – in no small part to David’s careful and detailed approach to Solid Snake’s character.
Having voiced characters in 18 games so far as well as being a respected actress in TV, film and animation, Claudia creates believable characters with an unmistakable voice. Having voiced characters such as Chloe Frazer in Uncharted and Samantha Byrne in Gears of War, as well as characters in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Wolfenstein 2, and Cydaea, Mistress of Pain in Diablo 3. My personal favourite is the sorceress Morrigan in the Dragon Age series, particularly Inquisition; where the mystery, ambition and drive of the character are brought to life flawlessly by Black’s skill.
It’s interesting that Roger Clark’s first lead role in a videogame would turn out to be one of the most acclaimed performances in gaming history. Rockstar has made a name for themselves in turning video gaming into a movie-like experience, with believable storylines, well-developed characters – and getting the right people in for the job. Red Dead Redemption 2 was full of amazing voice talent, but my gold star has to go to Roger Clark as the outlaw Arthur Morgan. His range and ability to convey emotion brought this character to life. The character’s tough, aggressive side, his softer side, and the emotional changes of his story arc, earned Clark a well deserved Best Performance award at the Game Awards 2018.
Bioshock Infinite is an amazingly detailed game, with some fantastic storylines and really clever dialogue. Aside from the protagonist played by Troy Baker, one of the stand-out performances was by Courtnee Draper as Elizabeth. From the early beginnings as an innocent damsel in distress character, through to her true calling and final revelations about the character, the level of detail Courtnee poured into the performance resulted in a character so compelling I immediately start a replay as soon as finishing the game. It will be great to see her voice more characters in games!
Michael Ironside is a well-known TV and film actor, but he’s also the iconic voice of Sam Fisher in the Splinter Cell series. Part of the success of the character is due to the way Michael asked the team to produce the voice acting. Insisting all the actors were in the same room, in a similar way to animation or TV production, to really act out the characters and bring them to life. This turned the character of Fisher from a cold Government killer to a more rounded, human individual. His latest outing with the character was in 2019’s Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, in the Splinter Cell-themed DLC.
Another screen actor, but unlike Ironside, UK-born John Cleese is a self-confessed gamer. He’s played Q (and R) in a number of James Bond games, and the character of Jasper in Fable 3. One of my favourite performances, though, is that of the quite mad – and quite dead – Sir Cadwell of Elder Scrolls Online. His professional, experienced delivery and comedy timing is absolutely perfect for videogames and I’d love to see more of Sir Cadwell, and other characters voiced by Cleese.
At a current score of 11 games, Ellen McLain has worked largely with Valve on games like Portal 2, Half-Life, and Overwatch, as the announcer. Particular mention has to go to her portrayal of the god-AI GlaDOS in Portal. Pouring humour and menace equally into the artificial intelligence trying to kill the protagonist Chell, the result is one of the funniest, if not most sinister AI villains in videogame history.
Special mention of course to the other half of the comedy duo in Portal 2; Stephen Merchant as Wheatley. His comedy style and way of delivering lines is particularly brilliant when applied to the role of a somewhat incompetent robot attempting to escape the Aperture Science facility. His performance may even be more popular on social media and memes than the game itself. A fantastic performance that really made this game stand out.
Continuing the theme of particularly funny roles that are incredibly well portrayed, I’d like to include Dameon Clarke as Handsome Jack in the Borderlands series. His ability to convey satire and psycho at the same are brilliant; the character feels truly unpredictable as a result. Aside from Borderlands, he’s worked a lot in anime, voicing Imperfect Cell / Semi Perfect Cell / Perfect Cell in the Dragonball Z series, a role he’s carried over into the Dragonball Z games. While these games take up the bulk of his resume, it’s still Handsome Jack that sticks with me.
Another classic from the PS1 era and a game I played to death – the original Tomb Raider, celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2021. Shelley Blond was the first and original Lara Croft, playing the running, jumping (and quite often falling and dying) character in the action game from 1996. She never reprised the role, moving instead into commercial VO content like documentaries and commercial spots, before opening Yakety Yak voiceover agency in London. Her iconic performance is, to this day, the basis on which all versions of Lara Croft are based, including…
…The latest Lara Croft, Camilla Luddingdon, takes the mantle of Lara in the rebooted Tomb Raider series. A grittier, more vulnerable but ultimately just as badass Lara. Camilla has truly brought the role forward and developed her into a complex, deep character with strengths, weaknesses, fear, and bravery. And, the right amount of that dry Lara humour we’ve come to expect from the biggest female icon in video gaming. A true credit to the role and I’m looking forward to seeing where Camilla appears next!
Terrence C. Carson
36 videogames into his career, and a varied TV and film career, Terrence C. Carson is most notably known for playing the videogame versions of Mace Windu in the Clone Wars games. He also portrays the Spartan warrior Kratos in the God of War series since the first instalment in 2005 (with the exception of the most recent 2018 game, featuring Christopher Judge as the main character). Another flagship title for Sony, the God of War series has consistently received high praise from critics, thanks in no small part to Carson’s flawless performance.
Canadian Michael Mando is an established TV actor, most well known as Nacho Varga in Better Call Saul. He’s so far only appeared in a single game but deserves a mention in my list as the character was so incredibly well played. Vaas from 2012’s Far Cry 3. A great performance matched with detailed motion capture created – in my opinion – the best character in the series. Mando is also a huge fan of the character, having described Vaas as his ‘spirit animal’, and that he’d love to reprise the role in a future instalment. He also played the live-action version for the promotional material – scope for a Far Cry film perhaps?
Yuri is another actor who has earned a space at the top table of voice acting, particularly around anime. He has voiced a huge range of supporting characters as well as leading roles, particularly in western versions of Japanese games. He’s voiced characters in Death Stranding, Fire Emblem Heroes, Fallout 4, Diablo 3, and Dynasty Warriors. His most notable role is definitely as the Prince in the Prince of Persia games, having voiced the first iteration in the Sands of Time in 2003. He co-wrote Voice-Over Voice Actor: What It’s Like Behind the Mic with his wife and fellow actor, Tara Platt.
Having performed in 55 videogames since 2015, Erica Lindbeck is a tremendously hard-working actor and rising star in videogame voice acting. She has voiced Sophitia in Soul Calibur 7, Jessie in the Final Fantasy 7 remake, and a host of other characters in JRPGs. Outside of video games, she is also the new voice of the Barbie line of toys, which could stem into the games as well.
The final entry into this list is James McCaffrey, the voice of Max Payne. An absolute classic series of games, with the third instalment being particularly memorable, McCaffrey embodied the very essence of Max, playing the broken, grisly detective addicted to painkillers brilliantly. He also had a cameo in the Max Payne movie in honour of his work with the character. He’s also voiced characters in Alan Wake and Alone in the Dark, as well as an accomplished TV career.
So, what do you think? This is just my personal opinion of some of the greatest voice actors and performances, but do you think anyone else should have made this list? Got a favourite? Let me know in the comments section!
Image Credits (in no particular order)
There were a couple of images that I could not find attribution for – if you are the owner (or know the owner) please let me know and I’ll add, or remove the image by request.
Mark Hamill – By Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80914787
Nolan North – By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America – Nolan North, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80942743
Keith David – By Mingle Media TV – https://www.flickr.com/photos/minglemediatv/15962249604/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38614046
Jen Taylor – By Fearless Son at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35332106
Doug Cockle – Twitter – https://twitter.com/dcockle
David Hayter – By Sheen – http://www.metalgearsolid.be/, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32510353
Michael Ironside – By Possan – https://www.flickr.com/photos/possan/4163138222, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34170386
Roger Clark – By Cassandra Wynn – This file was derived from: Red Dead Redemption 2 Cast – Great Philadelphia Comic Con image 1.jpg:, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79216059
Dameon Clarke – By Super Festivals – https://www.flickr.com/photos/superfestivals/20428533382, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=86217631
Michael Mando – By Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=71109272
John Cleese – By Bruce Baker – https://www.flickr.com/photos/theholygrail/13421605043/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52943548
Stephen Merchant – By Justin Hoch, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16673530
Ellen McLain – By Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61664647
Courtnee Draper – [Credit Needed! Contact me to correct]
Tara Strong – By Tara Rochelle – www.tararochelle.com, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24775404
Claudia Black – By Crosa from Nuernberg – Claudia BlackUploaded by Rosenzweig, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28510215
Camilla Luddington – By Mingle MediaTV – Camilla Luddington – DSC_1200, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31804539
Terrence Carson – [Credit Needed! Contact me to correct]
James McCaffrey – [Credit Needed! Contact me to correct]
Shelley Blond – [Credit Needed! Contact me to correct]
Jennifer Hale – By Eva Rinaldi – Jennifer Hale, Mass Effect, Star Wars, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=85731895
Steve Blum – By Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69540940
Yuri Lowenthal – By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America – https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/40208472995/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=87103891
Troy Baker – By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America – Troy Baker, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80910492
Erica Lindbeck – By Super Festivals – https://www.flickr.com/photos/superfestivals/37230354090/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=87152307