OPINION – Video games have seen an increasing number of famous voice actors recently, including a select few who have become iconic today.
Video games have recently seen an increase in the number of famous voice actors, including a select few who have become iconic in games.
A good voice actor can make a video game as good as an animated TV show or film. Without having to rely on their facial expressions or body movements to convey an emotion, it takes a particular person to deliver a performance worthy of some of the world’s most popular video games. Fortunately, plenty of talented voice actors can provide the emotional depth and realism that gamers crave.
As the video games industry continues to grow, it’s no wonder that some studios are turning to Hollywood stars to bring their beloved characters to life in a way few can do properly. Even if it’s not the title character, a recognisable voice may be just what fans need to immerse themselves in the game’s story entirely.
Michael Ironside – Splinter Cell (2002)
Although Eric Johnson was the voice (and look) of Sam Fisher in the most recent Splinter Cell in 2013, Michael Ironside has been the voice of the iconic character since the very first Splinter Cell in 2002 (which is now in the process of being remade).
Although the look of the NSA super-agent was quite different, Ironside’s deep, often menacing baritone added so much to the character that there was a huge outcry when he was replaced by Eric Johnson in 2013’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist. (Many also attribute that game’s failure to this.)
Vin Diesel – Wheelman (2009)
While there are plenty of Fast & Furious games, surprisingly, that’s not where Vin Diesel has put all his efforts in the video game industry. In 2009, Diesel voiced a playable character and was also the face of his own car game, Wheelman.
Although critics didn’t like it, there was still some charm to the game. It’s no coincidence that the actor took on so much voice work, as his gruff voice sounds incredible, especially in the chase scenes.
Elliot Page – Beyond Two Souls (2013)
As a video game where decisions really matter, Beyond: Two Souls was one of the most unpredictable games of its time. Beyond: Two Souls is an action-packed game with a plot that mixes supernatural elements with suspense, as the player has to figure out why the government is so interested in Jodie Holmes (played by Elliot Page, then still as Ellen Page…) and who the invisible entity is that’s always with her.
Because the game is decision-based, many fans loved it. Not only did the players’ choices influence the outcome, but the dialogue was well written, as Page’s delivery helped to keep them emotionally invested in the narrative. And just like Beyond: Two Souls, it’s also an all-star cast, with Willem Defoe also starring.
Kevin Spacey – Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (2014)
Although Kevin Spacey’s name has been tarnished by his involvement in several nasty metoo scandals in recent years (although he has been acquitted of the most egregious), it is undeniable that he remains one of the most brilliant actors to date.
He also put his great acting chops to good use in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, where he plays John Irons, an initially sympathetic, high-ranking US military officer who is gradually revealed to be a crazed, power-mad madman who is waging war against the United Nations military. Although the game’s story was somewhat clichéd, Spacey’s acting did a lot to make it memorable.
Elijah Wood – Legend Of Spyro (2006)
Best known for his excellent performance as Frodo Bag Frodo in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, those who haven’t yet played Legend of Spyro may be surprised to hear that he also voiced a purple dragon.
Elijah Wood wasn’t the only star to lend his voice to the game, with David Spade, Gary Oldman and Christina Ricci also adding to the star-studded cast. Elijah Woods’ performance stands out from the rest, his innocent and boyish charm making the protagonist even more endearing.
10. Samuel L. Jackson – Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004)
Back in 2004, everyone’s favourite foul-mouthed actor Frank Tenpenny starred as a police officer in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Although the game would still have been a massive success if it hadn’t included someone of Jackson’s acclaim, fans were delighted to recognise his voice, which seemed to fit the role and the game’s overall mood perfectly.
Unlike some celebrity video game cameos, this one seems tailor-made for Samuel Jackson, showing his usual unusual combination of raucous humour and intensity.
Kiefer Sutherland – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (2015)
Metal Gear Solid is one of the most beloved video game series and arguably the best stealth franchise ever made. The main character himself is one of the things that makes the series so great, aside from sneaking around in cardboard boxes and biting snakes’ heads.
Although it had to wait until the fifth episode of the series, Kiefer Sutherland lent his voice to the iconic character. And since Sutherland starred as Jack Bauer in 24 for hundreds of episodes, he also voiced the character in 24: The Game, but nothing beats his portrayal of Snake in MGS V.
Michael Mando – Far Cry 3 (2013)
Although Michael Mando is not a massive star, he gave an unforgettable performance in a famous game and a hugely popular series. The game was Far Cry 3, where he played Vaas Montenegro, perhaps the most invented and creepiest antagonist of all time. “Have I told you what the definition of madness is? When you keep doing the same f*cking thing and expecting different results” – Far Cry fans, you’ve got the creepy scene, don’t you? That’s the line coming from Michael Mando, who lent not only his voice but also his look to 2013’s Far Cry 3 and the recently released Vaas: Insanity DLC for Far Cry 6. For us, the Vaas he portrays is the most terrifying, crazed “arch-celebrity” in the Far Cry series (despite not being the one who will eventually be in Far Cry 3).
Mando also stars as Nacho Vargas in one of the most brilliant series, Better Call Saul. Even though he plays a “bad guy” (a Mexican gangster), he is a complex character differently because he has some good qualities.
Giancarlo Esposito – Far Cry 6 (2021)
Speaking of Far Cry 6, in addition to Michael Mando, we must also mention Giancarlo Esposito, who also appeared in Better Call Saul (and Breaking Bad, where he was one of the leading “antagonists”) as Gustavo Fring, the drug-dealing businessman who is at once terrifying, enigmatic and impeccably mannered, but who, in addition to his extreme cruelty and astonishing manipulations and intellect, can also be surprisingly human and kind. Of course, this “kindness” is mostly a cover…
In Far Cry 6, Esposito plays a similar character, Anton Castillo, the dictator. The game, which is a bit of a cliché, owes a lot to Giancarlo Esposito’s creepy performance.
Rami Malek – Until Dawn (2015)
Another example of a character looking exactly like the voice actor, Rami Malek’s appearance in the 2015 horror game Until Dawn, fits the game perfectly. Despite being so recognisable, Malek delivers an anything but distracting, downright memorable performance that will have players wholly immersed in the game’s characters.
Rather than opting for a more restrained approach, Malek delivers a truly crazed performance, with a psychotic breakdown that would not have been the same with anyone else in the role.
Kit Harington – Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare (2016)
Arguably the most popular video game franchise of all time, it has grown over the years to include some significant star actors. With each instalment of the game, it has become almost a tradition to cast a global star in one of the game’s lead roles to fully flesh out some of the more nuanced plot threads of the campaign mode.
Alongside Kevin Spacey’s aforementioned Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is no exception, with Kit Harrington playing a ferocious and formidable adversary, a near-perfect role for the Game of Thrones star. Harington also showed that he could do a great job as the villainous antagonist.
Ray Liotta – Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002)
The Grand Theft Auto series owes a lot to gangster movies, as they have always inspired the series – whether it’s the heists in Heat, which were borrowed for GTA V, or the GTA: Scarface in Vice City, from 1980s Miami in the sunshine. But location isn’t the only thing borrowed for the fourth game.
Ray Liotta plays Tommy Vercetti, the playable character from Vice City, and if players close their eyes, they might as well hear Henry from Goodfellas. And while many actors could play Vercetti in a movie, Liotta’s Italian-American accent is second to none.
Mark Hamill – Arkham Asylum (2009)
Mark Hamill will always be Luke Skywalker first and foremost, but despite his film career having quickly waned, he has been a highly successful voice actor for years. Hamill voiced the Joker: one of the most famous Batman villains of all time in the critically acclaimed Batman: Arkham Asylum.
Hamill has previous experience as a voice actor for the Joker, having played the character in numerous TV versions of the villain and several animated films. His performance in Arkham Asylum is one of his best, perfectly recreating the maniacal voice that makes the Joker terrifying.
Norman Reedus – Death Stranding (2019)
Being the first game after Hideo Kojima’s split from Konami, the developer knew that Death Stranding needed to be on a bigger scale after his time on the Metal Gear series. He achieved this by casting Norman Reedus as Sam Porter Bridges, the playable character in the game.
Between Boondock Saints and The Walking Dead, Death Stranding is one of the actor’s best works. Not only does Death Stranding star Reedus, but the whole thing is packed with incredible actors, including Mads Mikkelsen, Léa Seydoux, the female star of the last two James Bond films, and even directors like Guillermo Del Toro and Nicholas Winding Refn.
Keanu Reeves – Cyberpunk 2077 (2020)
Fans got a glimpse of Keanu’s character in Cyberpunk 2077 before the game’s full release, as he went on a rampage online with a truly incredible and surprising reveal in a gameplay trailer. Sadly, Cyberpunk 2077 didn’t have the best reputation at launch, as various bugs left the game looking grossly unfinished.
Thanks to the updates, this otherwise highly addictive and well-crafted role-playing game is becoming more playable, with the nextgen console patch coming this year, and Keanu’s character is still outstanding and perfectly suited to the gloomy and dark futuristic world. As Keanu Reeves is arguably one of the most popular stars of our time, and despite its flaws, Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the most important titles of the last decade, with Reeves playing a character that is fundamental to the story and well-developed, it was clear to us that he was the ‘winner’ of our list.
Would you have made a different list? In a different order, or with other actors? Let us know in the comments!