Silent protagonists ruled video games for decades due to limited technology. Fans were only able to read the script on screen, imagining the voice of their favorite character in their heads. Eventually, technology improved and characters began to have a voice.
Voice acting in games made an incredible impact in video games. During emotional cutscenes, not only could you witness sadness on a character’s face but also in their voice. Voice acting brought gamers closer to the characters they were playing. These powerful moments in games made for a more enjoyable gameplay experience.
Though good voice acting could help a game, bad voice acting could destroy it. Many developers will not only port their games to several different consoles, but also to different languages. With scripted games with only sound effects playing the role of voices, such as the Super Mario Bros. series, there are fewer distracting differences. Unfortunately, with Final Fantasy X, the English voices turned more cringeworthy than emotional. Localizing the game lost some of the original appeals from the Japanese language.
Many well-known game developers are willing to take the risk to bring high-quality voices to gamers. Voice actors practice their craft to challenge themselves within a role. Gamers are even willing to buy a game, just because their favorite voice actor is in it. Voice acting has an important impact in gaming, whether it benefits or harms the game itself. Check out our list of some of the best and worst voice acting in gaming.
15 Best: James (Fallout 3)
In Bethesda's Fallout 3, your character is on a quest to find James. James is not only Vault 101's doctor but also your father. Famous actor Liam Neeson provided his voice for your sole parent. During your time in Vault 101, you hear his voice the most ,as he raises you from infancy to an adult. Neeson plays the role well, sounding calm and collected as he teaches you as a child until you meet him again as an adult. His voice work was so well-done that he was nominated for Spike's Video Game Award in 2008 in the "Big Name In The Game - Male" category. Though he didn't win, his voice work as James has continued to be memorable for fans of the Fallout series.
14 Worst: Tails (Sonic Adventure)
The Sonic Adventure series was meant to give players more storyline, matched with the fast gameplay the game is known for. The story was more serious than other Sonic games and the translated voice lines were not an issue. However, the voice acting did little to add to the gameplay and many of the voice actors provided poor work. Corey Bringas provided the voice for Miles "Tails" Prower. Though the sound of his voice fit the character, his performance was lacking. Tails sounds as though the voice actor is reading instead of speaking naturally. After each word Tails speaks is an awkward pause. His voice work was distracting and becomes almost irritating as the game progressed. The voice acting bothered so many gamers that they changed the voice language options in the settings.
13 Best: John Marston (Red Dead Redemption)
It's not easy to voice a realistic Western character. Many voice actors sound like a cliche, either trying to imitate Cliff Eastwood or almost mocking the Wild West time period. Rob Wiethoff's work as John Marston in Red Dead Redemption was a realistic portrayal of a tough Western character. He provided both the voice and mo-cap performance for the protagonist of the game. Wiethoff was able to craft Marston from a former criminal to a man who cared about his family. His voice was gruff when dealing with enemies, but softened as he spoke about his search for his wife and young son. Wiethoff impressed so many with his acting skills that he won "Outstanding Character Performance" at the 2011 D.I.C.E. Awards.
12 Worst: Dante (DmC: Devil May Cry)
Fans were instantly angry that the Devil May Cry series was being remade. The main protagonist, Dante, looked completely different from the white-haired, bare-chested star of the previous games. Older Dante was meant to be a fun, sarcastic, action-packed character. Sadly, Tim Phillipps's English portrayal of Dante did little to make fans enthusiastic about the character. His voice work was difficult to understand. When you were able to understand him, the changes from older Dante became more obvious. Phillipp's Dante was too serious and lacked how "cool" the previous character was. He did not sound as though he were enthusiastic for this role, which is more obvious to gamers than actors realize.
11 Best: Kyle Crane (Dying Light)
Kyle Crane of Dying Light, Chris Redfield of the Resident Evil series, and Sonic the Hedgehog all share one thing in common. All of their voices are portrayed by veteran voice actor Roger Craig Smith. Smith's portrayal of Kyle Crane in Dying Light is one of his most impressive. Dying Light puts the player into several different situations in a zombie-infected city. In one of those hectic situations, Crane shows sympathy and compassion for kids within the Tower. When two of his closest friends are killed, Smith displays realistic grief and sadness. Anger is where Smith shines the most, as Crane goes through several hardships throughout Dying Light, which Smith makes known through his performance. Once the fight takes you to the main protagonist Rais, Crane and Rais speak as they face-off in a final battle. You can sense everything Crane has gone through to get to that final moment.
10 Worst: Aerith (Kingdom Hearts II)
When a new IP is released, often game developers will hire well-known celebrities to provide character voices. Though sometimes it can lead to success, many times it fails miserably. The second Kingdom Hearts installments are examples of failure. While Mandy Moore's performance as Aerith in the first game received a positive response, Mena Suvari's in Kingdom Hearts II did not. Fans of the series felt she was a poor compliment to Cloud Strife's more serious character, but were willing to give her a chance. Her performance was not fluid and sounded as though she was reading from a book. Though Aerith is known as a more gentle character, her voice was monotonous and lacked emotion. Celebrities do not always benefit a game, especially if the game has already seen success.
9 Best: Isaac Clarke (Dead Space)
Isaac Clarke started off as a silent protagonist in the first Dead Space installment with only a few sound effects. In Dead Space II and III, Clarke's voice and face mo-cap were provided by Gunnar Wright. Not only did he provide an impressive performance, but this was Wright's first voice acting performance. This Sci-Fi survival horror game in space is filled with several physical and psychological threats. Clarke spends most of his time haunted by ghosts of the past due to the Marker. Wright's voice as the protagonist of Dead Space was powerful throughout the series. He embodied the character both in physical traits and with his voice. The fear, frustration, and anger he expressed in Dead Space 2 provided gamers with a relatable gameplay experience.
8 Worst: Barry Burton (Resident Evil)
Barry Burton was meant to be the experienced, grizzly veteran of the Special Tactics and Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S.) Alpha team. Unfortunately, his portrayal by Barry Gjerde in the first Resident Evil was anything but hardened. The poor performance cannot completely be on the shoulders of Gjerde. The majority of the voice acting in the game was comedic, poorly timed, and hurt the overall tone of the game. Though partially the fault of the English script, Gjerde's delivery was often stiff. Thankfully, some good was made from a poor performance, as lines like "You were almost a Jill sandwich" have become famous. Burton's voice made serious situations in the mansion humorous instead of deadly and have become mocked by gamers for decades.
7 Best: Joel (The Last Of Us)
Joel is a tough survivor attempting to survive in a dangerous world in The Last of Us. He was not always so serious, as shown during moments with his daughter, Sarah, and a young girl he finds, Ellie. Troy Baker shines with his performance of Joel. The progression of Joel's voice can be seen from a tough guy who overtime softens after meeting Ellie. Baker has years of experience with voice acting in video games and he almost did not take the role because he didn't feel right for the role. Luckily, he accepted and provided an outstanding performance. He was nominated for two awards for "Outstanding Character Performance" and "Best Male Vocal Performance" in a Video Game. As Joel, Baker pulled off a strong performance of a man trying to survive and protect Ellie.
6 Worst: Link (Zelda: The Wand Of Gameleon)
While voice acting has become an important part of video games, The Legend of Zelda series lacks voice acting, as Link's voice acting has mostly been limited to sound effects. However, Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon on the Philips CD-i changed that with a fully voiced Link. Jeffrey Rath's voice performance as Link faced heavy criticism. Usually a heroic figure, Link comes off as unintelligent in the game. His voice acting is out of sync with the animation and it is unknown if the cutscenes or voice acting scenes were filmed first. Roth's portrayal of Link is also too eager and excited compared to the other characters. While Zelda's performance is calm, Link's character seems out of place. After Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon, it's easy to see why Link has remained a silent protagonist.
5 Best: Nathan Drake (Uncharted)
Nolan North has an incredible range as a voice actor. He has a long history portraying the voice for several well-known video game characters. His most well-known voice acting and mo-cap role is as Nathan Drake in the Uncharted series. His work was so impressive that he won The Game Award for "Best Performance" as Drake. It's rare that a character grows with the actor portraying their voice. However, Nathan Drake has grown with North for an entire decade. North has been with Drake through countless adventures and a long-lasting relationship. Uncharted's developer Naughty Dog has made it clear Uncharted 4 would be the last. adventure for him. Though his time as Drake has ended, for now, his voice work as Nathan Drake will continue for Uncharted fans for decades to come.
4 Worst: Ethan Mars (Heavy Rain)
Heavy Rain is a dark and depressing story-heavy game where choices matter. However, the characters' visual expressions fit the game's tone better than the actual voices. Your goal is to help the protagonist, Ethan Mars, find his son, Shaun. Unfortunately, this means you will be spending most of the game as Ethan, as you hear his thoughts and participate in his awkward conversations. Pascal Langdale provided both the voice acting and mo-cap for Ethan. Hearing Langdale scream out Jason or Shaun's names lacked emotion and it felt as though he were simply reading the names. For such an emotional game, it felt as though Ethan lacked concern and love for his son. If the voice actor doesn't sound like he cares for his child, it does little to motivate the player to finish the game.
3 Best: Commander Shepard - Female (Mass Effect Trilogy)
Commander Sheperd is not only calm and collected, but she is also one of the most feared people in the Mass Effect trilogy. Jennifer Hale provides the voice for the Commander in the series. Hale has a long history in the voice acting industry, especially with BioWare roles. Hale provided a realistic portrayal as a leader and, while BioWare's script for both male and female Shepards was the same, Hale accomplished the feat of sounding professional, yet threatening. Shepard is a tough fighter, but is also human and retains her emotions. Hale shines as Shepard because is also able to pull off a wider range of emotions than her male counterpart. All in all, Hale's delivers a high-quality, well-rounded performance as Commander Shepard.
2 Worst: Caleb Goldman (House Of The Dead II)
Originally an arcade shooter, House of the Dead II tossed you and a friend in a fight against the undead. The main antagonist, Caleb Goldman, was meant to be a cold, serious man. He hated humans and hoped to destroy them. For such a serious character, his quotes were almost as bad as his voice acting. The English translation of the original Japanese game was stiff and unrealistic with lines. Goldman's performance was almost comedic with lines such as "It's been a while, hasn't it? My friends from the AMS. It's me, Goldman." Overall, his voice work was robotic and monotone, and especially not threatening for a villain. The developer Wow Entertainment may have just wanted gamers to focus on the action and nothing else.
1 Best: Solid Snake (Metal Gear Solid)
The English voice of Solid Snake has developed a strong fan following. David Hayter's performance as Solid Snake impacted gamers so much that many boycotted Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain when it was announced that Kiefer Sutherland would be taking over as both voice and mo-cap actor. Not only did gamers enjoy Hayter's voice acting work, but Hayter was devoted to the role. He was willing to accept a lower rate of pay for Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty to bring back the original voice actors from the first Metal Gear Solid game. For many fans, David Hayter is Solid Snake and there could never be a suitable replacement.