This article is for the video game voice performances that don’t get talked about often enough.
Voice acting in gaming can be extraordinary. Some performances are so captivating that players cannot help but recall them for years to come. Nolan North, Troy Baker, Laura Baily, Jennifer Hale; the list goes on. These are video game voice actors whose performances have helped earn them their place in gamers’ hearts worldwide.
Sometimes outstanding performances fly underneath the radar and are not given the appraisal they deserve. Forgotten, these incredible voice actors are frequently omitted from ‘best of all time’ lists. But they deserve to be remembered, which is why I have put together this list.
Let’s take a look at a selection of performances and characters who deserve recognition among the greats.
Silent Hill 2 – Mary
Anyone interested in survival horror has played this game. A masterpiece of psychological horror, Silent Hill 2 delves deep into the main character’s psyche. James Sunderland is driven to Silent Hill on a mission to find his thought-deceased wife Mary. When he arrives, he is pulled into Silent Hill’s nightmare town – where he must face his inner demons and find his wife.
The letter that Mary leaves for James cuts deep. Monica Taylor Horgan delivers one of the most heart-wrenching performances in gaming history as she reads the letter during the game’s conclusion.
The disembodied voice of Mary, a woman, long gone, reading her last and final regrets and wishes after having her life ravaged by illness is emotional. Her honesty in how she views herself as a burden on her husband, James, is brutal to hear.
Gaming media translator and voice director Jeremy Blaustein revealed the extent to which this voice acting performance impacted Mary’s voice actor, Monica. According to Blaustein, she started crying during the recording process, overwhelmed by its emotional resonance. According to Guy Cihi, the voice of James, everyone in the studio shed a few tears.
That is enough for this to deserve a place on my list.
Max Payne – Max Payne
Max Payne is a name that is well-known in gaming circles. Mainly for the bullet-time gameplay features for which the games are renowned. The slowing down of time while you leap through the air, firing your gun as you fly, is incredibly satisfying.
But what is worth looking at is the unique performance of James McCaffrey as Max Payne himself. McCaffery performs wonderfully in the role of Max Payne, matching his cynical mannerisms precisely. While the game’s voice acting was praised on release, it feels as though people have forgotten Max Payne, so it is worth revisiting!
The neo-noir style police detective, Max Payne, is a man with a vendetta. His family was murdered by street gangs connected with the drug, Valkyr. Payne will stop at nothing to see them dead. He lives for vengeance.
The film noir genre brings with it specific clichés. Notably, narrated internal monologues by the protagonist and evocative dialogue. James McCaffrey brings this dialogue forward convincingly. His distinct voice is smooth as butter, his self-doubt poignant, and his attitude cool – despite his internal sorrow.
LittleBigPlanet – Narrator
LittleBigPlanet is so charming. While its popularity has waned over the years, it is worth remembering how fun this game was when released. Focused on User Generated Content (UGC), the game had players build levels for other players. The collaborative spirit of this game was nothing less than endearing.
This plucky game needed to feature the perfect narrator voice actor to help compound the feeling that it elicited. The narrator that they chose was Stephen Fry. Yes, THE Stephen Fry.
Through interesting narration, guiding players, young and old, was vital – which Fry achieved incredibly well. His signature voice is a great way to make tutorials and introductions engaging. These are usually the most tedious parts of games, so this is a welcome improvement.
Overall, Fry’s addition was a huge part of what made these games work for me. It seems to be put by the wayside in discussions of great voice acting. But I think it should get some recognition. I owe it to my 11-year-old self.
Dragon Age: Origins – Morrigan
We all have a video game voice whose sound is like music. For me, it has to be Claudia Black’s – particularly her work as Morrigan in Dragon Age: Origins.
Morrigan is a Witch of the Wilds in Bioware’s Dragon Age: Origins, the first game in the RPG fantasy series, Dragon Age. She lives in a remote forest with her mother, the witch of legend, Flemeth. Morrigan is assigned to the protagonist to help rid the world of Thedas from the demonic Darkspawn.
Morrigan is unfamiliar with the civilized world, presenting her as a fish-out-of-water type character. This does not mean that she is uncomfortable or incompetent, far from it. Morrigan knows what she wants and how to get it; she radiates confidence, or perhaps over-confidence.
Claudia Black has been in some of the most popular franchises out there, Mass Effect, Uncharted, Gears of War. But it is her work as Morrigan in Dragon Age that stands out to me. It is easy to forget about Morrigan’s characters as Bioware’s flagship, Mass Effect, takes center stage in discussions.
However, this character helps to immerse players into this party of characters – a party which I consider to be among the finest in video games. While this game may be less prolific than other Bioware titles, it is a great play. The origin stories that help define the player’s backstory are especially enjoyable, helping define your path and personality in the game’s story.
So that is my list. If you are familiar with these characters, you should revisit them. It is worth experiencing their voices again.
These video game voices being hidden gems means that it is almost sure that I missed a bunch. I would love to hear about whatever characters would be on your list!