You might not notice it when playing, but the vocal performances behind your favourite video game characters are a key aspect of the realism and world-building that so many games try to accomplish. Without great characterisation, a tonne of games would fall flat on their faces, so it’s important that those vocal pipes are at the peak of their ability!
Of course, not every video game needs to be superbly voiced – when was the last time anyone complained that Pac-Man wasn’t a fully fleshed-out character? Sometimes, it’s not important, but sometimes, it makes a game come alive. So, consider IGCritic’s favourites a celebration of voice acting, a party for the voice box, and a well-deserved pat on the back for the following video game vocal performances.
Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker
Video Game: The Last of Us
Character: Ellie and Joel
The Last of Us is the game that took the world by storm in 2013, and that was partly to do with its’ terrific motion-capture performances. On top of the mo-cap, both characters Ellie and Joel were voiced to perfection by their respective voice actors, with both Johnson and Baker winning the VGX 2013 awards for best female and male performer.
It’s rare to see such a complex father-daughter dynamic played out on-screen – in a videogame, of all mediums. The Last of Us features cinematography, performances and a script that’s miles ahead of most movies that Hollywood pumps out nowadays, and its stellar critical reception and commercial success were no happy accident. They were well-earned, and for a game that revolves around its characters, Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker should be commemorated for their stellar voice acting efforts.
Video Game: Far Cry 3
The Far Cry series was never known for its nuanced storytelling or fleshed out characters, but Far Cry 3 changed all that. A scary, unpredictable monster of a villain, Michael Mando’s Vaas was a superb foil for the inexperienced, fish-out-of-water protagonist Jason Brody. You never knew what Vaas would do next, or where he would pop up next, and that led to some thrilling, paranoia-inducing gameplay that never let up.
The Far Cry 3 game wasn’t the only place that players could experience the talents of Mando, and he actually played the character in a live-action YouTube miniseries called Far Cry 3 – Real Life Experience. This excellent bit of promotional material served as a prequel to the Far Cry 3 video game, and starred McLovin’ himself, of all people. If nothing else, these videos proved that Michael Mando wasn’t simply hiding in a recording booth and spurting out lines – he became the Vaas character.
Video Game: Uncharted Series
Character: Nathan Drake
He was the first voice that PS3 owners heard when they booted up the teaser trailer for Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and was instantly met with cheers and hollers from viewers of the 2008 VGA’s. Indeed, Nolan North has become something of a videogame celebrity in recent years, appearing in everything from Call of Duty to Assassin’s Creed to The Last of Us, and he’s got Nathan Drake, Naughty Dog and Uncharted to thank for it.
“Oh crap” is his tagline, but crap his voice acting performance is not. Nathan Drake – his friends call him Nate – has quickly become PlayStation’s poster boy, and that’s in large part to the impressive set of pipes he has behind him. The character Nathan Drake is charming, but at the same time, vulnerable, and as we learnt in Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, had extremely humble beginnings.
Perhaps it’s Nate’s sympathetic start in life that makes him such a compelling, mysterious character, and we can only hope that Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End puts a nice bow on his murderous rampage through most Eastern-European armies, when it launches this May 10.
Video Game: Batman: Arkham Series
Character: The Joker
If you haven’t laid awake at night, the sound of the Joker’s laugh piercing your internal dialogue, then what are you doing? You’ve clearly never played the Batman: Arkham trilogy. Yeah, sorry Arkham Origins.
Jokes aside, The Joker isn’t someone to be trifled with. A villain so endearing that even his most violent moments aren’t without cause, Mark Hamill brought him to life with aplomb, picking up pretty much universal acclaim in the process. Even though the character died at the end of Batman: Arkham City, he even popped up in that game’s successor, the excellent Batman: Arkham Knight, and it’s a testament to the voice acting talents of Hamill that it seemed as though the series couldn’t work without Mark Hamill.
Video Game: Borderlands 2
Character: Handsome Jack
Much like Far Cry, the original Borderlands was never really praised for its characters. Sure, it possessed a ton of humour and the characters were wacky, but the game was never really considered a powerhouse in terms of story and characterisation.
And then came Borderlands 2, Dameon Clarke and his villain, Handsome Jack. Using the term ‘villain’ here feels so incredibly wrong, as Handsome Jack is so likeable that when he murders bandits, scoops out people’s eyeballs with a spoon and threatens to curbstomp your main character, you can’t help but smile. It’s that rare combination of a villain that’s equal parts scary and fascinating. Handsome Jack seems like a cool guy to have a drink with, or go to a club with – but he’d just as quickly stab you in the back. Literally.
So, the next time you’re blasting through a story-driven singleplayer campaign, take some time to appreciate the voice artisits in the games. Whether you listen through a killer set of headphones, or use those (usually) terrible TV speakers, keep those trigger-fingers ready and those ears sharp!