The rise of the CD-ROM during the early 90s gave video developers a new toy to play with. The increased storage space of the media led to a rise in games which relied on Full Motion Video (FMV) to present players with a more cinematic gaming experience. Some titles, like Phantasmagoria and the infamous Night Trap, didn’t really give players very much to do and had very basic gameplay – typically puzzles and simple navigation – while almost entirely relying on pre recorded footage. Although some games used the technology much more sparingly with cinematic cutscenes in between the gameplay, these games still weren’t exactly the type of thing that most actors wanted on their filmography. Nowadays it’s very different. Many AAA titles have the budgets and selling power of a big blockbuster movie, and more and more actors are eager to perform in this new artistic medium.
10. Christopher Walken – True Crime: Streets of LA
Like the game itself, Christopher Walken’s voice performance in True Crime definitely falls into the “love it or hate it” category. True Crime was one of many crime open-world, sandbox games which followed in the wake of Grand Theft Auto III. Although it was kind of dopey and goofy, the game had its moments and boasted a pretty decent cast of actors which included Gary Oldman, Michelle Rodriguez and Michael Madsen, but the standout performance definitely has to be Christopher Walken. Although he sounds like he’s doing a weird impersonation of himself, Walken tries his hardest with the shaky dialogue and his attempt at the hardboiled introductory narration gives some hope that the writers put some effort into the game’s storyline (spoiler alert – they didn’t). This wasn’t the Oscar-winning actors first foray into the world of video games. In 1996, he starred in the interactive FMV point-and-click adventure Ripper where he gave a similarly nutso performance as a detective investigating a Jack the Ripper copycat killer running amok in New York City in 2040.
9. Joseph Kucan – Command & Conquer series
Admittedly, Joseph Kucan is by no means a big Hollywood actor and he is the least recognisable name on this list, but the actor deserves special mention for his role as Kane from the Command & Conquer games. The RTS series was one of the most popular early adopters of FMV and it incorporated live action cutscenes in between campaign missions to flesh out the world of Command & Conquer. The series went on to feature some big name actors such as J.K. Simmons, Tim Curry and Michael Ironside (as well as some dubious performances from the likes of David Hasselhoff and Randy Couture), but Kucan always stole the show as the bald, goateed NOD leader Kane. Kucan has been lending his acting talents to the series for more than 15 years and his memorable, scene-chewing portrayal of the evil mastermind antagonist has always been popular with fans.
8. Seth Green – Mass Effect series
The Mass Effect series is brimming with memorable characters, but Joker has the biggest personality of the bunch. The wise-cracking, self-aggrandizing pilot of the SSV Normandy could have easily been an obnoxious, annoying companion, but Seth Green’s vocal performance ensures that the character feels like an indispensable and always welcome presence throughout the sci-fi trilogy.
7. Elijah Wood – The Legend of Spyro series
A video game performance doesn’t have to be big and showy to stand out – sometimes a vocal performance is so memorable because the actor and character are so well matched. Elijah Wood lent his vocal talents for Spyro the Dragon in the rebooted ‘Legend’ series. Although the new series received a less than enthusiastic reception from gamers who preferred earlier outings of the character, there’s no denying that Wood’s soft, childlike voice was the perfect choice for the new journeys faced by the small but strong-willed and spirited purple dragon.
6. Kevin Spacey – Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Even the most apologetic Call of Duty fan will find it hard to argue with the fact that the 2013 release of COD: Ghosts was the latest in a series of disappointing games. The once promising shooter franchise had hit a rut and was churning out the same old features and gameplay which had once been so revolutionary and refreshing for the FPS genre. Thankfully, the recent release of Advanced Warfare was a return to form and it was helped in no small part by the motion capture performance provided by Kevin Spacey. The campaign still follows the big and silly summer blockbuster movie template which the series has always followed, but Spacey’s take on duplicitous evil mastermind Jonathan Irons makes the story feel fresh and new. Spacey brings real presence to the role and is clearly having a ball with the dark, conflicted character which, let’s face it, was clearly inspired by his Frank Underwood character from House of Cards.
5. Ron Perlman – Fallout series
Ron Perlman is one of the most hard-working actors in the business. Perlman has starred in a pretty steady stream of TV, movie and animation projects over the years, but he has also lent his acting talents to more than 25 video games. Although it’s probably not his ‘meatiest’ role, Perlman’s role as the narrator for all five Fallout games perfectly sets the tone for the classic post-apocalyptic RPG series. Introducing each game with the line “‘War…war never changes”, Perlman’s gravelly yet smooth voice instills the perfect balance of dread and intrigue as he sets the stage for life after the nuclear apocalypse.
4. Gary Oldman – Call of Duty: World at War & Black Ops
Gary Oldman is another seasoned actor who is no stranger to the world of video games. The British thesp has lent his voice to games like Medal of Honor, True Crime, Spyro and Fifth Element, but he is most fondly remembered for his role as Sgt Reznov in the Call of Duty series. A hardened Soviet soldier who accompanies players throughout the Russian conflict during the Second World War (and later features prominently in Black Ops as a captured POW), Oldman enthusiastically brings the grizzled badass Reznov to life and puts more spirit into his vocal performance than most actors can ever dream of.
3. Stephen Fry – Little Big Planet series
Media Molecule’s Little Big Planet is a warm and fuzzy celebration of creativity and sharing. English comedian, actor and all-round good egg Stephen Fry was the perfect choice for the narrator of the wonderful puzzle platformer series which embraced doing things differently and with lashings of fun. Fry’s dulcet tones and spirited enthusiasm served as a warm, comforting presence in the games and he even called in his old friend Hugh Laurie to provide the voice for the antagonist Newton in the latest next-gen installment Little Big Planet 3.
2. Andy Serkis – Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
No stranger to motion capture, British actor Andy Serkis was keen to lend his green suit skills to underrated action adventure game Enslaved: Odyssey to the West for the lead role of Monkey. Unlike most actors, Serkis was heavily involved in the game’s development and he was keen to prove that motion capture could elevate a typical voice acting performance. The results really do speak for themselves as the game was praised for its engaging cinematic story and the believable relationship between the main characters (actress Lindsay Shaw also provided motion capture alongside Serkis for the role of Trip).
1. Mark Hamill – Batman Arkham Asylum & Batman Arkham City
Mark Hamill was always going to have a hard time following up his iconic role as Luke Skywalker from the original Star Wars films, but the actor seemed to find his true calling in voice work. Hamill has starred in many video games and is probably best remembered for his contributions to the FMV-heavy Wing Commander series. However, his greatest role has to be as the Joker in Batman Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. Hamill first played the Joker in the Batman: Mask of the Phantasm cartoon from the early 90s and he has returned to the role time and time again over the years in many different Batman and DC Comics cartoons. So it should have really come as no surprise that he’d perfectly bring the eccentric villain to life for Rocksteady’s recent Batman games. Hamill’s performance is genuinely unhinged and unnerving, and it’s easy to see why so many fans think that the actor’s take on the iconic psychopath is the definitive interpretation of the Joker.