Written by Michael Sum of Voquent.com, an amazing site that helps you find the perfect voice actor for your project. Be sure to check them out if you enjoy this article.
Voice acting is a bastion of video games media. For decades, it has been the standard to include
voice acting performances. It can be utilised to voice characters through to narration.
The role of a quality voiced performance should be to enhance the gaming experience by better
emphasising story, tutorials, and instruction. However, this is certainly not always the case.
Voice acting talent can bring a game in line with the greatest cinematic masterpieces. Yet, it can also
be outright laughable when roles sound unprofessional and poorly acted.
That is why I am exploring the voice acting roles in this article. To praise the best, to study the worst,
and to stand in awe of the most unconventional and so-bad-its-good voice acting in video games.
Also let’s remember, this is all in good fun. Voice acting is a difficult profession, and a bad performance could be down to countless reasons. So while its funny to laugh at poor acting, let’s try
to not be mean.
Best – Commander Shepard (Femshep)– Jennifer Hale – Mass Effect
Let’s kick things off with an obvious one. There are few characters that are as recognisable to gamers
than Commander Shepard. The Hero of the Citadel, The first Human Spectre, Saviour of the Galaxy.
To bring such a competent military commander to life requires an incredible voice actor. This is
doubly true, as they must voice paragon and renegade interpretations of the character. While Mark
Meer performs incredibly well in the role as Shepard, Jennifer Hale’s Femshep is at the heart of this
Shepard may be a hero, but the performance for the character had to be military. Stern and
calculated, yet idealistic and personable. Commander Shepard needed to be someone who sounded
like they were ready to save the galaxy from the Reapers or die trying. Jennifer Hale’s acting
certainly captured the powerful voice that Mass Effect needed.
Jennifer Hale is a voice acting veteran, which was the perfect choice for someone voicing the female
alternative to a character. Where such a character would have traditionally been considered a
secondary choice, Hale brought Femshep to the forefront.
Femshep being embraced by the gaming community was an excellent step in the right direction to
offering more player gender options in gaming. This has since become much more common in
voiced roles, such as Cyberpunk 2077, Assassin’s Creed, and Call of Duty.
Worst – Dr. Light– Jack Evans – Mega Man
The first of the worst on our list is an infamous classic: Dr. Light in Mega Man 8.
If there is any testament to the necessity of multiple takes, it can be found here. The performance in
for the English dub of Mega Man 8 was undeniably not given a thorough treatment. This scene
showcases it in hilarious form.
The words are slurred, his delivery is awkward, and each syllable seems noticeably unrefined
whenever Dr. Light speaks.
All tension is removed from the scene as Jack Evan’s unfortunate performance plays out. You can’t
help but be dragged out of what is being said by how it is being said.
It is hard not to want to burst out laughing when he stutters prior to saying Mega Man’s name,
almost as if he had forgotten the name of his own robot son!
It is worth remembering that the lack of proper direction, casting and re-takes is at the heart of this
problem. Not just the performance.
At least it is memorable!
Weird – Narrator– Kevin Brighting – The Stanley Parable
This game is a marvel. It truly is bizarre. The game’s objective is simple, do what the narrator
instructs you to do. This will unfold a generic story, narrated and told by Kevin Brighting.
But let’s face it. No one actually does that. No, the true experience of The Stanley Parable can be
found in disobeying the narrator at every turn.
The narrator reacts to every minute action (or inaction) that the player undertakes in reaction to the
narrator’s instructions. This even includes standing in a broom closet. Seriously.
BAFTA nominee Kevin Brighting elevates this game to incredible status. The ability for the Narrator
to remain engaging and interesting is central to the success of this game. Finding out how your next
action invites the scorn or a quip from Brighting is the real reason to play.
The dry humour that Brighting brings to the role is tremendously funny to witness. While you move
from objective to objective, the demeanour that Brighting embodies makes you feel like a rat in a
maze. An experiment in some omnipotent being’s storytelling exercise.
This game is such a unique experience, where every move is anticipated by the developer. It is worth
playing for Kevin Brighting’s narration alone.
Best – Ellie– Ashley Johnson – The Last of Us
No one is surprised to see a character from Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us franchise up here. It is well-
known that these games provide industry-leading quality both in the quality of the animation, 3D
models and the voice acting.
While Troy Baker’s work as Joel is superb, it is the character of Ellie that I believe is the standout in
Honestly, child characters can be so annoying in video games. Escort missions, annoying dialogue,
useless gameplay additions and bad voice acting has lead to child characters garnering notoriety as a
red flag. Therefore, Ashley Johnson had her work cut out for her in order to make Ellie the emotional
centre piece of TLoU.
She did this wonderfully by not shying away from the character’s rough edges. Despite being a child,
which is obvious, Ellie acts like an adult. The post-apocalyptic nightmare that the game is set in is the
only world she has ever known. All the nuances of child-like demeanour spliced in with de-sensitivity
to death and murder are captured in Johnson’s performance.
Worst – Goldman– Unknown – House of the Dead 2
It is difficult to put together the words necessary to describe this one. Once you have watched this
video from House of the Dead 2 which compiles Goldman’s dialogue, you will understand.
Every single line is flat, almost as though computer generated. Words are emphasised in nonsensical
places, in each sentence.
This is almost definitely a consequence of the arcade-game genre. House of the Dead 2 isn’t really
looking to spin a story to make you cry (other than with laughter). But did it have to be this bad. In a
time period where games like Metal Gear Solid existed, with its Hollywood style cinematics, it seems
outlandish that this could pass as professional voice acting.
It’s hard not to enjoy the dialogue from Goldman, in that cringey-funny kind of way…
Weird – James Sunderland– Guy Cihi– Silent Hill 2
Understanding why Guy Cihi’s voice acting as James Sunderland is perfect is no simple measure. In
all honesty, I could go on all day about why this role is so eerily ideal, but I will have to try to express
it in less. We have a list to work on, after all!
James’ voice acting isn’t necessarily good in any traditional sense. His delivery is flat, he lacks any
enthusiasm, and the quality of the audio isn’t great. For all intents and purposes, this should be one
of the bad.
But the fact is that, because of these ineptitudes, the performance absolutely perfect.
James Sunderland has travelled to the town of Silent Hill, where he spent the best time of his life
with his late-wife Mary. He has come here to end his life, as he cannot bear how he cannot live
without Mary yet despised her for how she burdened him at the end of her life.
The guilt and grief that James carries with him allowed him to convince himself that she was waiting
for him there. The town of Silent Hill spiritually tapped into James, transporting him into a foggy Hell
of his own psyche. A Hell that preys on his guilt to force him to stop running and realise the truth.
I state all this as its important to his character. He must seem confused, lost, depressed, alone and
cowardly. These nuances are captured by Guy’s remarkable ability to express a character who is
unremarkable and utterly meaningless. This is a performance that transcends the barriers of good
and bad to make it a really weird example.
So much so that the technically superior HD re-release’s voice acting is universally disregarded in
favour of the classic version. This is in spite of the fact the HD version has a great cast of A-list voice
actors, like Troy Baker.
Best – Arthur Morgan – Roger Clark– Red Dead Redemption 2
Rockstar may only release a game a generation these days, but when they do release one, boy does
it knock your socks off. It should be of no surprised then that a Rockstar character made this list.
Red Dead Redemption is a franchise with multiple strong characters, John Marston, Dutch Van der
Linde, Sadie Adler and more. But I feel that Arthur Morgan stands hands and shoulders above the
A cowboy whose existence is threatened by the encroachment of East American civilization, Arthur’s
way of life is at an end. On one hand, you have a character who benefits from robbery and thievery;
the other a man who wants to live outside of the hand of government and rules.
While he comes across as little more than muscle, Arthur is particularly philosophical and thoughtful
in his mind. While few of his thoughts are made public to anyone but the player, there is more than
meets the eye with him. This becomes clearer across the game, as he seeks some form of retribution
or, dare I say it, redemption.
Roger Clark worked on Red Dead Redemption 2 for 5 years, so his mastery of Arthur Morgan as a
character is advanced. And it shows. This is simply one of the most believable game characters, who
is brought to life, incredibly, by Clark.
It is no wonder that Roger Clark won The Game Award 2018’s best performance award.
Worst – Various characters – Chaos Wars
While there is something enjoyable about the mess that is the English dub of Chaos Wars, the voice
acting is just so bad. Everything from the inflection of words to the tones of voices is completely off
in scenes that are supposed to be tense and emotional.
(Note from Baden: Okay, seriously, this is just…I have no words. This is what happens when you persuade your family to act in your game for free.)
There must be some direction problems behind the scenes, not to mention casting problems for this
end result. In fact, it is speculated that the voice actors in this game were non-professionals, sourced
by their relation to the production team. Which is why some of the voices share surnames with
those who worked on the game’s localisation. But that is speculation, so you didn’t hear it from me.
All in all, what is an obvious fact is that these performances are just subpar for a video game.
Especially when its an RPG that lives and dies by its ability to tell an engaging story.
While the game as amassed quite a cult following, as a response to its unbelievably poor voice acting
work, I can’t help but feel it would start to grind on me at the 14th hour mark.
Weird – Francis York Morgan – Jeff Kramer – Deadly Premonition
Where does one begin with Deadly Premonition? Well… The game is from the mind of Goichi Suda,
more commonly known as SUDA51. SUDA51 is an unusual mind, to say the least. So unusual that he
practically remade David Lynch’s 1990s television show Twin Peaks in the form of Deadly
The setup for the voice acting in this game seems like a recipe for disaster. Scenes are incredibly
awkward, voice actors seem dazed and the script makes every sound like a bizarre caricature of a
character. But that is the point.
The humour of this game is derived, in part, from how utterly ridiculous everything in it is. The
assistant to Mr. Stewart always talks in rhyme, the game looks like its dragged from the PS2 era,
characters overexpress their emotions, and Francis York Morgan is a total weirdo.
Here he is seen delivering an over-the-top analysis of a man’s lunch, before he falls in love with it
I put this in the weird section because this game is universally loved by fans. Its existence is unique
and the bad performances actually add to the overall experience, as if they were intended to be
The game’s story is rather enjoyable as well. It is hard to not be pulled into the utter strangeness of
the world of Deadly Premonition. All the eccentricities of the characters are amplified by the weird
voice acting and the even weirder everything else.
Those are my picks for the best, worst and weirdest voice acting performances in video games. This
is living proof that voice acting can be incredible, as well as proof that it can be incredibly difficult to
It is doubtless that there are way more out there that I haven’t seen. Please help me rectify this and
comment below if you have any suggestions.