Say it like you mean it.
Voice Acting. It’s one of those elements about games you don’t really think about, unless its especially bad. And with the budgets of video games ever increasing, players now come to expect strong voice acting for their favourite video game characters. We don’t always get them – in fact, a lot of the voice acting gamers have had to put up with over the years has been utterly dreadful – but often the quality of the voice cast is what makes a difference between a story coming across as contrite and silly, and bewitchingly believable. There’s more to it than just a good cast, of course, but sometimes a good actor – or actress – can tip the scales.
So for this week’s Top 5, we’re celebrating the best of video game voice actresses.
5: Tara Strong
Notable performances: Seth Balmore (Lost Odyssey), Rikku (Final Fantasy X), Harley Quintell (Batman: Arkham City)
IMDB profile: Tara Strong
Canadian-born Tara Strong (nee Chanrendoff) is one of the most prolific voice actresses in the business; particularly known for her work in various cartoon series (including kid’s favourites Kim Possible and Rugrats, as well as The New Batman Adventures). But it’s video game work we’re looking at here, and her portfolio is diverse and impressive: She’s strong-willed and spunky as Final Fantasy X’s Rikku, stern and commanding as Ninja Gaiden’s Rachel, and really got to flex her versatility as Seth Balmore in Mistwalker’s powerful Lost Odyssey. It’s her performance as Harley Quintell in Batman: Arkham City that deserves perhaps the most respect, as she fills the boots of prior actress, the very talented Arleen Sorkin, with surprising ease.
4: Claudia Black
Notable performances: Chloe Frazer (Uncharted series), Morrigan (Dragon Age series), Samantha Byrne (Gears of War 3)
IMDB profile: Claudia Black
Claudia Black is probably best known for her live action roles in the likes of Farscape, Stargate SG-1 and Pitch Black, but her voice acting career is equally impressive if not more so. The Australian actress put in stellar performances as the wild Morrigan in Dragon Age: Origins, and as the chipper and wisecracking Sam Byrne in Gears of War 3, but it’s her performance as Chloe Frazer in Uncharted 2 that most fans will remember her for. The smart, sassy, and enigmatic Brit was a great counterpoint to the smartass Nathan Drake, and it’s mostly down to the excellent direction and casting that made the relationship work as well as it did.
3: Ali Hillis
Notable performances: Lightning (Final Fantasy XIII), Liara T’soni (Mass Effect series), Jessica Sherawat (Resident Evil: Revelations)
IMDB profile: Ali Hillis
Ali Hillis is a relative newcomer to the world of voice acting, her first foray into the field coming in the Xenosaga games as Shelley Godwin, but her ‘breakthrough’ role in the field was as Dr Liara T’soni in Mass Effect. Since then she’s become synonymous with the character, as well as with Final Fantasy XIII’s Lightning, though anime fans might know her best as the voice of Karin in Naruto. She’s proved versatile in all of her roles, though; going from the soft-spoken, somewhat naive Liara to tough girl Lightning is no small step, but it’s her ability to infuse a character with passion and emotion that sees her take the number 3 slot in this list.
2: Laura Bailey
Notable performances: Serah Farron (Final Fantasy XIII-2), Catherine (Catherine), Kaine (NIER), Rayne (Bloodrayne)
IMDB profile: Laura Bailey
Laura Bailey is one of the unsung heroines of voice acting. She has an enormous list of credits to her name, yet so many are in games that aren’t hugely well known, or have dedicated cult followings, that her name is even less well known than those of many lesser voice actors and actresses. What truly impresses about Laura is her range; she’s played the sweet and innocent girl (FFXIII’s Serah, Star Ocean: The Last Hope’s Reimi), tough-as-nails warrioress (NIER’s Kaine, Street Fighter’s Chun Li), and the saucy seductress (Bloodrayne and Catherine). She’s even put in the occasional oddball performance, like Sakura War’s hot-headed Texan Gemini Sunrise. And what makes her so good as a voice actress is that she’s equally convincing in any of her roles – in fact, one look through her resumé and you’ll probably be surprised at how many times you’ve heard her voice and never realised it.
1: Jennifer Hale
Notable performances: Commander Shepard (Mass Effect series), Samus Aran (Metroid series) Bastila Shan (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic)
IMDB profile: Jennifer Hale
It’s practically impossible to think about video game voice actresses and not think of Jennifer Hale. Her video game credits are extensive, but it was as Metal Gear Solid’s Dr Naomi Hunter in 1998 that she first came to the attention of many gamers. She’s had many roles over the years, and her voice lends itself well to emotive dialogue, imbuing her characters with empathy and believability. Her role in BioWare’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic as Bastila Shan was particularly well-received, and many gamers will know her as the voice of Metroid’s Samus Aran. She’s less recognisable – yet equally brilliant – as Bulletstorm’s potty-mouthed Trishka. But perhaps her most prominent role has been as female Commander Shepard in the Mass Effect series, where she excels at providing Shepard with both soft-spoken kindness and reckless aggression. Hale’s versatility is impressive, but it’s exceeded by her consistency as an actress, and that’s why she takes the number 1 slot in this week’s Top 5.
Agree? Disagree? Think of someone we missed? Tell us in the comments!