10 geek actors who do stand-out video game voice acting

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Jun 29, 2016, 1:10 PM EDT

Most of us know actor Christopher Judge as the character Teal’c in Stargate. But soon gamers who have enjoyed the God of War series will know him as Kratos. That’s because Judge —who previously worked on World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor — has been tapped to voice the Ghost of Sparta.

Judge isn’t the only geek actor to have appeared in a video game, and in fact there have been so many that this list is far from comprehensive. But here are 10 geek actors who have appeared in critically acclaimed games, plus a list of some need-to-hear performances.

If you want a complete list that matches the video game to the actor, I highly recommend the database Behind the Voice Actors.

My research shows that video games have used synthesized voices since 1980, with Wizard of Wor, and the first game that used a human voice was Dragon’s Lair. (If anyone knows otherwise, please let me know in the comments.) But with Dragon’s Lair, instead of hiring a voice actor, the game used the voice of sound editor Dan Molina.

Note: Because it's difficult to rank these characters in terms of fabulousness, I'm ranking them in alphabetical order.


Sean Bean - The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion

Wait, I know that voice from somewhere:
Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

In The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, all of the emperor’s heirs are killed -- all but one, Martin, a monk. It’s up to the protagonist to seek him out. Sean Bean brings the same intensity that he brings to all of his characters, and most everything he says sounds important.

Unlike most of Bean’s characters, which are tragi-heroic, Martin is just plain nice. As for Bean’s history of playing characters who die, you can play the game to see if history repeats itself, even in the world of Tamriel.



Claudia Black - Dragon Age series

Wait, I know that voice from somewhere:
Farscape, Stargate

Claudia Black’s ex-Peacekeeping Aeryn Sun is one of the many reasons we loved Farscape. But I argue she’s an even better voice actress. In her role as Morrigan in the Dragon Age series, she created a character who is neither good nor evil, merely self-interested and driven. You can hear her superiority drip off of each word. 

Near the end of Dragon Age: Origins, Morrigan asks the protagonist to make a startling decision. (Really, I couldn’t believe my ears.) Because of Black's arrogant performance, I understood why she put the protag in an impossible situation.

You can also hear Black -- who is my favorite female voice actor next to Ellen McLain--in Uncharted 2 and 3, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, and God of War, among others.


Charles Dance - Witcher 3

Wait, I know that voice from somewhere:
Game of Thrones, Alien 3, The Last Action Hero

The Witcher 3, an RPG of amazing complexity, tells the tale of Geralt of Rivia, a monster hunter known as a “witcher.” In this 2015 game, Emperor Emhyr — voiced by Charles Dance — asks Geralt to find a woman named Ciri, who happens to be his long-lost daughter.

If you’ve seen Dance as Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones, you’ll recognize the commanding tone. But somehow Emhyr comes across as far less imperious than Tywin ever did. Considering Emhyr is a freakin’ emperor, it’s a nifty acting choice on Dance’s part.


Seth Green - Mass Effect series

Wait, I know that voice from somewhere: 
Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The Mass Effect series was filled with characters who joined Commander Shepard on his/her (your choice) adventures. Not Joker, voiced by Seth Green. He frequently stays behind in the ship, the Normandy. Because Mass Effect was nothing if not thorough, we learn an in-game reason why.

Joker does eventually get his ass out of the chair and even manages a romance with an AI. Green brings confidence, humor, and a touch of attitude to the role. 

Note: Mass Effect is only a fraction of Green’s voiceover work. You can hear him on Robot Chicken (among others), a show he’s worked on since 2005.


Mark Hamill - Arkham games

Wait, I know that voice from somewhere: 
Star Wars IV, V, VI, VII

For some people, the Joker will always be embodied by the actor Heath Ledger; for others, Jack Nicholson or even Cesar Romero. But for gamers (and animation fans), the Joker will always be synonymous with Mark Hamill. Between appearances as Luke Skywalker, Hamill made a name for himself as the Clown Prince of Crime.

Hamill voiced the Joker in The New Batman Adventures and The Justice League, among others. But the video game world knows him for his role in the knock-out Arkham series. Listen to his performance of a character who caresses evil like a prized possession, then compare it to his most famous role. After years of vocal work -- not to mention video game roles like Wing Commander III -- Hamill has developed a range from high-pitched giggling to low, menacing threats. Bravo, Hamill. You’re a voice-acting champ.

Note: Hamill will be reprising the Joker for the last time in the upcoming animated film, The Killing Joke.


Chloe Grace Moretz - Dishonored

Wait, I know that voice from somewhere:
Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2

In the steampunk’d city of Dunwall, the empress is murdered, and her bodyguard, the protagonist Corvo, must avenge her, as well as protect her daughter, Emily. But it’s not easy being Dishonored, just as it’s not easy being orphaned Emily, who is voiced by young actress Chloe Grace Moretz.

The best thing about Moretz’ performance is that we hear the character of Emily evolve as the game progresses. Although she starts as a happy child, she soon becomes a blood-thirsty seeker of the throne. In the beginning of the game, she wants Corvo to play a game of hide and seek; later, she greets Corvo with the lines, “Did you kill anybody tonight? How many?” Moretz is equally convincing in all temperaments of the character.


Kate Mulgrew - Dragon Age series

Wait, I know that voice from somewhere:
Star Trek: Voyager

Flemeth is the Witch of the Wilds and Morrigan’s mother (Flemeth raised her, anyway) in the Dragon Age series. She’s also a magic-wielding immortal of great power and minimal conscience. Morrigan gets her superiority from Flemeth...who is much more than she seems.

Mulgrew handles the character well, but I have a small problem with her performance: It reminds oh-so-slightly of her role as Arachnia, Queen of the Spider People, in the Voyager episode, “Bride of Chaotica.” But as that’s perhaps my favorite episode of Voyager, it kinda makes me like Flemeth more.


Liam Neeson - Fallout 3

Wait, I know that voice from somewhere: 
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Batman Begins

Liam Neeson voices our father in Fallout 3, an RPG that takes place after a nuclear apocalypse, based on the future of the early 1950s (with the soundtrack to prove it). Although he typically plays commanding characters with a particular set of skills, here his character is a kindly scientist.

When you hear some video game characters, you think, “Wait, I know that voice from somewhere.” But when it came to Neeson’s character James in Fallout 3, it was obvious from the beginning that the voice belonged to Qui-Gon Jinn Neeson. That turned out to be a problem for some gamers, as they were thrown out of the immersion they crave in a game experience.


Ellen Page - Beyond: Two Souls

Wait, I know that voice from somewhere: 
X-Men series, Inception

Ellen Page didn’t just lend her voice in Beyond: Two Souls to the role of Jodie, a young woman who is followed by a spirit named Aiden. Her face and body were digitized with the most sophisticated motion-capture technology of 2013.

In this “interactive drama” game, which plays like a choose-your-own-adventure book brought to life, we follow Jodie through her complex choices, which include assassination and escape from the life the government has forced her to lead. Of course, the hyper-talented Page kills it, making me sympathetic for in good times (meeting her new family) and bad (on the run). But when you consider her performance in Hard Candy, you know she’s one of the more expressive actresses on the big screen and the monitor today.



Sam Witwer - Star Wars: The Force Unleashed I and II

Wait, I know that voice from somewhere:
Being Human, Battlestar Galactica, Smallville

Thanks to mo-cap technology, Witwer lends both his voice and his face to the character of Starkiller, Darth Vader’s secret apprentice. In the 2008 game The Force Unleashed, Vader uses Starkiller to do his bidding. The apprentice’s tasks include assembling an army to oppose the Emperor…and ultimately learning about the light side of the Force. When Witwer wasn’t turning Starkiller into a sympathetic character with his terrific performance, he was doubling as the voice of the Emperor--here and in Battlefront III.

The Force Unleashed may look slightly dated now, but it was one of my absolute favorite games on the PS3. I highly recommend it. (The 2010 sequel? Not so much.)

Other geek actors and their roles

Other notable roles include:

- Lena Headey: Dishonored

- Andy Serkis: Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

- Sir Patrick Stewart: The Elder Scroll IV: Oblivion

- John de Lancie: Quantum Conundrum

A shout out to:

- Tim Curry, who appeared not just as a voice but as a whole body in Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3

- Peter Dinklage, who was replaced entirely from Destiny