The world of gaming often utilises the best of many worlds, music and film included. We covered the best Gaming OST's a few weeks back, now our focus has moved onto the best gaming characters voiced or played by Hollywood notables!
Music, film, and gaming are three industries that, while separate entities, occasionally cross-over in favourable conditions. As I write this, Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg are featuring in the huge Hollywood-based Uncharted movie coming in 2022 – the emulsifying of game and movie is a big deal! On the flip side, plenty of film actors have featured in popular gaming titles, sometimes overtly as main characters and other times in the background as voice actors. Regardless of to what extent, to celebrate and give credit to some of the industry mergers we thought we’d collate a list of the best thespian appearances in video games! In no particular order, here we go!
Sam Bridges - Death Stranding
Few games have such an esteemed character cast as Hideo Kojima’s intricate Sci-Fi epic Death Stranding, James Bond actors Lea Seydoux and Mads Mikkelsen take the voice and visuals of two main characters within the game and even Conan O’Brien makes a spectral appearance. That said, our focus today will be on protagonist Sam Porter Bridges, a courier played by The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus who roams the remains of the planet to deliver resources to surviving cities known as Knots. Reedus wonders the open-world game contending with umbral and immaterial beings known as Beached Things only to then be plunged into a responsibility of care. How will he fare now he is not alone? You can read more of Reedus and Death Stranding here, in the meantime though we can deem the cast of Death Stranding as one of the most famed video game casts in the industry’s history.
Rachel - House of Ashes
Quite the journey it has been for Ashley Tisdale; beginning as the sassy Sharpay in High School Musical and now entering the gloomy world of horror video gaming as the character Rachel of The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes. Following Will Poulter’s feature in Little Hope, Tisdale is such an integral part of House of Ashes, the third Dark Pictures title out of eight, that she is the game’s marketing cover character! How neat is that? The game throws a group of American military personnel, Rachel included, into a subterranean nightmare as the group find themselves trapped in the Tomb of Alexander the Great, a Mesopotamian temple cursed by the gods. A single glance at the game cover below can tell you all you need to know about how that goes, poor Sharpay. If you’d like to know more about the game, take a look at our article covering the interactive horror game here.
Josh Washington - Until Dawn
What came before The Dark Pictures and Ashley Tisdale? Rami Malek in Until Dawn did! Built again by Supermassive Games, the Bond villain, Papillon abettor and Freddie Mercury impersonator Malek dives into the character of Josh Washington as his friendship group is ripped apart by a group of unwelcoming and rather bloodthirsty beings. Worse still, the Mountain Lodge the group is staying at is rocked by a violent storm. It would be, wouldn’t it? You can’t have a horror game set on an affable summer’s evening, can you? Malek’s performance in the game that preceded The Dark Pictures series was absolutely fantastic – fantastic enough to kickstart an equally-as-gruesome horror series!
The Joker - Batman
I recall being thoroughly irritated by the Joker in Batman Arkham Knight – his ubiquitous apparition and interminable buoyancy tormented me throughout the game. I feel differently about the character after learning that the man behind the makeup was actually Mark Hamill aka Luke Skywalker! Am I the only one who didn’t know that? As it turns out, Hamill has been voicing the Joker since the early 90’s, going from galactic superhero to global villain over the course of a few decades! It is said that you either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become a villain! Good on you for epitomising that quote Hamill!
Johnny Silverhand - Cyberpunk 2077
Who’s breath-taking? I think you know the answer. It’s Keanu Reeves, of course – who else? The beloved star of films like The Matrix, John Wick, Speed and Point Break was approached to feature as cunning Samurai mentor Johnny Silverhand in CD Projekt Red’s futuristic behemoth Cyberpunk 2077. A Rockstar turned terrorist, Silverhand somewhat guides our journey throughout the neon Night City. Though his role is not as a main character, the casting of Keanu Reeves in a video game will go down in history as one of the most iconic film-game crossovers if not one of the best marketing strategies of all time! Seeing the now-57-year-old as Silverhand will never not be really, really cool. Can we get more of Keanu in video games please?
Daniel Lazarski - Observer
If you have ever played the futuristic Sci-Fi horror title Observer, you’ll be able to recognise instantly how it draws inspiration from many of the genre's classic entries, notably Blade Runner. How would you pay your homage to such a prestigious film? Easy. Cast the legend that is Rutger Hauer, the man who plays replicant Roy Batty in the film as your main character. Well, that is precisely what the guys at Bloober Team did! Hauer voices the lead character Daniel Lazarski, a detective in 2084 Krakow, as he investigates a crime committed in a community of Hologram addicts leftover from a viral nanophage! Hauer’s Lazarski finds himself inextricably connected to this series of mysteries; the plot of Observer ensues. Hauer’s appearance in Observer was one of his final voice-acting roles – what a brilliant way to pay respects to his career!
Anton Castillo - Far Cry 6
Few video game characters have been so well developed as Giancarlo Esposito’s Anton Castillo. The Breaking Bad star put in a real shift when playing Far Cry 6’s Yaran dictator; you can’t help but despise the terrifying tyrannical despot who subjects the tropical island to misery - that is how powerful Esposito’s performance in the game is. I guess it pays off to get an illustrious actor on set! Irrespective of Castillo’s crimes, a conflicting sense of respect inevitably follows the character. Why? Esposito, that’s why!
Emhyr Var Emreis - The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
On the subject of long venerated actors voicing video game characters, do you remember Emhyr Var Emreis from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt? Known as the White Flame or Duny, Emhyr was the emperor of Nilfgaard and King of Cintra, he was also the father of Cirilla, a central character in the plot arc of the game. You already knew all of this – OK – but did you know that Emhyr was voiced by Charles Dance, the English gentlemen perhaps best known for portraying Tywin Lannister on Game of Thrones? Now that you know, you can just picture Mr Dance as Emhyr, can’t you? He’s perfect for the taciturn and murderous nature of the Niflgaardian emperor. Wild Hunt was Charles’ first taste of video gaming which he called ‘it’s quite exciting actually…a thing that appeals to quite discerning adults.’ Not the most obvious cameo but certainly a satisfying one from Dance!
Viktor Reznov - Call of Duty: Black Ops
Truth be told I really had no idea what I was getting my poor brain in for when I began this article. One of the first shooter games I played in a mature way was Call of Duty: Black Ops – what a phenomenal game that was! Alex Mason and the Cuban mysteries, Zombies and Vorkuta – just incredible. The beloved and complex character of Viktor Reznov was the icing on the cake; he will live on in our minds forever as unequivocally one of the best COD characters to have graced the series. But did you know that he was voiced by Gary Oldman? Mind blown! The legend that voiced Gordon in the Batman Trilogy, portrayed Winston Churchill in the Darkest Hour and gave an unforgettable performance in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Oldman describes Reznov as ‘a bit of an adrenaline junkie’ and says Black Ops ‘was his Vietnam movie…kind of’. Oldman is directly responsible for Reznov going down in gaming history, a character written and performed to perfection. I think it might be time for me to finally re-visit Call of Duty: Black Ops just so I can revel in Oldman’s performance.
Lucy Stillman - Assassin's Creed
The penultimate thespian to appear in video games list is Kristen Bell. Yeah, I know! Slightly surprising, right? One of the leading faces in American chick-flick and comedy films is Kristen Bell, but in the gaming world she voices (and loosely resembles) the headstrong character of Lucy Stillman in the first three Assassin’s Creed games. Stillman is a member of the Assassin’s Order and an integral part of the workings of Abstergo’s Animus Project, allowing us to exploit the genetic memories of distantly related individuals and delve into such stories from Ezio Auditore, Altair, Bayek and Alexios. As rumour has it, Stillman was killed off due to a dispute between Kristen Bell and the Assassin’s Creed team – so is it animus, or animosity? Either way, Bell’s starring in the holy Assassin’s Creed series still goes some way to demonstrate the potential magic that occurs when film and game meet in the middle.
Kent Paul - GTA Grand Theft Auto
You might be hard-pressed to remember this fella; he has a voice that does really stand out in Miami among the Haitians in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City though. Kent Paul, who worked closely with Burt Reynolds' Texan mogul Avery Carrington, was an enigmatic young dude with a respectable tenure within the crime syndicate; Paul seemed to have connections everywhere and was pretty sure of himself as a result. Despite looking a lot like Eye Ball Paul, the smug mobster was voiced by none another than British geezer Danny Dyer, how mad is that? This was even before Dyer appeared in 'The Business'! Well, the more you know eh! If your memory fails you, you'll get to see Kent Paul in the recently released GTA Trilogy Definitive Edition! 'appy days darlin'!
Who else would you love to see in a video game? More Hollywood icons are destined to feature in the next decade’s biggest gaming entries, but who? I personally would love to see Christian Bale voice a role, his achievements in the film industry are so broad that he is not tied to a specific role as many are – he would be perfect in a video game. We’ve seen some merging of the two industries fail miserably: Peter Dinklage's AI role in Destiny flopped like a lead balloon for whatever reason yet such an occurrence is rare. Why not partner the best of development and writing with the best of performance and depiction going forward? It is a match made in heaven!