The 8 Ball 2.05.13: Top 8 Video Game Voice Actresses
Welcome to another edition of The 8 Ball. Last week’s topic was on top voice actors, and so as a good companion to that list, this week’s is on top voice actresses. Like with last week’s list, I tried to pick women who have a large body of work, derive a lot of jobs in the video game world, or have not a lot of credits, but excel in their characters. I have an interview below with one of the women on this list as well. Let’s begin:
8. Michelle Ruff
Michelle Ruff has been in a ton of games over the past 15 years but remains somewhat on the fringe side. She tends to be in a lot of games but often goes uncredited in the games, so you don’t often know it’s her that is voicing a character in the game that you’re playing. Her most notable characters are probably Etna (taking over for Amanda Winn Lee in the first game) in the Disgaea series, Crimson Viper in Street Fighter 4 (and everything else C. Viper related), Katherine in Catherine, as well as a list of other credits for supporting characters. She may not be that well known in gaming circles, opposed to anime circles, but Michelle Ruff is a good voice actress with a lot of potential.
7. Tara Strong
I can almost hear the legions of Batman, My Little Pony and Powerpuff Girls fans screaming about the relatively low placing of Tara Strong on this list. Don’t get me wrong she is a superb voice actress but she doesn’t tend to do a lot of video game voice work, as compared to some people further down. She tends to stick with tv work, which is probably more regular and scheduled. Still, Mrs. Strong has accumulated dozens of credits in video games with roles in Ninja Gaiden (Rachel), the titular Fat Princess, taking over as Harley Quinn in Arkham City, and more. Her most recent big credit was Juliet in Lollipop Chainsaw, where she did a great job in the role.
6. Natalie Lander
Natalie Lander hasn’t been in as many games as a lot of other people on this list but her work in games has been stellar. Her most notable credit is as Kinzie Kensington in Saints Row 3. Seriously, this character was my favorite thing about the game and her voice work had about 90% to do with that. The other 10% obviously being the dildo bat Pierce finds in her room. She’s had other roles such as voicing Terra Branford in both Dissidia games, Pandora in God of War 3, and Kisala in Rogue Galaxy. I can only hope she’s in many more games, because I have a feeling I’ll enjoy her work in them all.
5. Kari Wahlgren
Kari Wahlgren is another anime voice actress who finds some serious work in doing video game work as well. With a laundry list of supporting roles, finding actual starring roles that she has done is a bit of a challenge. Notable credits include her being a voice of Jill Valentine in MvC3 and UMvC3, Elizabeth Greene in Prototype, the titular Jeanne in Jeanne d’Arc, as well as Kasumi in the eary Dead or Alive games. Like Michelle Ruff though, if you’ve played a game in the past decade, you can probably find Kari Wahlgren voicing a character or two in it, somewhere.
4. Jennifer Hale
This might also be a controversial choice, like with Tara Strong, but hear me out. Jennifer Hale is one of the more famous video game voice actresses, voicing such characters as Female Shepard in Mass Effect “FemShep”, Leah in Diablo 3, Ophelia in Brutal Legend, Emma Emmerich in MGS 2, Bastila Shan in KOTOR, and many, many more. The relative problem I have is that a large majority of her voices sound eerily similar to each other. Bastila sounds like Leah, which sounds like a slightly deeper FemShep, and so on. She just has a really recognizable voice that is used quite frequently as main characters. This lets you hear how much they are the same in some roles. Still, she is an accomplished voice actress with a ton of credits and a large body of work.
3. Laura Bailey
Laura Bailey has an impressive list of credits ranging from support roles to main character work. Her supporting roles involve characters like Rise (in Persona 4), Vera Keyes in Fallout: NV, Blaze the Cat in recent Sonic games, Jania Proudmore (WoW: WotLK) and so on. But really, it’s her starring roles that make her stand out. Where to begin: Chun-Li from Street Fighter 4 on, the female main character in Persona 3 Portable, Serah Farron in FF 13 and FF 13-2, Rayne in BloodRayne 1 and 2, the titular Catherine in Catherine, Young Trunks in the various DBZ games, and finally as the first female voice in Saints Row 3. With a credit list like this, it’s hard to imagine that she’ll do more, but with talent like hers, it’s hard to imagine she’ll ever stop.
2. Grey DeLisle
Grey DeLisle is an old-hat at doing voice work for video games. After doing it for almost 20 years, she’s been in over 100 games and likely will be in 100 more by the time the decade ends. She’s voiced such notable characters like Nova (Starcraft 2), the Female Wizard (Diablo 3), the Handmaiden (KOTOR 2), as well as a host of characters in Baldur’s Gate 2, as well as characters in all the Mass Effect games. To me, her standout role is Jeanette/Therese (and Tourette if you play your cards right), in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines. Jeanette/Therese were the break-out characters due to their popularity, with one of the reasons being the voice work of Grey DeLisle. There’s a playfulness that comes across in most of Mrs. DeLisle’s voices that is indicative of the humor the woman has herself. See her role as Catwoman in Arkham City for a good example of this.
1. Tara Platt
As the wife of the erstwhile Yuri Lowenthall from last week’s list, Mrs. Platt is extremely talented in her own right, and by my accounts even more talented than he is. She’s done voice work in a nice chunk of popular games be it MK vs DC (Wonder Woman), Persona 3 (Mitsuru and Elizabeth), Eternal Sonata (Claves), Hyperdimension Neptunia (Vert) and as Temari in the infinite number of Naruto games out there. Her stand out role (like with a few other women on this list) was in Saints Row, where she was the 2nd female voice, the Eastern-European/Russian voice. She absolutely nailed the accent, and kept it going throughout the entire game. One interesting fact is that she shares voicing the character of Jill Valentine with two other women on this list, Michelle Ruff, and Kari Wahlgren. Mrs. Platt is a great voice actress, through & through, and hopefully she’ll continue to work for years to come.
ARGH! This was a hard list! While we’re spoiled for choice with voice actors, voice actresses are really hard to come by. Ever harder is the task of finding any who have given voices to characters that really stand out.
Honorable mention: Jen Taylor — Okay, she’s Toad. Which is awesome. But she’s also Princess Peach, who I’d like to punch in the throat. And the Halo games have this bizarrely poor voice direction that causes you to remember that video game voices are recorded in isolated rooms, without other actors to bounce off of… while you’re playing the game. I wanted to see Cortana really break loose in Halo 4, but the vocal performance never quite got there. There were numerous places where lines of dialogue seemed noticeably poorly contextualized, but Cortana was supposed to carry the emotional core of the game… and didn’t. All of the ladies that follow have put in much better work… but Toad is still awesome.
8. Ali Hillis — She has a respectable list of credits to her name, but the one you likely know best is Dr. Liara T’Soni in the Mass Effect games. Liara’s distinct in games, because she doesn’t fall into one of the predictable screaming, grunting, squeaking, or swearing digital female voice stereotypes. It’s harder than you might think, playing a science nerd in a species of all-female omnisexual aliens.
7. Claudia Black — The absolute best voice actress to call when you want your character to sound exactly like Claudia Black. And there’s nothing wrong with that. She’s got a vocal tone that cuts through steel. And possibly a man’s testicles.
6. Kate Mulgrew — The absolute best voice actress to call when you want your character to sound exactly like Kate Mulgrew. But she’s got a pretty extensive voice acting resume with a lot of cool hits on it, like OMG Gargoyles cartoon! And she’s freakin’ Flemeth.
5. Ellen McLain — GLaDOS was a triumph. I’m making a note here: huge success…
4. Tricia Helfer — The best ship’s computer voice since Majel Roddenberry. Well, okay, she’s possibly better than Majel Roddenberry. Tricia Helfer didn’t start her career as much of an actress, voice or otherwise, but it’s been a real treat to watch her improve in leaps and bounds, even though she’s been somewhat typecast in the role of “sexy computer voice”. When she started on Battlestar Galactica, I never thought I’d be a Tricis Helfer fan, but I picked the green ending in Mass 3 just so Joker and EDI could have a happily ever after. Bravo.
3. Tara Strong — Did a better job on Harley Quinn than Arleen Sorkin. And she appears to be one of the few actresses doing voice work who is predominantly a voice actress, and doesn’t drop the craft whenever an on-camera role makes itself available, which makes her kind of one of my heroes.
2. Lani Minella — Okay, what she really wants to do is direct! Still, the voice of Ivy Valentine, Luke and Flora in Professor Layton, Sindel (Mortal Kombat 2011), and numerous other voices in cool games has incredible range, and I admit that part of the reason I played Ivy in the Soulcalibur games is to get away from the overeager squeaking of the female characters who are much easier to play.
1. Jennifer Hale — This may be a predictable top spot, but it’s its warranted, because there’s every other voice actress in the business, and then there’s Jennifer Hale. She’s the only woman that ever gets mentioned in discussions of voice “actors”, which is sad in a way, but she’s definitely earned that place in both games and cartoons. I was hesitant to put Hale as number 1 precisely because it’s a no-brainer, but the parts that put her over the top for me are Trishka Novak in Bulletstorm, Alex Roivas and Xel’oltah in Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem and Dynaheir in Baldur’s Gate. She was also sexy vampire lady Katrina in Quest for Glory IV and that game was made of cool (Although my favorite voice in that game was Domovoi.) Hale has a particular talent for quotable lines that get stuck in your head FOREVER, and being in awesome games that don’t get sequels… but that’s probably because she’s just in soooo many game. … … And now I want to play the Quest for Glory games again! They’re only Ten bucks on gog.com! … Oh man I’m a nerd.
1. How did you get your start in the voice actress business?
I booked my first radio commercial at the age of 9. My dad is an actor and I used to tag along to all of his auditions. One day his agent, Arlene Thornton, said, “Why don’t you hop in the booth and give it a try?” I did and I booked my first audition. I was hooked. And I’m still with the same agent, twenty years later!
2. Can you explain some of the process when you have to do a voice for a game? Does it differ from cartoons, or motion comics?
I don’t really have a process when it comes to my voice over work, or any of my acting work as a matter of fact. I’m always prepared and professional. In V/O you have the script in front of you so you don’t have to memorize lines. Every project is different. If I’m working on a game that was originally recorded in Japan, like Final Fantasy, I have to match my English words, to the original Japanese track, which can be difficult. But originating a character like Kinzie is fun because I have a lot more freedom.
3. Your first video game role was in Rogue Galaxy as one of the main characters. Was that intimidating in any way, with having such a large role for your first time?
It’s funny, when I got cast in Rogue, I had no clue that I was going to play the female lead of the game. Every other V/O gig I ever had was one session and then I was done. When I finished my first Rogue session, I said goodbye to everyone and they were like “Don’t say goodbye, we’ll be seeing you for the next year.” And I was like, “What??” Ha! I had no clue when I auditioned, that it was for the lead. It’s probably better that I didn’t know. I didn’t have time to doubt myself.
4. You’ve trained as a singer, in addition to being a vocal/television actress, would you like to incorporate singing into your voice work at some point?
I would love to incorporate my singing into all of my acting work. It would be a dream come true to be a part of something that would stretch all the different parts of me.
5. You’ve been attached to some of the biggest game franchises in all of gaming, Final Fantasy, God of War, Saints Row, does it feel meaningful for you to be a part of such successful franchises?
It is so cool that I’ve gotten to be a part of so many wonderful games. I joke that I’m the Natalie Portman of video games. But no one knows it when they see me, because it’s only my voice. It must be how Clark Kent feels when he’s not superman.
6. How did you get your roles in God of War and in Final Fantasy? Did your agent just call you up and say they offered it to you, or did you have to audition and meet with casting directors?
I auditioned for all of those games. Sometimes I audition in person and sometimes they just send a recording of me. I recently started recording the majority of my auditions from home. I use the Yeti mic and garage band to edit. It’s super easy. Unless my cat starts to meow.
7. You’re probably most well-known in games as playing Kinzie Kensington in Saints Row: The Third. Was that another job where you had to audition, or did the casting director think of you for the role? How did that specific process go, was it like other games, or did you get to interact with any of the other cast at all?
When I auditioned to play Kinzie, I recorded it at my agent’s office. They sent it in, and then months later I found out I booked it. I didn’t meet any of the creative team until I showed up to work.
8. On the Kinzie front, did you know the writers/game designers were making your character so funny? Not only in the lines you delivered but also the other characters’ reactions to Kinzie, and the in-jokes that surrounded her?
I did and I didn’t. The writer of the game, Steve Jaros, is a really funny guy, so anything that he writes is easy to say. But I’ve actually never played the game…eek! So I haven’t seen Kinzie in action.
9. Do you like to see the final results of the voice work you do?
So I’m really behind, and I don’t own a gaming console. I’ve never played any of the games I’ve voiced. But I love that people love the games and the characters so much. That’s worth it for me.
10. Are there any other voice actors, or actresses you’d like to work with?
I’ve had the chance to work with some majorly talented people. It’s amazing when you look at some voice actors on IMDB and they have like 300 credits! It’s crazy, I feel so lucky to be in the presence of their talent.
11. Alongside that, is there any character you wish you could voice, or be a part of a game series?
Well, if they ever make a live action Saint’s Row film, I will be on the front lines fighting to play Kinzie. She is so fun and dynamic, it would be a joy to bring her to life on screen.
12. And finally, do you have any news on Saints Row 4? Your character was the only female character that made it out alive of SR3 (in one of the endings, anyway).
I don’t have any news on SR4. But as soon as I do, I’ll give you the scoop.
I couldn’t come up with a super long list of other voice actresses that people might be upset about. The biggest one that isn’t on my list that people will probably be outraged by is Ellen Mclain. She’s a good voice actress but just hasn’t done a lot of voice work for other non-Valve related games. Here are a few other women I found for this list: Claudia Black, Jennifer Taylor, Megan Hollingshead, Ali Hilis, Erin Fitzgerald, Stephanie Sheh, Tricia Helfer, April Stewart, and Lori Alan.
The somewhat overwhelming complaint from last week was the lack of David Hayter. I give it up to the man that he does good work in the MGS games…but that’s all he does. Except for one credit for Eternal Darkness (voicing some guards), all his voice work has been confined to just being Solid Snake. There’s no range there (outside of MGS 4), because he’s always the same character. Keith David is a good choice also, but I haven’t heard him pop up recently, outside of Mass Effect. Also, I think Ray Liotta has only done voice work for GTA: Vice City, which is why he doesn’t make the cut.
Top 8 N64 Games
Top 8 Platformers