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The Voices Behind The Games

Everyone has their favorite video game character, whether it be Lara Croft, Nathan Drake, or Mario. Not everyone, however, knows the person behind the character — many of whom have fascinating careers both inside and outside the gaming industry. Whether they be voice-acting gods or television actors or radio DJs, these actors and actresses are the unseen voices behind your favorite characters.

Miranda Lawson (Mass Effect 2&3) — Yvonne Strahovski

The bodacious crewmate-slash-potential-love-interest of Commander Shepherd and officer of the pro-human organization Cerberus, Mass Effect's Miranda Lawson is not only voiced by Australian Yvonne Strahovski, but modeled after the actress as well. Thus, the similarities between the animated Lawson and real-life Strahovski are striking, though with one major difference: Lawson's hair was changed from Strahovski's blonde to black — allegedly to emphasize her character's femme-fatale characteristics. (Or because it matches her black and white outfit.) Not too many people paid attention to Lawson's hair, though, as it was her behind that grabbed most of the attention, and created some minor controversy. Regardless of the developer's intent behind Mass Effect's strategically placed and fairly frequent camera shots of Lawson's curves, Strahovski was nominated for "Best Performance by a Human Female" at the Spike Video Game Awards.

Strahovski is known more for her work in television than her work in video games, having only played Mass Effect's Lawson and Aya Brea in Square Enix's little-known PSP title The 3rd Birthday. More famously, she played Hannah McKay in Showtime's Dexter, as well as a pair of CIA agents in both NBC's Chuck and FOX's 24: Live Another Day. She also rap battled Maleficent as Daenerys Targaryen and performed a vomit-filled, satirical pop song as Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Lady Gaga, and Justin Bieber — proving Strahovski's got more than just mad skills. She's got an epic sense of humor, too.


Solid Snake / Naked Snake (Metal Gear Solid series) — David Hayter

Known primarily as the voice of the Metal Gear Solid series' Solid Snake and Naked Snake, Canadian-American voice-actor David Hayter is also a fairly accomplished screenwriter, penning the script for some comic book movies you've probably seen. Hayter wrote the screenplay for the original X-Men film, in addition to co-writing its sequel, X-2. He also wrote a screenplay for, and was assigned to direct, a Black Widow film, though the project has yet to get off the ground — if it ever does. Rounding out his superhero screenwriting portfolio is Watchmen, based off the limited-series comic book of the same name by Alan Moore and David Gibbons.

In addition to playing Solid / Naked Snake in Konami's famed tactical espionage series, Hayter also voiced the male Jedi Knight in Star Wars: The Old Republic, Mudokons in Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty!, and Lieutenant Renn in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Fans of the voice actor shouldn't expect to see him voicing too many main characters in top-tier games, though, especially with the industry currently being dominated by voice-acting titans Troy Baker and Nolan North. Furthermore, Hayter was humiliated after being replaced by Kiefer Sutherland in Metal Gear Solid V, and apparently has little love for series creator Hideo Kojima. It appears that screenwriting is more his thing, these days — though with Kojima no longer working for Konami, it's not outside the realm of possibility that we may see Hayter as Snake once again. Or at least hear him.


Nathan Drake (Uncharted series) — Nolan North

A legend as far as voice actors go, Nolan North has voiced more characters in video games than he can even remember. Aside from his most notable performance as the voice of the Uncharted series' treasure-hunting protagonist Nathan Drake, North has voiced Hades in God of War, Desmond Miles in the Assassin's Creed series, Deadpool in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, David in The Last of Us, various voices in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, the male Hero of Bowerstone in Fable II, the prince in Prince of Persia, as well as somewhere in the vicinity of 19 characters in classic massively-multiplayer role-playing game EverQuest II — and that's just scratching the surface. From Crash Tag Team Racing to Call of Duty: Black Ops III, if you can name a game, there's a good chance North's voice was in it. He also notably replaced Peter Dinklage as Ghost (commonly known as Dinklebot) in uber-popular first-person shooter Destiny, after many fans and critics found the Game of Thrones star's performance to be more than a bit flat.

North's talents aren't limited to just video games, however. Unsurprisingly, the versatile voice actor has also provided voice work for a whole slew of animated television shows, such as Sanjay and Craig, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012), Ultimate Spider-Man, Young Justice, Transformers: Prime, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and many others — in addition to animated movies, like the LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes series, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, and Scooby Doo! Shaggy's Showdown.


In short, you would literally have to live under a rock to not have heard Nolan North's voice. Or you don't play video games or watch animated shows — in which case, we think you should start! Immediately.

Ellie (The Last of Us) — Ashley Johnson

Pop quiz! What do Ellie from The Last of Us, the youngest sister in Growing Pains, and Gretchen Grundler from Disney's Recess have in common? If you guessed — considering the title — that they're all played by Ashley Johnson, then congratulations! You get a gold star.

Johnson is really only known in the video-game sphere for her role as Ellie in Naughty Dog's masterpiece The Last of Usfor which she won two BAFTA awards — though her voice also appears in Lego Marvel's Avengers, Minecraft: Story Mode, inFamous: First Light, and Tales from the Borderlands. Johnson is actually more famous outside the video game realm, most notably as little Chrissy Seaver in Growing Pains, and as the voice of the bespectacled, bucktoothed Gretchen Grundler in Recess. Today's television fans will most likely recognize her from her starring role in NBC's Blindspot, though she also played a major character in the romantic comedy What Women Want.


We can't wait to see what's in store for Ashley Johnson's Ellie in The Last of Us 2, which should release sometime in — we're guessing — 2019.

Joel (The Last of Us) — Troy Baker

No offense to fellow titan Nolan North, but Troy Baker is the reigning god of video game voice acting.

If you're one of the millions of gamers who've played any of the big-budget, top-tier, triple-A games over the past decade, you've undoubtedly assumed one of the many roles of Troy Baker. The American actor and musician has played — in addition to Joel from The Last of Us — Booker DeWitt in BioShock Infinite, Rhys in Tales from the Borderlands, Vincent in love-triangle simulator Catherine, Talion in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, The Joker in Batman: Arkham Origins, and Kai Leng in Mass Effect 3. Adding to this already impressive resume, Baker has voiced antagonist Pagan Min in Far Cry 4, Nathan Drake's brother, Sam Drake, in Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, Bruce Wayne in Batman: A Telltale Series, and Delsin Rowe in inFAMOUS: Second Son.


Baker isn't confined to just voicing protagonists and antagonists in blockbuster video games. He's also lent his voice to a whole bunch of anime, including Persona 4: The Animation, Naruto: Shippuden, and Fullmetal Alchemist — in addition to animated shows like Regular Show, The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, and Ultimate Spider-Man.

What's the secret to Baker's seemingly unstoppable success? Hard work, late nights, and early mornings, with the actor telling Polygon that, in the words of a friend, "life is a three-legged stool...You have your personal life, your professional life and your spiritual life. And if one of those three things is off, then you don't sit right." And for those looking to get into the voice acting business themselves, Baker's advice is simple: "Save up your money, buy a decent microphone, and then...wait for Nolan North and I to die." We won't hold our breath.


Trevor Philips (Grand Theft Auto V) — Steven Ogg

One look at Steven Ogg and you know exactly which famous video game character he's played.

When he's not choking his son on YouTube, the Canadian actor is regularly popping up on AMC's The Walking Dead as Negan's right-hand man, Simon — frequently upstaging and "outshining Negan and Dwight." He's also putting in some serious overtime, landing a role as a minor character in HBO's futuristic Western Westworld. Keen-eyed television aficionados may also have spotted Ogg in random episodes of famous shows such as Law & Order, Person of Interest, and Better Call Saul.


As far as videogames go, Grand Theft Auto V's sociopathic Trevor is Ogg's only real claim to fame, a role for which he won the New York Videogame Critics Circle Award for Best Overall Acting in a Game, in addition to receiving several nominations for various awards. Whether or not we see Ogg in another video game remains to be seen. For now, you can catch the voice and model of Trevor doing what he does best on The Walking Dead.

Aloy (Horizon Zero Dawn) — Ashly Burch

Ashly Burch, the voice of Aloy in Guerilla's blockbuster PlayStation 4 exclusive Horizon Zero Dawn, is unique as far as most video game voice actors and actresses go, in that she also has a moderately successful comedic YouTube channel called Hey Ash Whatcha Playin'?

Thanks in part to her modest YouTube following, Burch landed her first video game voice-acting gig as Tiny Tina, a demolitions expert in Gearbox Software's hit Borderlands 2, which her brother, Anthony Burch, was writing for at the time. Horizon Zero Dawn and Borderlands 2 aside, Ashly Burch already has a nice resume this early in her career. She won the Golden Joystick Award for Performance of the Year with her role as bad-girl Chloe Price in Life is Strange, and has landed roles in major, top-tier games like Mortal Kombat X, Fallout 4, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Lego Marvel's Avengers, Battleborn, Minecraft: Story Mode, and World of Final Fantasy — in addition to providing voice work for animated shows like Attack on Titan. One thing is clear: Ashly Burch is cementing herself in the world of voice acting.


We love keeping up with her YouTube antics, and we can't wait to see what the young actress does next.

Master Chief (Halo series) — Steve Downes

Steve Downes is a special voice actor in that, pretty much, his only claim to fame is voicing one of the most famous characters of all time — and easily the most recognizable in Microsoft's universe: Master Chief. And...that's about it.

Now retired, Downes spent the majority of his life on the radio — roughly 44 years. But that's not to say his voice didn't appear other places. According to his official website, Downes was the voice of Carnival Cruise Line's national ad campaign, as well as the narrator of Discovery Channel's The Shark Attack Files. Furthermore, he voiced Star-Lord on the Disney animated series The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Even less glorious, Downes sold his vocal talents to brands like "Craftsman, International Truck, CDW and the Chesapeake Energy TV campaigns" — all of which pale in comparison to voicing Earth's greatest hero.


Downes may have a self-professed "face for radio," but he will always have the voice of a badass.

Mario (Mario games) — Charles Martinet

Everyone — and we mean everyone — recognizes the voice of Nintendo's famous Italian plumber, Mario. Far fewer people know the name of the man behind that voice, though.

Charles Martinet has been doing the voice of Mario for 26 years, but this legendary video game voice actor isn't simply the voice of Mario. He's also the voice of nearly every character in the Mario universe, including Luigi, Wario, Waluigi, and Toadsworth. He's even been Donkey Kong — though that admittedly doesn't require much effort, one would assume. Interestingly enough, his work in video games only barely extends past the seemingly countless Nintendo games featuring the iconic plumber and friends. Martinet voiced the dragon Paarthurnax in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and has also appeared in Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time, Resonance of Fate, Skies of Arcadia, and The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age.


Video games aside, Martinet's entire career has been acting in some form, whether it be on stage, in over 400 corporate videos, or in television shows. According to his official website, he's done voice work for "PG&E, Apple, Hewlett Packard, Amdahl, Wells Fargo Bank, Kawasaki and numerous others."

Martinet's portfolio may be extensive, and his acting career diverse, but there's really only one role worth mentioning — one which has undoubtedly brought joy to millions of people — and that's the most super video game voice of them all: Super Mario.

Lara Croft (Rise of the Tomb Raider) — Camilla Luddington

English actress Camilla Luddington is far more famous for her work outside of video games than for her role as Lara Croft in Crystal Dynamic's Tomb Raider reboot series.

Luddington played the Duchess of Cambridge herself, Catherine Middleton, in Lifetime's made-for-TV film William & Kate: The Movie, but is probably best known for her recent role as Jo Wilson in the famous and long-running medical drama Grey's Anatomy. Additionally, she was featured in supporting roles on both Californication and True Blood — but Grey's Anatomy is clearly her claim to fame.


Luddington dominated entertainment news in January 2017 when she announced she was expecting a baby girl with actor Matthew Alan, writing: "I am SO excited to FINALLY share with you all news that I've managed to keep secret for what seems like forever now... I am pregnant!!!!!! This girl gets to be a 'cool mom' ha" on her Instagram page. Luddington also created media buzz when she recreated Beyoncé's famous pregnancy photo with the help of Ellen Pompeo.

Luddington fans and gamers alike can look forward to her next Lara Croft performance in the rumored third installment in Crystal Dynamic's series, allegedly called Shadow of the Tomb Raider.