As video games grow larger, bolder, and more complex, so too has the role of actors. Instead of being herded into sound booths, many now find themselves clad in cutting edge mocap rigs, using more than just their voice to bring our favourite characters to life.
However, along with that extra degree of challenge comes a certain recognition, some actors have achieved celebrity status among their fandoms. In this category, we highlight 2017’s best in-game performances and the talent behind them.
Few in-game performances have been quite as heavy or impacting as Melina Juergens’ Senua. Hellblade is one of 2017’s bravest titles, not only defying our preconceptions of what it takes to create a “AAA” game, but also raising awareness of mental health. It’s an excruciatingly sensitive topic, though one Ninja Theory deftly manages to explore instead of using psychosis as a lazy narrative crutch.
None of this could have been achieved without Juergens’ delivery and the developer’s revolutionary face capture technology. What’s remarkable is that Juergens had never acted prior to Hellblade’s development. She actually worked at Ninja Theory as a video editor, but went in front of the camera as a stand-in while the team refined their motion capture technology. After several months they decided to base the character’s appearance on Juergens and have her play the character.
It’s a decision that worked brilliantly – Senua also won our Best Character award. We’ve never seen a video game character display such raw fear, anger, or despair. Although Senua doesn’t have huge amounts of dialogue compared to most protagonists, her physicality tells its own unspoken narrative as players accompany her on this harrowing adventure.
Runner-up: Ashly Burch – Aloy (Horizon Zero Dawn)
If you ask us, performance is just as important to sprawling, open world games as it is to concentrated, explosive blockbusters. Whether its Red Dead’s John Marston or The Witcher’s Geralt, these are characters we’ve spent dozens – if not, hundreds – of hours watching as they explore these colossal virtual sandboxes. That constant companionship makes poor acting very easy to detect.
Although Aloy isn’t the most compelling or complex of character, Ashly Burch does a fantastic job of bringing her to life in Horizon: Zero Dawn. She flawlessly manages to capture the character’s twin traits of boldness and naivety with an approach that feels completely organic, elevating Aloy to PlayStation mascot status.
Runner-up: Claudia Black and Laura Bailey – Chloe & Nadine (Uncharted: The Lost Legacy)
Honestly, it would have been pretty mean to pick one over the other. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy has been written in such a way that Claudia Black, Laura Bailey, and their respective characters come together as a package.
Both actors have a natural chemistry that comes to the fore the moment they’re placed in the same scene. Despite everything that’s happening around them, from discovering lost cities to battling a zealous maniac, the game is very much centred on their relationship. It’s a joy to watch, but not all that surprising truth be told. Naughty Dog just has a knack for throwing characters together and, as if by magic, they just click.
Honourable Mentions (in alphabetical order)
- Brian Bloom – BJ (Wolfenstein)
- Derek Stephen – Kokichi (Danganronpa V3)
- Takaya Kuroda – Kiryu (Yakuza Zero)
Those are our picks, but games are such a personal experience that we’re sure you’ve got some favourite characters of your own from the last twelve months.