It’s a pretty daunting time to be an actor right now. With AI trying to steal as much work as possible in the creative industry, it’s good to see so many great performances in games this year to remind us that you can never replace the emotion and depth a character gets with excellent voice and motion capture work. It would be a very long list if we wrote down every great performance this year, so we’ve listed 5 that stand out among the crowd.
5. Cameron Monaghan – Cal Kestis in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
Respawn’s Star Wars Jedi games have brought a bit of a renaissance to games set in a galaxy far, far away. They bring an excellent story, fun battles with lots of depth, and a very likable protagonist in Cal Kestis. Much of that sympathy comes from Cameron Monaghan’s performance. He throws everything he has into being Cal Kestis, and even when you watch his performances to promote the games, it’s clear that he’s having the time of his life doing this work.
It’s really something you love to see. Monaghan not only brings his A-game for Cal, but he seems to enjoy doing it. We’re not sure how he’ll top this performance for a third game, but he’s probably going to make it anyway.
4. Ben Starr – Clive Rosfield in Final Fantasy XVI
If you took one look at Clive Rosfield, you’d probably lump him in with numerous other dark-haired edgy-looking protagonists, but Square Enix and Ben Starr made sure this guy stands out.
Clive is absolutely brimming with depth. He’s a character that not everyone would be able to perform, which is why it’s so impressive that Ben Starr accomplishes what he does with the character. When you get those emotional moments with Clive, you become attached to him in a way that few game characters manage to achieve.
3. Yuri Lowenthal / Nadji Jeter – Peter Parker / Miles Morales in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2
How do you balance cringe-worthy and intimidating? How do you manage to make yourself stand out in a wave of amazing Peter Parkers and an amazing Miles Morales in the movie world? These are not easy things to accomplish, and yet both of our Spider-Men in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 make them look so simple. Yuri Lowenthal manages to channel that Bully Maguire energy in his black suit Peter Parker, but also as the affable, friendly neighborhood Spider-Man we know and trust from the first game.
I lumped the two together, because while Peter is still our main focus, Nadji Jeter does a great job of really making the role of Miles his own. While there were some stumbling blocks in the first Spider-Man game and Spider-Man: Miles Morales, now it really feels like he’s ready to take up the mantle and swing out on his own.
2. Matthew Porretta/Melanie Liburd – Alan Wake and Saga Anderson in Alan Wake 2
Alan Wake 2 makes some incredibly bold moves in storytelling, and while strong writing and pacing may be at the core of that, much of this dual narrative wouldn’t work without the actors in the roles of our protagonists. Again, I think it’s worth highlighting more than one actor here, because to put Alan’s importance above Saga’s would just feel like dismissing much of the game, and vice versa.
Alan Wake 2 is a special game. We may not see anything like it again, and so it’s worth praising every bit of it. Remedy should take a moment to shower itself with applause, but let’s not forget the actors who brought the characters to life.
1. The companions of Baldur’s Gate III.
Okay, this one might play a little false, but it does feel a little strange that all the attention is going to Neil Newbon. Yes, Astarion is an excellent character with great voice acting, but the same can be said for all six main companions you meet in Baldur’s Gate III (that’s Karlach, Lae’zel, Wyll, Gale, Astarion and Shadowheart).
It therefore feels unfair to emphasize one of these characters over the others, while the extent of their accomplishments can sometimes be determined by player choice. For example, if you just don’t encounter Astarion in Act 1, he can be skipped altogether. Also, wouldn’t it be nice for everyone to share in this victory, given the effort they all put into making such a memorable celebration.
That’s our list. Let us know if we missed any performances and who you would put in first place!