These days it’s not uncommon for video game makers to pull Hollywood talent for their voice acting needs. Games have featured stars like Kevin Spacey, Samuel L. Jackson, Ellen Page, and Patrick Stewart. That’s to say nothing of voice actors like Troy Baker, Jennifer Hale, and Nolan North, who have built their careers both in and outside of video games. But voice acting in video games hasn’t always been performed by talented professionals who seem to bring their characters to life effortlessly. In the early days of voice-acted video games, developers often grabbed whoever was around to voice their characters, whether they had acting experience or not. This led to a whole lot of bad acting.
Here are a few games that are very much worth playing, but not because of the acting.
1. Final Fantasy X
Through all the single-digit installments, the Final Fantasy series managed to put across a whole lot of charm, angst, and general emotion through onscreen text and character animations. With Final Fantasy X, which debuted on PlayStation 2, developer Square Enix decided it was high time to get some actors in to read these lengthy scripts.
The results weren’t so hot. The voice acting is certainly more competent than some PlayStation One-era disasters, but it leaves much to be desired for discerning fans. Watch the infamous laughing scene above to get a sense of how wooden these characters sound. The incongruous nu-metal that infected the game’s soundtrack didn’t help in the presentation department, either. Come to think of it, this game might be best played on mute.
2. Metal Gear Solid
The problem with the acting in the original Metal Gear Solid isn’t that it’s bad, exactly. It’s that it’s over-done. Like, way over-done. From the shrieking, hyperbolic “SNAAAAAAAAKE!” you hear each time you die to Otacon going all in during his “love on the battlefield” speech. This game is fantastic despite the overwrought line readings. Come to think of it, considering how bizarre the plot gets, the acting fits right in. Bravo, Konami.
3. Resident Evil
The rise of CD-ROM gaming is what made extended voice acting possible in games. Prior to that, you’d occasionally play a game with a garbled phrase here or there (see the horrifying shout when you beat a stage in Bad Dudes on NES). But games that could handle full conversations didn’t arrive until the CD era.
Enter Resident Evil, a remarkable game that all but invented the survival horror genre by giving players a creepy zombie-infested mansion to explore, with limited ammo, and a viewpoint hampered by fixed camera angles. The game tells the tale of a team of elite soldiers trying to clear the house of an undead threat, and it does so through painfully amateurish cut scenes. The writing is bad, but somehow the acting is even worse.
4. Deus Ex
When it launched in 2000, Deus Ex was a revelation, a game that you could conceivably play through a number of very different ways and still succeed and enjoy. It was also quite ambitious on the plot and story front, which means it has a significant number of lines of dialogue. So it’s unfortunate that the acting is piss-awful. Just watch the cut scenes above to get a sense of the state of video game acting circa 2000.
5. House of the Dead 2
Schlocky, absurd, and crazy fun describe the delights offered by House of the Dead 2, a game that launched in arcades and made appearances on a variety of consoles thereafter. Amazingly bad voice acting would be another way to describe it. Like, out-of-this-world bad, beyond awful and into a realm where you begin to question reality. That’s what playing this game does to you.
Thankfully, the game plays out like a B-movie (or even C-, D-, or Z-movie), so the unforgivable acting becomes something of an asset, a cheesy reminder that you’re not to take any of this seriously. Meanwhile, the on-rails gameplay ushers you ever forward while you aim your gun controller at the screen, trying to take down the undead monstrosities in your way.
6. Command & Conquer: Red Alert
This game came out when full-motion video was the hot new thing in the realm of video games. Jump forward a couple of decades and, despite the much more capable hardware we have, live-action cut scenes are extremely uncommon in video games these days.
Do you know why? Because they were a bad idea in the first place. This real-time strategy game peppered its campaigns with fully acted cut scenes that should probably never be watched by anyone ever. Check it out above. Or don’t — you’ve been warned.