These days, great video games are often indistinguishable from the very best of film and TV, boasting engaging stories, and stellar central performances from its leads.
Shout out to my boy Yuri Lowenthal in Spider-Man. You deserved ALL THE AWARDS and you were ROBBED. Anyway, back in the early days of gaming, the industry seemed to have a hard time when it came to recording high quality voice acting.
I’m not entirely sure why, but for far too long video game voice acting was bad. Like, really bad. Like, A Level media student getting your mate to star in your short horror film levels of bad. We could sit and theorise exactly why that was the case till the cows come home. Or, we could just look and laugh at some of the worst examples, so we’ll do that instead.
The first couple of Resident Evil games are an absolute treasure trove of horrendous voice acting, but the first game in the series absolutely takes the crown here.
Everyone involved sound like complete strangers Capcom pulled off the street and bundled into the back of a van, before forcing a gun to each of their heads to read out the lines for the very first time.
By Azura, the Elder Scrolls series isn’t exactly known for its impeccable voice acting. Even in Skyrim, a good number of characters sound more like over enthusiastic larpers on a day out than actual believable people from a fantasy realm.
We have to give this one to Oblivion though, not least because Bethesda – in a move that hindsight lets us dub a truly Bethesda move – actually shipped the game with a ton of voice acting mistakes and slip ups left in. Oops.
GTA London 1969
Grand Theft Auto spinoff London 1969 is a brilliant game, combining that masterful top down GTA gameplay of old with a brand new setting in the form of England’s capital city.
It’s aged surprisingly well in every area except for its voice acting, in which it’s a hilarious misstep that represents a far cry from the likes of Red Dead Redemption 2.
The characters sound less like terrifying London gangsters who’d happily murder you for looking at them wrong, and more like Rodney from Only Fools and Horses doing a series of funny voices.
FIFA 17 (Harry Kane)
We move, very briefly, onto a modern video game. Now, there’s nothing wrong with the acting in the vast majority of FIFA 17, especially in the surprisingly robust Journey story mode, which features some strong performances throughout.
We’re awarding this spot specifically to England captain Harry Kane, whose brief cameo in The Journey sounds less like Harry Kane and more like Sir Michael Caine attempting to gargle a cup of warm marbles.
Zelda: The Wand Of Gamelon
If you haven’t heard of this Zelda game before there’s a good reason for that. Nintendo would rather pretend it never existed.
One of three God awful Zelda titles released for the doomed Phillip’s CDi, Wand Of Gamelon looks and sounds like what you might have a fever dream about after being forced to watch that old Zelda cartoon for two days straight.
If nothing else, it showed us once and for all that there’s a damn good reason Link doesn’t talk in his games.
Spider-Man: Web of Shadows
While Yuri Lowenthal effortlessly became the greatest video game Spider-Man, and arguably one of the best Spider-Men of all time, we’ve still had some genuinely great versions of the wall crawler in previous spidey games.
Neil Patrick Harris, Josh Keaton, and Tobey Maguire have all lent their voice to the iconic webbed hero in video games past, but Spider-Man: Web of Shadows presents us with an… interesting version of Spidey.
I say interesting, I mean bad. This Spider-Man sounds less like a loveable wise cracker and more like Sonic The Hedgehog pleading for his life: Panicky and kind of pathetic.
Mega Man 8
Mega Man 8 was the first game to introduce voice acting to the series, and it handled this with all the class of a hurried poo in a service station toilet.
Dr Light is far and away the worst offender here. The man is supposed to be a genius – the brains behind Mega Man himself! Unfortunately, here he seems to have been voiced by someone’s grandad after a scotch and a nap.
Oh God the voice acting in Last Alert is so bad. It’s really bad guys. It’s really, really, really bad. It’s so bad I’m too distracted by how bad it is to try and come up with something funny or clever to say about how bad it is.
Instead, I’ll let this one speak for itself. Check out the video above and revel in the awfulness.
The Town With No Name
I don’t even know where to start with this. The Town With No Name is an old Amiga CDTV game set in the Old West that you’d honestly assume was a low budget YouTube parody series if you didn’t know better.
The voice work is so bad it crosses into genius, and is especially impressive given that not one of the characters actually sounds like they’re from the Old West.
My personal favourites are the barman with a deliriously unconvincing Irish accent, and the main character, who sounds less like a grizzled cowboy and more like Topcat.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.