Home on the range
There was a time when video game voice acting could've conceivably doubled as torture. Simply slap a pair of headphones on your primary suspect and proceed to bang out a 'best of the mid-'90s' VO playlist. I'll bet that by the time they reached Grandia, said villain would have been too busy contemplating the innumerable, illogical absurdities of the 'Jill sandwich' to put up too much of a struggle. Word to the wise - if they're muttering something about a wizard, the moon, and sucking on their thumb from the foetal position then you know you've gone too far.
Thankfully, in-game audio has come an awfully long way since then. For example, we now have actual professionals voicing our icons, as opposed to whichever member of the penal system didn't fancy stamping out license plates that day. Today's big list of stuff will attempt to acquaint you with some of the more prolific players in the modern industry. Particular attention has been paid to the most versatile stars therein, as opposed to folks like Keith David who're specifically contracted for their rich, silky speaking voices. Sorry about that Keith, but knowing that the same bloke voices both Batman and Sonic is just way more interesting.
Robin Atkin Downes
Who? Robin Atkin Downes is a film, television, theatre and video game voice actor, mo-cap performer and music producer. He also has experience in directing. Think of him as the Swiss army knife of this list. A Swiss army knife with great hair.
Who else? Downes portrays Metal Gear Solid's Kaz Miller, Just Cause's Rico Rodriguez, Uncharted 2's Tenzin, Ratchet and Clank's Captain Slag, Team Fortress 2's Medic and Gear of War's Locust Kantus - among others.
Who? Jennifer Hale is the veritable 'first lady' of video game voice acting, though she's also appeared in several live action productions. Last year Hale engaged in a spirited 8-week hot-air balloon race, vying against Tara Strong for the opportunity to call 'dibs' on all of 2015's best roles. Of course, none of that actually happened, but it should've done.
Who else? Hale is the woman behind Bioshock Infinite's Rosalind Lutece, MGS2's Emma Emmerich, Metroid Prime's Samus Aran, Halo 4's Sarah Palmer and Mass Effect's female rendering of Shepard. She also provided the voicework for both versions of Metal Gear Solid's Naomi Hunter (both the early British and later American incarnations).
Who? Mike Patton is the uber eclectic frontman of Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, and about a dozen other bands. He began voice acting in 2007, and is typically tasked with providing gruesome monster noises.
Who else? Patton has provided the pipes behind Portal 2's Anger Core, Left 4 Dead's Infected (including the Smoker & Hunter variants) as well as The Darkness' titular nasties. Oh, and he's also responsible for Bionic Commando 09's gritty, cheeseball hero.
Who? Tara Strong is a well known voice over artist and television actress. Her distinctive surname was bestowed upon her by the old gods after witnessing Tara's completion of the 12 labours of Hercules. Of the 12, Tara counts the Lernaean Hydra as being the single most challenging foe.
Who else? Strong has voiced Batman: Arkham's Harley Quinn, Mortal Kombat's Ferra, Metal Gear's Paz, Jak & Daxter's Keira and Final Fantasy X's Rikku. Plus a boatload more.
Who? Armin Shimerman is a film and television actor best known for playing Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Principal Snyder and Star Trek: Deep Space 9's Quark. Fun fact: Shimerman came up with the design for Quark's face while bashing a catcher's mitt with a baseball bat? No, not really, but he might as well have done.
Who else? Shimerman has appeared as Mass Effect's Salarian Councillor, Ratchet and Clank's Dr. Nefarious and Bioshock's Andrew Ryan.
Who? Grey DeLisle is a singer, voice actress and occasional stand-up comic. She also goes by the pseudonym of 'Grey Griffin', which probably comes in really handy during live action role-playing.
Who else? DeLisle has voiced Jeanne from the Bayonetta series, Catwoman in Batman: Arkham, Sly Cooper's Carmelita Fox and Amanda from Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker.
Who? Nolan North is a professional actor and voice over artist/bona fide gaming institution. Little known fact: both he and Troy Baker are immortal Highlanders simultaneously attempting to corner the voice over market, because of course 'there can only be one'.
Who else? North voices everyone from DOTA 2's squealing Gyrocopter pilot to the CoD franchise's zombie-mad Richtofen. Other characters include Uncharted's Nathan Drake, Injustice's General Zod, Batman's Oswald Cobblepot and Portal 2's Space, Adventure and Fact Cores.
Who? Ellen McLain is an opera singer and voice actress who regularly contributes to Valve Corp. video games. Her husband is similarly involved with the company, having provided the voice of the Sniper in Team Fortress 2. And no, they didn't meet up while screaming robotic threats into a microphone. Shame.
Who else? McLain's work includes stints as DOTA 2's Broodmother, Left 4 Dead's Witch monster, Half-Life 2's Overwatch speaker and - most famously of all - Portal's array of talkative turrets and the evil A.I. GLaDOS.
James Arnold Taylor
Who? James Arnold Taylor is a professional cartoon and video game voice actor. Long-term exposure to the man's unique brand of laughter has been known to cause ferocious irritation in viewers.
Who else? Taylor's most notable roles include Ratchet from the Ratchet and Clank series, the Clone Wars' Obi-Wan Kenobi (both in video games and TV) as well as Final Fantasy X's boisterous lead character Tidus. He also does a rather good Jack Sparrow impression.