It’s no secret that video games have a less than stellar track record with voice acting. Recording a voice for an animated character is already a tough assignment, but video games add even more layers of complexity. The interactive and non-linear nature of games can make even the best actor’s lines fall flat if not carefully written and edited. But that’s assuming the actor is good in the first place. Sometimes, the talent behind the microphone is just a passing rando who got cornered by the developers and bribed with a $10 gift card to Dairy Queen.
Well, maybe these games didn’t get their actors exactly like that, but it certainly would make sense. The voice acting on display here is cheesy, horrific, and most of all... hilarious! Let’s take a listen to the top 10 video games with the worst English voice acting ever.
10. Dead Rising
- System: Xbox 360
- Publisher: Capcom
- Developer: Capcom
- Release Dates: August 8, 2006 (NA), September 8, 2006 (EU), September 28, 2006 (JPN)
Dead Rising’s voice acting isn’t quite as in-your-face awful as some others on this list, but play the game for long enough and you’ll see why it takes the #10 spot. It’s thanks to a little thing known as... Capcom dialogue. We have a theory that Capcom’s team is entirely comprised of space aliens who desperately want to make fun games to share with humans, but haven’t quite figured out how to blend in with them. This lends a certain charming oddness to their writing and voice acting. It tries, but ultimately fails to capture anything resembling a real human emotion.
Every character in this B-movie-inspired zombie fest is pretty dazed and confused, but the standout space cadet among them is protagonist Frank West. His attempts at acting like a hard-boiled detective only come off as comical when the actor sounds like he’s concentrating more on what's for lunch than what he’s actually saying. Frank’s Play-Doh face and noodly arm flails, courtesy of early Xbox 360 graphics, only add to the unconvincing spectacle.
“I’ve covered wars, y’know.”
9. Mighty No. 9
- System: PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Wii U
- Publisher: Deep Silver
- Developer: Level-5 Comcept, Inti Creates
- Release Dates: June 21, 2016
As the most recent entry on our list (and the one with the most well-known vocal talent), Mighty No. 9 should’ve had a perfectly serviceable voice track. But as anyone who’s played the game knows, it didn’t turn out the way we had hoped. The voices by themselves are just moderately obnoxious, but what plunges them into tonal terror is the way they’re shoved into the game at every opportunity.
Mighty No. 9 is a platformer – a genre that requires concentration and quick reflexes from the player. You probably don’t want a bunch of chattering in your ear as you try to land a jump, but this game is so proud of its voice acting that it crams it into every second of playtime that it can. Endless boxes of inane conversation take up the bottom fourth of the screen, covering important obstacles and repeating every time you die. And even when the NPCs aren’t talking, the playable characters will be shouting the same handful of lines for every action they take. This really is one to play with the sound on mute.
“Here we go! That’s more like it! Bring it on! Here we go! Here we go!”
8. Alone in the Dark
- System: Xbox 360, PC, PS3
- Publisher: Atari
- Developer: Eden Games
- Release Dates: June 30, 2008 (EU), June 23, 2008 (NA), December 25, 2008 (JPN)
This game is known for three things: surprisingly realistic fire physics, a plot twist designed to piss off classic Alone in the Dark fans, and abysmal voice acting. As with Dead Rising, early/cheap Xbox 360 graphics make everyone look like a meat sack mannequin with the emotional range of a Botox enthusiast. So when the characters start speaking like they’re straight out of an ‘80s superhero cartoon, the result is just bizarre.
Of particular note is our intrepid main character, whose whiny teenager voice clashes horribly with his mid-30s physique and shovel face. When the script calls for him to spit quips at the generic demon villain, he sounds so bored that he might as well be mumbling to himself. Quite the charismatic action hero, this guy.
“I don’t have your stone! And f**k you anyway!”
7. Sonic Adventure
- System: Dreamcast
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Sonic Team
- Release Dates: December 23, 1998 (JPN), September 9, 1999 (NA), October 14, 1999 (EU)
Oh, Sonic Adventure. We love you dearly. It doesn’t matter that you’re a complete train wreck with pacing issues and a camera that’s controlled by someone riding a ripstick. You’re just so charming! And a big part of that charm is the ridiculous voice acting from every single character in the cast. Fun fact: The English actors were only given their own lines with no context, so if it sounds like they have no idea what they’re reacting to... it’s because they have no idea what they’re reacting to.
But that’s not all. The English lines were just slotted in place of the Japanese ones with no changes to the timing. This results in characters speaking over each other or even reacting to things before they happen. The background music can be so loud that it drowns out the dialogue, each character has noticeably different audio quality, the lip flaps are so out of sync that old kung-fu movies look great in comparison... but somehow, it all works. The exaggerated ‘90s cartoon voices are objectively bad, but since it’s Sonic, the cheesiness jives pretty well.
“Watch out! You’re gonna crash! Ahhhh!”
6. Mega Man 8
- System: PS1, Sega Saturn
- Publisher: Capcom
- Developer: Capcom
- Release Dates: December 17, 1996 (JPN), February 28, 1997 (NA), May 15, 1997 (EU)
Hello again, Capcom! Mega Man 8 certainly isn’t the only game in the series with bad voice acting, but it just might be the worst of the bunch. X7 had the constantly screaming Flame Hyenard and X4 had Zero’s anguished exclamation about what he’s fighting for, but Mega Man 8 has Dr. Light. In this game, Dr. Light is the result of combining a stoned New Yorker with Homestar Runner and recording whatever comes out of the abominable creature’s mouth.
Mega Man himself sounds like a 5-year-old girl, but at least he doesn’t flub his lines. Dr. Light’s dialogue is filled with stutters and awkward pauses that could easily be fixed through editing or just a bit more rehearsal, but the translators clearly didn’t care. As long as the professor explained the plot so the player could get back to platforming, it was good enough for them.
"But... we cannot allow it to fall into Dr. Wiwy's hands. You must recover a-all of the energy immediately, Mega Man."
5. Resident Evil
- System: PS1, Sega Saturn, PC
- Publisher: Capcom
- Developer: Capcom
- Release Dates: March 22, 1996 (JPN), March 30, 1996 (NA), August 1, 1996 (EU)
The original Resident Evil is Capcom’s last entry on this list, and boy is it a symphony for the eardrums. This series is known for popularizing the survival horror genre, which pits the player against an unknown evil with only their wits and maybe a gun to their name. But here, any sense of terror is lost when you remember that everyone speaks like they’re in a Scooby-Doo episode.
Capcom’s unnatural writing is in full force here, which stands out even more than usual since the voice actors overemphasize everything they say. They exchange quips and stilted laughs while looking for their friend in a haunted mansion and pause after every line as if they’re waiting for applause. Much of this was rewritten for the GameCube remake in 2002, but a few hints of the old cheesy one-liners still remain. After all, Capcom still has yet to fully understand human emotions.
“It might be handy if you, the master of unlocking, take it with you.”
4. House of the Dead 2
- System: Arcade, Dreamcast
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Wow Entertainment
- Release Dates: November 1998
Not to be outdone, Sega is back with House of the Dead 2. If any kind of game can be forgiven for subpar voice acting, it’s an arcade cabinet. Since arcades are so loud, it doesn’t really matter what the voices sound like. But if you’re playing at home on a Dreamcast or using one of the later ports, you’ll be subjected to the audible majesty that is the game’s main villain – Goldman.
Goldman is more zombie-like than the actual zombies he created. He’s so devoid of emotion that he sounds almost like an old text-to-speech parser – as if Stephen Hawking decided one day to drop his revolutionary science-expanding research and take up supervillainy instead. Appropriately enough, House of the Dead 2 has been reworked into the edutainment games Typing of the Dead and English of the Dead, where Goldman’s bizarre affect actually fits a lot better.
"Ha. Ha. Ha. This is a present from me to you."
3. Castle Shikigami 2
- System: PS2, Arcade, GCN, Xbox, Dreamcast, PC
- Publisher: XS Games
- Developer: Alfa System
- Release Dates: November 17, 2004
Here we have another arcade game, this time in the bullet hell genre. The main issue with Castle Shikigami 2 is its overly literal translation, which leaves characters speaking in disjointed sentence fragments with no regard for natural flow. The voice actors read these stilted lines in the most bored tone imaginable, as if they just wanted to get home so they could watch Desperate Housewives. Sometimes their speech doesn’t even match the subtitles!
One of the biggest offenders is Ko, the main playable character. He speaks in a low, sleepy-sounding voice that’s way deeper than a teenager would normally have. You can almost hear the actor turning the pages of the script as he drawls every last line. Ko would also like you to know that he’s straight, but can put his love of the female form aside when it comes to beating down evil. ...Thanks for sharing.
"I like girls. But now, it's about justice. My name is Ko. ...And I'm beating down evil."
2. Link: The Faces of Evil
- System: Philips CD-i
- Publisher: Philips Media
- Developer: Animation Magic
- Release Dates: October 10, 1993
Everyone knows that the Zelda CD-i games are garbage, from the bootleg cutscenes to the baffling level design and beyond. But the putrid package wouldn’t be complete without some Z-grade voice acting for our beloved characters. The Super Mario and Captain N cartoons beat them to the punch by a few years, but this was the first time we got real English voices for the Hyrule characters in a video game format. And, um... there’s a reason they’ve been mostly silent ever since.
Every single character in this game is terrible. Not even one of them does a serviceable job. Link, Zelda, Ganon, the king, and every NPC in Koridai all sound like they injected liquid Blue’s Clues into their brains and then ate three bowls of Lucky Charms marshmallows with expired hemp milk. They’ve been immortalized in YouTube Poop for all time and can never be forgotten. No matter how much we wish we could.
“When I’m crouching, you can make me do the duck walk!”
1. Chaos Wars
- System: PS2
- Publisher: O~3 Entertainment
- Developer: September 21, 2006 (JPN), June 3, 2008 (NA)
- Release Dates:
Chaos Wars is a strategy RPG that combines characters from several different game developers (Atlus, Idea Factory, Red Entertainment, and Azure) into a massive crossover. The game itself is all right, but its most memorable feature is an English dub that’s so bad, it makes every other game on this list look like a masterpiece in comparison. Remember in school when the class had to read aloud from a Shakespeare play and it slowly sapped your will to live? That’s the level we’re talking about here.
Since the voice actors have the same last names as some of the localization team members, they’re most likely the employees’ children. Which seems about right, considering that our heroes include: Ryoma, who overenunciates his words when he’s frustrated; Karen, whose flat affect could give Ko up there a run for his money; and Uru, a flaming gay stereotype who’s too bored to even be offensive. Note to the team: When you pick the absolute laziest way to localize your game, don’t be surprised when it turns out to be the worst video game voice acting ever.
“But HOW do I get back to TOK-ee-oh.”
Voice acting in games has gotten better and better over the years, so the days of Mega Man the five-year-old girl and lobotomized Ko seem far behind us at this point. But as Mighty No. 9 and other recent games have shown us, we still have a long way to go. For now, though, we can at least look back and laugh at the amazingly bad voices that still live on as memes to this day.
What did you think of our list? Did we leave out any of your favorite awful video game voices? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!