9 Best Celebrity Appearances In Video Games

Can stunt casting actually improve a game's story?

voice actors video games

While voice work has been a staple of video games since the 1980s, it hasn't always been the most comfortable fit.

Let's be honest, as beloved as many of the iconic games of the 1990s are, the vocal performances in them are almost universally awful. Developers weren't selling their games based on quality dialogue and character work, but gameplay innovations and visuals. Voice acting was just cherry to put on top of the finished product.

Even if that cherry was made of wood, it would still make the presentation a bit prettier.

In their continuing quest to ape the method of Hollywood productions, AAA gaming is making use of 'star power' quite regularly nowadays. While I haven't seen any Destiny trailers say "Featuring Peter Dinklage in an award-worthy turn!", an Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor even considering to do a game would be unthinkable back in the late 90s - if only because it would be seen as a completely unnecessary expense.

But this sort of stunt casting can do more than just boost a game's publicity. By hiring actors we're familiar with, the game developers weave this familiarity into the game experience.

Unlike in a film, you may not realise "Wow! That was Patrick Stewart all along!" until the end credits, as the absence of a recognisable face means the actor can vanish into the role more seamlessly than in any film or TV program.

That said, which celebrity appearances amplified the games they were in, and weren't just there to pick up a paycheck?

9. Mark Hamill - Batman: Arkham City

voice actors video games
Rocksteady Studios

Mark Hamill is inseparable form his portrayal of the Joker in pop culture, becoming the only actor to play him in TV series, films, AND video games. I'm singling out his appearance in Arkham City over any of the other games in the series, because it redeems the entire last act of the game.

Don't get me wrong, I think Batman: Arkham City is the best Batman game ever made. That said, it has a bit of a focus problem. It wants to tell another iconic Batman/Joker story in the vein of The Killing Joke or Death of the Family, but it sets itself up for failure by making Hugo Strange the primary antagonist for 80% of the game.

The Joker/Batman conflict starts to feel like a subplot that the developers had to include because they're making a Batman game. Only in the last act does the game pull a 180 and tell the audience, "No, this was the main point of the game all along!"

The reason this jarring shift in focus works is because of Mark Hamill. If the climax of your story is (spoiler warning) the culmination of years of Batman's conflict with the Joker, you need to have a voice actor that sells the part. And the Joker's confrontation with Batman at the end of this game doesn't feel perfunctory because the player has a built-in familiarity with Mark Hamill in this role.

We're essentially watching a gritty series finale of Batman: The Animated Series.


Self-evidently a man who writes for the Internet, Robert also writes films, plays, teleplays, and short stories when he's not working on a movie set somewhere. He lives somewhere behind the Hollywood sign.