Kyle McCarley – 9S – NieR: Automata
Kyle McCarley has had some pretty big roles in both anime and video games lately, playing the role of Shigeo on Mob Psycho 100 and Alm in Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia. McCarley really shines this year, however, as 9S, one of the main characters of NieR: Automata. 9S meets unspeakable tragedy and goes through a ton of growth in Automata, which McCarley manages to represent perfectly.
His acting efforts make 9S an incredibly sympathetic character, one that you can laugh with during the lighter moments and really feel for in the darker ones. Without a doubt, McCarley’s acting plays a big part in making 9S the most memorable character in NieR: Automata, and that’s really saying something.
Ashley Burch – Aloy – Horizon: Zero Dawn
You probably immediately recognize Ashley Burch from her role as Chloe in Life in Strange, and she’s returned in 2017 as the leading star of Horizon: Zero Dawn. Aloy is a fascinating character in Horizon; a stalwart young girl who’s had to grow up in the face of extreme adversity after she’s been exiled from the Nora tribe.
There’s a charming sense of innocence that Burch gives to Aloy, as she discovers the secrets and lore of the world along with the player. While there are plenty of other interesting characters in Horizon, Aloy’s personality and tale is truly the driving action of the game. This is thanks in no small part to the talented Ashley Burch.
Cristina Valenzuela – Velvet Crowe – Tales of Berseria
Cristina Valenzuela, also known by her stage name Cristina Vee, has had a number of roles in video games and animation. She really showed her talents this year, however, by voicing the protagonist of Tales of Berseria. Velvet Crowe is cut from a different cloth than most Tales protagonists, as she’s not the bright-eyed teenage hero we always get. Ultimately, it’s not some sense of justice that drives her, but a burning desire to get revenge on the one that killed her brother.
Valenzeula does a phenomenal job of adding character to Velvet, representing a hardened woman who cares little for the plight of others. Of course, in traditional Tales fashion, Velvet grows throughout the game, softening a bit as she gains friends and comrades. The truly impressive part of Valenzuela’s performance lies in how she can represent the innocent and vengeful sides of the character.
Ian Sinclair – Berkut – Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia
Fire Emblem Echoes is the first game in the series to have full voice acting for its story, and the results are certainly impressive across the board. There’s plenty of good performances, but one villain definitely stands out from the pack: Berkut. The character is voiced by Ian Sinclair who’s been voicing more and more roles in anime, like Whis in Dragon Ball Super and Celestion in Yuri on Ice.
Berkut is an interesting villain to watch progress, as he starts as a respected general of the Rigelian Empire, but sinks into madness by the end of the game. Sinclair does a great job representing the rage that Berkut has, and slowly showing his descent. He’s certainly one of the more well-defined characters in all of Fire Emblem Echoes.
Sean Chiplock – Revali – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The Legend of Zelda also got its first title with voice acting this year in Breath of the Wild. Although the voice cast in general can be hit or miss, one character easily stands out above the rest, Revali. This member of the Rito tribe is one of the four Champions that assisted Zelda and Link in the past. Revali is voiced by Sean Chiplock who’s done even more recent roles in games like Ayron in Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom and Jerome in Fire Emblem Echoes.
What makes Revali so darn memorable is just how smarmy and sarcastic he is. The character quite clearly thinks he’s better than everyone else, and Chiplock does a great job of adding that superiority to Revali’s voice. The smug nature is only backed up by Revali’s incredible skill, and Chiplock easily makes him one of the most memorable characters in Breath of the Wild.
Nyasha Hatendi – Jaal – Mass Effect Andromeda
Mass Effect games have always had a strong focus on characters, and Andromeda is no different. This time, the star party member comes with Jaal, a member of the Angarans. Jaal is voiced by Nyasha Hatendi, who’s had a number of roles in TV and video games, like Leon in Casual. The Angaran race is an interesting one, as they feel their emotions much stronger than other races, oftentimes having trouble hiding them.
Jaal is a complex character, who at first doesn’t trust Ryder and the rest of the crew. He holds true to his beliefs and morals, something that he’ll remind you about consistently. Learning about your party members is one of the best parts of Andromeda, and Jaal is easily the most interesting of the bunch. Hatendi does a great job of adding depth to his character and displaying the emotions of the Angara, both in times of strife and when Jaal is learning about the rest of the universe.
Cassandra Lee Morris – Morgana – Persona 5
Persona 5 has a pretty stellar voice cast across the board, but the adorable cat-creature Morgana is one of the best. Morgana is your guide from the very start of the game, and he helps you learn all about the idea of Palaces and Mementos. In the English version of the game, Morgana is voiced by Cassandra Lee Morris, who’s had a ton of roles in video games like Enna Kros in World of Final Fantasy and Operator 6O in NieR: Automata.
With Persona 5, however, she really does an exceptional job at conveying the slightly mischievous nature of Morgana. Without a doubt, he’s one of the characters that has the most lines in all of Persona 5 (as he’s virtually there the entire time) and becomes a key member of the party. Even through self-doubt, Morgana is a loyal companion to the protagonist, and Morris does a great job of making him and empathetic character to connect with.
Valerie Rose Lohman – Edith Finch – What Remain’s of Edith Finch
Edith Finch is a bit of a bittersweet game, telling emotionally impactful stories about the fate of the Finch family. This is all told by the narration of Edith Finch played by Valerie Rose Lohman, who’s played roles in films like Intrepid and En Garde.
What Remains of Edith Finch is certainly an emotional experience as you witness the lives of many members of the family. Edith’s narration is wonderful, adding her perspective onto the story and adding another layer of emotion entirely. Lohman portrays the character with depth, and only adds to the incentive for seeing the experience through to the end.
Jack Brand – Jack Baker -Resident Evil 7
Resident Evil 7 returns to the horror roots of the series, and part of how it does that is by giving you absolutely terrifying enemies to face. The Bakers are certainly intimidating, and the patriarch of the family – Jack Baker – is one of the deadliest foes you’ll go up against. Baker is played by Jack Brand, who’s played roles in films like Operation Terror and Paradox Alice.
Brand does a great job of voicing the maniacal Jack Baker, adding insanity to his voice. At the same time, there are moments where you’ll get to see a sane Jack Baker, during which Brand gets through the humanity of the character trapped underneath the insanity. Jack is one of the most terrifying things you’ll face in Resident Evil 7, thanks in no small part to the voice work of Jack Brand.
Hidenari Ugaki – Goro Majima – Yakuza 0
Goro Majima has been a mainstay in the Yakuza series since the beginning, but he plays a larger role than ever in Yakuza 0. Majima is one of the main playable characters of the game, and his story is every bit as lengthy and engaging as Kazuma Kiryu’s. Hidenari Ugaki, who’s played the character since the beginning, returns one again.
This time around, Ugaki does a great job of representing the more grounded side of Majima, before he became the Mad Dog of Shimano. Of course, we do get to see this transition in the game in a fascinating way, as Ugaki displays a conflicted and changing character. There’s a staggering amount of voice work in Yakuza 0, and Goro Majima’s story winds up being the best part of the game, only bolstered by the fantastic work of his longtime voice actor.