32 Video Games That Brought Actors Back to Iconic Roles
From Ghostbusters 3 to a Firefly reunion, videogames are doing what movies can't...
This article originally ran on Den of Geek UK in November 2015.
Tie-in video games are nothing new in the moviemaking or televisual world. Through these spin-off products, we can play out adventures featuring our favorite characters without having to leave the house.
Most of the time, though, said characters don’t sound quite right. For financial reasons, you’ll often see a different voice cast step in to replace the overly expensive stars from the original film or TV version. Admittedly, these stand-ins do a very good job from time to time. But you can always tell the difference.
Sometimes, though, providing a rare treat for fans, actors can be convinced – by money, passion or a good script – to reprise their iconic film or TV characters once more for a video game adventure. Here are 32 games that featured instances of this incredibly fun phenomenon…
The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers (2002) and The Return Of The King (2003)
Featuring: a fair chunk of the filmic fellowship
You have to be a bit careful if you’re looking for the official voice cast from The Lord Of The Rings films in video game form. You’re safe with EA’s 2002 rendition of The Two Towers and their 2003 version of The Return Of The King, but Black Label Games’ 2002 take on The Fellowship Of The Ring isn’t linked to the film version at all. With that bit of house keeping out of the way, let’s talk about those two EA games…
Put simply – they’re ace. Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davis and Ian McKellen lent their voices and likenesses to the first game, creating a real sense that you were playing through your own Middle Earth-set movie. For the second game, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Andy Serkis, Dominic Monaghan and Christopher Lee joined the ranks.
Get a Free Trial of GameFly on Us!
Although Mr. Mortensen didn’t return for the second game, the efforts he went to in order to make the first game great really do deserve commendation. He didn’t just lend his voice and likeness – he also performed battle moves for the games-makers, allowing them to base his character’s movements on the man himself. This level of attention-to-detail is why these two titles remain among the best movie tie-in games of all time.
Firefly Online (Not yet released)
Featuring: the entire core cast of Firefly/Serenity
One section of the Firefly theme-tune – “take me out, to the black, tell them I ain’t coming back” – has held a certain resonance in recent years, since the chances of us ever seeing a return for Joss Whedon’s televised space opera are becoming slimmer by the day. However, you’ll soon be able to hear the entire core cast back together in a different medium.
The inspiration for this article, Firefly Online is a strategic role-playing game (RPG). It’s not out yet, but the game is well into its development phase. You’ll be able to take on the role of spaceship captain, undertake missions, assemble crews and partake in dodgy deals that Malcolm Reynolds would be proud of.
Speaking of Mal, Nathan Fillion will reprise his iconic role in the game (you can hear a tantalising glimpse of his input in the video above). You’ll also get to hear Adam Baldwin as Cobb, Summer Glau as River, Sean Maher as Simon, Ron Glass as Shepherd Derrial, Jewel Staite as Kayll, Alan Tudyk as Wash, as Morena Baccarin as Inara, and many more familiar voices in familiar roles. It might not be a new series, but it promises to be pretty damn cool. You can watch more teaser videos here.
Saw: The Video Game (2009) and Saw II: Flesh & Blood (2010)
Featuring: Tobin Bell as John Kramer/Jigsaw
“I want to play a game,” the Jigsaw killer is famed for muttering. Well, as it turns out, he also wanted to lend his voice to one. That is to say, the gory film series’ leading man Tobin Bell returned to voice the character once more for Konami and Zombie Studios’ cunningly titled 2009 release Saw: The Video Game (You can hear him in the trailer above).
He plays a prominent role, too – the game is littered with trademarked Jigsaw traps, complete with audio recordings and creepy videos to guide and goad the player through the narrative. You play as Detective David Tapp, Danny Glover’s role from the first film, in a story that sees the troubled investigator discovering the origins of the Jigsaw killer whilst constantly fighting for his life.
Although Danny Glover didn’t return, Mr. Tobin Bell – and the fact that Saw creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell contributed to the story – made Saw: The Video Game a sizeable treat for fans of the franchise. Its half-assed follow-up, Flesh & Blood, wasn’t as good.
Spider-Man (2002), Spider-Man 2 (2005) and Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Featuring: Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker/Spidey, and many more
“Uncle Ben… nothing could ever the fill the hole left when he died… those wounds never really heal,” intones Tobey Maguire in the video above. This isn’t a line from one of his films, though, but a brief snippet of dialogue from the 2002 tie-in Spider-Man game for PC, PS2, Xbox and Nintendo GameCube.
Tobey Maguire voiced Peter Parker and Spider-Man in all three tie-in games to the Sam Raimi trilogy, among a vast voice cast that included several other familiar names for the movies. Also in the clip above, you can see Willem Dafoe reprising his role as Norman Osborn. You also got Bruce Campbell in that first game, narrating proceedings and offering tips with a high level of dry sarcasm.
The second and third games in the series featured even more voices from the films. In part two, Kirsten Dunst played Mary Jane Watson and Alfred Molina voiced Doc Ock. Alongside Tobey Maguire, Bruce Campbell returned once again. In the third game, James Franco, Topher Grace, Thomas Haden Church and J.K. Simmons joined the roster. As far as films intertwining with games goes, this series is one of the best ever.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game (2009)
Featuring: all the original Ghostbusters, and more
With Bill Murray as Venkman, Dan Aykroyd as Stantz, Harold Ramis as Spengler and Ernie Hudson as Zeddemore, Ghostbusters: The Video Game is essentially the third original cast Ghostbusters movie that we never got to see.
You play as their young new recruit, as more and more ghostly goings-on begin occurring two years after the events of Ghostbusters 2. You can get a feel for the game in the trailer embedded above, which neatly summarises the glee we felt at witnessing a new batch of zingers from the original Ghostbusters while wielding a proton pack of our own alongside them. Put simply – this one’s really fun.
It isn’t all about the central foursome, either – you also get William Atherton, Brian Doyle-Murray, Annie Potts and Max von Sydow reprising their roles from the film franchise. The gameplay gets a little repetitive, but the thrill of hearing the gang back together never wears thin.
Star Trek (2013)
Featuring: the core rebooted Enterprise crew
Aboout 1:20 into the making-of video above, you can see the entire core cast of JJ Abrams, Roberto Orci, Damon Lindelof and Alex Kurtzman’s rebooted Star Trek universe present and correct at a recording session. Yep, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban and Anton Yelchin all starred in a Star Trek video game only a couple of years ago.
Sadly, this one wasn’t great. Although hearing the movie actors return to their roles for a story set between Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darknesss was pretty neat (as were a few nods to Trek lore), the gameplay, the story and – at points – the graphics were somewhat lacking.
“For me emotionally it hurt,” said Abrams after the game’s release, even though his collaborators Orci and Kurtzman had worked on it. “It got universally panned and I think that it was something without question that didn’t help the movie and arguably hurt it.” Ouch.
Wolverine’s Revenge (2003), X-Men: The Official Game (2006) and X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Featuring: manifold movie mutants
“If only they knew… what it was like… to be X-Men,” intones Patrick Stewart in the trailer above, adding his glossy vocal sheen to the advertisement for X-Men: The Official Game. He was joined in the voice cast for the game itself by Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler, Shawn Ashmore as Iceman and Tyler Mane as Sabretooth.
The Official Game had the best collection of movie voices. A few years prior, Wolverine’s Revenge had swapped Hugh Jackman’s voice for none other than Mark Hamill (see here, it’s awesome!). Wolverine’s Revenge also had Patrick Stewart, who must be a little cheaper that Hugh Jackman.
Mr. Jackman would return to voice Wolverine in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine tie-in game, which also boasted appearances from will.i.am and Liev Schreiber, as the other Sabretooth who looks and sounds totally different to the original. Notably, none of these games fared particularly well with reviewers. Maybe that’s why we didn’t get a proper tie-in game for First Class or Days Of Future Past.
Star Trek: Legacy (2006)
Featuring: William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew and Scott Bakula
There have been a fair few Star Trek video games to feature original cast members over the years. For instance, 1999’s Star Trek: Starfleet Command and its 2000 sequel Empires At War both featured George Takei as Hikaru Sulu. He would return to the role again in 2003 to voice act alongside Walter Koenig’s Pavel Chekov in Star Trek: Shattered Universe.
However, one Star Trek video game cast list stands head and shoulders above the rest – 2006’s PC/Xbox 360 space combat game Star Trek: Legacy. It had Shatner as Kirk, Stewart as Picard, Brooks as Sisko, Mulgrew as Janeway and Bakula as Archer. What more could a true Trekkie possibly want?
A decent game, you say? Well, sadly, you’d be left wanting that was what you were after. The game received middling to hostile reviews from the critics, especially the unwieldy PC version. But still, hearing all those voices together in the same game almost makes up for it. Almost. You can hear some of Shatner’s vintage voice work in the clip above.
Injustice: Gods Among Us (2013) and LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham (2014)
Featuring: Stephen Amell and more
“To survive I must become someone else… something green… and pointy… and arrow-y,” says TV’s Green Arrow Stephen Amell in the trailer above, advertising the Arrow DLC add-on pack that you can download for the game LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham. He also voices the main version of Green Arrow within the main game itself.
A few years prior, Stephen Amell also voiced the Green Arrow in the DC Comics fighting game Injustice: Gods Among Us (you can hear him getting sassy right here). For LEGO Batman 3, he was joined by his fellow Arrow alum Cynthia Addai-Robinson (who plays Amanda Waller in the show).
Also reprising a TV role for LEGO Batman 3 game was Adam West, returning to Batman after quite some time away from the role. As you can see in the opening minute or so of this walkthrough, it sounds like he had a lot of fun playing around with the Caped Crusader once again…
You could also play as Adam West himself in the game, which is quite surreal. Fans of the DC Animated Universe will recognise loads of the other voices, too. You get Kevin Smith as a playable character, as well, for some reason.
Various Harry Potter games
Featuring: Rupert Grint, Warwick Davies and more
There are loads of Harry Potter games you’ve been able to buy over the years, but if you pick the right ones, you’ll actor get to hear some of the movie cast back in their famous roles. The EA tie-ins for The Order Of The Phoenix, The Half Blood Prince and The Deathly Hallows 1 and 2 boasted an impressive amount of movie actors.
Rupert Grint appeared as Ron Weasley in all four of these games, and Warwick Davis appeared as Professor Flitwick. Josh Herdman’s Goyle and Matthew Lewis’ Neville Longbottom also made appearances. No Radcliffe or Watson, then, but enough original cast members to pique the interest of hardened Potterheads.
Various DC Comics Games
Featuring: Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy
Mark Hamill first played the Joker in 1992, for Batman: The Animated Series. By the end of 1993, his portrayal had become so popular that he anchored proceedings alongside iconic Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy in the theatrical release Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm. The duo are regarded by many as the best voice actors of their respective characters.
They’ve since collaborated on loads more animations and – pertinently for this article – a collection of video games. You can hear Hamill and Conroy’s entrancing tones all over the Arkham series (except for the prequel Arkham Origins). The pair both appeared in 2011’s online MMO DC Universe Online and 2001’s Batman: Vengeance, as well. You’ll find their best video game work in the Arkham series, though.
Various Doctor Who games
Featuring: Matt Smith and more
Matt Smith’s eleventh Doctor launched Doctor Who to new levels of global popularity. Suddenly, making proper Doctor Who video games became a real possibility. It began seeming plausible that we could expect something a little more exciting than that 2008 Top Trumps: Doctor Who video game that had David Tennant on the cover.
In 2010, Matt Smith and Karen Gillen starred in a series of short free-to-download PC tie-in games dubbed Doctor Who: The Adventure Games. The graphics weren’t great, but it was undeniably exciting to play with these characters, with the right voices. The same year, we got Doctor Who: Return To Earth on the Wii and the puzzle game Doctor Who: Evacuation Earth on the Nintendo DS. Both of those games sucked, but they still had Smith and Gillen on voice duties.
In 2012, Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock (see the video above) promised something a bit more imaginative – a full-on adventure game for PC and PS3, featuring Matt Smith as the Doctor and Alex Kingston as River Song. You could play as both characters, on a mission across time and space that involves battling Daleks, Cybermen, Silurians and the Silence. Sadly, once again, this one didn’t earn much admiration from critics or fans. Being the best Doctor Who video game isn’t much of an achievement at this stage.
LEGO Dimensions (2015) and Disney Infinity (2013)
Featuring: absolutely ruddy everyone
As the other inspiration for this article, LEGO Dimensions is a film and TV fan’s dream. It’s a game where Will Arnett’s Batman and Elizabeth Banks’ Wildstyle from The LEGO Movie can team up with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, and everyone has the right voice. If you’ve not seen the trailer above, please do give it a click. You’ll thank me later.
From Doctor Who, you also get John Barrowman, Michelle Gomez and Jenna Coleman. Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies and Sean Astin recorded new Lord Of The Rings dialogue for the game. Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox even reprised their Back To The Future Roles.
Chris Pratt plays dual roles as Emmett from The LEGO Movie and Owen Grady from Jurassic World. Bryce Dallas Howard also reprises her Jurassic World role. Using archive sound, you also get all the Ghostbusters, all the old Doctors and a lot of Simpsons characters. There’s also a whole host of Scooby Doo talent. You can see a few more clips here, if you like…
Truly, we’re never likely to see a better cast of movie and TV actors working together on one game than we’ve seen on LEGO Dimensions. There’s a chance Disney Infinity could top it one day, but Ahmed Best as Jar Jar Binks and Armie Hammer as The Lone Ranger are the best names that rival platform has so far. With the nature of sandbox gaming, though, these cast could grow and grow. But will they ever top this classic…
Star Wars: The Interactive Board Game (1996)
Featuring: David Prowse and James Earl Jones
Combining the hip and trendy modern technologies of VHS tapes and physical board games, Star Wars: The Interactive Video Board Game is undoubtedly the coolest thing on this list. With James Earl Jones and David Prowse reuniting to reprise the iconic villainous role of Darth Vader, this game remains the finest example of movie actors and video-based gaming experiences colliding. Um, okay… I’ll show myself out.