If I may be so bold, I consider Nolan North to be the Nathan Fillion of video games … although Nathan Fillion has had successful forays into the world of video game voice acting himself (the Halo series, most famously). Nolan North possesses a charm that makes him stand out from the other voice actors working today … apart from Troy Baker, can you really name anyone else? Nolan North’s name in the promotional material for a game instantly imbues the project with a sense of professionalism and gravitas in the same way that seeing Al Pacino’s name on a film poster or a Bob Dylan song writing credit on an album does (apologies for the shoe-horned Bob Dylan reference … I seriously can’t help myself).
This list is just focusing on his video game performances, even though he has had some cracking roles in animated television and movies … perhaps a list for another day … I’ll make a mental note.
- Desmond Miles – Assassin’s Creed Series – 2007-Present
Really, Bill? Desmond Miles? One of the most aggravating characters in video games? Why yes, actually, and I’ll tell you for why! The Assassin’s Creed games used to be something that people looked forward to each year with great enthusiasm, until they started becoming bloated messes with historical figures shoe horned in without any sense of plot development or tone. Assassin’s Creed II, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, and Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate remain some of the best video games of the last couple of generations, and admittedly Nolan North doesn’t lend his voice to two of these, but he was with the series in its heyday: the Ezio years. Desmond as a character gets a lot of flak, but this is largely down to the writers not knowing what the hell they were doing with the character or the plot (seriously, what happened at the end of Ass III, as I affectionately call it). North’s actual voice work gave Desmond humanity and you did end up rooting for him in the end, even if he was whiny prick.
- The Penguin – Arkham Series – 2009-Present
A lot of the time in the life of a video game voice actor, you are working on fresh material; new exciting characters that are free for you to mould and grow as you see fit … unless you’re a bad actor and are stuck doing movie cash ins. Nolan North is famous for his original characters, with two of the best appearing later in this list, however, with the Penguin, first seen in Batman: Arkham City, he was playing a well-known and iconic Batman villain. This is no easy feat, as hell hath no fury like a fan boy scorned (… just ask Destiny fans when Nolan North took over the role of Ghost from the dwarf in Game of Thrones … woah). He took a brilliant villain and poured in all his humour and campy vocal stylings to create a villain that can almost stand toe-to-toe with Mark Hamill’s The Joker (which is still the best version of the Joker … sorry Heath).
“You give up now and I promise to be quick. Promise.”
– David, The Last of Us
- David – The Last of Us – 2013 (Mild Spoilers for The Last of Us)
Nolan North is famous for playing the guy that everyone wants to be with, hence why I compared him to Fillion at the beginning. He’s got the cheeky chappy vibe. He’s the guy who’s always there with a quick witted retort when facing down a horde of enemies … Then we get onto David from The Last of Us. When we first meet David we are led to believe he’s a charming, sweet, middle-aged man; a light in the darkness of the apocalypse … although, Ellie is rightfully suspicious. It is soon revealed that David is the leader of a cannibalistic cult who kidnaps Ellie and only helped her fight of the mushroom zombie horde earlier to either: A) Recruit her; B) Eat her; or C) Have her as a sex-slave as the subtle subtext of the game hints towards. Nolan’s quiet and mild-mannered delivery of the lines adds to the creeping dread of this post-apocalyptic devil. This all culminates in one of the greatest boss battles in videogame history as you stealth your way around a disused diner, hiding behind tables and chairs and avoiding the broken plates on the floor lest they give away your positon. Flames rise all around you, blocking your path, as David stalks the darkened corners whispering threats that mingle with the crackling flames and smoke … it is one encounter that every gamer must experience before they leave this world for Sovngarde.
“If that hit you in the chest, I’m sorry. I was aiming for your crotch.”
– Deadpool, Deadpool
- Deadpool – Deadpool – 2013
Before Ryan Reynolds created the iconic on-screen version of the Merc with a Mouth, there was Nolan North doing, arguably, a better job. Here, North is at his cheekiest and most hilarious as he blitzes his way through the single most post-modern text in the history of post-modernism. If you felt like the film broke conventions, then you need to play the game and realise just how far a Deadpool product can push boundaries. The game features - among its infinite delights - a section where you can repeatedly slap an unconscious Wolverine in the face for as long as you like; use the games own speech bubbles as platforms to overcome objects; and brutally murder some unsuspecting guards at a urinal, before lamenting your lack of a good dick joke to suit the situation. Yes, the gameplay sucks massively, but that just shows that with incredible voice acting and a genuinely hilarious script, you really don’t need gameplay with all the bells and whistles.
- Nathan Drake – Uncharted Series – 2007-Present
Come on, there was never going to be anything else on the number one slot, was there? Often considered one of the greatest video game characters in existence, Nolan North is Nathan Drake. Imagine if they recast Indiana Jones with Nathan Fillion, and you get close to Nolan North’s Nathan Drake. Yes, he’s that good. For anyone who has blindly stuck with Xbox or Nintendo, do yourself a favour and get a cheap second hand PS3 with the Nathan Drake trilogy and enjoy the most palpably exciting series of games to grace our consoles. The grand set pieces are the cornerstone of the gameplay, but without the vocal talents of Nolan North (and the rest of the gang, to be fair), the games would have simply been good Tomb Raider clones instead of the games that the reboot of Lara Croft’s adventures actually styled themselves on. And quite possibly, the most exciting thing to happen in recent years: the fourth in the series features Nolan North and Troy Baker (who, if I’m honest with myself, I might actually prefer… Joel, Booker DeWitt, Two-Face, Pagan Min, Telltale’s Batman … I mean, come on?!)
Any performances you love that I’ve missed off? Write them in the comments and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @MugwumpBlog.