While it might not have the same history and prestige, the video game industry makes way more money from new releases each year than Hollywood does. For one dramatic example, Red Dead Redemption 2 made more money in one weekend than Avengers: Infinity War did in its entire domestic theatrical run! With that in mind, it's no wonder so many actors mainly known for movies and TV have gotten involved in voice or motion capture performances in video games. Some of these film and TV actors are clearly passionate about this work. Others we can't blame for forgetting certain games of theirs even exist.
It's perfectly understandable. Not every one of these actors is a gamer, and even when they are, not every one of these games is going to be particularly memorable. Some of them are so old and obscure most players will have forgotten about them. Others are remembered, but will still evoke a "Wait, that guy was in this?" response when reminded of the specific casting. There's also the issue of extreme secrecy in some voice recording scenarios. Of course, it's always fun to find out which celebrity actors do have strong memories of their video game work. This list compiles seven such actors who remember their roles, but also 13 who we have reason to suspect might not remember so well. Well, maybe it's just 12; we have conflicting sources on one entry. If any of these actors read this article and wish to offer a correction, please let us know.
20 REMEMBER: MARTIN SHEEN (MASS EFFECT SERIES)
Let it be said that performing in a game and actually playing it are wildly different skills. Martin Sheen was one of the more surprising bits of stunt casting in Mass Effect 2. According to his co-stars, he got really into the performance, and returned to the role of The Illusive Man for the controversial third game in the trilogy.
While Sheen might have loved his experience working on Mass Effect, he could never figure out how to play the game itself. When complimented on his performance years later in a 2015 AMA, he responded "Thanks for the comment on the "illusive man" but in fact, I am an illusive man as the technology required to actually play the darned disc has completely eluded me."
19 FORGOT: MICHAEL KEATON (CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS 2)
It's the curse of Call of Duty putting out a new, awfully similar game every year with a main focus on multiplayer that makes it easy to forget what happened in the single-player campaigns even just a few years ago. Case in point: did you remember that Michael Keaton was in Black Ops 2?
Decent chance you didn't, and it wouldn't be surprising if even Michael Keaton himself doesn't. He's not even the weirdest celebrity appearance in Black Ops 2. That's a close one between Jimmy Kimmel and Oliver North, though both are more likely to remember their involvement since Kimmel has had longer-term involvement in the franchise (starring in ads for the first Black Ops) and North had political reasons for appearing.
18 FORGOT: KEVIN SPACEY (CALL OF DUTY: ADVANCED WARFARE)
Now this is one we all want to forget, so let's all collectively agree to forget about it and pray Kevin Spacey has as well. Spacey already seems to think he's Frank Underwood, his more famous evil politician role. Can you imagine how extra scary his attempted "comeback" at the end of 2018 involved him thinking he was the evil military contractor Jonathan Irons from Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare?
Just looking at screenshots of Kevin Spacey's digital doppelganger already feels like a glimpse into a bizarro nightmare world. This seemed cool in 2014. Today, the uncanny valley graphics recreating one of the creepiest men in entertainment only makes him even creepier.
17 REMEMBER: JAMES WOODS (GRAND THEFT AUTO: SAN ANDREAS)
Grand Theft Auto is noteworthy as the first video game series to go all in on celebrity voice casting. Given that it's pretty fair to assume the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Ray Liotta and Kyle MacLachlan have some memory of the acting experience. We're highlighting James Woods, the voice of government agent Mike Toreno in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, because of how outspokenly he's turned on the game.
Woods claimed he felt "sandbagged" over the "Hot Coffee" controversy and refused to be associated with the game. As James Woods' online persona has grown controversial, many have pointed out the irony in how he seems to increasingly resemble his GTA conspiracy theorist character.
16 FORGOT: GARY OLDMAN (THE LEGEND OF SPYRO SERIES)
When you're a character actor as talented as Gary Oldman, you're allowed to slum it in projects you might not particularly care about. One would assume that Ignitus, the Fire Guardian dragon in the The Legend of Spyro video game trilogy, isn't one of Oldman's career highlights he thinks about often if at all.
The Legend of Spyro was an attempt to reboot the classic Spyro the Dragon series in a slightly darker direction. The developers shelled out money for big name actors. David Spade might be even less likely to remember his role as Sparx in the first game, while Spyro actor Elijah Wood is more likely to have some passion for this role on account of being into video games in general.
15 FORGOT: CHRISTOPHER WALKEN (TRUE CRIME SERIES)
Activision tried and failed to create its own Grand Theft Auto style franchise with the True Crime games. The first game, True Crime: Streets of LA, sold well and got decent reviews, but the sequel, True Crime: New York City, bombed hard. A proposed third entry ended becoming its own game, Sleeping Dogs, and the originals are now a distant memory.
Christopher Walken might actually remember the medicore sequel better. New York City gave him a major role as Agent Gabriel Whitting. In Streets of LA, however, he got involved late, so he got a more minor part as the desk sergeant George as well as some narration at the beginning and end of the game.
14 REMEMBER: BILLY ZANE (KINGDOM HEARTS)
Thanks to the Disney connection, Kingdom Hearts games are loaded with big name actors. With many spin-off games over the years and Kingdom Hearts III finally on the horizon, most of the actors surely haven't forgotten about the game. There was one big question mark, however: might Billy Zane, who played Ansem in the first game but was replaced by Richard Epcar in every subsequent game, have forgotten about it?
Turns on the answer is he hasn't! Not only does he remember playing Ansem, he'll even draw the character for fans! As for why he was recast, we don't know for sure, but there are rumors of a political blacklisting as well as just the possibility of him being too expensive to rehire.
13 FORGOT: PETER DINKLAGE (DESTINY)
Peter Dinklage is almost certainly aware that he was in Destiny, given how loud the controversy was over his voice acting as the Ghost AI. Knowing he did something doesn't mean he remembers actually doing it, however. Given how the usually amazing actor sounded bored out of his mind and possibly hungover, and it's been confirmed the recording was a rush job, it's very possible he doesn't even remember.
The people at Bungie certainly want players to forget about Dinklage's performance. A year after launch, it was completely patched over. Prolific video game voice actor Nolan North rerecorded all of Ghost's dialogue with a lot more emotional expression.
12 FORGOT: CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER (STAR TREK: KLINGON ACADEMY)
We'd hope Christopher Plummer remembers acting as Arngeir in Skyrim, his most famous video game role. Todd Howard claims many of his game's big-name actors sought him out instead of the other way around, and Skyrim's stayed prominent enough in pop culture that it wouldn't likely escape even a non-gamer actor's memory.
However, in doing press for Skyrim, Plummer inadvertently revealed he'd forgotten about his previous video game roles, claiming Skyrim was his "first." Skyrim was his first not reprising a film character. It'd be understandable if he confused recordings for Up the video game with recordings for Up the movie. Klingon Academy, however, had Plummer reprising his General Chang role nine years after The Undiscovered Country, so it's noteworthy he forgot about it.
11 REMEMBER: ELLEN PAGE (BEYOND: TWO SOULS)
Beyond: Two Souls isn't a particularly well-remembered game. It recieved mixed reviews and mainly just solidified David Cage's reputation as a "pretentious" video game auteur. That said, Ellen Page, who played Jodie Holmes in the game, almost certainly remembers it, not just for the experience of acting in the game and going through a 2,000 page script, but for the controversies around its release.
Page criticized The Last of Us, released around the same time as Beyond, for making its main character Ellie look a bit too much like her. She also had a highly justified issue with the Beyond itself, specifically an unapproved nude model of her character hidden the code that violated her contract.
10 FORGOT: RON PERLMAN (FAMILY GUY: THE QUEST FOR STUFF)
Ron Perlman actually has a career in video game voice acting in addition to his film and TV work. He's been the narrator of the Fallout series since its beginning and has been in Halo and Call of Duty games in addition to reprising his own roles. He clearly enjoys the work, but does every role inspire the same passion?
Digging into the more obscure reaches of Perlman's resume, we find a cameo as himself in the 2014 Comic Con update for the mobile game Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff. Perlman's association is more with Comic Con than Family Guy; unlike other guests in the game, he was never on the show and seemingly has never talked about it.
9 FORGOT: DANNY TREJO (FALLOUT: NEW VEGAS)
While some actors seek out working with Bethesda, the studio is infamous for such extreme secrecy that many actors don't even know what games they're in while recording. If they're not informing their stars, it makes sense that some of those stars who are less into gaming might not even be aware of which games they're in.
Fallout: New Vegas wasn't made by Bethesda itself, but if it requested a similar secrecy as publisher, that would be an easy explanation for why Danny Trejo seemingly forgot about his role as Raul when asked about his video game work in a 2013 AMA. He remembered Black Ops 2 and "a boxing one" (probably The Fight: Lights Out) but not Fallout.
8 REMEMBER: MARK HAMILL (ARKHAM ASYLUM SERIES)
The only thing Mark Hamill "forgot" about his performance as The Joker in the Arkham Asylum games was the part where he was supposed to retire from playing the character! Voicing The Joker in various media almost singlehandedly saved him from being typecast as Luke Skywalker forever, but doing that voice is apparently hard on his throat and the Arkham trilogy was supposed to be his final performance in the role.
Of course, then he got his dream role in the animated adaptation of The Killing Joke. And then he was in Justice League Action. And then the LEGO DC Super-Villains game. His retirement's long forgotten, but his performance is certainly well-remembered by him and by his fans.
7 FORGOT: BRIAN COX (MANHUNT)
While Rockstar sinced abandoned the practice, the edgy studio was into celebrity casting in the early 2000s. Where the Grand Theft Auto series is still going strong, the Manhunt games have faded significantly in the popular consciousness as moral panics about video game violence are no longer the same concern they once were.
Brian Cox's performance as the twisted Lionel Starkweather is one of the better remembered aspects of the first Manhunt game. The deciding factor which might make this less memorable for the actor himself is that when people come up to him and say "I loved you in Manhunt," is he going to assume they mean the game called that or would he just think they mispronounced Manhunter, his most iconic film?
6 FORGOT: JOHN GOODMAN (PYST)
Myst is one of the classics of '90s PC gaming, once the best selling computer game of all time. Pyst is a long forgotten parody, not a major success at the time and now remembered only as a historical footnote. This parody actually had some impressive talent behind it. Peter Bergman, co-founder of the Firesign Theatre, wrote the script, while the star of the Full Motion Video segments was... John Goodman?
Yes, John Goodman played "King Mattruss" in Pyst. He even sung a surprisingly well-produced musical number! We kind of want John Goodman to remember this and do a tell-all about this experience, but 23 years later, we don't blame him if he forgot about Pyst just like the rest of the world.
5 REMEMBER: ANDY SERKIS (ENSLAVED: ODYSSEY TO THE WEST)
This is noteworthy as a game its cast almost certainly remembers better than, well, everyone else. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West was originally intended to be an animated feature film before it evolved into a video game. One could just as easily imagine Andy Serkis doing the motion capture for the hero Monkey in the proposed film version as one can in the game.
Serkis took his motion capture work as seriously as he would for a movie, doing extensive research to get into character. Unfortunately mass audiences didn't appreciate the game, which didn't sell very well against serious competition in Fall of 2010.
4 FORGOT: PATRICK STEWART (LANDS OF LORE: THE THRONE OF CHAOS)
Sir Patrick Stewart is known to geek out about all sorts of popular culture, but he avoids doing so over video games. In the PBS series Digital Nation, he claimed that he was scared of doing so, knowing he'd become addicted if he were to get started playing anything.
He won the Video Game Award for his biggest video game performance, as Emperor Uriel Septim VII in The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, so he certainly remembers that even if he doesn't play it. More likely to be forgotten is his voice-overs as King Richard in Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos. It's not like there's even that much for him to remember about the experience; he completed all his line readings in just three hours!
3 FORGOT: ELVIRA (PAIN)
What happens when a game has a gazillion celebrities and no point? You get Pain, a shallow ragdoll physics simulator where you can't do much more than torture cartoon versions of recognizable figures (mostly celebrities, but also Santa Claus and some other PlayStation characters) with a slingshot. Might be fun for a few minutes, but nobody remembers this a decade later.
Elvira's just one of the random assortment of big names who lent her likeness and a few lines to this silly PlayStation 3 exclusive. George Takei, Andy Dick, David Hasselhoff and Flava Flav could also be flung around and cartoonishly tortured in Pain.
2 REMEMBER: GEORGE TAKEI (COMMAND & CONQUER: RED ALERT 3)
The majority of George Takei's video game credits are just him reprising Sulu in various Star Trek games. He cameoed as himself in the Family Guy and Futurama mobile games, unsurprising given he's a fan of both TV shows and guest-starred on the latter. There are a few odd games out on his resume. The afformentioned Pain is probably the oddest, but Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 is the most noteworthy.
Takei's performance as the Emperor of Japan in the Full Motion Video segments of the ridiculous alternate history is certainly hard to forget once you've seen it. Sure enough, Takei himself hasn't forgotten it either, with it coming up on his August 2018 appearance on The Game Informer Show podcast.
1 FORGOT?/UNCERTAIN: LIAM NEESON (FALLOUT 3)
Does Liam Neeson remember his role as James in Fallout 3? We're split. We know that, unlike some other Bethesda actors, he wasn't kept in the dark about the game he was in and actually took great interest in the story while acting in it. His performance got nominated for a 2008 Video Game Award and he discussed the experience while doing press for Taken.
That said, this was all over 10 years ago, and it's possible he doesn't actively remember it. One post on reddit from 2017 claims as such, saying not only did he not remember it, but his assistant didn't either! It's not the strongest source, but without refutation, we can't fit Neeson into either the Remember or Forgot list with certainty.