Barring style and demeanor, in “traditional” acting, there is no way of confusing a character’s visual appearance and that of the actor who portrays them. When voice acting bloomed to prominence in animation this drastically changed, as an actor could play a character who was remarkably different in appearance. For instance, the one-year-old boy at the center of Rugrats, Tommy Pickles, was voiced by E.G. Daily, a woman who later returned to voice an 11-year-old Tommy in All Grown Up. Setting aside advancements in CGI technology, Daily’s performance is otherwise impossible. Of course, this logic applies to thousands of cartoons. Still, voice acting’s significance has not always rested at the medium’s forefront. This especially holds true for video games, since acting has only become more prominently emphasized in the medium within the last ten plus years.
Interestingly, due to technological advancements with mocap and performance capture, filming for video games has grown rather similar to stage or film productions. Yet these advancements are not solely represented in how cutscenes or gameplay moments are filmed. The technology has also allowed developers to essentially transport an actor’s appearance, expressions, and movements into the digital world. Therefore, some characters are identical to the actors who play them. However, there remain countless examples of projects that feature actors who look nothing like the characters with whom they share a voice. In the following list, a few interesting examples of each will be acknowledged. Here are 10 actors who resemble their game characters, and 10 who do not.
20 LOOKS LIKE: DAVID HAREWOOD (USEF OMAR IN CALL OF DUTY)
Homeland alum David Harewood is now better known for being Supergirl’s J’onn J’onzz/Martian Manhunter, but his likeness can be seen in an entry of a popular game franchise as well in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Through the power of performance capture, David Harewood’s appearance was fully realized as Infinite Warfare’s Staff Sergeant Usef Omar.
It seems that nearly every facet of Harewood’s likeness, at least for his countenance, was rendered into the game. From creases on his forehead to the way the actor typically styles his hair, many intricacies are seen in Omar’s facial features. Of course, Harewood is not the only famous actor whose visage appears in Activision’s flagship franchise. Game of Thrones’ Kit Harington also had a role in Infinite Warfare.
19 DOESN'T: TROY BAKER (JOEL IN THE LAST OF US)
Troy Baker remains one of the most prolific actors in gaming, yet it’s no secret that his most celebrated role is as Joel in Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. In it, he played a middle-aged man, weathered by the loss of his daughter and the brutality of a post-apocalyptic world. Joel’s being weathered shows most notably in his graying hair and crinkled skin, features Troy Baker does not share.
Though Naughty Dog also captured Baker’s facial expressions during performance capture, visually, Joel is his own person. This additionally extends to the character’s build. Baker’s thinner physique doesn’t quite match Joel’s fuller, yet apparently fit, body type.
18 LOOKS LIKE: CAMILLA LUDDINGTON (LARA CROFT IN TOMB RAIDER)
Long before Alicia Vikander was announced to star in Warner Bros.’ Tomb Raider adaptation, fans were banking on the hiring of Camilla Luddington, who plays Lara Croft in the rebooted Crystal Dynamics series. Over the course of the game trilogy, Lara’s appearance undergoes a couple of changes, subtle though they may be. Still, Luddington and the iconic adventurer most definitely share a likeness.
It helps that the two studios responsible for the trilogy, Crystal Dynamics and Eidos-Montréal, used performance capture. With this technology, both Luddington’s movements and facial expressions were tracked during filming. In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the trilogy’s final entry, the similarities between character and actor are pretty uncanny.
17 DOESN'T: DOUG COCKLE (GERALT IN THE WITCHER)
A bald, typically bare-faced gentleman, voice actor Doug Cockle couldn’t look any more different from most people’s vision of Geralt of Rivia. However, to millions worldwide, Cockle certainly serves as the perfect voice for the White Wolf. Unlike several other actors on this list, Cockle’s work in CD Projekt RED’s Witcher series was voice work alone. He didn't portray the character’s physical movements on a mocap stage. Rather, stunt performers brought Geralt’s physicality to life, specifically with regards to combat.
As far as Geralt’s facial features are concerned, no one person seems to have inspired his appearance. Additionally, in The Witcher 3 at least, the character’s facial expressions were either hand-animated or are based on an algorithm.
16 LOOKS LIKE: KEITH DAVID (KEITH DAVID IN SAINTS ROW 4)
Keith David has lent his voice to many a game character. Arguably, his most famous work in the medium is as Mass Effect’s Admiral David Anderson. Yet, there’s an oft forgotten role that David played in Saints Row 4, a role that’s more than worthy of mention -- Keith David.
In Saints Row 4, David portrayed actor turned politician Keith David. He’s not just any politician, though, this version of David is the second most powerful manin the country. Unsurprisingly, the character looks exactly like his real world counterpart. David’s casting in such a role is made all the more brilliant by his previously voicing a character in Saints Row and its sequel who also resembles him, which Saints Row 4 frequently calls attention to.
15 DOESN'T: ASHLY BURCH (CHLOE PRICE IN LIFE IS STRANGE)
Ashly Burch breathed so much life into Life is Strange’s Chloe Price that she was hired to help write the prequel, despite her not voicing the character’s younger version. While Burch may have had a hand in developing the character’s dynamic, punk loving personality, her own appearance does not seem to have had any influence on that of Chloe’s.
Chloe’s tall, lanky physique doesn’t quite match that of the woman who voices her. The same can be said of Chloe’s pale skin and character defining hairstyle. While Burch typically wears her dark hair in curls, the Life is Strange heroine’s hair is streaked blue and often sits beneath a beanie.
14 LOOKS LIKE: EMILY ROSE (ELENA FISHER IN UNCHARTED)
Prior to Sony’s announcing an Uncharted prequel film starring Tom Holland, hopes were high that if ever the PlayStation franchise made it to the big screen, Emily Rose would play Elena Fisher. Through performance capture technology, Rose played the intrepid reporter in body and voice. Moreover, the shared likeness between character and performer are uncanny.
The similarity is particularly noticeable in the fourth installment, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, where Naughty Dog pushed the graphical fidelity of console gaming to a new threshold. Naturally, advancements in technology ensured Rose’s features were even more fully represented in Uncharted 4, particularly where facial expressions were concerned.
13 DOESN'T: ARMIN SHIMERMAN (ANDREW RYAN IN BIOSHOCK)
To many fans the world over, Armin Shimerman is most recognizable as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Quark and Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Principal Snyder. Interestingly, in the last 15 years or so, the actor has added dozens of game roles to his incredibly lengthy resume. BioShock’s Andrew Ryan arguably serves as Shimerman’s most memorable video game role to date.
Yet, the stern and soothing voice of Andrew Ryan seems the only quality Shimerman provided to the now iconic role. The character and the actor who helped bring him to look nothing alike. Ryan’s full head of hair and thin black mustache most notably set the two apart. But there’s a coldness to Ryan’s visage, too, an awful smugness that Shimerman simply doesn’t share.
12 LOOKS LIKE: ALEX HERNANDEZ (LINCOLN CLAY IN MAFIA III)
Mafia III, similar to its two predecessors, isn’t celebrated for its gameplay. Rather, praise for Mafia III centers squarely on the title’s brilliantly written narrative and impressive cast. Leading the cast as protagonist Lincoln Clay was Black Box and Hemlock Grove alum, Alex Hernandez. For this project, developer Hangar 13 utilized performance capture to simultaneously film voice and movement.
Face cams were also used, and evidently helped in crafting the model for Lincoln Clay. The character seems a near spitting image of Hernandez. However, there does exist one notable difference between the two. Clay, being half black and half white, has a darker complexion than Hernandez, who’s mixed race and of Dominican descent.
11 DOESN'T: KIMBERLY BROOKS (ASHLEY WILLIAMS IN MASS EFFECT)
Kimberly Brooks may not be a widely recognizable name, but she is a prolific voice actor in animation and gaming. From portraying Barbara Gordon in the first two Arkham titles to providing BioShock Infinite’s Daisy Fitzroy with a powerful voice, Brooks’ versatility seems limitless. This is also displayed in her work as Mass Effect favorite, Ashley Williams.
If Brooks contributed anything other than a voice to Williams’ character, it is not evident when the Systems Alliance soldier appears on-screen. Brooks, a black woman, and Williams, a white woman, visually share very few things in common. This highlights the brilliance of voice acting in general, allowing actors from all walks of life to perform in whichever role they see fit to audition for.
10 LOOKS LIKE: HAYDEN PANETTIERE (SAM GIDDINGS IN UNTIL DAWN)
To be fair, every cast member featured in Until Dawn looks like their character. It’s an impressive cast, too, featuring the likes of Rami Malek, Peter Stormare, Brett Dalton, and more. Since her character Sam is an Until Dawn fan-favorite, Heroes alum and Nashville star Hayden Panettiere gets the nod in this particular instance.
As with many other actors on this list, the sheer technological power of performance capture ensured Sam and Panettiere would share a remarkably uncanny likeness. The uncanniness exceeds just looks, though. Panettiere’s facial expressions were also translated to Until Dawn; Sam’s expressions, akin to other characters in the game, appear most vivid when humor or horror is being conveyed.
9 DOESN'T: ROGER CRAIG SMITH (EZIO IN ASSASSIN'S CREED)
Ezio Auditore da Firenze immediately stole hearts worldwide when he debuted in 2009’s Assassin’s Creed II. Even before his origin story took a tragic turn near the end of the sequel’s first act, Ezio seemed instantly likable. His suave demeanor and natural charisma may have set him apart from other protagonists in action games at the time. However, his Italian accent truly won fans over, courtesy of the impressive work by voice actor Roger Craig Smith.
Ezio’s appearance is certainly nothing to scoff at, though. He’s objectively attractive, but looks nothing like the man responsible for giving him a voice. Yet, this should hardly surprise anyone. Of course a 15th Century man from Italy is going to have very little in common with a modern-day man from the States.
8 LOOKS LIKE: DEBRA WILSON (GRACE WALKER IN WOLFENSTEIN 2)
Barring obvious differences between a video game character model and a real person, Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus’ Grace Walker and the actor who plays her, Debra Wilson, are nearly indecipherable. One key dissimilarity rests in Grace’s having an afro, whereas Debra Wilson does not, but still, the two share an uncanny resemblance.
Interestingly, the similarities are not merely surface level. In interviews, Wilson seems to share the passion and strong-willed demeanor represented in the character she so powerfully portrays in Wolfenstein 2. Wilson’s willingness to speak openly and partake in difficult discourse is as character defining in the real world as it is in Wolfenstein 2’s alternate reality.
7 DOESN'T: LAURA BAILEY (NADINE ROSS IN UNCHARTED)
Despite the excitement surrounding another female antagonist joining the Uncharted franchise in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, controversy shrouded Nadine Ross’ reveal. The character is a black woman of South African descent who runs Shoreline, her father’s paramilitary organization, and instantly comes to blows with Nathan Drake. No trouble came from these revelations, however, contention erupted when it was announced that Laura Bailey, a white woman, had been hired to portray Nadine.
Regardless of the uproar, Bailey proved a perfect fit for the role. She even returned for a second time to portray Nadine in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, a title that takes place after the events of Uncharted 4.
6 LOOKS LIKE: TERRY CREWS (COMMANDER JAXON IN CRACKDOWN 3)
Crackdown 3 counts as the only game featured on this list that has yet to hit store shelves. Yet, it still warrants mention, specifically because of who’s playing the protagonist and the now storied history behind the game’s lengthy and troubled development. In Crackdown 3, Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Terry Crews portrays Commander Jaxon.
Thus far, very little is known about Jaxon. However, there exists no way of mistaking him as being identical to anyone else. Jaxon is Terry Crews. From the little that’s been shown of the character in action, Crews’ likeness seems to have been perfectly translated to the forthcoming Crackdown entry.
5 DOESN'T: ELIAS TOUFEXIS (ADAM JENSEN IN DEUS EX)
In the first Deus Ex prequel from Eidos-Montréal, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, protagonist Adam Jensen was evidently modeled after the title’s Art Director, Jonathan Jacques-Belletête. The same character model was used for the follow-up, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. However, certain quirks of Jensen’s actor, Elias Toufexis, came to the fore during Mankind Divided, thanks to advancements in performance capture technology.
In Mankind Divided specifically, while Jensen and Toufexis don’t resemble one another, the technology ensured that small movements from Toufexis made it to the screen. Even subtle modes of expression, the lift of an eyebrow or bite of a lip on Toufexis’ part, gave Jensen an emotional range he visually lacked in Human Revolution.
4 LOOKS LIKE: MELISSANTHI MAHMUT (KASSANDRA IN ASSASSIN'S CREED: ODYSSEY)
For Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, the first entry in the series to explore Ancient Greece, Ubisoft set out to hire voice actors of Greek heritage to portray the two protagonists, Alexios and Kassandra. The publisher succeeded with Michael Antonakos and Melissanthi Mahmut, who voiced Alexios and Kassandra respectively.
Both characters resemble their respective voice actors, but Kassandra's appearance in particular seems faithful to Mahmut's in many respects. This is most notably thanks to performance capture, as Ubisoft employed both mocap and face cams for the actors. The one noticeable difference is that Kassandra has a slightly darker complexion than Mahmut. Interestingly, most characters in Odyssey have a darker skin tone.
3 DOESN'T: TARA STRONG (HARLEY QUINN IN THE ARKHAM SERIES)
In the Batman: Arkham series, Harley Quinn is only ever shown in full Harley gear. Unlike a few instances in Batman: The Animated Series, from which the character originated, Harley never dons regular attire, nor does she ever appear without wearing make-up. To this end, then, Harley looks nothing like Tara Strong, who voices the villain in Arkham City, Origins, and Knight.
In some respects, however, this could be perceived as false. Again, this version of Harley is never shown under normal circumstances. As such, beneath the harlequin make-up and eccentric garb, Harley may very well resemble Tara Strong. For the purposes of this list, though, the two merely share a voice that only Mr. J. could appreciate.
2 LOOKS LIKE: NOLAN NORTH (NATHAN DRAKE IN UNCHARTED)
Except for the treasure hunting, parkouring, and shooting, Nolan North and Nathan Drake are essentially the same person. This is due in large part to North being given the opportunity to inject so much of his own personality into Uncharted’s beloved protagonist. Interestingly, as many fans have noted over the years, character and actor also share a likeness.
In Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, the supposed conclusion of Drake’s story, the adventurer and the actor are nearly identical in appearance. It helps that North aged along with the character. Of course, Naughty Dog’s innovations with performance capture in gaming were also instrumental in bringing North’s award-winning performances to life.
1 DOESN'T: BENJAMIN BYRON DAVIS (DUTCH IN RED DEAD REDEMPTION)
Dutch van der Linde features in both 2010’s Red Dead Redemption and its 2018 prequel, Red Dead Redemption 2. In Red Dead Redemption, he appears a bit worse for wear, whereas the prequel shows that Dutch once dressed more lavishly. Red Dead Redemption 2 also more clearly defines what seems to be the character’s signature look, specifically with regards to his facial hair.
Regardless of whichever version of Dutch is taken into consideration, there’s no mistaking his likeness for that of the actor who voiced him, Benjamin Byron Davis. Davis is a larger man, who of late has been photographed with a full beard, though he appears clean shaven in Ant-Man and the Wasp.