Keith David is one of the most beloved and well known voice actors in TV, film, and gaming history. Whether you know his name or not, it is likely you have heard his distinct voice in anything from Disney’s ‘The Princess and the Frog’ to John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’.
Following the recent announcement that the legendary actor will now be replacing the late-great Lance Reddick as the voice of Zavala in Destiny 2, there’s never been a better time to look back on some of Keith David’s greatest video game roles.
6. Chaos – Dissidia Final Fantasy (2009)
Voicing one of the greatest villains in Final Fantasy history, Chaos appears only briefly in Dissidia, but Keith David’s distinct voice helps to lend some much needed gravitas to such an iconic character.
It was the first time the character had ever been voiced in English in a Final Fantasy game, and the casting director made a great decision offering the role to our beloved Keith.
5. Decker – Fallout (1997)
Decker was a pivotal character in the original Fallout game.
As the leader of a criminal organisation known as the Underground, he is involved in a number of illegal activities including drug trafficking, extortion, and loan sharking, providing the basis for the first game’s morally ambiguous choice system. Keith David gave this vital role the depth needed to properly flesh out the character; establishing Decker as a not just a brute, but as a man of conviction who can sway others to his way of thinking, despite the weight and consequences of his actions.
4. Julius Little / Keith David – Saints Row Series
“Did I ever tell you about the time I choked a man to death with my bare hands?”
The Saints Row series is known for its comedic take on the Grand Theft Auto formula, often ramping up the jokes to become a parody of multiple genres across the gaming universe from sci-fi to horror.
Keith David’s first appearance in the series came when he was cast as the voice of Julius Little, leader of rival gang ‘The Vice Kings’, and later became a representative for a museum dedicated to the Saints in the second game. But it was in Saints Row 4 that our favourite voice actor took on a self titled role as Keith David, vice president and storied actor.
David’s performance throughout the fourth game is a delight to listen to, with an endless amount of quotable voice lines. He is also consistently recognised by other characters as sounding eerily similar to Julius Little throughout, further adding to the entire parody.
During the course of Saints Row 4, Keith David goes on a huge story arc that takes him from being a well known actor, to vice president, to alien prisoner, and finally crescendos with him betraying the player character for a role as ‘President for Life’ inside a virtual reality depiction of the game’s setting, Steelport.
Saints Row 4 is a wild ride, and Keith David’s inclusion as a parody of himself serves to illustrate just how bizarre the entire experience is.
3. Sergeant Foley – Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009)
Despite a slight mismatch between Sergeant Foley’s character model looking to be in his early to mid 20’s, and Keith David’s age of 53 at the time of recording; Sergeant Foley is one of the most iconic mentor figures in Call of Duty history.
Throughout the majority of Modern Warfare 2’s campaign, Sergeant Foley can be heard through most levels providing players with some much needed direction, and most famously shouting a never ending barrage of orders at Ramirez. I can still hear Sergeant Foley’s voice shouting “Ramirez, use your laser designator to call in artillery on those vehicles!” over and over again.
I’m not sure that voice line will ever leave me.
2. The Arbiter – Halo Series
The Arbiter is possibly one of Keith David’s most iconic roles. Within the Halo series, our favourite Covenant member goes from being one of humanity’s greatest threats, to our greatest ally. The opening moments of Halo 3 showed Master Chief and the arbiter becoming reluctant allies in the fight against the flood.
Keith David’s voice acting was a standout performance in the Halo series, providing the character with the flair and imposing voice required of such a complex and pivotal character to one of gaming’s greatest series.
1. Captain David Anderson – Mass Effect
Mass Effect is hailed as one of the greatest game series of all time, and arguably tells one of the best sci-fi stories ever written.
Keith David portrays captain David Anderson in all 3 games, a character whose overall story is so important to the lore of this universe that he is also the star of almost every other media property related to Mass Effect, from books to comics and spin off mobile games. Throughout the trilogy, his character provides the player a much needed confidant with years of experience under his belt.
David’s vocal performance in Mass Effect takes players on a highly emotional journey, beginning as the player character’s mentor on a routine mission, and finally culminating in a cathartic but ultimately sad conclusion. In his final voice lines in Mass Effect 3, Anderson tells players “God, it feels like years since I just… sat down.” and with that final performance, Keith David manages to so accurately convey the grand journey that he and the player character have taken together over the course of 3 games.
Keith David should forever be known as one of the greatest voice actors of all time, and we are so excited to see his take on Commander Zavala in Destiny 2. Bungie made the right move choosing such a prestigious and well-loved actor to take the reins from his late friend, Lance Reddick.