The Spin: Roger Craig Smith Was Sonic’s Best Game Voice Actor, and Will Be Missed

I was at E3 2010 when I heard the news that Roger Craig Smith would be taking over as Sonic’s voice actor. As I sat in a corner of the convention center and hurriedly typed out an article about it for Sonic Stadium, I was only feeling one thing: excitement. This, on top of playing Sonic Colors – easily the most promising Sonic game I had experienced in years – really made it feel like SEGA was working hard to revitalize the character. 

I had been left… dissatisfied with Sonic’s previous voice actor, Jason Griffith. While he improved in his final years, I felt that he lacked range. Ryan Drummond’s performance, meanwhile, was starting to sound worse with age, though I largely chalked it up to the voice acting standards going up substantially ever since Drummond last played the character in 2004. I had been wanting someone new for years, and with this announcement, my wish had finally been granted.

I wasn’t disappointed. From Sonic Colors onward, Smith quickly became my favorite of Sonic’s game voice actors, and he only got better from there. Smith brought a wide range of characterizations to Sonic: he could be jokey, sassy, and sarcastic. He could play Sonic like a big brother or an immature teenager. He could make Sonic sound heroic, or like a goofball. And given that Sonic himself went through a wide range of stories (from purely humorous to more serious) during Smith’s tenure, he was given plenty of chances to display his range.

Roger Craig Smith was the kind of voice Sonic desperately needed, especially for the last decade. He essentially defined the character for modern audiences, in much the same way Charles Martinet did for Mario in 1996. Regardless of who comes next, he will always be the person who defined Sonic’s video game voice.

You will be missed, Roger.

23 Comments

  1. I’m going to miss Roger too but personally I think he wasn’t the best choice for Sonic.

    Long story short this is my Top 5 Sonic VAs:

    1- Ryan Drummond
    2- Jason Griffith
    3- Ben Schwartz
    4- Roger C. Smith
    5- Jaleel White

    Needless to say I’m very excited for the prospect of a new Sonic VA and I’m now very hopeful regarding Sonic’s future.

    1. Yours is close to mine

      1- Ryan Drummond
      2- Jason Griffith
      3- Ben Schwartz
      4- Jaleel White
      5- Roger C. Smith

      The main thing is that Sega REALLY needs better writers and stories for their games. I haven’t been impressed since Sonic Adventure 2. I mean they can change the voices all they like but if the stories and characters are uninspiring what’s the point.

      1. Couldn’t agree more! I still think there some other great stories that came after SA2 like Sonic Rush, Sonic Battle and the IDW comics but I agree they need better writers.

  2. Roger is talented… but was awful as Sonic.

    He sounded like a 25 year old bro-dude. Part of that might be the writing/direction but he just made me hate the character.

    Ryan Drummond in SA2 has this timeless feel. I couldn’t tell you how old SA2 Sonic is justby listening but I definitely get his vibe.

    That probably makes no sense at all but that’s as best as I can put it into words. Bring on the next voice actor.

    1. I hear you! It baffles me that they got such talented VA’s for the Sonic cast after 2010 but they made them sound too generic, Sonic sounding like a surfer-dude, Shadow sounding more angsty (and like a vampire in Free Riders), Rouge sounding like the popular mean-girl of high-school, Amy sounding like Minnie mouse, Knuckles sounding like the generic tough/brute characters from countless cartoons and animes, etc.

      Everyone had a very well defined personality and cool traits but all of the sudden they insisted on making them fit into a single stereotype in 2010, like-wise the stories got very dull and uninspired as well and I’m really hoping this will change with future games and in Sonic Prime.

  3. I tried as much as I could to like his Sonic voice when I first heard his grunts in the DS version of Colors, I thought “huh, this isn’t so bad.” but after hearing him saying full lines as the character it was too jarring, too big of a difference.

    Unfortunately it never worked for me, but it no doubt fit the Boom personality of the character, I mean I would’ve absolutely hated to hear Griffith or Drummond as Boom Sonic, would have felt more bizarre.

    Putting the different personality aside, I could not picture this Sonic as portraying different emotions accurately, but I had this issue with the other voice actors, e.g. Travis’s Knuckles when talking seriously still sounded like he’s joking, y’know? Something I think was impossible with Dan Green, which is a shame because Travis, much like Roger is a great voice actor.

    It certainly doesn’t help moving on from old voice actors when the original actors are still available. When all is said and done, I’m glad I didn’t have to hear Griffith or Drummond say things like Baldy McNosehair, or B.B.B.E… or anything from Boom.

  4. I like this take to be fair. I was born the year Sonic Adventure came out and Heroes was my first in the series so in terms of the key in game voice actors, I grew up with all three. Ryan did fit the tone the games were going for at the time to be fair, having gotten better as the games went on and delivering some of his best work with Heroes but I can see why the voice would grate on someone as they get older.

    Jason came on at the transition point between Sonic X and Shadow so he had two years to get his voice down for the games and from the get-go I thought he did the voice itself pretty well but his delivery could be very off at times. Someone once described it as unusual over pronunciation of every other word rather than a flowing line and even with Jason being my favorite I can understand where people are coming from with that. He was pretty good at doing effort grunts and shouting though while maintaining the voice, especially later on and for the atmosphere of most games he voiced in, his delivery tended to fit the moment. There was a jokey but serious tone to it that resonated a lot with me and still does.

    Roger was unique in the sense that I could tell the voice had changed immediately upon hearing him. That said, it wasn’t at all jarring, I felt that Sonic had just grown up a bit and deepened somewhat, which felt natural. He also had a great start with Free Riders and Colors in terms of how the games were written but with the dramatic tone shift in later games, I felt he never really got the chance to show the fullness of what he was capable of. I’ve really enjoyed his tenure over the years doing Sonic though and I am genuinely going to miss him. Also, the Boom TV series is some of his best voice acting work ever, no cap.

    1. I blame the problem you mention about Jason entirely on the lack of direction, specially in Sonic X he’s just reading his lines without actual context nor other voice actors to bounce off from. Black Knight tho is an entirely different story, this game almost made him my favorite Sonic VA and I still have doubts if he’s my favorite or not.

  5. I disagree. I think Roger had no range for sonic. He always sounded like he was about to make a joke, even when sonic was supposed to be sad or angry. I think Jason Griffith had much more range.

  6. He couldn’t be the best Sonic voice, because his entire tenure as Sonic was held back by atrocious writing.

    He did pretty well as the smug, selfish parody of Sonic we’ve gotten for the past decade, but he never even had a chance to play the hedgehog properly.

  7. This is showing my age, but for me Jaleel White will always be the voice of Sonic for me. I guess discussions about who is the “best” is pointless as it’s more likely the one you grew up with will be the one you are most fond of.

  8. Dude, props to you for saying your opinion (probably knowing a LOT of people would disagree with your sentiment). I have to disagree of course as I believe Jaleel White, Ryan Drummond and Ben Schwartz were all better, even now.

  9. Yeah I agree with these comments. I WILL admit that he was very well-rounded. He didn’t spend much time getting to be good because he was already skilled. I just think his voice didn’t work.
    But neither dis Jaleel White, tbh. I still think he’s up there.
    But in prime years, Jason Griffith, all the way. I don’t think it’s even close. Unleashed, Black Knight? You couldn’t ask for a better Sonic voice. Rough. Mature. Deep. Cocky. Emotional.
    Roger is a great guy but we needed a new one, IMO.
    Especially, though, Amy’s voice actor needed to GO.

  10. I also looked forward to hearing Roger’s Sonic voice in 2010, and my intro to him was through Sonic Colors DS, even though they were only snippets. Like a previous commenter, my opinion soured after hearing full sentences. Don’t get me wrong, Roger’s a very talented guy, but he just wasn’t a good Sonic. I respectfully disagree on range; Jason had far more range, and it was really apparent in Unleashed and Black Knight. I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t keen on Jason before, but I gained a greater appreciation for him over the years after re-listening to his lines through replaying his games (or watching YouTube videos). I would rank Jason as my 2nd-favorite Sonic voice actor, with 1st being Jun’ichi Kanemaru and Jaleel White as 3rd. I will say that Roger seems like someone I’d hang out with; I always loved how he engaged with fans.

    I know this is an unpopular opinion, but I’ll admit it: Ryan Drummond wasn’t a good Sonic, either. Yeah, I grew up hearing him (I was 10 when Sonic Heroes came out), but as an adult, I can’t listen to his lines without getting a headache. Some things just don’t stand the test of time. I know that Ryan’s talented as well, and he also comes off as very friendly.

  11. Sonic Unleashed was the best Sonic ever sounded in any medium. Ever. Jason knocked it out of the park.

    When it comes to Roger, he started off strong with Colors but somehow got worse and worse with each new title. He was totally phoning it in by the time Forces came around, and of course the writing didn’t help him one bit. Good luck to him and here’s hoping the next VA in line can do the character justice.

  12. I really don’t agree. I wish Roger well and all, and hope this is a decision he’s happy with, but I never felt he was a good Sonic voice.

    I find it especially interesting you said he had range though, because a lack of range was my biggest issue with him. He never sounded like a genuine person to me in this role, he always sounded like somebody acting. More specifically he always sounded like a Camp Counselor, like somebody talking down to kids and overplaying the part. a part of that was the writing for sure, but I can’t say the voicework didn’t contribute to that feeling.

  13. Yeah, I really like Roger’s voice acting, but only later on. But by then, that’s when the writing got worse. So when Roger improved as Sonic, the writing team started to fail at their job. Brave for putting this opinion out there since a lot of Sonic fans act like some Sonic VAs are the only people that could ever capture Sonic for as long as time goes on. Personally, I think Roger captures Sonics “rude”, sarcastic side perfectly. My personal favorite VA is Jason. But kudos for putting this controversial opinion out there, even though it shouldn’t be controversial in the first place.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.