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Link in just about every The Legend of Zelda game

Voice acting is ubiquitous in video games today, but in the old days, when budgets were smaller, or memory was limited, developers had to resort to text. In games where story was emphasized, they figured some of the drama was lost when a potentially emotional scene was pantomimed like a silent movie. So some games incorporated "sort of" voice acting, in two forms.

One form is a sort of beeps at various pitches, generally speeding up or slowing down depending on how quickly the speaker is talking. The other form is basically short voice clips over relevant text boxes. Examples: "Yeah!" over "Alright, guys! Let's do it!", "Oh no!" over "I can't believe I was fooled for so long!", "Aaaaaaaaah!" over any number of alarmed outbursts, and the ubiquitous grunts, battle cries, and double-takes when facing down a boss.

Not to be confused with a particular stage teenage boys tend to go through.

Compare Speaking Simlish, when Voice Grunting is turned into a language.

Examples of Voice Grunting include:

  • The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time and each 3D Zelda game since. Link is so famous for this trope, some people can find it jarring if they see media where he actually speaks.
  • Most Mario games since Super Mario 64, with a few exceptions.
    • There's one line in Paper Mario the Thousand Year Door where we hear Peach yell "Oh no!", over a text box reading the same. Mario himself has, as usual, a few lines like this, particularly with "Oh yes" and "M'hm".
    • Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga has the plucky plumbers Speaking Simlish with a few English phrases such as "Oh yeah!" or "Oh No!" thrown into the mix.
    • Super Mario Sunshine features full voice acting for Peach, Toadsworth, and the Toads.
      • Bowser and Bowser Jr. also talk for the first time in the (main) series.
        • Kamek and Baby Bowser speak in dialogue boxes, accompanied by a "wallawalla wallawalla" sound effect in Super Mario World II: Yoshi's Island.
    • To evoke the feel of games such as these, Super Mario Bros Z uses the same technique (notably, Mecha Sonic's voice clips are supplied by Cell.
    • Toads in Super Mario Galaxy utter a little "Oh, no!" when giving bad news.
  • Handheld Castlevania games: Harmony of Dissonance, Aria of Sorrow, Dawn of Sorrow, Portrait of Ruin.
  • Both Golden Sun games.
    • By extension, Mario Golf Advance Tour and Mario Tennis Power Tour, both based off of the Golden Sun engine, use the same type of bleeping text. They also include stock voice clips for all the players.
    • All three Golden Sun games, now. Hilariously, it didn't do a thing to resolve the Viewer Gender Confusion over Rief, who used a high-pitched voice squeaking usually reserved for girls.
  • This is actually the only type of voice acting in Final Fantasy XI. No words, just grunts.
  • Every cutscene in the Wario Ware series.
  • Final Fantasy VI. Kefka's famous Evil Laugh is voiced, which probably contributed to its fame. Uwehehehehehe!
  • Most dialogue in Mischief Makers takes the form of text boxes with accompanying beeps at varying pitches representing characters' "voices", but Marina and most other important characters have several exclamations or other short lines of actual voice acting. Some of these are surprisingly distinctive, like Lunar's "Eat lead!" or Marina's "STOOOOP!" and her "Shake Shake" though that one is said during gameplay rather a cutsene.
  • Iji.
  • The Izuna games have a lot of this, though the sequel does have a small amount of actual voice-acting as well.
  • This is common in fighting games, as well as those that straddle the border like WWE games.
  • The Trauma Center series does this for every notable character in the game. Voice clips for Dr. Stiles range from the short "Yeah" and "What!" to full sentences like "Let's begin the operation" or "I WILL save this patient!" Different characters also yell out "Dr. Stiles!" when they need your attention or if you messed up something. New Blood adds full-voice acting for everyone.
    • At one point in Under the Knife 2, Angie's voice clip says "Yes!" while her text box says "no."
  • Geist. Only during cutscenes will people actually say all their lines. Soldiers will generally have "Sir!" if you're inhabiting a man, "Ma'am." if you're inhabiting a woman, and "Hey boy!" if you're inhabiting a dog. Gigi will always say "Raiiii-mi" or giggle. In one particular case when you're possessing an engineer, his irritable boss says "Walters!" each and every time you talk to him.
  • The Baldur's Gate series is an especially odd example. Some dialog is fully voiced, but most of it is only partly voiced, with just the first sentence or page of dialog being spoken in a conversation.
  • Harvest Moon: Magical Melody for Game Cube uses the short voice clips.
  • Rune Factory 3 has voice clips for everyone, mostly short phrases that correspond with what they're talking about ("Sorry" and "Hello" and the like). A few of the plot-important cutscenes are voiced, but not all of them.
  • Par for the course in any Lego Adaptation Game. Lego Batman, for example, involved many scenes where Batman just goes, "HMMM!"
  • Metroid Prime: Samus never actually speaks, despite being voiced by relatively well-known VA Jennifer Hale.
    • Though Samus gained a few short voice clips as taunts for Super Smash Bros Brawl.
      • Also, in most of the games she didn't have anyone to talk to, and the one game she did talk (Metroid Fusion), there was no voice acting. But she does talk in Metroid: Other M.
  • The Ace Attorney games have voice clips just for the series' famous catchphrases. OBJECTION! HOLD IT! TAKE THAT! GOTCHA! EUREKA! NOT SO FAST! Other than that, everyone uses beeps and boops for speech. Interestingly, the beeps come in several different octaves (male, female, old male, old female, so on). One character, Dee Vasquez, appears to have smoker's lung - she uses the male beeps.
    • This is lampshaded in one of the commercials, where Maya and Phoenix have an aside conversation using the beeps, and Edgeworth complains that they should stop doing that.
  • Animal Crossing is a fascinating example — it uses a simple voice synthesizer to speak the text, very quickly. Characters even add the proper inflection if a sentence ends with a question mark.
    • This works pretty OK, but in the original Japanese it works a lot better.
  • There's a very simple reason why the bog-standard enemy soldiers in the Quake series are called Grunts. In fact, most of the humanoids and other creatures in the Quake games make some sort of random unitelligible sounds, but nothing complex enough to be considered as any sort of a language.
  • The World Ends With You does this during every instance of textboxing. There isn't any form of beeping or booping, but there are little snippets of dialogue, laughing (or girlish giggling in Joshua's case), grunting, gasping or any other one-second sound a human can make as well as little questions and phrases like "Ask Away" or "Alright. It's Time". For really important moments, the game breaks out cutscenes with full dialogue.
  • Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure uses this, but most characters (oddly enough not including Henry) have one legible phrase they'll throw in at the ends of their sentences. Cole has "guv'ner", Lady D has "Yoohoo!", and so on. Weaselby, most noticeably, has an Evil Laugh.
  • In Portal, Chell will scream if hit by a cube that damages her but does not kill her. Other than that, she does not speak, even when being shot by Sentry Guns (or we might not be able to hear her over the bullets).
    • She grunts if hit by bullets. And there is at least one sound clip that G La DOS claims has her speaking. If it is her speaking, no wonder she doesn't talk that much.
  • In Team Fortress 2, if your previously chatty buddy is reduced to spamming default voice commands, odds are that they are a Spy.
  • Mother 3 uses bleeps with different pitches to indicate the voice of the current speaker.
    • Also, in the prequel Earthbound, when you name the characters, the confirmation noise is a clip of creator Shigesato Itoi saying "Okay desu ka?" ("Is it okay?")
  • In Okami all the characters seem to be speaking like they are drowning (yes, even when standing on the land!) while the text appears at the bottom of the screen. Amaterasu just barks, whimpers, growls, and howls.
  • Banjo-Kazooie is certainly an example. One of them even sounds like an orgasm!
  • In Valkyria Chronicles 2, some scenes are full voiced out, but most of the minor scenes have Avan saying "I'll do it!" even when it doesn't make sense.
  • Sonic sounds like he's dropping a massive turd every five seconds in the Wii version of Sonic Unleashed.
    • The first Sonic Rivals game also makes use of it. The sequel (which is much, much larger) has fully-acted voice lines over the text boxes instead, but the poor voicework means you'll just be missing the previous version instead.
  • Skies of Arcadia includes a few short lines for each character used in random circumstances.
  • While Persona 4 features full voice acting in most of the cutscenes, things like talking to VA'ed characters outside of cutscenes and in S. Link scenes will just have them chime in with short voiced snippets from time to time.
  • Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and Kingdom Hearts coded (the DS remake) both use this during the in-game rendered cutscenes. The FMVs use full voice acting, though.
  • This is the only voicing you'll hear in Magical Starsign, and only as exclamations during battles.
  • While there is some full voice-acting during the animted cutscenes in Lunar Knights, most other instances of consists of grunts and short phrases during dialogue.
  • Zack and Wiki. Grunts and squicks, as Zero Punctuation put it in his review.
  • Dragon Age Origins does this when you order characters around outside of cutscenes, and in combat. Notably, Alistair seems to do his "Alright, let's go!" thing every. Single. Combat.
  • Lampshaded in the OVA adaptation of Gestalt. "Manic Pixie Slave Girl" Ohri, coprotagonist along with the straight man Oliver is mute, having had her voice and mystical might stripped away some time before the beginning of the narration. While she can still grunt and whine, she usually uses her residual voice along with a text box popping on the screen, and acting as she were fully aware of it, using grunts and facial expression as you could expect from an RPG character during gameplay. The other main characters are fully aware of this oddity, and despite express initial shock and suprise they're fully able to understand her.
  • All of the non-generic characters in Fire Emblem Awakening have these in the "short voice clips" form.
  • In Dirge of Cerberus Vincent grunts everytime he jumps.