There’s barely anything in this world as thrilling as the promise of a new gaming experience. Getting your hands on a fresh title is always full of promise and excitement. Whether it’s a good experience or not doesn’t matter because you’re ready to find out for yourself, and trailers are an integral part of building this hype.
Seeing snippets of a new product put into a well-edited format can truly get gamers blood pumping as they eagerly await the title and re-watch the short preview over and over again. With E3 behind us, it’s safe to say that there is a whole new host of video game trailers to watch on repeat. The likes of Breath of the Wild 2, S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2, A Plague Tale: Requiem and more have gotten players around the world on the edge of their seats.
So, now feels like the right time to look into the industry’s past and see which other trailers got audiences chomping at the bit to get their hands on something new. These short pieces range from cinematic to gameplay-based, but all of them went above and beyond to prove that advertisement can have identity.
The one word that can sum up this trailer is unfair; because it’s unfair that the developers could produce such an enticing, exciting and compelling advertisement for a game that never came to be.
The woeful story of this sequel to the 2006 sci-fi title Prey is full of disappointment, as Bethesda cancelled it due to quality concerns – there are over 76 reasons why that’s suspicious. Maybe this was a good thing, though, because what are the chances this game would have matched the trailer?
This short ad feels like a complete story that could be at home in Love, Death and Robots. The beautifully animated short gives you some pulse-pounding action, a lavish sci-fi city and an easily understandable narrative that centres on a bounty hunter on the prowl. Even those who weren’t familiar with its predecessor were desperate to delve into this high-tech future.
It’s full of solid voice acting and some outstanding character elements. While the visuals themselves are clearly the selling point, the small details like the protagonist’s coy smirk when he’s faced with danger shows you everything you need to know about who you’d be playing as and the vibes it was going for.
Mario is hardly a franchise that needs advertisement at this point. Even if Nintendo were to make a blank trailer with nothing but the announcement of a new game, they would probably still get a decent amount of revenue. But, that doesn’t mean Nintendo doesn’t often knock it out of the park when it comes to selling this quirky plumber.
This trailer plays its audience like a fiddle, as it lures you in with the random appearance of a humongous tyrannosaurus rex before you catch a glimpse of the lovable Cappy. From there, it chucks outstanding visuals at you for an entire two and a half minutes, giving audiences plenty of colour and game mechanics to eat up.
Of course, one of Super Mario Odyssey’s biggest selling points was its lavish worlds, which this trailer centres on. It essentially takes you on a teaser tour of each major location, giving you just enough to feel familiar with the style but cutting away so quickly that you’re left wanting more.
Plus, it’s impossible not to mention the now-iconic song “Jump Up, Super Star!”, which ended up playing a significant role in the game. Using it in this trailer was a stroke of genius, as it’s got a catchy sound and great lyrics.
Bioware’s Mass Effect is an inherently cinematic franchise, as the outlandish and slick sci-fi world has always felt like a spectacle, even in its more intimate moments. Thus, it made sense for this trailer to go down a path of striking visuals, solid storytelling and a focus on acting. It’s safe to say that it did Commander Shepard proud.
The trailer makes all the right moves, as it gives Shepard enough space to look badass but doesn’t overly develop him – allowing for you to do that yourself when you get the game. Additionally, it sets up the world masterfully, as even those who haven’t played the franchise can see the amount of detail that this universe possesses.
Everything that you’ll encounter in the game is set up perfectly here. It’s clear that you’ll spend your time hunting down a crew, and you even get to see a few of them. Plus, you get a sublime look into the characters of Miranda and The Illusive Man, who both became enthralling aspects of the Mass Effect series.
It hits all the right notes that a cinematic trailer should, and while there isn’t any gameplay, you can still tell what kind of experience to expect.
The gaming industry is inherently bombastic, as many studios try to grab the attention of players by throwing everything at them and leaving little to the imagination. But, Rockstar proved with this one that sometimes, less is more.
Fans of this classic western shooter were chomping at the bit for a sequel, so this trailer was like the holy grail for them. Players weren’t entirely sure what to expect, but this beautiful ad came along and treated them to some glimpses of the incredible world Rockstar had built, and it got the hype train rolling.
Panning through multiple areas, showing incredible sights like the starry sky, luscious farmland, and some hints to characters and motivations made this minute-long experience an absolute treat. It gives you plenty whilst also holding back, meaning that it was a perfect tease for what was to come.
While some fans might appreciate the later trailers better for giving more context to the narrative and a more comprehensive look at the world, this one still stands above the rest as it gave you a great sense of intimacy and scope at the same time.
It’s certainly a delight to watch and knows not to overstay its welcome.
The Halo series is no stranger to amazing cinematic trailers, but this one earns its place on this list by choosing to think outside of the box and delivering something that’s primed to give you goosebumps.
Live-action trailers are often a source of anxiety for gamers, as they don’t always capture the game’s feel, but this one succeeds thanks to a beautiful piece of artistry. It’s straightforward by design, as all it does is pan through the John-117 memorial diorama, giving you a glimpse into the devastation of the human-covenant war and capturing a profound/epic sense of the trilogy coming to an end.
Seeing the well-crafted memorial to Master Chief and the soldiers he fought alongside is emotional, and although there’s no movement – save for at the very end – you can still feel the raw and chaotic energy of the battlefield.
The amount of detail and skill that went into making this beautiful tribute to the Halo franchise is incredible, and you can even see behind the scenes in more of the “believe” campaign. But, simply opting to deliver this beautiful creation with dignified music and strong camera work was enough to make it iconic.
On the surface, the Gears of War series looks like a mindless, violent and gun-toting action franchise, but there’s a quiet dignity and focus on emotional moments that has always given it a profound edge. That’s something that you can easily see in this iconic trailer that plays with some great ideas and delivers one of the most popular gaming/music combinations ever.
Again, this ad goes for the simple route, as it focuses on the protagonist – Marcus – surrounded by rubble and destruction. He runs from some unseen Locust force and eventually ends up face-to-face with a colossal enemy. This sounds intense and adrenaline-filled on paper, but it’s a calming and strangely tranquil experience thanks to the music and slow motion.
The cover rendition of “Mad World” by Gary Jules is haunting and sets up a perfect juxtaposition to the horrifying visuals. The peaceful and melodic music evokes the feeling that this isn’t just a wild shooting game but something that can also make you feel.
“Mad World” would even go on to be a big part of the Gears of War 3 soundtrack, proving that this was the right choice.
This entire list could be made up of Assassin’s Creed trailers, as every instalment of the franchise has delivered a stunning cinematic trailer that gets audiences excited; even when faith in the franchise was at its lowest. Although there have been plenty of memorable ads, the one created for the end of Ezio’s story takes the crown as the best.
Assassin’s Creed Revelations’ lengthy cinematic trailer paints a perfect picture of how far Ezio had come. It was his third game at this point, so the trilogy had to come to an end, and this awesome visual feast proved that his finale was going in a much darker tone – visually and narratively.
It was tough to see Ezio go through so much toil, but the gripping soundtrack (“Iron” by Woodkid) and metaphysical appearances of Altair kept you on the edge of your seat. The trailer had you eating out of the palm of its hand, as, towards the end, when all hope seemed lost, Ezio made his move.
Besides being a visual and musical treat, the trailer was even part of the game canon, which no other AC trailer had done, making this one stand out even more.
World War One games tend to feel a certain way, as historical accuracy and a focus on the grittiness of the period are often the focus. However, EA/DICE came along and proved that taking liberties with the period could lead to something incredible, and this trailer was the perfect way to show that.
Battlefield 1’s reveal trailer is a stunning piece that gives you a rich tapestry of wartime images and gets your blood pumping. Although it’s barely longer than a minute, it packs more explosions and chaos than a Michael Bay film. It’s impossible to look away from, and even those who aren’t big FPS fans can find themselves falling for it.
Plus, while the intense visuals full of planes, soldiers and those classic Battlefield destruction mechanics are eye-catching, the remix of the classic “Seven Nation Army” is what grabs you by the throat and demands you play this game. The use of this song gave viewers a feeling of familiarity, but the bass infested alterations kicked it into the next gear.
This trailer is the complete package, and while it doesn’t do anything too out of the ordinary, it gets everything right.
It’s time to look at the next Nintendo project now, and while Mario certainly made an impression with his trailer, this reveal went a step further.
The debut of the Nintendo Switch had to have some good titles with it, so it made sense that the company would choose to create a new Zelda game. However, the LOZ formula was starting to grow stagnant, so Breath of the Wild had to do something to stand out. Luckily for fans, as soon as this trailer was released, they felt safe knowing that Nintendo was heading in the right direction.
This trailer plays with pacing so well, as it opens on some slow and peaceful shots of the Hyrule shorelines and the familiar image of the Master Sword. But, once Link is introduced, it steps up a gear, showing the sense of scale that this version of Hyrule will reach. Then like a perfect crescendo, each new moment piles on the drama, intensity and emotion.
It would also be remiss not to mention the breathtaking music that builds up just as well as the imagery. The combination of new music with classic Zelda tunes got fans feeling nostalgic and ready for the next step simultaneously, and it made this trailer an emotional experience for fans all over.
This Dead Island reveal trailer was so good that it caused players to feel cheated when they finally got their hands on the game, as it was nowhere near as profound and layered an experience as they expected. So, technically, it is a poor trailer by that account as it sells you the wrong thing, but it’s one hell of an emotional experience.
The trailer plays out more like a heart-wrenching short film than a commercial, as it tells the story of a family’s vacation turning into a chaotic zombie death fest, all in reverse. The image of the little girl victim and the father who fights to protect her is enough on its own, but the clever idea to start at the end and work backwards adds a unique and tragic layer, as you know they won’t make it out alive.
Then, to add insult to injury, after the dust has settled, it shows you some home filmed footage of the family before this chaos ensued. It is an absolute tear-jerker, and you’d have to be as heartless as the zombies themselves not to get at least a little emotional over this gut-punch of a trailer.