Nothing draws in the hype like a good video game trailer. The average gaming commercial usually consists of a voiceover narration that plays over some gameplay footage and maybe some CGI cutscenes. Nothing wrong against that, but it is pretty standard.
However, when video game trailers are good, they are really good. Nothing makes my heart race more than seeing a highly anticipated game get a very well made trailer. Usually, the best game trailers are the initial announcement trailers, as companies want to create an amazing first impression. There is an art in creating awesome video game trailers, and some company’s do it better than others.
There have been plenty of great game trailers over the few decades that video games have been alive. Only a select few have been able to be immortalized in people’s souls; any game can have a pretty good trailer, but only the exceptional trailers can leave an everlasting impact on watchers.
Best Video Game Trailers
What trailers are the best of the best? Check below to find out.
5. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was in development for a long time before it was finally released in March 2017. Initially announced for the Wii U, the game eventually became a launch title for the Nintendo Switch, releasing on the same day as the console. On Jan. 2017, Nintendo had a Switch Presentation that ended with one of the best trailers I have ever seen.
The trailer for Breath of the Wild at the Switch Presentation almost exclusively showed gameplay footage, highlighting many different environments that you can travel in. There’s grandness in the trailer, everything felt necessary, and it is all encompassed by an amazing musical track. The music and the perfectly edited together scenes make the game look like a must-own title. The ending of the trailer shows Link standing up; the ending comes off as hopeful defiance, as it is just him against all the evils of the world. Link has never looked more heroic, and the final scene makes players excited for the game. Not only did this trailer successfully sell Breath of the Wild to gamers, but it may have also successfully sold the Nintendo Switch to gamers.
4. Super Smash Bros. Brawl
There are two trailers from the Super Smash Bros. franchise that I thought were some of the best trailers of all time. The “More Fighters, More Battles, More Fun” trailer for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate became almost an instant meme when it was released. The original trailer didn’t have any music to it; it was just the characters fighting each other. Fans decided to fix that by incorporating their own music tracks, and it turns out that almost every piece of music can go with the trailer. Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” mainly went well with the trailer. If you haven’t looked it up yet, click on this video from GameXplain that goes into greater detail about the many different kinds of music that fans put in the “More Fighters, More Battles, More Fun” trailer.
In the end, though, I ended up going with the Super Smash Bros. Brawl announcement trailer. Not only did that trailer reveal Pit, Meta Knight, Zero Suit Samus, and Wario were coming to the game, it ended in the biggest bombshell of them all; Snake from Metal Gear was also coming to Smash Bros. It was the first time a non-Nintendo character made it into the game, and it blew everyone’s collective minds. It opened the door for future third-party characters to join the game, which eventually evolved the Super Smash Bros. series from a Nintendo crossover into an all-star video game crossover.
3. Gears of War
The graphical jump from the original Xbox to the Xbox 360 was outstanding. The character models had more details, and body movement was more lifelike. For the first time in video games, characters in games can finally emote. You can see the anguish on the characters’ faces, making them seem more real and human.
The marketers of Gears of War knew how to take advantage of this new technology. Rather than create a trailer that only had a few gameplay footages, they instead invented a new type of video game trailer that elicits strong emotions from viewers. One of the best Gears of War trailers shows Marcus Fenix wondering a destroyed town. He eventually takes shelter in an abandoned building. The trailer ends with Fenix confronting a giant spider monster. Throughout the whole trailer, Gary Jules’ rendition of “Mad World” is played, evoking a melancholy-like effect.
The trailer is mighty and works so very well. It’s full of symbolism and strong pathos. You see the hopelessness on Fenix’s face, and the whole trailer gives off a one-man against the world kind of feel. Weirdly, Gears of War will have such an emotionally impactful trailer, yet the franchise is mostly seen as a typical shooter where you face against giant monsters.
2. Dead Island
Talk about false advertising! If it wasn’t for the fact that the actual game turns out to be nothing like the announcement trailer, this trailer for Dead Island may have gone down as the best video game trailer of all time. Heck, to some people, it is the most fabulous video game trailer of all time. The first trailer for Dead Island did something unique; it has a narrative in it. The narrative in the trailer is not told linearly either. It follows a Memento-like story structure where two different narratives are being played out simultaneously. One of the stories is told through reverse, from the perspective of a little girl who just died. We first see her on the ground, dead, and then see her story rewind to see that she became a zombie and was pushed through a window.
The other storyline is told linear and follows the same girl, who is still alive, running away from zombies and meeting with her parents at their room. Ultimately the two storylines converge when the girl’s father is about to pick her up from the floor. Miles Edgeworth on the YouTube comment section elegantly pointed out the symbolism where the two storylines converge, writing that “was the first and last time life and death had made contact.” The girl was already infected and too far gone before her father even took her back to the room. The trailer ends on footage of the family enjoying their vacation on a resort.
If there were Oscars for video game trailers, then Dead Island deserves all of them. I think it may deserve a real Oscar for creating the best short film that is under 3-minutes. I have seen full-length movies that don’t nearly have the same emotional resonance as the Dead Island announcement trailer. And what makes this whole thing upsetting is the fact that the actual game is just a generic zombie slayer game. I honestly believe the trailer will outlive the game.
1. Halo 3
After Halo 2’s cliffhanger ending, fans were anxiously waiting for the announcement for the next Halo game. We needed to know what happens next, especially since Halo 2 left several key players of the franchise in dire situations. Master Chief promise he was going to “finish this fight,” and gosh darn it, we needed to see that finish.
Then in 2006, the announcement trailer of Halo 3 was a released, and gamers from all corners of life had their minds exploded. The trailer starts ominous, with Cortana spewing out an apocalyptic prophecy, while a lone figure walks in the middle of the desert. As the lone figure walks closer to the camera, we realize its Master Chief. Covenant ships fly overhead as he keeps walking to his destination. A giant hole is opening on the planet, and a flash of light covers the screen.
Cortana says this is how the world ends, the logo for Halo 3 flashes on the screen, and the trailer ends with the tagline – “Finish the Fight.”
Everything about the trailer works perfectly. It may not show actual gameplay for Halo 3, yet it excels at everything else. The trailer looks beautiful, and the whole trailer gives off a foreboding feeling. From Master Chief walking on a desolated Earth to Cortana’s voiceover, everything about it brought an air of mystery. It made fans want to know what was going on. The music is also amazing, perfectly encapsulating the spirit of Halo. The music especially shines when the Halo 3 logo flashes on screen at the end, flawlessly capturing the anticipation that fans were feeling at that moment.
Halo 3, without a doubt in my mind, had the best set of trailers in video game history. The “Believe” and “Starry Nights” are gorgeous trailers as well. But nothing captured the same levels of hype as the initial Halo 3 trailer.