There’s nothing that whets a gamer’s whistle more than a good trailer. It’s exactly why so many of us get up in the wee hours of the night to watch things like Summer Games Fest, it’s the one side of game’s marketing that’s pure, unadulterated hype.
Of course, being marketing, trailers can be fickle in the sense that they don’t always represent the final product. Never forget the stupidly named ‘puddlegate’ when players realised the puddles in Marvel’s Spider-Man weren’t as reflective as they could be. Or when Redfall’s trailer made the game look great?
That said, even as some trailers obfuscate the reality of a game’s production, they can still stand out as key moments of a game’s reveal, launch, and history.
Here’s why these six trailers are some of the more iconic video game trailers that have ever aired.
(And god, I know, six trailers could never come close to covering all of the hype that has graced our screens. So drop a comment wherever you clicked through from and tell me which trailer I cruelly overlooked.)
I’ve had some rough family holidays, our first ended in a bout of spicy flu and a six hour car ride home with two screaming kids. But the trailer for the first Dead Island goes a long way to putting that into perspective.
Opening on a young girl’s lifeless face, this three-minute-long trailer runs in reverse showing the story of this young family falling victim to the infection sweeping the game’s titular island of the undead. It’s a heartbreaking trailer that’s bound to hit harder a decade on for the gamers who’ve grown up and had kids of their own.
It’s no surprise that this particular trailer will likely be remembered far longer than the game itself, which was a pretty mindless slasher-action title with none of the emotional impact of its masterful marketing beat.
[Note: This one’s pretty graphic]
Gears of War
When kicking around the concept for this particular piece, Gears of War’s first trailer instantly sprang to mind. In the days when you’d download the trailer from the marketplace and strain your eyes to enjoy it in its full 480p glory, I remember watching this one over and over.
A tentpole title for Xbox 360, Gears of War was already a spectacle from a visual standpoint while Gary Jules’ “Mad World” served as a haunting, sad soundscape for the troubles on Sera. Even now, watching Marcus rear his Lancer toward insurmountable odds against a gentle piano line makes the hair on my neck stand on end.
What’s even crazier is the lad who directed this iconic trailer just put out a little film called Top Gun: Maverick, so tip of the cap to Joseph Kosinski.
No, I’m not talking about Nathan Drake’s first adventure, I’m referring to the gritty Amy Hennig story that eventually got stripped for parts and became A Thief’s End.
Premiering back in 2013, this teaser painted a far darker story than the one we’d eventually get and, honestly, I think about what this game could have been a lot despite the fact I did enjoy Drake’s presumed swansong. A story that melded the Rafe and Sam characters into one would have made for some significant Drake family dramas.
So, if there’s anybody reading this who has any insight to how Nate’s story originally ended, my channels are open.
“You owe me.”
Death Stranding 2: On The Beach
Any fair-weather Kojima fan knows I could have used his works to curate this entire list, there are few better than the auteur visionary at putting together riveting, confounding glimpses at his projects.
The entire reason this piece exists is because of how fucking bonkers the On the Beach trailer is. A standout from PlayStation’s most recent State of Play, it won my heart the second I saw someone using an electric guitar to arc lightning. It’s that kind of, well, nonsense that makes Kojima irresistible as a creator.
What’s exciting for us as consumers is that Kojima’s marketing builds are generally quite drawn out, so I expect we’re going to get quite a lot more craziness in the months to come.
After the groundbreaking success of Halo: Combat Evolved, which in a lot of ways reinvented what a shooter could be on console, plus a globe-trotting sequel that helped validate Xbox Live as a service, there was an enormous, industry-wide desire for Halo 3.
Although it would go on to be one of the biggest entertainment launches of its time, the marketing build for the game was something else. “Believe” became the one-word slogan for the entire trilogy, with the man in the iron pants becoming a figurehead for both humankind and Microsoft’s gaming arm.
There were few bigger characters in the mid-to-late noughties than the Chief.
Few trailers are as epic as the “Starry Night” trailer that first debuted during the Super Bowl ahead of the game’s September launch. From the stargazing children wondering whether they’ll ever meet those who dwell among the stars, to Chief leaping headstrong into battle, this trailer was Halo operating at 11 out of 10.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Every single character reveal for Ultimate’s bulging roster felt special in its own right, I’ll never forget the fervour around Banjo-Kazooie being announced.
However, the original reveal of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate itself was pretty much the definition of event viewing. Like Kim Kardashian’s champagne bottle trickery, Mario and company damn near broke the internet.
Starting out as a Splatoon misdirect, the trailer shows Inklings running a muck against an all-white backdrop. After a few moments, the lights dissipate, leaving the Inklings in absolute darkness save for an enormous, ominous burning effigy in the sky. Beneath it wait Mario, Link, and a whole cast of Nintendo favourites.
Running it back today, it was like gazing upon the face of God.