If you didn’t hear, video games are huge business these days. More people than ever are picking up their controllers or hovering their fingers over WASD, and it’s only going to keep on growing and growing. The marketing budgets for modern games are becoming as big as Marvel movies, which is why there are so many of the best game trailers to choose from.
Game trailers used to be, in all honesty, quite rubbish. They were either embarrassingly cheesy live-action segments with actors who would be confused by a joystick, or pixelated, grainy game footage with more electric guitar than Steve Vai could handle. That’s all changed in recent times: game trailers are now sometimes even better than the games they’re supposed to be selling.
We, as consumers, aren’t even all that fussed nowadays when we don’t see any gameplay for our announcement trailers. We’ve been treated, spoiled even, with artistic and enthralling game trailers over the past decade that have pushed us headfirst in front of the hype train. Here are our picks for the best game trailers ever made – I think you can guess what number 1 is going to be.
15. Super Smash Bros.
The newest entry on this list, nobody could have predicted (and actually meant it) when they said that Super Smash Bros. for the Switch would be revealed at such a low-key Nintendo Direct. That’s exactly what happened, leading to a barrage of memes and crazy reactions all across the web when the Smash Bros logo came into sight during what looked like a new thing for Splatoon. The only reason why it isn’t higher? It’s such a brief tease.
Admittedly more of a (highly-scripted) gameplay demo than a trailer, this still managed to overshadow the actual trailer for Days Gone at E3 2016. How could it not? Featuring enough fast zombies to make Brad Pitt cry into his Pepsi can, Days Gone made a massive impression and came out of nowhere to add to Sony’s already impressive slate of PS4 exclusives.
The Witcher series was by no means unpopular by the time its masterful third iteration came around, but it was certainly under the radar compared to its bigger peers. You have to wonder why, especially when they were releasing game trailers like this. Some of the animation is a little outdated, but the freeze-frame action is hard to deny in its effectiveness. It’s also totally brutal and unflinching, and even makes me feel quite bad for the people on the ship.
Is the game any good, though? It’s only one of the most revered RPGs in video game history.
12. Battlefield 1
The newest entry on our list, Battlefield 1’s trailer blew fans of the series and casual onlookers away, which isn’t hard to understand why once you’ve watched it. It’s bombastic, violent, and, most importantly of all, is not set in the future. In fact, it’s the most liked game trailer in YouTube history with over two million likes. Conversely, Infinite Warfare’s space snorefest is the most disliked trailer and 8th most disliked video in the website’s history. People love the past, Activision.
How do you hype people up for a game that won’t be coming out for years and years? Do what CD Projekt Red did and tell a story within a freeze frame. It’s been three years since they dropped the teaser trailer and apart from confirmation that they haven’t had to start over with a new engine, information is still sparse. Backed by a great soundtrack from Archive, this is an effective trailer that made the Polish developer one of the hottest properties in the world of gaming, long before The Witcher 3 dropped to critical acclaim.
Is the game any good, though? Who knows. It’s going to be bigger in scale than The Witcher 3, though.
10. Halo 3
Love them or hate them, there’s no denying that the Halo series has had a massive, lasting impact on gaming culture. When you look at the many fantastic trailers that have accompanied each new release, there’s one that stands out in particular. Halo 3 was one of the most anticipated games of all time, so it’s fitting that it has one of the best game trailers of all time, too. It could have so easily been tacky, but the Believe trailer is close to art.
Is the game any good, though? Yup. One of the finest first-person shooters of all-time.
9. The Last of Us: Part II
A masterclass in the art of the slow reveal, the random shots at the beginning of the trailer before the Fireflies emblem eventually came into view confirmed the rumours that had been swirling for years. Rather than just leaving it there, the trailer showed the aftermath of a violent encounter and a grown-up Ellie mournfully playing the guitar. It’s led to a whole lot of wild theories, which we’ll have to just wait and see if they come true.
Is the game any good, though? Find out in 2019; that’s our guess.
8. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
The Deus Ex series was in a bit of a limbo following the relative indifference to Invisible War. Fans wanted to know where it was going to go next after years with no news, and then the Human Revolution trailer popped up. We were launched back into a dystopian world of commercialism and omnipotent corporations within seconds as it set up the story, characters, and even gameplay mechanics despite being a cinematic trailer. If you want to revive a dormant series in style, this is how you do it.
Is the game any good, though? Depends on who you speak to. I completed it three times and loved every go-around.
7. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
It would be all too easy to justify Skyrim’s inclusion here by simply writing “badass chanting” and moving on. However, considering the cultural impact the trailer had, helping to open up the world of The Elder Scrolls to a new audience of millions, it has to be explored further. Fantasy can be difficult to market without coming across as hokey, but thanks to an action-packed, goosebump-inducing three minutes from Bethesda, many people decided to become nerds in 2011.