The Game Industry 7 Comments

Great Game Trailers of Recent Memory

Yesterday I rewatched the totally wackadoo trailer for Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon in anticipation of its release tomorrow, and it got me thinking about some of my favorite trailers of the recent past.

Game trailers can come in many forms — cinematic trailers are often the most striking, but also lack the information I want to know before I buy a game. On the other hand, gameplay trailers can better show off the actual features but it’s not easy to make playing a game a spectator sport.

The best trailers, I think, manage to be memorable while doing a great job of representing the aesthetics of the full game. Below are a few of my recent favorites.

Mass Effect 3: launch trailer

This trailer makes me want to play Mass Effect 3 again, which really says something. The combination of Clint Mansell’s haunting score with quick shots of familiar faces and epic battles still gives me goosebumps. This trailer is really most effective for fans of the series — I’m not sure a total newbie will get as much out of it — but for the final battle of a story-driven trilogy, that seems like a great marketing decision. Also I’m irritated by the lack of FemShep, but I realize that’s a personal problem.


Dead Island: the “reverse trailer”

This trailer is infamous. It’s gory, it’s gripping, it’s heartbreaking — it’s everything you would expect from a zombie apocalypse. This trailer also demonstrated Deep Silver’s willingness to push boundaries (in this case by showing the death of a child), which in retrospect possibly helped encourage the nonsense that is Torso-gate. Unfortunately, this trailer is much, much, much better than the actual game, and so while it’s a pretty fine example of “cinema in a minute” it’s arguably not a great way to advertise Dead Island.


Portal 2: teaser trailer

This is another sequel trailer that was made for fans of the franchise more than new players, but honestly who wasn’t familiar with GlaDOS by 2010? I love this trailer because it’s a great example of Valve’s amazing marketing: in less than a minute they set the scene (a ruined Aperature Science), set the tone (with eerie robotic music), showed a bit of gameplay, and established that GlaDOS is back and still sassy. You monster.


Hotline Miami: live action trailer

I love this trailer. First, doing a “live action” game trailer is really unique, but it gives the trailer a visceral tone that it would probably lack from just 90 seconds of retro pixel action. It highlights the awesome Hotline Miami soundtrack, the review snippets are really artfully designed, and the whole thing just leaves you feeling unsettled.


Deus Ex: Human Revolution: cinematic trailer

Cinematic trailers can encourage terrible marketing practices, but the lengthy one for DE:HR is an example of it done right. This trailer does a great job of establishing the setting and tone of the game world, and introducing us to Adam Jensen, an ex-cop with robot arms and the feeling that things are not as they seem. Like all good trailers, this makes me want to go home and boot up DE:HR, like, right now.


Wrath of the Lich King: cinematic trailer

Did you really think I’d make this list without a single Blizzard title? It was tough to settle on just one trailer, since Blizzard arguably makes better cinematic trailers than any other developer of the last 10 years. Wrath was not my favorite expansion (that would be TBC, obvs — OLD SCHOOL RULES), but this trailer is a perfect mix of lore and action, and actually made me tear up a bit the first time I saw it. Poor Arthas and his haunted hat.


Special Mention!

Borderlands 2: doomsday trailer

This isn’t a great trailer exactly, and people generally seem to like the Wimoweh one more, but there is a lot about this trailer that I admire. 2k Games / Gearbox / whomever is really really really really good at branding. Seriously. This trailer has lots of action and a lot of guns, it has catchy music, it introduces us to Handsome Jack, and it does a rock solid job of demonstrating the joyous, irreverent violence that Borderlands fans love.

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  • Reply
    April 30, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    I thought I was the only one that teared up watching the Wrath trailer…. just so sad to listen to King Terenas go on… knowing exactly how things will end. Every time I defeated the Lich King and watched that cinematic it used to make me teary a bit as well.

    I also had the stirring desire to play ME1-ME3 again… just upon watching the trailer for 3. I am really shocked there was not a trailer for FemShep as well as HeShep. Folks are extremely devoted to one or the other. I just can’t get into FemShep or FemHawke etc, but I think it is amazing that such an amazing character exists.

    If we are talking amazing trailers…. I have to throw out the 3 trailers by Blur Studios leading up to the launch of SWTOR. While the game was a flash in the pan for me, those trailers are still phenominal.

    Also…. the Blur Studios trailer for DC Universe Online is amazing as well. Maybe there is a pattern there :) I remember really liking their launch trailer for Warhammer Online as well.
    belghast´s last post: With More Spikey Bits

  • Reply
    April 30, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    I’m certain there was a FemShep trailer for ME3. After all, there was contest/vote to pick an iconic FemShep.

    Found it:

    It’s the Reinstated trailer.
    Rohan´s last post: Social Fabric

    • Reply
      Jessica Cook
      May 2, 2013 at 8:48 am

      Oh heeeey, thanks! I like the other trailer better (it has that great music) but the one you linked has the awesome “Tell your friends we’re comin’ for them!” line, which warms my cold dead heart.

  • Reply
    April 30, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    That Deus Ex music gets me every time. So brilliant. The series really owns that entire augmentation genre in the same way that Borderlands now owns cel-shading. Did you happen to see the live-action “Purity First” trailer for Human Revolution? That’s what sold me on the game.

    Also… damn Mass Effect. I don’t want to replay the series without picking up all the DLC, but I also refuse to pay full price for said DLC… which never goes on sale because it’s Bioware, not Steam or Origin. Ugh.
    Azuriel´s last post: Unfair Impressions: Darkfall, Day 2

    • Reply
      Jessica Cook
      May 2, 2013 at 8:49 am

      I currently am not buying EA games which usually doesn’t bother me EXCEPT for Mass Effect DLC. The last one (Citadel?) was supposedly really good.

      I had not seen that live action HR trailer before. It’s also really good — those guys know their marketing.

  • Reply
    Awesome Trailers Revisted | Tales of the Aggronaut
    April 30, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    […] my friend Liore posted a great run down of some of her favorite trailers of recent memory.  They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery… so hopefully […]

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