5 best video game trailers of all time

GAMING
5 best video game trailers of all time

Imagine you are the CEO of a big dev studio. You’ve made a game. Now it’s time to make a trailer to sell the product and hook potential new clients. You want to make sure your game gets a big audience — and a big fan base. You have only 2-3 minutes to get people’s attention. Presenting the gameplay itself is no longer enough, you need to have that wow! effect if you want to stand out. Would you be up to the challenge?

I have always enjoyed watching game trailers—it’s my guilty pleasure. Here’s my completely subjective top five game trailers of all time. It was really hard to pick just five. Since I only considered teasers and trailers, spoilers there are coming aplenty. That’s right: no TV commercials, no game intros, no in-game cinematics. Blizzard dodged that restriction since their game intros are used also as game trailers.

Number 5

World of Warcraft – cinematic trailer

Blizzard’s trailers and cinematics are absolutely stunning. It’s really hard to pick THE best one but if I had to, it would definitely be the mind-blowing first World of Warcraft cinematic trailer. Four years have passed since the events of “Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos”, three since we saw Arthas become the Lich King in “The Frozen Throne.” Allies become enemies, old conflicts reignite and new ones appear.

“The drums of war thunder once again…” Trailer is minimalistic yet majestic – we see some of the playable races-class combos (like dwarf hunter or undead warlock, just to name two) on the move and in “action” – clashing with each other. And that music! This was a promise of something big, something of epic proportions, something incredible. Warcraft 3 was loved by many and there was a question if World of Warcraft can live up to the hype. But it became a hit since day one. Sold out in no time, it grew to be, without any doubt, one of the biggest games in the world. Here we are, almost 12 years later, still playing it. With each cinematic and trailer Blizzard steps up their game. But this one? This one was the first to give me shivers. Among the most memorable trailers I have ever seen, for the beautiful editing and gorgeous graphics, it’s a real stand-out in Blizzard’s portfolio. I just wish Blizzard would finally stop resisting and released full CGI feature movie. One can dream!

Number 4

Cyberpunk 2077 – teaser trailer

I don’t think I have ever seen a game trailer that melds music and picture better than this one. Archive’s “Bullets” mirror the story presented – a few tones and bits grow and grow into something of epic proportions. The trailer itself, however, is very minimalistic. We see a beautiful and seemingly harmless woman, with bullets flying her way in slow motion. But they don’t harm her: turns out she’s bulletproof. Who is she, who doesn’t so much as twitch as policemen pump her full of bullets? The camera pans away and… is she a human being? A robot? A gun pointed at her head… a news report of 14 people killed… and she seems to be the killer. We see bodies, so we can guess what has gone down and we can assume where this is going. Or can we?

Action-wise, there’s little going on, but the camera shifting to show different angles is enough to create something unique. This trailer definitely caught my attention and I’m looking forward to checking out the game once it’s out. CD Projekt RED knows how to make good trailers. With Gwent’s release, it seems we will have to wait until 2018 to visit Night City and meet this, ahem, lovely lady. Here, patience may indeed prove a virtue of the highest order.

Number 3

Assassin’s Creed 2 – E3 Trailer

Beautiful visually, this trailer not only shows the beauty of the city and the mask festival – it also perfectly presents the skills of l’Assassino. Dancing crowds – with amazing music by Jesper Kyd, working ladies hired as a distraction, fireworks… and a killer driven by revenge. A short display of fighting skills (city guards clearly have none) and we have a chase. Ain’t no building too high for Ezio to climb. Final confrontation between the two main characters, a few ill-advised words from the mouth of the baddie… Did you really feel safe there, in the opening, bro? You’re facing Ezio Auditore da Firenze! Boom! And the masks fall off! Literally, but not only.  Nothing is true, everything is permitted, Assassin was one step ahead of a Templar. This trailer is not only very pleasing to the eye, but for those who missed AC1, it also serves as a very nice introduction to the whole concept of the game.

Number 2

Witcher 3 – Killing Monsters

CD Projekt RED secured yet another spot on the list. Each part of Witcher series has given us amazing cinematics and trailers. The first part was a big thing, and the second even bigger. But the third… the third was huge. Each and every trailer has been a masterpiece, giving us a taste of how epic the game itself will be. “Killing Monsters” serves as a great introduction for those of you who have been out wandering in the desert and have never heard of the series. The trailer starts with a death sentence and the lead up to a hanging… of a young girl. Two witchers come to claim the gold for the monster they killed. “Don’t meddle, take the reward and let’s go” – but can Geralt do it? He seems inclined to listen to Vesemir, but evil is evil.

“The degree is arbitrary, the definition is blurred,” says Geralt, a sure sign you’re about to see some ass-whoopin’. “Just make it quick”—which, of course, he does. If you know the books, you know that Geralt is lighting fast, and light years faster than humans. And CDP managed to show this raw speed in the trailer. Switching up the frame speeds results in an incredible battle sequence. The monsters come in various shapes, and Geralt just made sure three of them won’t scare anyone again. Like many no doubt too, I licked my lips when they announced Witcher 3 was coming, and was all the hungrier after seeing the trailer. And yeah, I went back for seconds when the game was actually released.

Honourable mentions

Before we get to number one, here’s a short list of videos that stand out but fell short of the top 5:

Dragon Age 2 – Destiny

A really nice trailer, with a great battle sequence that got me really interested in the game.

Overwatch

When watching it for the first time, I was totally against it. The intro to the trailer looked like a trailer itself, and was totally not my type of thing. But what followed… Love the classic Blizzard pathos mixed with humour type of thing.

For honor

Brutal though it be, I really enjoyed this trailer. The camerawork, smooth transitions between the fighters and the scenery caught my eye and held it. Good fight, good night.

BioShock Infinite Reveal Trailer

A trailer shot from first person perspective, with sequences of falling down – if you wanted to freak me out – GG! I still enjoyed this steampunkish, irrational, confusing trailer. Well done!

League of Legends – A Twist of Fate

Here’s a little tip: if you are in a situation where everyone and everything wants to kill you and you see a small girl with a teddy bear – fly, you fool. Run, run as fast as you can. Especially if she is smiling and singing. You’re doomed, save yourself and retreat. A really good trailer, with a clear message – never underestimate your opponent, because you might be in for an excruciating surprise.

Number 1
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 “Surprise”

There can be only one winner and it is Call of Duty. However, I had a bit of a problem with this one. CoD live action trailers are hands down the most appealing videos for me. I’m not a fan of the genre, but the top-notch mix of but the top-notch mix of bullets flyin’, bombs ablowin’ and humour won me over, nearly to the extent that I went out and picked up the game for myself. And this is what a good commercial does. But for my number one – should I choose “Black Ops III – “Seize Glory” (“what? Y’all don’t know about Kevin?”)  or “epic night out”? Or maybe “There’s a soldier in all of us”? But nah, as much as I love those trailers, “Surprise” takes the cake.

Directed by Guy Ritchie, and packed with celebrities like Robert Downey Jr (guess who brought the jet to a gunfight?), Omar Sy, FPSRussia or iJustine, the “Surprise” video transports us to Los Angeles, in the year 2025. Surprise after surprise and bang, we’re back to square one, seeing “the player” who just delivered the biggest surprise of all – the last man standing, even though it looked like his fate was sealed. Boom and we’re up for yet another surprise – “zombies? Groovy!” Wonderful nod to a classic. The trailer is a great way to show all the game’s modes and weapons. One more trailer like this, dear CoD, and I’ll be game. You bet there’s a soldier in all of us!

What is your favourite trailer? Do you have your own Top 5?

Joanna Kubizna
Joanna Kubizna
Journalist, geek and occasionally a nerd. A trained scientist with multiple degrees including a PhD, she’s addicted to coffee, and passionate about sharks, writing and gaming. She’s also an editor, blogger, researcher and the author of multiple scientific and games-related articles. Gamer since the age of 7. Coffee fuels her insomnia, she never sleeps.

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