In this series, I take a look at some of my favorite marketing videos (i.e. game trailers) ever released for videogames.
Skip the Introduction/Context sections below if you just want to get to the videos!
For your convenience, I’ve also included a TL;DR version of the list below the CONTEXT section.
I seriously think some game trailers out there should be considered art.
Some are so well-made, that they could arguably be turned into feature-length movies; some cinematics are so good, that they end up making fans feel like these videos are better than the games they’re based on.
In fact, certain studios like Blur have become a household name in the gaming industry for producing consistently excellent trailers that resonate with consumers.
There’s usually two things that make this average joe interested enough in checking out a new game: whether or not a demo exists, or trailers (which hopefully gives me some sweet gameplay) that give me a plethora of positive feelings.
If they give me goosebumps on my skin or blow my mind away, even teasers are enough to generate & pique my interest in a game for a long time.
…And then there some trailers that don’t take themselves seriously, but just make a game seem so cool/fun to try out.
While all manner of factors are important to consider in a game’s marketing campaign (going viral to get exposure for one), presenting videos that show the game in a good light can go a long way to influence positive perception of the product up until release day.
This post will explore some of my favorite clips out there and why they resonate with me.
Feel free to share your own favorite trailers in the comments!
For this listing, any official marketing video made for a videogame is fair game, no matter what platform the game exists for.
That means you can expect to see gameplay trailers, announcement trailers, teasers, story trailers, etc.
Some marketing videos like to mix things up for these trailers by sometimes including gameplay (and sometimes not).
Therefore, this series may include videos that contain only cinematics (videos that show no gameplay at all). After all, this is an item that exists to make hype/generate interest.
This series can contain videos for games that are cancelled or aren’t released.
Since this series is all about focusing on videos meant for marketing purposes, I will list videos for games I haven’t personally played.
Good trailers that market well are sometimes on the shorter side of things — that being said, if I list a video that’s a couple of minutes in length (or more than 5), I may post a clip that just plays at the most interesting parts of a trailer.
Lastly: this list is in no particular order.
Without further ado, let’s start the show!
- Mass Effect 2 (Teaser)
- Borderlands (Gameplay Trailer)
- Mortal Kombat X (Announcement Trailer)
- Alpha Protocol (1st Announcement Trailer)
- Mass Effect 3 “Take Back Earth” (Teaser)
This is probably one of the most interesting teasers I’ve ever seen for an RPG game.
It made my heart pound the first time seeing this, as I was wondering constantly to myself, “What happened to my Shepard!?”
Bioware was bold in being blunt about the early fate of your main character in Mass Effect 2. The release of the teaser led to much online discussion on theories regarding the subject and kept the game fresh in people’s minds.
Despite this being a teaser, it is excellent at doing two things: quickly summarizing the most major plot points in Mass Effect 1 & ending with a shocking “reveal” about your Commander Shepard (the protagonist you control & shape in the entire Mass Effect trilogy).
What makes this teaser all the more nicer is that it really oozes the idea that we’re going to be exploring a darker side of the Mass Effect universe.
The teaser emphasizes this dark vibe well: notice how the video uses sound effects/typography that feel very “Geth-like” — Geth were a synthetic enemy in ME 1 that were considered very dangerous and mysterious.
This sells the reveal near the end the teaser, which contains a Geth wearing what appears to be Shepard’s own blood-stained, iconic “N7” combat armor.
Even using a bit of gritty, “orange” colored tones for the iconic logo+background image alluded to this darker vibe.
I love this teaser so much because Bioware showed me that my own RPG character (whom I spent time making strong & getting to know in the first game) could possibly be infallible in Mass Effect 2 to a point where he/she could get themselves killed.
It made me excited about the future of story-based RPGs that didn’t always have to be about how the “good guy always saves the galaxy”.
Whether or not Mass Effect 2 executed on this well is up to debate though.
This trailer comes from a time where it was normal to show a LOT clips of how the core gameplay works & looks.
When the cool music kicks in, the trailer transitions perfectly to highlight the gameplay & the main characters you can play as.
Borderlands showed that the FPS genre didn’t always have to take itself seriously to sell well.
Gearbox Software hit a homerun when this trailer came out.
Although it was initially a serious-looking game during the beginning of development, Borderlands eventually differentiated itself from many other “muddy brown” FPS shooters by being more “artistic” & cartoonish. The game emulates a cel-shaded (thick black outline) art style for its charactersand the overall environment.
Their marketing campaign reflected the wackiness of the game, even being cheeky enough to encourage the viewer to have a “big finish” near the end of the trailer.
Although the graphics for the 1st game may seem dated(?) now, the marketing messages in the trailer felt refreshing to see — the campaign (and game) did so well that Gearbox embodied the tone to the rest of the Borderlands franchise.
I personally like the many cuts done in the trailer — especially with the introduction of Clap-Trap. Not only did the game seem fun, it also revealed to us that it’d contain some light-hearted storytelling in a world that has “no heaven”.
The game certainly delivered the hype this trailer generated!
I love this trailer for a few reasons:
- Scorpion WINS (as usual).
- Nice rap beat playing in the background.
- Wiz Khalifa (one of my favorite rappers out there) kills it on the beat.
The trailer appeals to this average joe very strongly.
Although it doesn’t actually show gameplay, this is the only cinematic video I know of that actually tries to emulate closely how the final product plays.
It pans out like an actual fighting game, shows the limb destruction feature from MK9, some environmental damage, even some of the iconic moves that have come to define Scorpion & Sub-Zero.
And of course, there’s a fatality at the end.
The video’s pacing works so well with focusing on just the core gameplay — it’s methodically slow with each hit feeling like it has a lot of weight to it.
The bones crunching & fist pounding is the only language that needed to be spoken to spark hype in the newest entry to the rejuvenated Mortal Kombat franchise.
Mix it with a high profile rap artist being featured in the background track and you get even more mainstream appeal.
To top it all off, Wiz Khalifa hasn’t said a word about whether or not there’ll ever be a full release of this trailer song!
This is the first trailer to Obsidian’s Alpha Protocol — a unique 3rd-person espionage RPG game that had so much potential to make Obsidian the #1 RPG game company in the industry at the time of release.
Don’t get me wrong though, because I LOVE this game (when it works). There’s really no other game I know that’s quite like Alpha Protocol.
This teaser isn’t all that, but it does one thing well for me: it quickly sells me on the idea of taking on the role of a James Bond-like character in a modern game world, with the trappings of RPG mechanics inspired by Bioware’s Mass Effect. Sure, there have been plenty of Bond games in the past, but they were merely shooting games.
The marketing really seemed to promise its consumers that the game would have more of that RPG standard that Bioware set with Mass Effect mixed with Deus Ex level design.
Spying, shooting, assassinations, paramours, infiltration, etc. Multiple ways to tackle a mission. What’s not for this average joe to love?
…And it all starts with the character’s cocking of the gun & neck snapping in this trailer. The sound design in the gun clip is really satisfying too (even if the rest of the clips’ graphics seem outdated).
I just have the need to repeatedly go back to the beginning just to see the gun scene again.
Since it’s Obsidian, I felt confident that the writing would turn out to be top-notch as usual.
While marred by too many crashy, technical bugs (because of how old-school Obsidian operated internally), the game’s dialogue system was so unique as to rival (I daresay became superior) to Mass Effect’s own dialogue system.
Their system was so good, that Bioware has questionably emulated parts of Alpha Protocol’s system in Andromeda.
Sometimes, marketing messages make their point loud & clear, even if a video contains very little to no audio.
Whoever directed ME3’s full announcement video should be recognized for the great cinematography seen in just this teaser.
No music, just a little girl out in the fields with the only notable audio being the sound of a giant Reaper landing near her.
This teaser resonated with me more than the full announcement trailer that was released right after this teaser came out.
On top of that, we get told we can get access to a demo near the end! It’s a perfect teaser.
The scale of the reaper vs. the little girl is enough to tell you that the journey of your Commander Shepard & crew is ending sooner than expected.
It lets you know a few things that should matter in justifying your purchase of Mass Effect 3: your Commander Shepard’s story is about to end foreal; the Reapers, an incomprehensible enemy that you’ve had little exposure to in the first two games, are HERE; lastly, a planet-wide genocide of the human species is happening… therefore, a galaxy-wide genocide of all intelligent species in the Milky Way is PROBABLY HAPPENING.
As we learned at the end of Mass Effect 2, we thought Shepard had enough time to prepare the Milky Way’s defenses and finally convince everybody the Reaper threat was real.
Out of all the Mass Effect marketing videos out there, this stands out as one of the best to me!
Hope you enjoyed Part 1 of this list!
I would love to see in the comments what marketing video are your favorites.