The 10 best video game trailers so far

Although video game trailers are still in their infancy as an art form, many have been able to capture the essence of the games that they promote in unique and intriguing ways. Unlike movie trailers, video game trailers are not strictly bound to feature footage that can be found in the final product. They can take the form of live action  or animated short films, as well as the more traditional blend of cut scenes and gameplay footage. Compiled below are a list of what I consider to be some of the most original game trailers from the last decade.

Mirror’s Edge Reveal trailer

Nominated for: Honesty – Lady character – Pure gameplay – Parkour

When all you need to get the public riled up is an uncut run through of your game’s first level then you know you’re on to something special. The promise made by Mirror’s Edge’s reveal trailer that “The following is all in-game footage” was somewhat hard to believe, much like the oft spotted “The following events are based on a true story” message you might expect to see preceding the next Transformers movie. Whether people believed it or not, the pristine cleanliness and vertigo inducing first person Parkour set to the instrumental from Lisa Miskovsky’s Still Alive made this trailer hard to ignore. When the game released and lived up to those far-fetched promises it truly was the icing on a very bright, white cake.

Assassin’s Creed Revelations E3 Trailer

Nominated for: One man army – Woodkid – Stop stabbing yourself

The final chapter in Ezio Auditore da Firenze’s life spanning journey was destined to be a major video game event. By the end of AC: Brotherhood, everyone’s favourite hooded killer had grown from a cocky young Italian nobleman into a stern and disciplined master assassin. The trailer shows a time weathered Ezio braving mountains, deserts and rough seas on his way to the birthplace of the Assassin’s order. Any notion of whether the years have taken their toll on Ezio’s abilities is cast aside the moment he slices a man’s throat, flips effortlessly across the corpses’s back and flows seamlessly into the next attack. What follows is a flurry of fast paced melee, broken up by some brutal but beautiful slow motion kills. As if this trailer wasn’t perfect enough, the chilling voice and booming drums of Woodkid’s Iron create what is possibly the most well suited soundtrack to any video game trailer ever.

Metro: Last Light- Enter the Metro

Nominated for: – Heart string tugger – I don’t know what you’re saying but I pretty much get the gist… 

If you’re trying to sell your game to a western audience then clearly everyone in your trailer should be speaking Russian. The sense of ambiguity driven by the directors reliance on you not speaking the tongue of the motherland is a set up for some of the most powerful imagery you will likely ever see in a game trailer. No subtitles here, just a whole mess of humans displaying some very human emotions. Fear, distress, desperation and sympathy penetrate the language barrier and lunge straight for the tear ducts in this bleak, masterfully directed depiction of a country on the brink of nuclear annihilation.

DC Universe Online Comic-con ’10 trailer

Nominated for: All out DC Warfare – As many match ups as you can cram into six minutes – SHAZAM!

The most incredible feat that this trailer pulls off is being as awesome as it is long. At a massive six minutes of gorgeous high octane animation, the DC Universe Online  trailer fits as much hero on villain action into one space as is superhumanly possible. Lantern vs Black Adam, Superman vs Luthor, Wonder Woman vs Deathstroke, there isn’t much more a dedicated DC aficionado could wish for outside of a teasing narrative outline that ties all of this senseless violence together. Oh wait, it has that too.

Skyrim Live action trailer

Nominated for: Dragonborn chills – Staring contest with a freaking dragon

This live action trailer taps into the appeal of Skyrim perfectly, a faceless adventurer standing alone against the mightiest of foes. The sets here are so true to the world of Skyrim and the sense of chaos and panic only emphasizes just how incredibly cool the lone dragonborn is, despite how little he actually does.

Prey 2 Official E3 ’11 trailer

Nominated for: Boba Fett simulator – Johnny Cash – Cheeky smirk

After a fuzzy and confusing live action intro, Prey 2’s trailer poses one very simple question. Do you want to be a gun slinging space bounty hunter with a bunch of badass baddie catching tech? This is not a trick question, the answer is of course yes.  A beaten up deputy badge and the grizzled tones of Johnny Cash’s Rusty Cage send a very clear message, this may look like the distant future but the old west lives on. The only question I pose back at the makers of Prey 2 is “Where the hell is this game?”

Borderlands 2 Doomsday trailer

Nominated for: Over the top editing – Claptrap – Wub Wub

If ever a trailer has set the tone for the rest of the game it’s this one. Borderlands 2 is an insane thrill ride packed with as much inane humour as this overly bombastic storm of gameplay footage suggests.  I’m not sure if 870 Gajillion guns is an entirely accurate statistic but it certainly works for me.

Dead Space ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’ trailer

Nominated for: Utter disregard for childhood innocence – Impromptu underwear change – “What the hell are those things?”

The original Dead Space is renowned in horror game circles for its tense atmosphere, gory combat and bloody violence. It is the careful balance of these elements that makes this game a truly terrifying survival horror classic.  This trailer mimics the disturbing tension of Dead Space perfectly, cutting up scenes of a ruined mining ship with flash cuts of brutal dismemberments, all to the tune of twinkle twinkle little star. If you can make it to the end of this trailer then you should definitely consider trying the game. Just keep the lights on ok?

Halo 3: ODST Live action trailer

Nominated for: Awesome directing – Real life Halo – Military shouting

This trailer succeeds in bringing some of the most iconic staples of the Halo universe to life in a believable way. The armour looks stunning, the combat is frantic and even the CGI Brutes and Banshees look incredibly convincing. The trailer follows the frantic life to death cycle of an ODST soldier, from their first day of training to the moment they are deployed in battle, pausing only in quiet remembrance of their fallen comrades.

Dead Island announcement trailer

Nominated for: Backwards then forwards then backwards… – Beautiful original composition – Writing a cheque that the game couldn’t cash

Ask gamers what their favourite part of Dead Island is and the most common response will no doubt be “the trailer”. This beautifully crafted tearjerker of a cinematic is often renowned as both the best trailer ever made and the worst case of false advertising since the Space Hopper. The trailer is a blend of slow motion reverse footage and real time footage of the same scene. Both the conclusion and the beginning are shown in increments as they progress towards the middle, crafting a heartbreaking story of a father’s failed attempt to save his daughter from a horde of zombies that culminates in the moment he finally reaches her. Unfortunately, the family featured in the trailer have nothing to do with the game itself and contrary to the trailer’s sombre tone, the final product has about as much emotional depth as a puddle.

Did I miss anything important? Is there anything you’d have removed from the list? Voice your opinions in the comments below.


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