Video game trailers are a big deal. Where once big budgets were the exception, they are increasingly becoming the norm. Deep pockets are not always key to creating a stand-out trailer, though. Ingenuity, innovation, and a healthy sense of humor can also go a long way to help sell a game.
Here we present the best game trailers to grace our screens during 2012. They represent a cross-section of the gaming world and feature a variety of styles and budgets. The one thing they have in common? They’re done right.
If you think we’ve missed any trailers of note, feel free to drop a comment below.
Gearbox Software gave its first-person role-playing shooter Borderlands 2 (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) a sing-a-long soundtrack that just shouldn’t have worked. The genius is that “Wimoweh” has never sounded as gloriously out of place since its original 1939 release. Even better than Tight Fit.
Eschewing both gameplay and prerendered footage, this trailer for Ubisoft’s open-world action-shooter Watch Dogs (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) brilliantly sets up the game’s premise with a starkly delivered blurring of fact and fiction that sounds eminently believable. Watch Dogs is certainly a title to look out for next year.
Zombies. Are we sick of them yet? Ubisoft doesn’t think so, having created one of the year’s most atmospheric trailers for its Wii U-exclusive survival-horror game. The film succeeds in making ordinary environments look extraordinary by subtly twisting our perspective on the dark streets of London.
Independent developer Shawn McGrath unleashed his psychadelic musical shooter, Dyad, on the PlayStation 3 this summer. Its original trailer received an unkindly greeting in some quarters, with PlayStation Blog user Mattsta009 saying of its star: “It doesn’t look like that girl is even playing Dyad, she is kind of just holding a controller, acting badly and smiling vacuously at the screen.” In a stroke of genius, McGrath recast himself in the lead role. Watch from 20 seconds in to see him in action. The original trailer is underneath for a neat “compare and contrast” opportunity.
The Last of Us
Proof of the power of soundtrack, developer Naughty Dog used the Hank Williams song “Alone and Forsaken” to great effect in this trailer for upcoming PlayStation 3 action game The Last of Us. The atmosphere seems even more bleak and unforgiving with Williams’ raspy vocals layering on the tension.
Dead Island: Riptide
The original Dead Island grabbed headlines last year with its stunning cinematic trailer. For its sequel, developer Techland is messing with our emotions again. Anyone who has played the first game knows not to expect tear-jerking drama from Dead Island: Riptide (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360), but that doesn’t stop the trailer from being an extraordinary example of its craft.
Mass Effect 3
Perhaps the most anticipated game of 2012, BioWare’s action role-playing game Mass Effect 3 showed early promise with this stunning computer-generated introduction. If anything was going to inspire gamers to Take Earth Back, this was surely it. Unfortunately, Mass Effect 3’s ending left many feeling less than impressed. But hey, the trailer’s still great.
The Unfinished Swan
The Unfinished Swan was one of the most stunningly individual games of the year. This trailer for the PlayStation 3 exclusive has an appropriately unique look and feel that shows off some of its delightful play mechanics. Minimalistic and mesmerizing.
Metro: Last Light
This live-action announcement trailer for upcoming shooter Metro: Last Light (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) was intended to fire the imagination of first-person shooter fans and reintroduce Metro: Last Light as a must-play title. With Mark Patton (Prometheus) as director of photography, seasoned commercials director Jim Weedon succeeded in creating a gritty, raw narrative that grabbed four million YouTube views during its first four days of release.
Angry Birds Star Wars
Bringing together the world’s biggest mobile gaming franchise and probably the most-loved movie trilogy of all time, Angry Birds Star Wars had no option but to succeed. Which made it that much nicer to see how much care and attention went into crafting this three-minute-long animated short for the release of the iOS and Android game.