Having something that catches the eye is an essential component of selling your product to a consumer base. For the video game industry, and many other forms of entertainment, that’s where video trailers come into play. They are bite-sized experiences that distill exactly what a game is all about into just a few minutes; they are the sales pitch. And in 2012 we saw a lot of great gaming trailers that made us drool at the thought of playing video games. Here are our 15 favorites, and if you think we missed one, add it in the comments below.
Dishonored – “E3 Gameplay Trailer”
The best part of this trailer for Dishonored is the mood and atmosphere it establishes. The slight adjustment to the song “Drunken Sailor,” which uses the lyrics “drunken whaler” instead - considering the game takes place in a city run on whale oil - is a nice touch that further sells the immersion into the game world.
Far Cry 3 – “Launch Trailer”
This trailer is a strange, yet impressive beast. Instead of just editing down the experience of Far Cry 3 in 2-3 minutes, Ubisoft decided to do a 10-minute tutorial that runs down everything you can expect in the game. The end result is fantastic, and really go a long way in selling you on everything the game has to offer.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 – “Surprise!”
Activision usually goes all out with their marketing campaigns for Call of Duty, and this year’s Black Ops 2 was no different. For the game’s launch trailer, Activision locked down Robert Downey Jr. to star, and Guy Ritchie to direct. Furthermore, the trailer’s theme is one that should hit close to home for avid Call of Duty players.
The Witcher 2 – “Intro”
This video not only served as one hell of a promotional pitch for the game, but also acted as the game’s introduction cinematic, managing to flesh out the world of The Witcher and introduce the game’s lead antagonist. It’s beautiful work, created by studio Platige Image, and makes us wish for a CGI The Witcher film.
The Last of Us – “Story Trailer”
This trailer was just released last week as part of the Spike Video Game Awards, yet it has already climbed to the top of our yearly list. This is The Last of Us’ first story trailer, fleshing out the game world around its two lead characters, Joel and Ellie. The accompanying music perfectly captures the mood of the action, and the motion capture work – as is the case with all Naughty Dog efforts – is something truly out of this world.
Assassin’s Creed III – “Debut Trailer”
When this trailer dropped it was kind of a, wait for it, revolution (ahem). A new Assassin’s Creed title starring a new lead protagonist that was finally leaving the Mediterranean to instead focus on the Revolutionary War and the founding of the United States of America? Our bodies were ready at the first sight of a hawk soaring over the Mohawk Valley.
The Phantom Pain – “Debut Trailer”
The debut trailer for The Phantom Pain deserves recognition here because it manages to get people talking. Many, myself included, think this is a trailer for the next Metal Gear Solid title. Just look at the lead character's hair, beard and bandage acting as an eye patch - all classic staples of Metal Gear Solid’s Big Boss. There are other coincidences, too, like the appearance of someone who looks like Vulcan from MGS3 and the trailer’s title card, which looks like “Metal Gear Solid V” is supposed to fit right above “The Phantom Pain.” It’s interesting stuff. For these reasons, and because the game looks gorgeous, The Phantom Pain's debut trailer makes our list.
ZombiU – “E3 Trailer”
The E3 trailer for ZombiU reminds us a lot of one of Fallout 3’s first trailers; as the opening shot pulls back it reveals a world torn apart – in this case by zombies. The use of “God Save the Queen” is not only inspired, but also practical considering the game takes place in a post-apocalyptic London.
Dead Island Riptide – “CGI Trailer”
While not as amazing as the debut trailer for the original Dead Island, the first trailer for Dead Island Riptide still manages to pull at the heartstrings even when the undead are ripping everything apart. And much like the original Dead Island trailer, this one makes us wish the actual gameplay mirrored the emotionally exhausting experience of these trailers.
Rayman Legends – “Castle Rock”
Less a straight-up trailer and more a gameplay spotlight, the “Castle Rock” video for Rayman Legends is, in a word, incredible. Let’s investigate: slick-as-ice animation? Check. A sense of humor? Check. Gameplay synced up with “Black Betty?” Absolutely. Consider this trailer a win all around.
Max Payne 3 – “TV Spot”
The above TV Spot for Max Payne 3 features all the hallmarks of the franchise – slow-mo diving, bullets whizzing everywhere, and a depressed-looking main character. Add to that the trance-like “Tears” by Health, and you have a trailer that demands an audience’s attention.
Borderlands 2 – “Joy Puke”
The best compliment I can give “Joy Puke” is that it’s the only time in history (thus far) that I’ve enjoyed dubstep. It’s not that I think the music in this trailer is good, per se, but that in this context it makes me smile. We all deserve to give a hand (or clamp) to Clap Trap, I guess.
Halo 4 – “Scanned”
The live-action launch trailer for Halo 4, “Scanned,” was directed by David Fincher, known for films such as Seven, Fight Club and The Social Network. The fact that he worked on a gaming property is maybe indicative of how the industry is moving forward in the eyes of the general public. But whether that’s the case of not, there’s no denying that “Scanned” is a cool, fascinating look at the world of Halo to kickstart a brand-new trilogy.
BioShock Infinite – “Beast of America”
BioShock Infinite is easily one of our most anticipated titles of 2013. And a large reason why is because of the game’s stellar, albeit scarce promotional material. Take, for example, the above trailer, which is a kickass, punch-you-in-the-face look at the game. While the gameplay in the video looks great, it’s really the use of the song “Beast,” by Nico Vega, that sells us completely. We dare you to try watching this trailer and not fist pump afterwards. It’s impossible.
Grand Theft Auto V – “Trailer #2”
The moment the second trailer for GTA V released it basically locked down trailer of the year for me. It’s action-packed, funny and gives us an extended glimpse at Los Santos and the characters that inhabit it. While I’m beyond excited to actually play the game next year, I finished this trailer and thought to myself that this would also make a great movie. And that’s how you know Rockstar got this preview right.
Erik Norris is the Gaming Editor for CraveOnline. You can follow him on Twitter @Regular_Erik.