As we get closer to the end of the year, it’s always nice to go back and remember the things you loved most about the past fifty-two weeks. This year was a little bit harder to do that with, but I did remember one thing that kept me going throughout 2020: video game trailers. As we started to shift towards a newer generation of consoles, we finally began to see the games that would run on both generations, and in some cases, exclusively on new hardware. Whether they were rendered in CGI or not, these videos have consistently entertained us and reminded us about the games coming to us sooner or later.
To celebrate the best game trailers of 2020, I ended up making a list of the top two hundred that stood out from the rest throughout the year. After narrowing that original list down to about seventy, I began to realize how many amazing promotions are made and released weekly, just for them to be forgotten about when the next big thing is announced. To narrow down the list, I decided to implement some criteria to help finalize the candidates. The best of the best would need to be creative, engaging, build hype for their game, and it usually helped to have at least one “WTF” moment in the commercial. With these criteria in mind, I curated this list of the year’s absolute best game trailers, presented to you in chronological order.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla – April 30th
Ever since the first Assassin’s Creed commercial dropped over a decade ago, the series has always led the march when it comes to high-quality and cinematic story trailers. This ad for Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is no different and sets the perfect tone for the most recent adventure. We get a glimpse at the frozen mountains and stunning skies of the new location and quickly understand that not all Vikings are as cruel as we may think. Peace quickly turns to chaos as we watch the Vikings go to war in a beautifully shot and choreographed battle scene.
Apex Legends – May 5th
Apex Legends marketing team made it incredibly tough to choose only one commercial for this list. As I went back and looked at all of the trailers for Apex Legends this year, it became pretty clear how much the team cares for these characters and their stories. I decided to include the Season 5 teaser, as it contains the game’s humor, heart, and ambition, all under three minutes. This ad acts as the third and final part of Loba’s origin story, a tragic but intriguing journey towards revenge. This ad feels more like an ambitious short film than an advertisement for a video game between the art style, animation, and voice acting.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 – May 8th
What begins as a grizzly and slightly uncomfortable Christmas morning quickly turns into a cheerful dance as Wayne Newton’s “Danke Schoen” begins to play. The rest of the video embraces this balance of grimness and playfulness perfectly, as the local vampires thrive and humans try and stay alive. The commercial for this highly anticipated sequel promises the player a hell of a time in Seattle, between attending discos to meeting the many interesting and unique characters that live there. I will be smiling when this title is finally released; no hooks required.
Little Devil Inside – June 11th
After watching this one a few times, I am still unsure what about this advertisement intrigues me so much. Could it be the lush environments shown throughout? The odd juxtaposition of a young man surviving harrowing adventures while an older man has a bath? It looks like we will be facing numerous beasts and exploring dangerous locations, but there is enough ambiguity in the trailer to prove any viewer wrong. Almost every frame of this commercial is surrounded by mystery, and I can’t wait to learn more about Little Devil Inside.
Horizon Forbidden West – June 11th
The PS5 reveal event was one of the most exciting events of the year, and Sony showed up with more than an hour’s worth of new game announcements. While it was tough to cut some of the games shown that day, like Ratchet & Clank and Deathloop, I felt like I needed to include the big surprise announcement from the end of the event in this list. In this stunning trailer, we are immediately immersed in the rich West Coast of a world now inhabited by machines. The change in scenery is instantly noticeable from the first game in the series, and the amount of detail added to every little thing is awe-inspiring. This sequel may somehow find a way to exceed all expectations left for it from the first game between seeing new and familiar faces.
Watch Dogs Legion – July 12th
While feeling like a lost episode from Netflix’s stellar “Love, Death & Robots,” this commercial does a phenomenal job of setting up both the attitude and open-world craziness you will face in Watch Dogs Legion. A revolution is happening in London, and we primarily follow one man as he tries to escape the police. During his escape, the trailer highlights many of the key features included in the game. Activities such as: riding a giant drone, recruiting innocent locals to your cause, and hacking are all represented here. The overall package is four minutes of creative animation and tone-setting for Ubisoft’s latest hack-a-thon.
Far Cry 6 – July 12th
In the latest Far Cry cinematic, we are offered less than a minute of tranquility before a door opens, and uneasiness seeps in. What begins as a playful exchange between a father and his son quickly turns tense as said father places a grenade in his son’s hands, teaching him about the four basic parts of the explosive. Balancing a friendly demeanor with this kind of terrifying intenseness is not new to the newest villain in the series, played by Giancarlo Esposito, of Breaking Bad and The Usual Suspects fame. As our villain talks his son through what it means to be a leader, a revolution storms outside their windows. It could still be a few months before we hear anything new about Far Cry 6, but this trailer is so good, I can’t wait to find out more.
Suicide Squad – August 22nd
After many years of not knowing exactly what was going on behind-the-scenes at Rocksteady Studios, they have finally pulled back the curtain. Continuing the Arkham series’s story, it looks like Brainiac has invaded Gotham and is now brain-washing our heroes. Who needs heroes when you have people like Harley Quinn or King Shark to save the day? In the reveal trailer, what appears to be doom and devastation quickly turns into humorous banter between our main four anti-heroes. While the first half of this short showcases the chemistry and quick-witted banter between the Squad members, the second-half is all action, matched perfectly to Outkast’s “B.O.B.”
Final Fantasy XVI – September 16th
Sony hosted its second PS5 showcase at the beginning of Autumn and wasted no time showing off this gem. After seeing the character design and hearing a protagonist talk about “Shiva,” it becomes clear that this is a Final Fantasy title. The most jarring part about this video would be its location. For the last few entries, this series has shied away from its fantasy origins and focused more on telling stories in futuristic locations. This title looks like it will go back to the series origins, and with a story written by the team behind Final Fantasy XIV‘s success, it’s hard not to remain curious about what waits for us in Valisthea.
Back 4 Blood – December 10th
Turtle Rock Studios have been busy at work, and when they revealed their latest project at The Game Awards earlier this month, the world let out a collective cheer. After working on a few games for the Oculus, The team is back with what looks like an amazing spiritual successor to the studio’s biggest hit, Left 4 Dead. This cinematic perfectly captures the tone of the older series while also introducing us to this IP’s newer features. This game looks like a hell of a time between web-throwing zombies and enemies that look like they escaped from Racoon City.
Honorable Mention: Gears 5 – Batista Bomb
As I combed through the internet looking for the best game trailers of 2020, I stumbled upon this. Originally thinking it was an April Fool’s Day joke, I decided to look into it, and nope, not a joke. Time to get into the Gears franchise, I guess.
That’s it, all of the best game trailers of the year! Are any of your favorites missing from the list? Comment below to let us know.