Trailers hold a unique position in the video game industry. They have little to do with gaming itself, serving purely as marketing material, and half the time doesn’t even include footage used in the games they’re advertising, but sometimes they still manage to stick with us just as strongly. Let’s take a look at the top video game trailers of the 2010s, in no particular order.
1. THE LAST OF US PART 2 – REVEAL TRAILER
Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us was a smash hit, moving over 20 million units by October 2019. Everyone assumed a sequel would be coming, and at PlayStation Experience 2016, they finally got what they wanted. Between the beautiful art design, Ellie’s haunting musical performance for a dead audience, and her bone-chilling quote to wrap the trailer, The Last of Us Part II reveal trailer should easily stand the test of time as one of the best video game trailers for one of the best video games, of all time.
2. THE WITCHER 3: WILD HUNT – KILLING MONSTERS
The Witcher game series has always been a bit of a labor of love for polish developer CD Projekt Red. The first installment wasn’t much of a hit, but it garnered enough interest to merit a second installment. That sequel, Assassin of Kings, did a little better, but at best, the game had a cult following, perhaps due to its degree of difficulty.
That changed with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and that change started with the “Killing Monsters” trailer. It was the first look at the series for a ton of gamers, and it did a great job selling the tone of the franchise, its style, and the grim heroics of its main character: Geralt of Rivia. It certainly helped that CDPR overtly bragged by starting the cinematic off with a full list of the accolades the game had already received after its 2013 E3 debut.
3. DOOM (2016) GAMEPLAY TRAILER – E3 2015
The drought of new content between Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil and DOOM (2016) is one of the longest franchise gaps in video game history, and boy did it pay off. The DOOM gameplay trailer from E3 2015 made clear from the start that the franchise was returning to its roots. It’s one minute and 27 seconds of gore, carnage, and blood-pumping adrenaline set to a soundtrack straight out of Hell itself.
The return to form paid off in spades for developer id Software and publisher Bethesda Softworks as it moved half a million PC copies in the first month of sales and surpassed one million within three months. Its immediate predecessor is a great horror game and still worth playing, but this soft reboot of the series gave fans exactly what they craved, spawning its own direct sequel in Doom: Eternal.
4. DIABLO IV – BY THREE THEY COME
Blizzard Entertainment is known primarily for three things: Lengthy development timelines, incredible world-building, and dazzling cinematics, and the upcoming Diablo IV ticks all of those boxes. No release date has been announced yet, but we’re sitting about seven years after the last new content release for the series (Diablo III: The Rise of the Necromancer), so fans are chomping at the bit.
Beyond looking delightfully grim, the trailer is notable because it functions as a story unto itself, a proper prelude to the unreleased title, something that few games attempt and fewer still pull off. This makes sense given the heavy focus on the lore of the Diablo franchise has, and after the abysmal reception of Diablo Immortal at the previous year’s Blizzcon, Blizzard obviously took extra care to ensure fans would love their introduction to the next main installment to the series.
5. BORDERLANDS 2 – A MEAT BICYCLE BUILT FOR TWO
The marketing for Borderlands 2, from start to finish, was some of the finest ever done in the industry, and even among its colleagues, “A Meat Bicycle Built For Two” stands out. It introduced the Psycho Pack, the second DLC content pack for the game, and debuted the now-beloved character Psycho Krieg.
Similar to Diablo IV’s “By Three They Come”, “A Meat Bicycle Built For Two” tells an introduction story, though to a much smaller degree. Players were already familiar with psychos as enemies, and while Krieg himself is just a comedic twist on that ingrained characterization, it works phenomenally. Borderlands developer Gearbox made him stand out even more by building his character around a melee playstyle, something antithetical to the rest of Borderland’s focus on guns, guns, and more guns.
Marketing teams know that a trailer is often the very first impression people will have with their product, and it’s tough to handle because games are so much more than their audio and visual components. But every now and again, when the stars align, these cinematics can strike gold and earn their own place in gaming history. We had to truncate our list of the top video game trailers of the 2010s to just five, so tell us in the comments what other trailers you think belong!