15 Greatest Video Game Commercials of All Time
We've all seen good games fail to make dents in terms of sales because of a poor marketing campaign, and we've also seen bad games sell far more than they should because of a good marketing campaign. As much as we may complain about it, a huge factor in the financial success of a game is in how it is promoted, and the following games/consoles were promoted expertly.
Here are Crave Online's 15 greatest video game commercials of all time.
Grand Theft Auto IV
The Grand Theft Auto series always had cinematic leanings, but with GTA IV, Rockstar did away with the dildos in the toilets and silliness of its predecessors, instead focusing on making it their crime magnum opus in the vein of Goodfellas or The Godfather. The trailer was indicative of this, with protagonist Niko Bellic discussing that elusive American Dream while we were reintroduced to the cold concrete of Liberty City. This trailer nailed the tone of its game moreso than perhaps any other on this list.
Although this commercial for the original Xbox was banned, it's difficult to think of console commercials without it immediately springing to mind, such was its unabashed crassness. Depicting a newborn baby shooting from its mother's womb, hurtling through the sky, aging rapidly before crashing into a coffin, it ended with a simple message – "Life's Too Short". We're not entirely sure how many Xbox's this would have helped Microsoft shift, but it certainly lingers in the memory.
Developers Media Molecule have a unique relationship with their fans, and this trailer for LittleBigPlanet 2 is representative of that. Essentially a love letter to the LBP community, it encourages fans to dive back into the series' innovative creation suite, and promotes that feeling of togetherness that has made the LBP online community one of the most friendly and enduring in home console gaming. Also, it's soundtracked by Passion Pit, which always helps.
Super Smash Bros.
Super Smash Bros. is one of the easiest series to promote. All the marketing team really need to do is put one line of text across the screen saying "Wanna see Nintendo characters punch each other in the face?" and they've already got our attention. We're glad they put more effort into it, though, because otherwise we would never have seen this commercial.
Further Reading: 'The Art of the Video Game Commercial'
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is one, if not THE greatest game in the PlayStation 3's expansive back catalogue, and its trailer was the first sign that developers Naughty Dog were onto something special. As Nathan Drake falls from out of the back of a train that's hung disastrously off the edge of a snowy cliff, the camera pans out to reveal the awe-inspiring scale of the landscape we would eventually be clambering across. Breathtaking.
Commercials that feature no reference to the product they are intended to advertise are typically met with derision, but this haunting clip can be met with nothing but a slightly agape mouth. To this day its meaning is still completely indecipherable, but that's the beauty of it. Actually, beauty's probably the wrong word.
Mirror's Edge does a good job of replicating the adrenaline rush of free-running (at least we assume it does, we haven't been doing much jumping from building-to-building recently), and the trailer is no different. Although the finished product may have divided opinion, there's no denying that this trailer (which is almost entirely made up of in-game footage, we should add) caught the attention of anyone who's ever thought to themselves, "y'know, I think I'd be quite good at Parkour". Which, let's face it, is everyone.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
A Star Wars MMO had been a long time coming, but not until The Old Republic were fans able to stage huge Jedi vs. Sith battles in George Lucas' infamous sci-fi universe. This trailer highlighted why so many were so eager to get their hands on it, and had us all scratching our heads and asking "why weren't the prequels more like this?"
PlayStation 3 – 'Michael'
Yeah, it's kind of cheesy, but there's something so wonderfully joyful about watching all your favourite PlayStation characters in one room, sharing a few beers and shooting the s***. We're not sure how Sackboy and Little Sister got in there without being IDed, though…
It's laughable now, but back in the 90's the potshots Nintendo and Sega took at each other during the infamous 'Console War' genuinely divided school playgrounds, as kids whose parents couldn't afford both options were forced to pick their faction. Sega's marketing team were always keen to highlight that they were the more "rad" option, as this commercial for the Genesis highlighted. Remember kids, "Genesis does what Nintendon't" (such as file for bankruptcy).
Gears of War
This Gears of War trailer popularised the 'action sequence accompanied by a sombre soundtrack' form of trailer that is now synonymous with the gaming industry, and while it completely contrasted the tone of the game it was advertising, it still put Epic Games' third-person shooter right at the top of Xbox 360 owners' 'must buy' lists, at a time when sales for the console were dwindling.
Team Fortress 2
Valve have a knack for witty dialogue, and the series of nine 'Meet The…' trailers for Team Fortress 2 featured them at their best. Introducing all the characters in the class-based FPS, the excellent CGI and humour looked like they had been ripped straight out of a Pixar movie, only with more guns and blood.
The underwater secular city of Rapture was the perfect setting for a video game, but by BioShock 2 we felt like we'd already seen everything that it had to offer. Then along came this trailer for BioShock Infinite, which threw us into the sky and into the floating city of Columbia, and our interest in the franchise was renewed. This trailer didn't just make us want BioShock Infinite, it made us NEED it.
Unfortunately, Dead Island turned out to be far less interesting than this misleading trailer suggested, but that doesn't make that plonky piano and zombified daughter any less moving. No one had heard of Dead Island prior to this trailer, but after witnessing it, it suddenly made its way onto our radars. We may have felt duped after learning that it was just another silly zombie slash 'em up, but the fact remains that this was still an extremely clever piece of marketing that undoubtedly earned someone in Deep Silver a promotion.
So Halo 3 may not have seen us 'Finish the Fight' as developers Bungie had promised, but the 'Believe' marketing campaign certainly made us feel like we were going to. Essentially any figurine collector's wet dream, the 'Believe' campaign depicted a huge battle between Covenant and human forces, made entirely out of action figures. Whether you were a fan of Halo or you didn't know your UNSC from your Spartans, 'Believe' made you stop and pay attention.
Paul Tamburro is the UK Editor of Crave Online. Follow him on Twitter @PaulTamburro.