Since starting to make indie game trailers, I’ve learned that the best ones make you want to play regardless of whether or not the game is fun. Not only do these trailers do this by captivating our longings and our fears, but all of them do this exceptionally well.
This is one of those rare times that showing extended gameplay clips really works. It succeeds because of how Superhot’s action freezes when players stand still. It’s these frozen half-seconds that give trailer viewers a chance to take-in the ideas of what’s happening. This should be a consideration for every action game trailer: does it allow viewers to take-in and process what’s unfolding? This Superhot trailer gets that right.
Nothing tugs at your heartstrings more than a lost dog, and the creators of Home Free know it. All this trailer needed to do was show a player’s experience as a lost dog. I was close to tears throughout the trailer, and by the end I was smiling. I pressed that Kickstarter button without thinking twice.
This was my personal favorite of the year. The narration and gameplay are fine, but the incorporation of actual players amazed me. I believed the actors to be real people playing the game. And when the trailer explains the unique ways the Wii U enhances co-operative gameplay, it made me want a Wii U system.
Notice that “oooohhh” reaction to when the players crash as a team. That moment changed how I thought about game trailers. I don’t know if the gameplay will grab most players, but those player reactions stuck with me.
This one threw me for a loop. I anticipated a dark and harrowing This War of Mine experience — further darkened by the horrors of children suffering at war time. Instead, this trailer is about fun, imagination, and the power of play even in the darkest moments.
This light-in-darkness approach completely surprised me. Now I’m actually looking forward to playing This War of Mine with children instead of thinking it would be too sad to handle.
Fierce action floods the screen with the kinetic momentum of lasers, spaceships, mechs, and skilled play. I’m not good enough at Galak Z’s space combat to get the same experience this trailer shows (my time with the game has been quieter and stealthier). But it should be noted that the trailer’s fierce Saturday Morning Space Violence captured me so completely that I couldn’t say “no” when the game launched.
“Destruction is the only way to grow,” the trailer tells us. This statement is necessary because the concept takes some time to grasp. After that moment, the unrelenting pace of sharp cuts and in-game action created a sense of urgency that squished me into a corner next to the buy button. I personally felt the game itself lacked the tight-rope tension of the trailer, though rewatching it makes me want to play the game again.
Depicting Iran’s 1979 revolution may be a tall order for a video game trailer, but this piece illustrates compelling gameplay to match the personal stories behind the event. I’m sad that the team had to postpone their initial episode 1 launch intended for October, but this is a day-one purchase for sure.
Heavy-handed sexual innuendo! Hot pink everything! Drag queen game designers! Sparkles! Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker has it all! Game developers rarely appear in their own game trailers, but when you dress them up in drag and turn the shmooze to full-blast, it’s pure internet gold. Even as somebody who never plays dating simulators, this one fully-grabbed my attention. It’s very grabby.
This trailer answers many concerns. No Man’s Sky captured the imaginations of countless expectant players, but it left giant questions in everybody’s mind like, “How does it play?” and, “Will it ever release?” While this trailer still plays-into the ideals of a limitless universe, it also emphasizes what players do: harvest resource-rich planets, fight space and ground battles, and find “treasures unknown.” The grandfather-like narrator and on-foot gunplay shots add legitimacy to the project. And the release date window made the game feel like more of a reality.
Success and failure collide in this trailer at light speed. Abstract shapes tell the story of retries and breakthrough. My favorite part is the concluding sequence of failure sounds that illustrate how players will enjoy banging their head against a wall of adrenaline and hope. This blend of sweet and salty leaves a flavor in my mouth that sticks around well after indulgence.
Simple narration and stationary shots suggest more about The Long Dark than most trailers can even attempt. The Long Dark has an advantage by having a wealth of installed users, but that just gives more room for the story to breathe here. Notice the spaces between the voiced narration. Catch how subtle the camera movements are. Concluding with a launch window is a nice bonus. This is one that I’ll be anticipating with chilly bated breath.
I hope you enjoyed the list. Check out my trailer work at mjoshua.com. Reach-out if you’re thinking about your game’s next trailer. I’d love to talk. I offer free consultations for DIY trailers. There’s something deeply rewarding about helping game makers put their best foot forward. Feel free to email me: [email protected].