These days, video game announcements and news are usually just a few clicks away, but it wasn’t always that easy. The first way players discovered a game was often through commercials — yes, the kind on actual TV — and they only needed to grab your attention in 30 seconds. Not all of them have been successful, but there have been some absolutely brilliant video game commercials over the years, including some for less brilliant games. GameSpot has collected our picks for the best video game ads and commercials of all time, from the early days of the Atari 2600 to the most recent game.
Halo 3: “Believe”
One of the most effective video game commercials ever featured no gameplay or pre-rendered cinematics. In fact, it barely featured any movement at all. Titled “Believe”, the commercial for Halo 3 consists of panning shots on a small display, with terrified UNSC marines awaiting their fate as a giant swarm of Covenant surrounds them. On a hilltop, their leader holds Master Chief, thinking the Spartans have been defeated — but a plasma grenade in Master Chief’s hand tells us the battle is just beginning.
Gears of War: “Mad World”
Before Halo 3 was released on the Xbox 360, Microsoft had another great shooter franchise to keep players entertained, and its trailer has stuck with us for over 16 years. Gears of War’s Madworld trailer paints a bleak picture of Earth, with much of the world destroyed as the Locust and humanity continue their destructive war. The song – a cover that first appeared in Donnie Darko – suggests the game will be a bit more… safe The competition is over, but slicing an enemy in half with a chainsaw still sends us back to that trailer.
Assassin’s Creed: “Tears”
Before the Assassin’s Creed series evolved into an action-RPG with epic battles, it was a social stealth game that prioritized quick, efficient kills and silent escapes. In this commercial for the original game – set on Tears of Mass Invasion – we see Altair running along rooftops before making the famous “leap of faith”. He lands behind the Templar target, his hidden blade extended just as the scene ends. It’s the perfect introduction to what would become one of the most successful gaming franchises of all time, and it certainly makes us feel differently about the song that House theme.
Super Smash Bros.: Live Action Battle
These days, there are a lot of “worlds collide” fighting games out there, but when Super Smash Bros. targeted the Nintendo 64, so it was a completely new concept. That’s what made this live-action commercial for the game so awesome, because no one expected our favorite Nintendo characters to go from rolling around in a meadow to knocking each other unconscious. . The music makes the commercial even better, as does seeing Donkey Kong swing around Pikachu as if he’s about to throw him 400 feet. We’re sure seconds later Donkey Kong was completely killed by Yoshi’s hammer.
Would love to play the Wii.
Nintendo certainly has a way of establishing a new brand — just look at the instant recognition we all had for the Switch’s signature click. But a decade ago there was a commercial that did even better with just one sentence: “Wii would love to play.” A simple ad featuring two men in suits (we assume, or hope they worked for Nintendo), shows a family answering their door and He is being invited to play the Wii. It’s generally not advisable to invite strangers into your home, but when they have the latest Nintendo console and games to go with it, it’s probably fine. Both men stay busy, introducing many others to the Wii and ushering in one of Nintendo’s best eras.
Genius does what Nintendo doesn’t.
If Nintendo had called itself something else in practice, Sega wouldn’t have been able to make this commercial, but it was true, at the time: Genius outweighs Nintendo. Singers in the famous ad reminded us that we couldn’t play Genesis games on Nintendo systems. Picking the columns – great value Tetris – and Buster Douglas’ boxing game might not have been the best choice, but the fact remains that the Genesis had a whole bunch of games that the NES and SNES didn’t. It was a system of cool kids with attitude, and you didn’t want to be left behind.
Ice Hockey by Activation
Early video game commercials were often excellent because there was no framework or expectation for what a commercial should be. In the case of this classic ad for ice hockey on the Atari 2600, watching a future SNL all-timer–the late Phil Hartman–go bananas over game footage on a tiny CRT display was the perfect way to sell the game. The game’s name is even screamed with a bloodcurdling scream at the end of the commercial, just to make sure you never forget it.
Kingdom Hearts: “Plain and Pure”
Nowadays, the words “Kingdom Hearts” conjure up memories of one of the most complex video game stories of all time, with nearly a dozen games to play. But in 2002, many of us were introduced to the story of Sora colliding with the universe through this commercial. Featuring the now-famous “Simple and Clean” song, the montage of various Disney characters immediately captured the audience’s attention. “You never know who you’re going to run into,” says the narrator. The rest is (a very complicated) history.
Loss: Jack Black commercial
What is your favorite Jack Black character? School of Rock? Maybe high fidelity? True fans know that before fame, a young Jack Black was in a commercial for the classic Atari game Pitfall. Appearing before anything (or anyone else) in the commercial, Black Hero talks about being in the dangerous forest with Pitfall Harry. He is wearing a safari hat, which seems to be shared with other players. One girl says she’s drawn to Pitfall Harry, which is a bit odd for a faceless pixelated character, but the novelty of seeing pre-fame Jack Black is enough to make the list.
Goat Simulator 3 announcement trailer
One of the new video game ads that struck us was for a completely different game. Parodying the Dead Island 2 announcement trailer from several years ago – a game that hasn’t even been released yet – the Goat Simulator 3 announcement trailer doesn’t make it clear that it’s for Goat Simulator 3 first. Indeed, who would have suspected it, given that there was no Goat Simulator 2? It’s a brilliant work of bait-and-switch trickery that fits perfectly with the series’ goofy, anything-goes aesthetic, and it’s fun to watch other people react to it for the first time.
King of Stealth: Who’s Behind the Mask?
There was a time when the majority of video games were sold as physical media, and in one of the strangest decisions we can remember, one place you could find these games was Burger King. The fast food chain released a number of games for just a few dollars each, and Stealthy Snack King was the most infamous of them. This creepy trailer shows a video game world terrorized by a predator. As it turns out, the sneaky man hiding in the shadows is the king himself, and he just wants to serve people burgers. We are very anxious to see him again.
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