It is not hyperbolic to say that a well-timed reveal trailer can spell the difference between millions of sales and ending up in the bargain bin.
Their intention, quite obviously, is to maximise the amount of hype and awareness for an upcoming release, and in some cases, their impact can surpass even the final product itself.
Though cinematic trailers garner the most attention, for me, it’s all about the biggest moments of unveiling in the gaming industry. It’s also not coincidental that this is one of the few times I enjoy reaction videos, as these trailers typically occur at some kind of public gathering with likeminded enthusiasts.
So which ones hit me the hardest, with the impact of a well-timed smash attack? In no particular order, allow me to break it down. Let’s get exhilarated all over again, baby!
Banjo-Kazooie are Raring to go! (Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, 2019)
While we’re on the subject of Smash, there is no shortage of trailers across this series’ history that could feasibly find a place among these rankings. There’s Brawl’s reveal, complete with Solid Snake busting up the proceedings. Or the world-bending arrival of Cloud Strife into the skirmish. Then you have one of my personal favourites, where Satoru Iwata and Reggie Fils-Aime beat the shit out of each other.
For pure catharsis, however, you can’t do much better than return of the prodigal children from their purgatory in Microsoft’s clutches.
Ever since the very first Smash Bros entry on the N64, people have been clamouring for the bear and bird to take their rightful place among the roster. Unfortunately, by the time Brawl opened the door for third party characters, Rareware had long since left the building.
The buyout that would relinquish one of Nintendo’s greatest assets had a ripple effect that is still being felt to this day. They were basically Nintendo 2, producing hits that stood toe-to-toe with anything else on consoles.
Banjo-Kazooie was one such example, taking the groundwork that Mario had laid, beefing it up and planting a pair of googly eyes on it. Not only did their departure in 2002 end that lucrative relationship, it also rendered the franchise dormant, for the most part.
We dared not dream that they would someday grace our Switch, up until the moment that golden Jiggy bounced across the floor of Donkey Kong’s crib. After repeating the bait-and-switch sequence first seen in the K. Rool trailer (another strong, strong, strong contender for this list), Banjo and Kazooie come crashing onto the screen.
Their Rare colleagues cheer uproariously, sharing in our adulation. By trailer’s end, K. Rool is ruthlessly murdered. Life is fickle like that, I guess.
Fighter Pack 3 (Injustice 2, 2017)
Tangentially, I want to establish that I am really very sick of society’s obsession with Marvel. I begrudge nobody for enjoying one of their five hundred projects that seem to plop out every week or so, but please keep me out of the discussion.
DC, on the other hand, I’m fairly indifferent towards. You can ask me about DC movies if you’re so inclined, my response will be an apathetic shrug — not entirely dissimilar to the box office numbers they pull in, right?
So this Injustice 2 trailer featuring *checks notes* Atom and Enchantress likely would have never been a blip on my radar had it not been for an unexpected plot twist in its final act.
The above-mentioned duke it out for a bit, showing off their talents of speed and bright green angst, respectively, until a sai comes launching into the alleyway. Sai users are far and few between, and in a comic book sense, it can only mean one thing.
“Now that looks like fun,” the interloper snarls. “Mind if we play?”
He throws off his trenchcoat (how does he do that in one motion, by the way, it’s entirely impractical?) unveiling his identity as Raphael, of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. His brothers descend onto the scene to trade some classic bants, and Mirage Comics aficionados the world over lost their collective shit.
Though the Turtles had crossed paths with Batman in the past, they had also been present in the realms of Savage Dragon, the Power Rangers and even the Ghostbusters. Basically, those green guys kinda whore themselves around, so their allegiance to the DC universe was tenuous, at best.
It gave Injustice 2 even more of an all-star flavour, and as previously alluded to, is the only reason I remember this game in the first place.
We’re going back (Sonic Mania, 2016)
It’s easy to like Sonic the Hedgehog, especially if you were a 90s kid.
What’s a little harder to justify is how a series that hasn’t had a truly great game in so many years could still be considered one of the industry’s best and brightest. For many, it was simpler to merely put the blue blur up on the shelf next to Bubsy, Duke Nukem and the public opinion of Blizzard.
As we clutched tightly to our lock-on cartridges, we took the little wins we were offered. The Sonic Advance trilogy was pretty fun! Sonic Colors had a lot to like! And Sonic Generations brought back the chubby, loveable design from yesteryear!
That last one maybe clued Sega onto something, and that is the simple fact that classic Sonic can do no wrong in the eyes of us adoring fans. Up until Sonic Forces, of course, but we’re not talking about that right now.
We’re talking about them handing over their beloved IP to a dream team of indie forces to build a brand new 2D platformer styled in that vintage, Genesis aesthetic and painted with the sheen of modern HD technology.
For the previous trailers, the initial thrill was pretty much all that stuck with me, but this one was different. Timed perfectly to the accompanying track by Nitro Fun and Hyper Potions, it kept hitting us with more and more tastes of sweet nirvana.
Sonic’s new drop dash looked badass, the zones were colourful and lively, and then they did it: “3 playable characters”. Doo, doo, doo. Sonic, Tails, Knuckles. Trailer has been officially goated, y’all.
I actually keep coming back to watch this trailer again every few months or so, because it… fills my soul. It brings me legitimate tears of joy, even after all these years. Sonic Mania may have fallen short of my coveted ‘games I truly love’ list based on its individual merits (I loved it, I am just that picky), but for overall meaning to me as a gamer, it’s probably the most significant title of all time.
Welcome home, Sonic. We missed you so, so much and we wish you all the best for your upcoming adventure out on the frontier. Keep your eyes peeled for a Chao Garden, I refuse to believe the dream is dead.
Let’s kill Mewtwo and shit (Pokemon GO, 2015)
This is about as classy as a trailer gets. For most Pokemon fans, there is a bit of over-saturation in the market, with only mainline titles garnering any particular enthusiasm.
As generation 6’s X and Y only came out two years prior, it was far too early for another addition to the series in 2015, and yet, intrigue would begin to swell as we witnessed people interacting with pocket monsters in the real world.
Those familiar with Niantic would have been tipped off to what’s in store. The rest of us would have to piece together this AR mobile application through the mere power of suggestion. Folks were out there snatching up Charizards and trading Bulbasaurs for Vulpixes and shit. We wanted to do that, too.
The trailer ends with what can only be described as a public execution of Mewtwo, where assailants gather en masse at Times Square to fuck it up with whatever Pokemon they have on-hand.
The beleaguered beast falls. A billboard announces its capture. The crowd celebrates in ecstasy. Let’s fucking goooooo, it’s time to do this shit for real!
Inevitably, one of the first things GO players do is switch off the augmented reality feature so that Pokemon are not in the real world, but confined to your screen and therefore easier to catch. Regardless, it has made its mark, financially and emotionally.
As my colleague Sterling Silver said so succinctly, “truly the one time where it felt like there was world peace, was when Pokemon GO came out.”
And this trailer right here, was the catalyst for it all to happen. Shivers, dude, legitimate shivers. …I might put on a jacket.