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5 Emotional Video Game Trailers That Caught Us Off Guard

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It's fair to say that nobody expects to shed a few tears over a video game. I mean, perhaps during the closing chapters to a story-driven title — and after thirty or forty hours of gameplay maybe — but never during the trailer. That's where we get knocked back just a nudge, and it can often leave us having more questions than answers. Of course, it might not always be the smartest strategy in the book — but it can sure be an effective way to reel the player in by the heartstrings.

A trailer can either make or break a video game. I know this, you know this, and, above all — the developer knows this. After all, with only a few minutes on hand and a whole experience to compress, it's not exactly the easiest task to develop a genuine imprint. And yet, these five have been able to draw us in through one method and one method only. No words, nor any explosive action sequences or exaggerated cutaways. Just raw emotion and nothing more. That's really all that was needed here — and we think these following entries were executed perfectly.


5. Gears of War

Gears of War Xbox 360 Trailer - Mad World Trailer

When the Xbox 360's popularity spike escalated in 2006, millions of users looked to their consoles as portals to next-level gaming. Not only were games fascinating and packed full of exquisite features left, right and centre — but also the trailers were fleshed-out with extraordinary detail, too. One of these, of course, was the original Gears of War games, which released one year after the Xbox 360 launch.

Taking us completely off guard, Gears of War crept up on us with an absolute monster of a trailer. Although incredibly short and giving hardly anything away in terms of plotline or character progression — Gears of War captured the essence of the entire game with two little words: “Mad World.” Without understanding a single part of the story, we're still instantly drawn to what's happening and how the problem will be resolved. That's really all Epic Games needed to give away in order to have us rummaging for our wallets. It's clean, simple — and super effective. What more can we say?


4. A Plague Tale: Innocence

A Plague Tale: Innocence - Launch Trailer | PS4

We love an underrated gem here on We also value phenomenal works of art that are accomplished by smaller studios. Take this one, for example. A Plague Tale: Innocence was completed by a team of no more than forty people. That's quite an incredible feat for a game so fleshed-out with an inspiring narrative and next-level designs. And yet, even with its ideal in-game elements, A Plague Tale would be nothing without its launch trailer.

Considering this award-winning game was completed by such a small team, we have to applaud their abilities to conjure up such a captivating story. Characters are relatable, the struggles are wonderfully portrayed — and the conclusion behind the tale is left open to interpretation. The trailer itself gives a fair amount away in terms of story, though nowhere near as much as what lies within the game itself. And, for that reason alone — we have to commend Asobo Studio for their inspirational efforts.


3. Dead Island: Riptide

Dead Island Riptide - CGI Trailer

Talk about kicking us while we're down, right? As if the launch trailer from 2011's Dead Island wasn't gut-wrenching enough. Now, to round off the sequel — we're having to witness yet another family fold under the pressures of the zombie outbreak. I mean, was it really too much to ask for just one happy note during the two-minute trailer? After all, gameplay-wise, Dead Island consists of nothing but bright tropical landscapes and infinite fun with little room for emotional attachment. That, of course, begs the question: why are the trailers so freaking sad?

Deep Silver knows exactly how to extract a few emotions through their trailers, alright. While not meeting par with the original entry in the Dead Island series, Riptide was still a worthy successor to the undead franchise. There's a dash of action, an easy to follow storyline — and a whole ocean of passion. All three combined, and you've got yourself a rather beautiful glimpse at the following world you're about to chew into.


2. Crysis 2

Crysis 2 - The Wall Trailer

Whether or not you're a follower of the Crysis series, this trailer is undeniably compelling enough to steal a tear or two. With a rather sombre rendition of “New York, New York” echoing through the background, Crysis 2 automatically puts us in the passenger seat to a brand new chapter packed full of emotional warfare. New York has fallen to the alien forces. The world outside of the concrete jungle is on the brink of collapse. Hope is on the decline, and your fighting chances are becoming worryingly limited. Welcome to the last stand, Crysis fans.

Similar to our Gears of War entry, Crysis 2 didn't need to give a great deal away in order to capture an essence. With only two minutes on the board, the Crytek teams were able to deliver a heartfelt introduction to the game with no excuses for unnecessary filler. The Wall sets the stage for the latest events between mankind and the invading alien race without raising a single question. And, honestly, that's sometimes all we need in order to feel hooked. Simplistic yet mesmerizing, plain and simple.


1. Dead Island

Dead Island Zombies Outbreak Cinematic Scene HD

We can't say anybody really expected to feel heartbroken over a zombie game, but hey-ho — Dead Island did it. Thanks to its masterfully crafted trailer that takes place in reverse, we're able to witness the fall of a loving family to the brightest days of their existence. The calm before the storm, you could say. Or, you know — the storm before the calm? Whatever it is, it's beautifully executed and downright heart-wrenching from beginning to end.

At first, we don't tend to notice a specific story that runs alongside the trailer. We picture mindless zombies and clock the action — and we pinpoint it as just another zombie flick. But then, as we're left to witness the struggle of this family in a doomed hotel sanctuary, we're suddenly faced with emotional flashbacks pre-outbreak. We're sobbing over a soundtrack that only adds salt to the wound. And, above all, we're watching the world fall apart knowing there is nothing we can do but witness it. So, for that, we can only thank Deep Silver for the life-changing imprint this trailer had on our gaming careers. Much appreciated, guys.

Jord is acting Team Leader at If he isn't blabbering on in his daily listicles, then he's probably out writing fantasy novels or scraping Game Pass of all its slept on indies.