Everybody loves a good cinematic game trailer and we here at Geek Snack are no exception. In fact, we often binge watch them and geek out over how visually impressive cinematics have become while also softly sobbing because most major gaming companies are still refusing to make full-length movies using that very same technology. Well, one exception would be the new Kingsglaive movie, which looks pretty awesome, but we’re not here to talk about that. Instead, today we are going to take a look back and talk a bit about some of the best video game cinematic trailers of 2016. With so many good cinematics released this year, it was fairly difficult to keep this list at a manageable 15 entries so we decided against actually ranking them. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t even know where to begin because I love all of them.
It’s also worth noting that we’re not including trailers that use game engine footage, pre-rendered or not. As clearly demonstrated by Battlefield 1 and a few other games this year, trailers like that can be absolutely glorious, however, for the purpose of this list we’re much more interested in CGI. In other words, we’re interested in cinematics that look more like short animated movies than regular old video game trailers. With that out of the way and in no particular order, check out below our picks for what we believe to be the best 15 video game cinematic trailers of 2016.
Doom – Fight Like Hell
Developer id Software’s Doom franchise came back with a vengeance earlier this year. Simply known as DOOM, the new title is just as frantic and fast-paced as one might expect from a game in this series and did not disappoint, for the most part. The ‘Fight Like Hell’ trailer is a pretty accurate representation of what the game feels like while playing, well, the single-player at least. DOOM’s multiplayer isn’t all that great but the campaign is definitely worth your time, as is watching the epic cinematic.
For Honor – Cinematic Story Trailer
A Knight, a Samurai, and Viking walk into a bar and, as one might expect, all hell breaks lose and they start a fight that lasts for hundreds of years. Okay, so that’s not the exact premise of the game but it seems pretty close and I’m sure you already know all about For Honor by now. The game’s cinematic story trailer doesn’t tell us much about the origins of this conflict but it does indicate that Ubisoft is at least putting some thought into the story, which apparently involves an eternal three-way for a bit of water. No witty comments about the trailer’s overall quality, though, everything looks great.
Injustice 2 – Announce Trailer
Injustice is set to return next year with improved graphics and a very interesting customization system. Unsurprisingly, the debut trailer for Injustice 2 is all about the new feature and showcases some of our favorite DC heroes as they undergo various transformations. Aside from the fact that it looks great, we appreciate the trailer because it’s simple and effective in the sense that it doesn’t waste time with pointless exposition. Instead, we are treated with two minutes of iconic characters beating each other senseless, which is absolutely perfect for a fighting game like Injustice 2.
Dark Souls 3 – Opening Cinematic Trailer
Alright, so we might be cheating just a tiny bit here because parts of this trailer were first revealed back in 2015. However, Dark Souls 3’s full opening cinematic – complete with narration – was only showcased in February of this year. I think it still counts as a 2016 cinematic trailer and it definitely deserves a place on this list because it looks gorgeous. Not only that but the cinematic is a perfect depiction of Lothric, a hostile and decaying world filled with unspeakable horrors.
Dawn of War III – Announcement Trailer
If this was a ranked list, the trailer for Dawn of War III would be near the top, partially out of pure bias because I really love this series. Even if you’re not a Warhammer 40K fan, though, this cinematic trailer is likely to leave a strong impression thanks to its violence and dark atmosphere. The CGI isn’t the best we’ve ever seen, but it’s still pretty good, and combined with the beautiful music and grim narration, makes for a complete package that’s very likely to send chills down your spine. The final scene, in particular, is worth noting because the thousands of bodies falling from the sky into a huge, bloody pile is a perfect representation of what Warhammer 40K is all about.
Smite – To Hell & Back
I bet you didn’t expect Smite to appear on this list, huh? And yet, here it is. This cinematic just barely made the cut because it was first revealed on January 5, which is why a lot of people may have missed it back then, as that was a pretty forgettable month for gaming. The trailer itself is anything but forgettable, however, with its action-packed combat scenes and punk rock soundtrack. A modern song might seem like an odd choice for a game about gods and mythology – and it is – but it somehow fits together nicely.
Overwatch – Animated Short “Dragons”
While the Overwatch animated short films aren’t necessarily trailers per se, it’s hard to argue with the quality of these cinematics. In typical Blizzard fashion, the animations look extremely detailed and lifelike, particularly when it comes to Hanzo’s facial expressions. As for why we chose ‘Dragons’ over all the other shorts, I guess it all boils down to the scene where the two brothers get to unleash their ultimates. It feels emotionally impactful for the viewer, looks epic, and is overall one of the most memorable cinematic scenes of 2016. Need I say more?
Atlas Reactor – The Case
At first glance one might think that Atlas Reactor is some sort of Overwatch clone judging by the art style of the cinematic. Well, nothing could be further from the truth as Atlas Reactor is actually a competitive TBS, though I agree that ‘The Case’ looks a lot like a Blizzard cinematic. But while Blizzard is still taking its Overwatch characters way too seriously, Atlas Reactor went all out with its cinematic launch trailer and wasn’t afraid to make fun of its over-the-top archetypical characters, which I greatly appreciate. This may not be the best cinematic trailer of 2016, but it’s arguably the funniest, so check it out if you haven’t already.
SWTOR: Knights of the Eternal Throne – Betrayed
If you haven’t played Star Wars: The Old Republic in a while you’ll probably want to jump back in immediately after watching this trailer. ‘Betrayed’ feels more like a movie trailer than a game trailer to be honest, but maybe that’s exactly why it’s so good. Much like all the other SWTOR trailers, the quality of this cinematic is truly impressive and sucks you in immediately into the universe created by Bioware. The trailer is meant to promote the latest expansion known as Knights of the Eternal Throne and it definitely makes a strong case for why gamers should give the MMORPG another try.
Quake Champions – E3 2016 Reveal Trailer
Thanks to DOOM’s success earlier this year, id Software decided this would be a great time to bring back another one of its classic FPS franchises. Known as Quake Champions, the reboot of the popular arena shooter was first revealed back at E3 along with a pretty nice first trailer. Sure, a lot of people aren’t too happy with all the rumored gameplay changes, but that’s no reason to overlook the trailer, is it? The reveal cinematic doesn’t mess around much and gets straight to the point by showcasing new and returning characters shooting each other with a variety of iconic weapons. Should have been a bit more fast-paced, but it’s not bad all things considered.
Prey – E3 2016 Reveal Trailer
Speaking of reboots, it looks like we’re finally getting that new Prey installment after all, albeit it’s not exactly what we expected. That doesn’t mean we’re not excited, though. In fact, the reveal trailer looks very promising, and possibly also a bit misleading in some ways. While it may look like gameplay footage, this is, in fact, just a very convincing cinematic trailer. The gameplay will be very similar to what we’re seeing in this trailer but don’t expect it to end up looking quite as visually impressive.
Eve Online – Citadel Cinematic Trailer
While everyone was complaining about No Man’s Sky and debating the fate of Star Citizen, most people seem to have forgotten that there is already a great space simulator out there. Eve Online is already more than 13 years old and recently went free-to-play in order to attract new players and bring back veteran pilots. If the persistent universe of Eve seems overly complicated or you simply don’t have time to learn who to play it (it definitely takes a while), I urge you to at least check out the ‘Citadel’ cinematic trailer. Eve Online is one hell of a game and this is one hell of a cinematic trailer.
Halo Wars 2 – Official E3 Trailer
It’s a little-known fact that RTS games do exist on consoles and we learned back at E3 that one of them is even getting a sequel early next year. The game in question is, of course, Halo Wars 2, which was revealed at the expo along with a stunning cinematic trailer. Having never played the original, I can’t really tell you what exactly is going on in this trailer, but it looks pretty amazing and the accompanying song only adds to the epicness. If the actual game ends up being even half as good as this trailer, I can definitely see the RTS genre making another comeback next year, especially since Halo Wars 2 is launching for both Xbox One and PC.
Titanfall 2 – Become One
It seems we’re getting to the point where it’s becoming almost impossible to distinguish between live-action and CGI. The ‘Become One’ trailer for Titanfall 2 is a prime example of this, as the Pilot seems to be an actual person, but many people seem convinced that it’s all CGI. Regardless of whether or not that’s true, the cinematic looks pretty amazing and tells the heartwarming story of a pilot and his trusty Titan. Perhaps even more interesting is the featured song, which was originally released back in 1966 but seems to fit Titanfall 2 like a glove. Granted, this is a modified version of ‘Bang Bang’ but the idea is still pretty cool nonetheless.
Final Fantasy XV – Omen
Last but not least, we have the beautiful ‘Omen’ trailer for Final Fantasy XV. Considering that we already got a full-length animated Final Fantasy movie earlier this year, it’s pretty incredible that the makers went the extra mile and also made a cinematic trailer for the game. Not that we’re complaining, though, because ‘Omen’ looks suitably fantastic and gives us another cinematic look at the new world crafted by Square Enix. Even if you haven’t played Final Fantasy XV, you owe it to yourself to watch ‘Omen’ and, even better, Kingsglaive and be completely blown away by the quality of the CGI.