Watch Dogs 2
It’s a common complaint of recent Ubisoft games that they look like self serious slogs. Once the announcement trailer hit, it was something that was hanging over every game trailer for Watch Dogs 2. At least, until the story trailer released last week which looked, dare we say it…fun?
Yes, it looks like someone binge watched Mr. Robot and Fast and Furious over the course of a weekend. Yes, the villain’s name Doussan Nemec feels like it’s trying way too hard to make an easy “douchebag” joke. At the same time, it looks like one of those movies that you know is really stupid, but ends up being super fun and nominated anyway.
Oscar Bait Level: Nominated for Drama When It’s Not One, Surprising Amount of Support Behind Its Win
This one is pretty obvious. Naughty Dog’s been veering more and more into cinematic gameplay as the years have gone on, so it only makes sense that their game trailers would follow suit. That’s exactly what we get with Uncharted 4’s story trailer, originally released in February.
It’s got everything you’d expect from a drama film gunning for an Oscar: beautiful visuals, tense action, lying to your loved ones, and witty banter to break up the interactions filled with bad vibes. If this were a live action movie, this would probably be Nolan North’s equivalent of The Revenant, because Nathan Drake damn near kills himself to get that last string of accolades.
Oscar Bait Level: Instant Shoe-in for Every Award Nominated
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
The recent Deus Ex games have wanted to be about things, from human augmentation to segregation and brutality. Exactly how it lands on those fronts is up debate, but in any case, these games have definitely tried to shoot for being hailed as important, topical games that’ll get everybody talking about them for years to come.
Mankind Divided from earlier this year is the one shooting for that more than its predecessor. While its intentions are likely pure, the way that Eidos went about that in terms of marketing hasn’t been all that great. Not entirely unlike a movie that’s gunning for awards season, to be sure.
Oscar Bait Level: Clearly Trying for Best Drama, Sweeps Technical Awards Not Aired on TV
Gears of War 4
Gears of War as a franchise is nothing new to cinematic game trailers. It pretty much kicked the recent trend off with the first game’s infamous “Mad World” trailer. It’s only fitting that they continue what they started, which is what we got with the “Tomorrow” trailer for the game.
Originally released in April, this CG goodness is done with zero dialogue (as is the case for all cinematic Gears trailers) and covers the life of one JD Fenix, son of long time protagonist Marcus. As he runs through the dark forest (set to the memeworthy song “Sounds of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel because of course), the weather gets deadlier and he finds himself taking cover behind a tree. But not just any tree: it’s the tree he carved his initials into as a kid.
Oscar Bait Level: Nominated to Everyone’s Complete and Utter Bafflement, Appropriately Wins Nothing
No Man’s Sky
Leaving all the current troubles with No Man’s Sky aside, there were some pretty amazing trailers released to sell players on the idea of a space odyssey. That’s clearly not entirely working in their favor, but regardless, the launch trailer is probably the best at conveying the sense of mystery and discovery that awaits players.
If you’ve ever seen Interstellar, you’ll definitely get a bit of that vibe from the video above. Plenty of game trailers have done it before, but the art style, lighting, and music go a long way into making you think that this is probably what a space game made by Christopher Nolan would look like.
Oscar Bait Level: Wins Awards, But Disliked For Doing So
Blizzard’s game trailers are always full of wonder and impressive cinematics, but Overwatch takes their pedigree to a new level. The character shorts, created in-house, are nothing short of pure perfection, and any one of them would be worthy of being on this list. But the one that stands up above all of them (which is saying something), is the most recently released short, The Last Bastion.
The comparison to Pixar movies has been thrown around a lot when it comes to Overwatch, and in that regard, it definitely shows. Anyone who watches Bastion’s short will likely see shades of Wall-E in the robot, from its curiosity and complete silence to its physical mannerisms and the way it interacts with its little bird friend. It’s a good thing there aren’t awards for game trailers, otherwise Blizzard would likely sweep all of them.
Oscar Bait Level: Totally Unsurprising, But Viewed as Playing It Safe
Ratchet & Clank
Much like Blizzard, Insomniac’s Ratchet & Clank series has been veering more and more into cinematic experiences for the past near decade or so. With the recent April game, which is a remake based on the movie (based on the original game), it only makes sense that they combine the film and game together in their game trailers just to key in on both of these.
Ratchet and Clank’s world is vibrant and fun, something on the level of How to Train Your Dragon. The trailers get that across perfectly, and it’s that charm that has kept the Lombax and robot duo around for over a decade. It’s too bad that the movie didn’t do all that hot, because that series practically demands it.
Oscar Bait Level: Critically Loved, Only to Be Hated for Taking Awards from the “Safe” Nominee
Video games love crime, just like movies do. Grand Theft Auto IV’s release in 2008 saw to the open world series move from its goofy slapstick tone to a more cinematic focus in the vein of Goodfellas. Since then, other open world games have followed in that suit, and in a few weeks, we’ll see that again with Mafia III.
The ‘Heist’ trailer for the upcoming game brings this across perfectly. They’re clearly going for a revenge crime drama feel, and this bank robbery does a damn good job of doing so. Maybe it tips its hand a little too early in regards to how and why Lincoln Clay’s family is murdered, but overall, it’s a fun watch that promises plenty of fun come Oct. 7.
Oscar Bait Level: Deservedly Nominated, Snubbed in Every Category to Everyone’s Horror
EA games for whatever reason are all about that Oscar bait this year, as we’ll also see later on. You wouldn’t think that you’d be able to feel for a man and his robot on a level more than thrills of joy, thanks to the recent Transformers films and Pacific Rim. And yet, that’s what they’re going for with this single player trailer.
Titanfall 2’s story mode is going to push the bond between Pilot Jack Cooper and his Titan. The bond between man and nonhuman creature has been exploited hundreds, if not thousands of times in films, and it’s mostly been hit after hit. It’s likely that the story mode for the game is going to end with said Titan dying in some last ditch effort to save you from harm, which is all the sign you need that this game wants to make you feel.
Oscar Bait Level: Nominated, May Win a Couple of Technical Awards, Ultimately Forgotten a Year Later
Battlefield 1 (Peak Oscar Bait)
Another trailer released earlier this week, Battlefield 1’s story trailer just oozes Oscar bait from pretty much the moment that it starts. If you didn’t know any better, you could probably think it was that upcoming war movie Hacksaw Ridge.
If you had taken all the gameplay bits out of this Battlefield 1 trailer, you could think that DICE and EA had spent a boatload of money to create a CG WWI film, and it’d be money damn well spent. The way the characters are written and presented in the trailer, along with the music by Really Slow Motion, just scream “WE WANT TO SWEEP AWARDS SEASON!” All it’s missing is a cast listing set to sweeping strings and horns, with the B-level actor, the A-level actor giving it their all yet again, and the Character Actor everyone will be demanding wins the “best supporting” award. (In this case, it’d be Vincent D’Onofrio, if he was in it.)
Oscar Bait Level: Appropriately Nominated, but Won’t Win Most, If Any of the Awards They’re Nominated For