Video game commercials are somewhat of a mixed bag when it comes to quality. When an ad campaign gets it wrong, they’re usually a couple miles off target. I’m looking at you Dead Space 2 ad campaign.
On the other side of the coin, when a video game commercial is good, it can bring up nostalgia as strong as the game itself does. That’s what we’ll focus on today. These ads not only pique interest in what they’re selling, they also make us laugh and evoke feelings of nostalgia for simpler times. They are the top 10 video game commercials of all time.
Super Mario Kart: Lets Go Racing
Within the context of how Super Mario Kart plays, this is one of the funniest video game commercials out there. Even without knowledge of the game, this ad is exceedingly ridiculous.
How can you not laugh at, “Two speeds: fast and WAY TOO FAST,” or, “It’s Super Mario Kart funny car MADNESS!” We have yet to determine what that even means, but it’s certainly entertaining. There are just too many good quotes to list from this single video.
Demolition derby parodies will never get old because they’re inherently ridiculous. Read this sentence: And kid’s tickets are just five bucks. It’s not even in all caps and you knew to use that over-the-top announcer voice in your head. That’s what makes this ad so good. It uses our universal — or at least American — agreement of how inane those actual commercials are.
Final Fantasy VII: Beyond the Edge of Reality
This is just one of many excellent commercials for Final Fantasy VII. Just cover your eyes when it shows Cloud holding Aeris’ lifeless body (spoilers?).
The entire ad campaign, and especially this commercial, drove home the idea that this video game was an epic story on the scale of a major film. It wouldn’t be crazy to consider this ad an influence on why people hold this game in such high regard. It’s a good game, but that extra little nudge from a stellar promotional campaign can make a massive difference.
Even though FFVII had great ads, everything was already set up for them. All they needed to do was make a commercial for a game in the format of a movie trailer. It was so smart and ahead of the times.
In 1997 gaming was nowhere near as ubiquitous as it is now. Most public perception was that it was a hobby for children, teenagers, nerds. Gaming could never be more. It may be too bold to mark this as the turning point, but it certainly played a massive role in opening more minds to video games.
Super Smash Bros.: Happy Together
Nintendo just knows how to make funny and memorable commercials. From the zany sound effects to the physical humor everything about it screams fun. Yoshi slamming DK with a hammer at the end making him see the N64 logo is a goofy gag. There’s also just something hilarious about watching people in mascot outfits going at it. It’s certainly not high-brow comedy, but is entertaining nonetheless.
One of the most important things is that they also show gameplay. Nintendo has never been into keeping gameplay out of commercials. The clips are short, but they give you a good enough feel for what the game is all about. Super Smash Bros. isn’t complex at its core, so the short clips work perfectly.
Throwing in Happy Together by The Turtles wraps it all up in a nice little package. You have the gameplay, the comedy, the memorably ironic music choice. It’s like a perfect recipe for an entertaining and memorable commercial.
Sega Dreamcast: Inside the Console
The tag line “It’s Thinking” for this commercial is perfect for the Dreamcast. If you’ve ever owned one you know the sound of the Dreamcast “thinking” pretty well.
Jokes aside, this is a fantastically constructed commercial. Sadly, the same could not be said about the console. Okay, that is the last rib. As the camera descends to where all the characters are hanging out you get glimpses of what the Dreamcast is capable of. The voice over at the end also alludes to the internet capabilities of the system (the mention of Steve from Hackensack).
As the camera lowers you can see a massive crowd of characters. This gives you an idea of the mass of games that you can play on the console. Most of all, it shows off the impressive graphics for the time. You get closeups of Sonic, Tails, Big the Cat, Afro Thunder, and many more. It was a neat way to showcase the power of the Dreamcast while flaunting the wide range of games and genres available on the system.
Mortal Kombat: Mortal Monday
If this isn’t the most 90s commercial ever, then the world may never know what is. It has the grunge wardrobe, electronic dance music, it’s edgy, and most of all MORTAL KOMBAT!
This is also probably the most hype video game commercial of all time. That classic yell of Mortal Kombat is known around the world. The intense electronic music gets you going. Despite all the hype they didn’t show some of the more violent fatalities, but the gameplay shown was good enough to raise interest in the game.
The massive crowd of Mortal Kombat fans made this seem like a flash mob mixed with a mosh pit. It was a fantastic decision to portray the game in this way. A mass of super cool people crowd surfing, dancing, and screaming Mortal Kombat. The ad is admittedly a bit cheesy, but it perfectly captures the rebellious spirit of Mortal Kombat.
Resident Evil 2: Live Action Ad by George Romero
Even though Leon doesn’t look quite right in this ad, the horror master George Romero pulls it all together.
The shots of the undead reaching through the cell bars is reminiscent of the zombies reaching through the boarded up windows in Night of the Living Dead. The dimly lit corridors let you know that this is going to be a terrifying game. The narrow hallway filled with hordes of zombies at the end of the ad is absolutely claustrophobia-inducing.
It didn’t matter that gameplay wasn’t shown because George Romero put his name behind something in the horror genre. Even though he didn’t have anything to do with the game, the association is strong enough. Some may argue doing that is a bit disingenuous for selling the game, but his name carries more weight to the casual fan than Hideki Kamiya’s.
Nintendo GameCube: What a Rush
Nintendo went through a weird edgy phase during the GameCube and GBA era. This is a prime example of the bizarrely memorable commercials they hatched in that time.
The starting shot of the cube stuck in the guy’s throat is just the beginning of what makes this commercial so strange. The haphazard gameplay clips in between gross bodily cube-related shots feel out of place. The whole thing just causes a general feeling of unease.
Brains are fine, but why is it covered in red jelly and why does it have a cube-shaped brain stem? Despite the overall grossness of this ad and questionable editing, it’s damn memorable. For that reason, the commercial is effective. You remember the product and they get the message across of the number of games they have available on the system. It may not be the prettiest commercial, but it gets the job done.
PlayStation 2: PS9
If the PS9 will grace store shelves in 2078 then the next few console generations will need to be stretched out quite long. And it’ll be an impressive gaming system. Until then we’ll just have to trudge around life with the PS4.
This ad doesn’t tell us anything about how the PS2 runs or what games are available for it. Yet, it successfully associates the cutting edge of technology with the PlayStation system. It’s a bit ironic too since it was the least powerful console of that generation.
The amount of detail in this commercial stands out. It’s not like they just threw something together as a half-hearted joke. The ad looks fantastic and draws you in all the way up until they reveal it’s a spot for the PS2.
It’s a commercial that sticks with you. We’re so far off from the future seen in this ad, but it gives you the feeling that Sony is forward-thinking. The message is clear and the inspires the wonder of PlayStation fans. It’s clear the messaging it worked. The PS2 is the best-selling console of all time and this is a commercial that sticks with you.
Sega Genesis: Genesis Does What Nintendon’t
Ah, the classic. Genesis does what Nintendon’t. This ad is so gleefully cheesy.
Despite the corny music and slogan, it’s kind of catchy. That’s one of the keys to successful advertising. Create a song or jingle that people will remember and associate with your brand. If you can slam your competition at the same time, then that’s even better.
The star power in this ad is also incredibly impressive. Joe Montana, Michael Jackson, Pat Riley, and Buster Douglas were massive stars at that time. Even though the games weren’t of the highest caliber, just having those names tied to the console was enough to impress consumers.
Even better than a jingle or star power is the word “free.” That’s not a word to be used lightly, but it absolutely catches your attention. At the same time as promising free games they’re showing off their lineup and graphics. There’s so much going on simultaneously in this commercial. It’s a massive information overload, but an effective one.
Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past Rap and Dance Party
Link to the Past is viewed by some as the greatest video game of all time. Let’s raise that and say it also spawned the greatest video game commercial of all time.
It’s incredibly unlike Nintendo to create an ad like this. There’s no gameplay and they created a song just for the ad. You only get an incredibly vague feel of how the game works or what the story is. For anyone who isn’t familiar with the series this ad is obnoxiously confusing. It just doesn’t feel like something that’s officially made by Nintendo. Yet, the fun in this commercial is trademark Nintendo.
When Link finally pulls out his sword it shows off his spin attack, but that’s as close as we get to seeing what Link can do. Then when Ganon appears, of course you need to put that sword back in its sheath. Surely, the power of dance will be enough to topple the fierce demon king.
Despite the lack of details and bizarre antics, this commercial is excellent. It has this Bollywood movie dance scene vibe that’s fun albeit a bit strange. Seeing lizardmen, skeletons, and mummies in synchronized choreography with Link is downright silly. Ganon looks like a giant abomination of a Chuck E Cheese’s animatronic. Everything about this ad is so campy that it’s incredible.