“Why did I move here? I guess it was the weather.”
With this single phrase from reformed criminal Michael De Santa, you can instantly see the beaches of Los Santos at sunrise. Just as a discordant synth begins to play in the background, people start jogging over the boardwalk with immaculate detail as we catch our very first glimpse at the world of Grand Theft Auto 5.
I can still remember watching that trailer for the first time ten years ago with a few friends from school and dreaming of what GTA 5 might one day be like. It’s hard to imagine a time when Michael, Franklin, and Trevor’s adventures seemed like something new and fresh but, once upon a time, this was the most exciting thing to happen in gaming since, well, GTA 4.
Rumours have recently been swirling about the long-awaited sixth Grand Theft Auto game and what it might entail, which had me feeling nostalgic and looking back on the leadup to the last entry’s release. I went back and rewatched all of the trailers leading up to GTA 5’s first launch, and it’s incredible that they can still make me excited about a game that’s almost a decade old.
Although the initial reveal trailer for GTA 5 is by far the most iconic, all of them have a special place in my heart and stand as some of the best in the industry. Michael, Trevor, and Franklin’s individual trailers all manage to portray their journeys and arcs within a minute and manage to set the tone perfectly, while the gameplay deep dive presents GTA 5 as more of a world than a game, something that still comes across many years later when we know everything it holds.
Another thing that makes these trailers so great is the music. Having Queen’s Radio Ga Ga attached to Michael’s trailer while showing the life of a man far past his prime and trying to recapture the good old days is a perfect choice, while putting The Chain Gang Of 1974’s equally ethereal and epic Sleepwalking over the launch trailer still manages to make me check the calendar to see how many days away GTA 5 is from launching. It’s been nine years and I’ve played these games five times, how do they still manage to make me excited?
When Rockstar put together these trailers, it likely didn’t expect us to remain nostalgic for them all these years later. How big of a game GTA 5 was for me growing up, and it still being the only game in the series we’ve seen in the last decade, has a major impact on why I remember them so fondly, but they’re just incredibly well put together and detailed that it’s hard to not want to instantly play the game after watching.
GTA 5 doesn’t even have the best trailers in the series – that honour goes to GTA 4. Those trailers released far before a time I could properly pay attention to them, but going back now shows a completely different tone and style for Rockstar – rather than glitz and glamour, the trailers focused on Niko Bellic’s narrative are much more grounded and capture GTA 4’s tone perfectly.
The first-ever reveal trailer showing Niko walking across the Liberty City bridge while he monologues about how things will be different still gives me chills to this day, and makes me wish that Rockstar hadn’t spent the past decade working on just two games.
It’s not just Grand Theft Auto that Rockstar creates incredible trailers for, either. The first few trailers for Red Dead Redemption 2 were similarly on a loop for me when they were released, and are just as good of a watch now that the games are out. Slowly getting to learn who Arthur Morgan was and seeing the breadcrumbs of how the Van der Linde gang fell apart was incredibly marketing, and only made you want to play more, all without needing licensed tracks to set the mood like GTA.
There are those out there who just view trailers as marketing, which is hard to argue when they literally are, but studios like Rockstar command such respect and excitement that its trailers end up feeling like more of an event. Getting excited for a trailer for GTA 6 feels like asking for suffering, but whenever it does end up coming, I know it’s going to be another all-timer.
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