Xbox Series X and PS5 have officially launched and the hype has reached almost immeasurable levels. That's in part because not everyone has been able to secure a console yet, but it's also due to the launch commercials and reveal trailers, which draw on decades of inspiration from Japanese absurdity to '80s camp.
It's hard to evoke the feeling of playing the next-generation of consoles, so both the Xbox Series X and PS5 commercials go for epic grandeur and heart-stopping visuals that inspire feelings of exploration and mental expansion. Both launch commercials have millions of views, with PS5 at 2.8 million and Xbox Series X at 1.1 million. Video game commercials have always needed to stand out from the flood of advertisements that dance across your TV every night and hammer home the notion that these devices are about play and engagement. Because of this, console commercials are weird, esoteric, wonderful, and sometimes downright misleading (we'll get to it).
Here are the ten best console commercials of all time, in no particular order, that I just can't seem to quit.
Xbox Series X Power your Dreams
The PS5 commercial may have more views, but this is just so much better. Not only does it feature Daniel Kaluuya (Black Panther, Get Out), but it has an absolutely fire song from Labrinth. The music and trippy visuals make you feel like you're astral projecting into another galaxy. The epic scale of this launch trailer, which is barely over a minute long, is brilliant because it's like we're falling into action alongside Kaluuya, when most of us haven't the chance to get our hands on an Xbox Series X just yet.
There's not a video game, console, or controller in sight, and yet this PS2 commercial manages to get its point across. A massive pile of people climb on top of each other until a mountain of flesh eclipses buildings surrounding it, with everyone scrambling to get the top spot. Does it stress me out to watch a mountain of people crush each other? Of course. But does it make me want to go online and prove my merit against a 10-year-old from around the world? You bet your ass it does.
Xbox 360 Standoff
Aw man, what a classic, and it never even aired on television. What seems like it might be a serious ad quickly dissolves into playfulness as an entire city plays make believe. Finger guns are fired and invisible grenades are launched, and even the grumpy cabbie gets into the fray, pretending to fall to a barrage of bullets from the ad's protagonist. Again, this just makes you want to hop on and immerse yourself in a digital world.
PS1 Double Life
You have to love a gritty console commercial that takes itself too seriously – there's a chutzpah required to air a commercial that's so serious about something that's so playful. This ad for the original PlayStation feels like it could be a collection of deleted scenes from Trainspotting or a hyper-serious HBO documentary but it just wants you to play some video games, man. The visual vibe combined with dozens of voices coming together to deliver the same message is a gold standard commercial that likely inspired other industries' marketing departments.
Nintendon't Sega Genesis Does
This is the kind of commercial you just don't see anymore – a console absolutely dunking on its rival over and over again. It's like the last seconds of an MMA fight, with Sega throwing haymakers left and right and each one is connecting with Nintendo's jaw. You want 16-bit arcade graphics? You got 'em. You want free games? You got 'em. You want what is definitely the Nike font? You got it. Nintendon't, but Genesis does.
Sometimes a console commercial bends the truth a bit, giving you an unrealistic expectation of what you should expect after you almost die in a Walmart crush on Black Friday to secure it. This Nintendo Wii commercial is an example of that, as the console's performance didn't end up being as smooth or as capable as this ad implies – but it's still incredible. I can remember the hype for this thing – the promise of conducting a symphony or sweating through a tennis match in my living room. I also remember the horrible letdown when my parents refused to buy it for me.
In this painfully '80s commercial, a robot that looks like a rejected design for a Doctor Who Cyberman and a teen in an acid wash denim jacket face-off in a Gameboy battle on what looks like a Power Rangers set. But the overwhelmingly '80s energy isn't even the best part – it's the script. The Gameboy is portable, in stereo, and it comes with the "outrageous new game, Tetris". What an epic relic.
Original Xbox Ad
Remember The Matrix? This commercial debuted at the Much Music Awards in September 2001, and it is so very early aughts it hurts. The green hue, the electronic music, the man in a trench coat drawing the letter "X" all over everything. It's freaky, it's trippy, it's hella green – it's a crystal clear snapshot of the times. Welcome to the Xbox.
Now this is Italian-American representation. A young boy doing a very, um, interesting New York Italian accent jumps into Super Mario 64 and explores the 3D levels alongside who I can only assume is his Uncle Mario. You just know that this commercial is the product of advancements in green screen technology, and you can't fault Nintendo for leaning into that.
This 1995 launch commercial is pure '90s weirdness that rings like something you think you might have seen on TV when falling asleep, but can't quite remember for sure - it could have been a nightmare. It begins with a bald woman wearing rings around her head, who tells you in the voice of every sci-fi alien that, "You are now approaching Saturn." And it only gets more bananas from there, with more than eight minutes of bizarro content. This promo appeared on old VHS tapes, which is pure nightmare fuel for anyone who was just trying to watch Batman Forever.