20 Best Video Game Documentaries: The Ultimate Collection
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The gaming industry eclipses $100 billion in annual revenue each year. And that number keeps on climbing.
This is the perfect time to dive into the video game industry whether as a programmer, concept artist, game designer or story writer. Even if you don’t want to work in the industry yourself, it can still be fun to learn how it all works behind the scenes.
And that’s why I curated this huge list of 20+ awesome gaming documentaries ranging from the most niche indie games to massive studios like Naughty Dog.
There’s something in this list for everyone and these vids will leave you longing for some screen time with your favorite console.
1. Double Fine Adventure
The Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter was the impetus of this entire documentary. Filmed over the course of 3 years, this doc captures tons of behind-the-scenes footage from the design, development, and production of Broken Age.
It can be tough finding this documentary since it has the same name as the parent company. But if you search for the Doublefine documentary it’s out there.
You can watch this in 1080p streaming online or as HD Blu-ray disks you can order from the online shop.
It follows the creation of one of the most infamous projects in the 2010’s led by industry legend Tim Schafer. You get to peek into the entire game development process with interviews from cast and crew members.
Easily one of the lesser-known documentaries with a lot to offer aspiring game designers.
Just note the Blu-ray set includes extra scenes, commentary, and deleted footage that couldn’t make it into the original documentary. So if you want the unedited director’s cut I do recommend the hard disc version.
This is truly a story of hard work and developing a brilliant idea at just the right time.
The documentary shows a lot of hidden scenes from Markus’ life and footage never before released to the public.
It’ll give you a newfound appreciation for Minecraft and the crew behind the game.
If you’re already a fan of Minecraft then I don’t have to sell you on anything. But if you’re an indie game designer, developer, artist, anything… this doc is still worth a watch just to see how someone else made their dream a reality.
I can’t say this is a game documentary that’ll leave you inspired, although it really depends what you get out of it.
Thank You For Playing is the touching story of a game programmer Ryan Green who built a video game surrounding an emotionally tumultuous journey in his life: the realization that his(and his wife’s) young son Joel had cancer.
They created a game over the course of two years called That Dragon, Cancer and this documentary chronicles the entire idea from late nights coding to heart-wrenching doctor’s appointments.
It truly is an intimate film with so much to cover. I could never do it justice in a few short paragraphs.
While this isn’t technically a documentary movie, it is a very detailed documentary TV series that I highly recommend watching if you can.
G4TV produced Icons from 2002-2007 with a whopping 88 total episodes spanning five seasons. Each episode focuses on a different game studio, game series, or aspect of game development like character design or sound FX.
There’s an episode on the Xbox, the Gameboy, the Super Mario series and Prince of Persia and Final Fantasy… pretty much every massive gaming franchise to date.
These episodes feature incredible behind-the-scenes interviews hosted by the G4 team. This is rare footage you will not find anywhere else in the whole world.
Only trouble is G4 shut down in 2014 and they’ve never released any of their original programming on DVD. Luckily some of it has survived and can be found on YouTube if you search around long enough.
This is one series that’ll keep you entertained for weeks and there’s so much you can learn across all areas of game design & development.
This follows a few groups of die-hard gamers that never let the arcades leave. Most gaming has since turned into personal gaming in the home, but there’s a culture around arcades that never really died out.
And this documentary captures that culture brilliantly with interviews and scenes of the camaraderie behind this pop culture phenomenon.
There is a free trailer on Vimeo if you wanna check it out and you can even buy the full version right from Vimeo too.
We’ve never lived in a time where game development could be accomplished by almost anyone. It’s much cheaper to develop a game than it is to create a movie or TV show, at least if you compare high-quality indie games to modern AAA titles.
In this 90-minute documentary you’ll hear from countless indie devs as they share their experiences working on their projects and pushing through deadlines to get their games released.
It’s a tough choice as a career and even tougher as a hobby.
But if you’ve ever needed some inspiration to forge ahead with your indie project then this documentary is the place to start.
World of Warcraft celebrated its 10 year anniversary in November of 2014.
In commemoration of this game’s massive success the company released this beautiful documentary for free on YouTube. It’s called World of Warcraft: Looking for Group and it paints an elegant picture of the game’s rapid rise in popularity.
MMOs quickly took the Internet by storm and they’ve never really slowed down.
But WoW is perhaps the largest MMO with the most history and this documentary proves it.
You’ll find interviews with some of the game’s developers and get a sneak peek into the many moving parts of Blizzard Entertainment. And you can’t beat that $0 price tag.
Again this is an official release by Sony under their PlayStation YouTube channel. The documentary is available for free and can be viewed anywhere in the world.
Over this 90-minute documentary you’ll realize just how much work goes into creating a kick-ass video game. It’s not all play time with your team and that goes double for a huge studio like Naughty Dog.
Since you can watch this whole thing for free online I’d absolutely put this near the top of your “must watch” list.
God of War: Unearthing the Legend is a feature length documentary first released in 2010 as a journey behind the scenes in this game’s creation.
Experts in game design and storytelling share their thoughts about Kratos and the mythology of the game. But you’ll also find plenty of interviews with developers who talk about the complexities of the gameplay.
Unfortunately this is a tough documentary to find.
It used to be available on the PlayStation store but has since been removed. You can try searching around to find it streaming on YouTube or Vimeo, but for the most part this doc will be a tough one to locate.
This documentary spans a full 90 minutes and was first released in 2004 as a look into the wildly advancing field of game design.
Yet here we are, almost two decades later and gaming is still growing faster than ever. It’s one reason I still recommend this documentary: the contents may seem dated but it’s crucial to know where you come from.
If you’re just getting into game design or indie game development I highly recommend scouring the web for a copy of this documentary online.
I’m not sure who originally produced the doc or if it was ever released on DVD. But try doing a search in Google videos to find a trailer or a full stream.
This series has a similar vibe to the G4 Icons TV show, except these episodes can run a bit longer and have a different directorial style.
You’ll find episodes on superhero games, EA Sports games, Call of Duty, DoTA, Capcom, Blizzard, and so many other big names in the gaming space.
This series really lets you see how larger studios and larger teams develop games from initial idea to final release. There’s a lot you can learn from this videos but it’s easy to get lost in the hundreds of hours of footage.