Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Most Bizarre Pre-Order Bonuses Of All Time

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

Pre-ordering video games has turned into a bit of a controversial topic in recent years. Back when they could only acquire physical copies at a brick-and-mortar location, players would reserve or pre-purchase titles to ensure they could get their hands on them when launch day came around. Now, thanks to digital storefronts and a more robust supply chain, retailers seldom run the risk of selling out of the standard edition of a fresh release.


Faced with this shift, publishers and developers continue to look for new ways to incentivize buyers to pick up games early – often before they have even left the production cycle. This has become an increasingly hard sell thanks to the number of games that have come out in an unpolished or unfinished state in recent years. Many gamers have pushed for their fellows to cease pre-ordering titles altogether.

Resistance from the community hasn't stopped companies from rolling out pre-order campaigns, especially in the AAA space. While offering a discount on the price of a game remains a clear favorite, publishers and retailers have introduced a wealth of rewards for ordering early. Some of these pre-order bonuses failed to live up to their own hype, while others left players questioning the logic behind the bizarre would-be enticements.


A spoon - The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Following the release date announcement for "Breath of the Wild" sequel "The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom," fans in Japan no doubt flocked to Amazon. Once there, they discovered that the mega-retailer had a mind-bending offer for those who picked up the action-adventure early: a spoon. A special treat that you can use to enjoy a special treat, this piece of cutlery features the franchise's branding, a detail that will certainly lead to household members fighting over it at every meal.


While this might seem like a random design choice, it actually marked a trend for Nintendo products. Amazon pre-orders for the "Pokémon Scarlet and Violet" Double Pack in Japan also came with a stylized spoon and fork set. Unlike the "Zelda" spoon, these utensils each featured a distinct design. This did little to diminish the general confusion over the choice to include them, let alone as a motivator for an early purchase. Not to be outdone by any of these efforts, Walmart jumped in with its own pre-order incentive for "Tears of the Kingdom" ... a luggage tag.

Finger puppets (Super Thumb Fighters) - Super Street Fighter 4

Not only did Capcom decide to offer finger puppets as a bonus for "Super Street Fighter 4" GameStop pre-orders, but it put together an ad to push the promotion. The ad promised "The toughest fighters, the fiercest rivalries, and the most brutal knockouts" from the game ... but for your thumbs. It even highlighted matchups between Juri and Chun-Li, Zangief and El Fuerte, Ryu and Ken Masters, and Blanka and Dee Jay – all narrated by an announcer-style voiceover.


While some people found the concept amusing, the "Super Thumb Fighters" looked less like finger puppets and more like someone had cut the tips off of a pair of gloves and pasted cartoonish faces onto them. One viewer stated that the promo made them want to cancel their GameStop pre-order, while several others could scarcely believe it was a real incentive. Not exactly the desired outcome for any ad campaign.

Mini football - Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag

The bulk of "Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag" takes place in the Caribbean in 1715. A seafaring adventure rife with shipwrecks and lost treasure, the title follows a pirate with his own vessel and crew. Notable figures like Blackbeard make appearances while the player forges their empire and navigates "the gritty reality behind the pirate fantasy."


When it came time to choose the pre-order bonus for the fourth mainline "Assassin's Creed" entry, Ubisoft really leaned into that "gritty" angle. It settled on a black mini football with the name of the game printed on the side – the perfect compliment to the swashbuckling lifestyle. No, not a map, compass, or even a collectible coin. Only the ball for a sport invented over a hundred years after the events of the game would do.

Presumably, the brainstorming session for the promotion went something like this: "Black Flag" > "flag football" > "black football." And the rest is history.

Condoms and Red Bull - Infamous: Second Son

To encourage pre-orders at GameStops in Italy for "Infamous: Second Son," Sony made the infamous decision to offer a package containing two cans of Red Bull and glow-in-the-dark condoms. The side of the accompanying box declared in all caps "A fill of energy for an explosion of pleasure!" – a statement that really speaks for itself.


While multiple outlets reported on the bizarre incentive at the time, it's important to note that there don't seem to be any photos of the condoms in question floating around on the internet. Similarly, they don't turn up in unboxing videos for the pre-order pack, so it's possible the special condoms never existed or didn't make it to distribution. Either way, handing out twin cans of plain-jane Red Bull qualifies as an odd way to get players to buy a game early.

If the "Second Son" condoms did exist, they weren't the first of their kind. Microsoft beat Sony to the punch back in 2004 when it used condoms to promote the launch of "Halo 2." They came in their own double-sided branded box, and have since transformed into rare collector's items.


Mario air freshener - Super Mario Odyssey

GameStop has had more than its fair share of strange pre-order incentives over the years. The arrival of "Super Mario Odyssey" brought another such conversation starter to Canada in 2017: a Mario air freshener. While such a prize might have felt more at home bundled with a "Mario Kart" entry, Nintendo chose to offer it with a game where the titular hero rides around on a sentient hat instead. Missed opportunities all around.


If nothing else, the air freshener entertained some fans with discussions about Mario's signature scent. One Redditor offered up "sweaty hat," which would actually compliment the theme of "Super Mario Odyssey" quite nicely. Another quipped that they "love that new Mario Smell," while a third suggested that the air freshener would contain notes of "crushed mushrooms and turtle guts." A look at eBay suggests the correct answer may have been "strawberry." Though a standard air freshener scent, it just doesn't have the same thematic appeal as "sewage" or "septic tank."

Zombie t-shirt - Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles

In the world of pre-order bonuses, "bizarre" does not always mean "terrible." Sometimes items that seem straightforward at first glance hide baffling secrets just below the surface. Enter GameStop's pre-purchase incentive for "Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles." The retailer managed to get a hold of a special variety of t-shirts handed out by Capcom at 2009's Comic-Con and offered them to players to secure advance buys.


With the words "Let your Darkside out" displayed on black fabric, the garment looked like the standard promotional affair upon an initial inspection. However, flipping the shirt up revealed a zombie face printed on the inside. It seems that Capcom went with this design so that the wearer would pull the shirt up over their head, placing the zombie's likeness directly over their own face to represent getting infected.

While a nice (if potentially dangerous) distinguishing touch, this feature led TechCrunch to hold a giveaway that asked readers to "send in a picture of you lifting up your shirt (like you would with the zombie tee) showing us your non-zombie tee and gut." Though this took place over a decade ago, it's not hard to imagine the ways this prompt could go wrong. But hey, at least five people got free t-shirts.


Pizza - Xenoblade Chronicles X

GameStop may have monopolized the strange pre-order moments, but Best Buy has also gotten in on the action from time to time. This was the case in 2015 when the retailer gifted players with Vault Boy-themed socks for pre-ordering "Fallout 4" and its season pass. While the promo had some people shouting "Seriously?!" at their computer screens, the company followed it up a few weeks later with an even more befuddling advance purchase offer for "Xenoblade Chronicles X": pizza. Or rather, "ePizza cash."


Just what is ePizza cash? It turns out those who pre-purchased "Xenoblade Chronicles X" from Best Buy received a code that they could enter during a set period of time on a specific website to receive "a virtual prepaid MasterCard" worth $10. While the offer insisted that buyers should spend their bonus money on pizza, multiple people reported putting it towards other ends, including picking up a different game. Unfortunately, anyone who opted for the more expensive collector's edition didn't get to take advantage of this delicious offer.

Pizza does play a role in the story of "Xenoblade Chronicles X," so the pre-order bonus at least made some sense ... after the game came out. Even so, it has to be one of the most involved methods for ordering real-world pizza to ever emerge.


Colored tire smoke - Need for Speed: Payback

Publishers often turn to cosmetics and other in-game perks to drive pre-sales for titles, and Electronic Arts is no exception. To encourage pre-orders for "Need for Speed: Payback," the company opted to offer the Platinum Car Park, a bundle of "five uniquely customised and tuned cars” accompanied by "exclusive Platinum Blue Tire smoke" for said cars (and only said cars). While the vehicles seemed like a straightforward offering for a racing franchise, the idea of using colored virtual smoke to entice players to buy early was met with a symphony of derisive laughter. As one individual on NeoGaf observed, this brought a whole new meaning to the term "smoke and mirrors."


It didn't help that the promo image that circulated for the offer simply read "exclusive tire smoke," leading many to conclude that EA had reserved a whole game feature for those who pre-ordered. While the company did clarify that the Platinum Car Park just came with a special shade of tire smoke, many players still saw this as a laughable incentive – especially since the unique smoke only worked with the five cars in the bundle. All and all, the move seemed to evoke memories of EA's shady track record with DLC and microtransactions, prompting certain gamers not to invest in "Payback." Kind of the opposite response of what any company hopes for with a pre-order incentive.

Speed pants - Assassin's Creed: Unity

Bundling outfits with pre-orders may be closer to the norm for modern games; however, back in 2014, Ubisoft's decision to offer a special pair of breeches to early "Assassin's Creed: Unity" buyers struck a bit of a discordant (if hilarious) note with players. Promos for the offer described the bonus simply as "exclusive pants to increase your speed." The rather nonspecific statement left buyers wondering if they were real or in-game trousers and spawned a number of jokes on Reddit, including this gem:


It also came with its share of concerns from players, especially regarding the effect such a stat buff might have on the title's co-op component. "Consider this: your friend preorders 'Unity' and you just pick it up the day it comes out," wrote one Redditor. "You guys decide to play through the game together (the main feature of 'Unity'). Your friend puts on his speed pants and now he's getting to all the enemies way before you and [you're] basically just following him around while he plays the game."

While the commotion ultimately died down, "because pants" remains one of the most bizarre answers to the question "Why should players pre-order this game?"