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Some of the Worst Video Game Box Designs Ever Created

Designing game covers shouldn’t be hard: find one epic, spoiler-free moment that sums up your vision, plaster it on the case and pow. Done. After all, there are entire forums of fan-designed covers out there, some of them better than the real thing. If these guys are willing to give up hours of their lives creating something for which they’ll never receive a single freakin’ penny, the least game publishers can do is put the same amount of care into the presentation of their multimillion funded designs, right? Wrong. Below are some of the most-common offenses from cover artists across the decades, contributing to the collective finger the gaming industry occasionally flashes our way:

Irrelevancy

Pretend you’re dyslexic for a moment, and incapable of reading the words ‘the hyper speed shoot out in space’. Now look at that cover and ask yourself what the hell Phalanx is about. Banjos? Moonshine? That scene in Deliverance? No, it’s a sci-fi shooter. Clearly.

Worst offenders: This was obviously worse back in the 80s, but even now we get stuff like Saint’s Row: The Third, which showed a badge, and FBI Paranormal Cases which showed a freakin’ desk. It’s like the designers only have access to a certain number of stock photos and are hoping we won’t notice.

Celeb Endorsement

If you’re anything like me, you’re thinking ‘who the hell is that guy?’ Those of you really into your NCAA probably recognise him as Coach Paul Johnson, and sure, he’s relevant, but why the hell put him on the cover? You could plonk the coach of any of my favorite teams down in front of me and I would have literally no idea who they are. All I get from this cover, as a gamer, is that this older gentleman is somehow connected to football, and finds something on the floor pretty interesting.

Worst offenders: Cheggers’ Party Quiz. Only a handful of people, at best, have any clue who or what Cheggers may be. His mugging visage on the cover probably ensured less people bought the game than if it had been simply titled ‘Party Quiz’.

Being Too Literal

This is the go-to staple for artists with a deadline. Instead of playing the game, watching a demo or, y’know, talking to someone about it, they simply look at the title and recreate it as literally as possible.

Worst Offenders: Where to start? Bodycount for the Xbox 360 stuck a gun on the cover and called it a day; My Australian Farm showed a dusty patch of land and a boomerang; while Busy Scissors for the Wii gave us some disembodied fingers cutting hair.

Taking Liberties

At the other end of the scale we have the designers who somehow conjure a whole alternative-reality game for the cover art. The first Mega Man is a classic example: for those of you who haven’t played it, the game is nothing like this. It’s like the artists went as far as getting a vague outline, then let their imaginations do the rest. The cover for Mega Man 2 is even stranger.

Worst Offenders: Puzzle games are terrible for this, promising unstoppable excitement and delivering instead a dull logic game vaguely linked to the cover image. Does anyone really still fall for this?

Fanservice

Like comic books, games are inextricably linked in the minds of publishers with horny adolescent males. No matter how far we advance as a culture, no matter how diverse the gaming market becomes, the default cover setting for adventure, fantasy and action games will still be ‘massive boobs’. Did feminism never happen? Or do designers think we’re so lonely we’ll shell out £40 just on the off-chance of seeing some pixelated cleavage? Whichever way you cut it, it’s pretty insulting.

Worst Offenders: Plenty of mainstream games with a female main character. Even more so if she’s meant to be ‘empowered’. Or Dead or Alive: Extreme Beach Volleyball. ‘Cause that’s equality right there, folks…

About the author

Oliver writes for one of the theme park companies in the UK; you can check them out here

Bogdan

Bogdan is the founder of Top Design Magazine. You can find him in Bucharest-Romania so next time you want to drink a beer there and talk about web and stuff, give him a message.

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