Creating good, innovative, and striking video game box art is, well, an art. And in the before times, when primal game developers roamed the land distributing shareware to the unwashed masses, it was all about getting a game to market and not so much making sure the game art caught the eye. I mean, it didn’t help that most of the graphics back then were more MS Paint and less Mega-Ultra-HD or whatever we’re up to today.
Unfortunately though, in modern day gaming, we still have shovelware manufacturers, tiny art budgets, and even some very reputable companies turning out cover images that really make one scratch their head and ask the age-old question: “What the hell were they thinking?”
But that’s not to say there haven’t been good ones! It’s just not funny to laugh at them.
You know, because they’re good.
So today we’re going to be looking at fifteen examples of box art problems across all of video game history. It’s a long and bizarre trip down memory lane that really needs to be taken for the sheer lulz. Because if these game covers were just bad, there wouldn’t be any reason to put them on the list. I went looking for the dimmest and most mind-boggling covers I could find to proudly display like a freak show of interactive video game art. Things that should never be. Ideas that should have never left someone’s head, let alone get greenlit.
But they did, and thanks to them, I have an article for you to read. Enjoy the goofy pictures.
15 Spirit Camera: Let’s Use A Book!
This game is a spin-off of the Fatal Frame series, a well-loved spooky game where you have a camera and ghosts happen around you. It made for a bunch of scary moments in video games, and earned it a spot alongside such greats like Resident Evil and Silent Hill. The actual game cover has maybe part of a ghost and a spooky environment, but there’s definitely no camera to be seen. Instead, there’s a book.
A damn book.
It’s supposed to be a reference to the game itself, where the main story revolves around a girl named Maya who’s somehow trapped in a scary monster book or something? There are AR elements in the game that make it a cool way to integrate the features of the 3DS, but still, the book is accessed with the 3DS’s camera, called the “Camera Obscura” in-game, which is still not referenced in the cover.
But they went with a book. *facepalm*
14 Gal Gun: Double Peace: Rated E For Everyone!
This is one of *those* games. If someone sees this in your game library, there’s immediately going to be a judgement made upon your tastes, and it may or may not be completely warranted. Judgments aside, the meat of Gal Gun: Double Peace is something that could never be interpreted as family friendly. It’s a rail-shooter that involves you shooting questionably-aged Japanese schoolgirls with your love gun. I promise you, that sentence is completely factual.
So why in all possible realms of existence did the actual physical copies of this game (which exist solely for those who want to hold their bad decisions in their hands) have an “E” rating proudly emblazoned on the back of them? Even more mind-boggling, why does it say that it’s rated “E” even when saying it’s got sexual content?!
You know, like the other sexual content found in E-rated games. Scratch that, maybe not all "E" games pass the morality test.
13 The Imagine Series For Nintendo DS: Imagine A Better Game, Please
You guys, we need to talk about shovelware. Please don’t buy it. And please don’t let your parents or grandparents buy it and act like it’s a nice thing. It’s not. Being a part of the problem is never a nice thing. And until we stop being the problem, we’re still gonna get games like the Imagine series for the Nintendo DS. A giant pile of crap stereotypes for girls, the series suggests that a woman’s main role in society is to cook, clean, take care of things, and make babies (or babyz if you live in North America for some reason).
Oh right, this article is about video game covers. It turns out, this series was created by people so lazy that they couldn’t be bothered to remove the watermarks from the crappy stock photo pictures they used to make the cover art. And there’s like wayyy too many games in this series (read: more than one), and wayyy too many mistakes for this to not have been done by accident.
12 Super Mario Galaxy Sends Everyone A Mean Text
If there's one thing the Mario series is known for, it's repeating the same pattern and people still buying the game like it's the damn second coming. If there's another, it's that they're made for everyone to enjoy. You're jumping on mushrooms and turtles and collecting stars. It's pure unadulterated video game silliness, and it's a hell of a lot of fun.
So when Mario made his big debut on the Wii, everyone was psyched. Super Mario Galaxy was a return to the classic gameplay, but with a spacey setting and a different princess. The cover, however, had everyone's inner middle-school kid chuckling and snorting. Turns out, the game cover's title placed stars over certain letters in the game's name, which spell out "U R MR GAY." It was obviously a really funny coincidence, but there was really no way it wasn't going to get lampooned by the internet.
11 Resident Evil 6's Logo Gets... Weird
Everyone knows Resident Evil 6 as the black sheep of the main series of RE games, which is really something considering that Resident Evil 5 also exists. It tried to do everything and accomplished nothing. It accomplished nothing so hard, in fact, that Capcom ended up reneging completely with Resident Evil 7, which instead focused its efforts solely on ripping off modern first-person horror games like Outlast and Amnesia.
However, for as lame as RE6 may have been, there was something... off about its logo. The way the 6 in the logo was split had a very peculiar Rorschach effect...
It looked like a giraffe getting a beejer. There's no un-seeing it. Resident Evil 6 is now Giraffe Pole Horking Simulator 2012. It's so obvious that I can't help but wonder how some higher-up at Capcom didn't see this and was like,
"Hey, you know that six looks like a giraffe gettin' its rod polished, right? You might wanna fix that."
In Bioshock 2, you were in the shoes of one of Bioshock 1's big scary monsters, the Big Daddies. It also took steps to more fully develop the world of Rapture and the complex, symbiotic relationship between Big Daddies and Little Sisters in the Bioshock universe. And even though Take-Two was unhappy with the game selling less than five million copies across all platforms in two months, it was a great companion and successor to a game that injected story, philosophy, and didactic storytelling into a genre that had been bloated with generic plots about shootin' all the bad guys.
The game's cover, however, betrayed all of that. While it had the glowing, creepy eyes of the Little Sister, the massive drill of the Big Daddy, and the rust-covered logo that almost out-Fallouts Fallout, the Big Daddy's helmet looks too much like another, less serious video game character. Just look at the picture, folks.
9 Super Mario Brothers' Cover Ends Badly
I must have looked at the original Super Mario Bros. cartridge approximately five billion times by the time I was 10. It's a conservative amount, so imagine my surprise when I looked at the cover for the five-billionth-and-first time, and I realized that Mario is running into an effing wall.
Not figuratively. Not Metaphorically. Physically. And judging by the motion lines he's built up behind him, with a crap-ton of force.
I'd also like to make it known here that Mario knows he's going to die, as well. How do I know this, you ask? Well, he's doing what I did when I realized I done effed up in a Mario game: HIT ALL THE BUTTONS. That's why he's shot a fireball into the wall in the desperate hope that will somehow save him.
It will not. He will fall into the lava and have to run the level all over again.
8 FIFA 08 Doesn't Know What Arms Look Like
Sports games have a history of being almost as bad at Photoshop as some magazines. While Cosmopolitan and Vanity Fair may have them beat on race-exclusivity and body dysmorphia, sports games have a tendency to turn the people on their covers into supermen, normal human locomotion be damned.
But with FIFA 08, not only do we have three of the most ridiculous celebratory faces that without context seem like the most hilarious O-faces I've ever seen, but what in the hell did they do to Ronaldinho's (the guy in the center) arm? It looks like it's some bizarre folded-over chicken wing. Also, his fist is the same size as his entire shoulder muscle. There are so many things wrong here that you have to wonder why this picture was the best one out of the millions of pictures of this guy that exist. It's not like EA didn't have the money to make a decent cover.
7 Bioshock Infinite Was Just About Some Dude, Right?
Bioshock Infinite was a game about two daring heroes: Booker and Elizabeth. You only control Booker, the scruffy nerf herder stereotype you see on every video game box that’s run out of ideas, so they just put a guy on it like “Look at this guy. He is cool. You are not. Don’t you want to be this guy? Buy this game now.” The problem is, this style of cover, even though it’s incredibly overdone, flies completely in the face of how the game plays out.
Elizabeth is an integral part of the game, and instead of putting her right next to Booker like some other game art did, she’s nowhere to be seen. Instead, she’s on the back like some insignificant minion or screenshot no one’s looking at. It’s a complete disservice to one of the most popular, well developed, and believable AI-controlled characters since Alyx Vance from Half-Life 2.
6 Mega Man 2: What?
Guys, I gotta be honest with you. I have no idea what to make of any of this. If I had removed the logos, would you even know these were supposed to be Mega Man games?
To clarify, you're looking at the French (left), and the North American (right) covers for the game. When you start it up, it's the same game. But these images are obviously for completely different games! The French version is obviously about some Logan's-Run-esque hero with a chrome Q-tip venturing across a post-apocalyptic wasteland, while the NA version is about Chuck Yeager in a blue Flash Gordon outfit shooting at luchadors on an oil platform that is somehow both suspended over lava and amongst the clouds.
Now, while I would play these games based on sheer absurdity alone, this is no way to treat the art direction of one of the best platformers ever created. There's a reason for this, but I'll get into it later.
5 Okami: Giant Subliminal IGN Ad?
Okami was a game that stood out on a platform that was already revolutionizing the way we played games. You played Japanese goddess Amaterasu in a beautiful world whose art style took its influences from ancient Japanese paintings and used a beautiful colorscape that both captured the eye and showcased the power of of the Wii by incorporating motion controls in a way that felt natural rather than shoehorned or gimmicky.
Unfortunately, the art director who was in charge of working on the game's box art was a bit less inspired. Where they could have used their own promotional image and called it a day, they decided to snag their own art from IGN and called it a day. If you look closely at the picture above, you'll see a red circle. I added that. Inside that, you'll be able to make out both IGN's symbol and their initials.
Why did this even happen in the first place?
4 In Space, No One Can Hear You... Banjo?
There were about a million side-scrolling shoot-'em-ups back in the 90s. However, only one used the image of a septuagenarian hillbilly in a rocking chair playing the banjo as its cover. That game was Phalanx. The game couldn't be more generic: Phalanx is the code name of the experimental top-of-the-line space fighter, and you're trying to save the world. To accomplish your goal, you shoot tons of other ships, most of them bigger than you, and grab powerups and rack up points as you go.
Hundreds of other games pulled this off several console generations ago, but since it was still a model that made money, publishers kept cranking it out. The art team behind Phalanx, apparently knowing there was nothing special about the game, decided to throw this oddball Hail Mary out to players to grab their attention. While it might have worked, in retrospect it's just an oddity that keeps getting itself put on lists like these, raising more questions than interest.
3 Goldeneye: Why the Long Face?
I've spoken about how awesome of a game Goldeneye is. It was a game that made all of us believe we were a tiny Asian man chopping Pierce Brosnan or whatever you guys did in it. Whatever, what we did doesn't matter, it's the memories that do. And one of the things most people don't remember is that the black and white used in the game's cover art ends up giving those who look at it too long a pretty entertaining optical illusion.
See, it turns out when you put a black and white hand next to a black and white mouth, the finger separation and shade from the gun the hand happens to be holding ends up creating a really long stern expression. Maybe they should've switched the color palette up, but even then, the damage has been done. In this case, what has been seen can never truly be unseen.
2 Mega Man 1: OH, COME ON.
When it comes to...
Dammit. I just cannot figure out how to approach this. With just one look, even if you have never played a single video game, let alone be familiar with the artwork of Keiji Inafune, you know something is wrong.
Just from a cut-rate art school standpoint, what even the hell? Are his shoulders and collarbones c-shaped? Where his forearms? How is the hand that's holding his gun even physically possible?
WHY IS HE HOLDING A GUN?!
I mentioned in the MM2 entry that there was a reason for this. This is the North American cover. The Japanese cover looks like this. It's actually decent. It just seems that when it got to Capcom of America, they thought that the cartoony art style wouldn't fly, even though anime and Japanese art weren't unpopular to a North American audience. So we got this incredibly dated realistic fantasy/sci-fi crap that's only good to laugh at.
1 Eric And the Floaters: How Did No One Get Sued Over This?!
I need you all to just sit with me and embrace all of the levels of intellectual theft going on here right now. Then, I'm going to tell you what was actually in the box and blow your friggin' mind.
If from the picture you thought this game's full title was Kuma: Eric and the Floaters, I can't blame you. Kuma is actually the game's publisher, and the game is Eric and the Floaters. But for some reason, Kuma's font seems to be very similar to another famous fantasy series, and that is blatantly Indiana Jones on the cover. He's even holding one of the freakin' Sankara stones! Although, given this cover's terrible art, it could easily be confused for a loaf of bread. But the biggest crime of all comes from the cover's overall design, which is blatantly a rip-off of DOOM.