I may have mentioned this in the past: Some odd things give me the best feelings of nostalgia.
Firing up my copy of Super Mario All-Stars feels pretty damn good. Hell, even the simple action of dusting off my Super Nintendo carts makes me feel alright.
One of the things I love the most is video game box artwork. When you think about it, that was basically the only thing the companies had to get someone to buy their game. It was a make-or-break sort of deal. If the artwork didn't work out, sales probably suffered. Some companies caught on quick, like with Nintendo's Black Box series of games. The Black Box games were the initial launch titles for the Nintendo Entertainment System, and each one had some awesome sprite artwork on the front. Those boxes are instantly recognizable as being for a video game, and they played an important role in advertising: There was no bullshit about them. You basically knew what you were getting into. In-game, Super Mario Bros. looked nearly identical to the cover, as did 10 Yard Fight, Clu Clu Land, etc...
Nintendo knew what the hell they were doing. It's a damn shame that other companies didn't.
Here is a look at a few terrible boxes, mostly from the Super Nintendo.
You've probably seen this one before. It's pretty infamous among gamers since it's so friggin' weird. Phalanx was released by Kemco in 1992 for the SNES. It's a side-scrolling shoot 'em up. It's a pretty decent game, but good GOD this cover is... Strange?
Yeah. Strange. It's not particularly bad. It just has very little to do with the game itself, save for the tiny spaceship in the corner of the image. I don't exactly know why Kemco used this as the cover, but I can guarantee that it didn't help the game break any sales records.
Rival Turf, released at the tail end of 1992 by Jaleco for the SNES. Look at this thing. What the hell is this game? Looking at the box art and the name, you'd think that it would be some sort of 90s version of The Warriors.
As it turns out, Rival Turf is a game that learned its tricks from the Capcom School of Fisticuffs and Bartending. Essentially, it's a Final Fight clone. It even looks like one in-game.
As far as I know, there isn't a single person in the game that looks like either of the two idiots on the cover.
Oh God. Here we go.
As you can probably see on the cover, the game features artwork from H.R. Giger. Don't know who that is? Well, Giger is most well-known for being the guy who designed the titular character from the Alien film series. His artwork is a mix of bizzare, organic creatures and cold, uncomfortable-looking machinery. Sort of like a steampunk Salvidor Dali, except with a lot more sexual imagery. His art is dark, creepy, and highly disturbing to the average person. I'd like to think that I am an average person.
Simply put, I am afraid of this cover.
When I got this game with my Amiga, I initially thought it was a survival horror game, due to the strange cover picture and the taglines such as "explore the unknown." I was kind of expecting an Alone In The Dark-styled game with super-creepy visuals. What I got was a terrible adventure game.
Dark Seed is an adventure game that captures the absolute worst of the genre: Terrible, convoluted plot, characters that are either one-dimensional or outright idiotic, and logic puzzles that require the logic of a schizophrenic to comprehend. It's a game that you will need to keep re-trying just to see what you did wrong, and you probably won't find out without a guide.
At least the artwork is neat. Completely friggin' horrifying and disturbing on like ten different levels, but neat.
Out Of This World, known as Another World outside of the US, is the best argument for games as art. It is a game that has absolutely amazing visuals and gameplay that was revolutionary for the time.
That box art, though. It's like something out of a Jurassic Park rip-off. The style is completely inconsistent with the game itself, and even the way the main character is portrayed is inaccurate to the game. Looking at this art, you'd think the game was the sort of game where you ran around being chased by dinosaurs or something.
I'll give them this: It kind of does have something to do with the game, since you do encounter those creatures. They just aren't around too long. In fact, most of the game is very sparse. It gets part of the message right: You are a fish out of water. But the art makes the game look like a poster for an 80s movie.
Compare this art with some artwork done by the game's creator, Eric Chahi:
This was the cover art used in another release of the game. I know my copy of the 3DO version had it.
Look at that. It's gorgeous. It perfectly represents the game as a whole. Seriously - play the game. I'm pretty sure that it's on Steam and GoG. You'll find that this artwork is pretty much 1:1 with the game. It shows off everything: The redhead protagonist, his alien companion, and the vast world that the game takes place in.
This particular artwork is probably my favorite piece of video game art.
Why the HELL couldn't they have used this for the Super Nintendo version?
These are kind of fun to talk about. I may look at more bad box art in the future.