20 Amazingly Weird Pieces of ‘Classic’ Video Game Box Art
As I’ve mentioned before here at ComicsAlliance, my love of the bizarre, over-the-top side of popular art doesn’t stop with comics. The strange world of VHS boxes from the golden age of the video store, the lurid, painted pulp covers, I love that stuff. And given that I have fond memories of video store shelves lined with NES games, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I love those too.
That’s why Neil Karassik’s Oh, Videogames has quickly become my new favorite website. Over the past eight months, Karassik has been compiling the best of the worst of retro gaming boxes, from the sublime to the downright inexplicable. So today, I’ve picked out my favorites to bring you Twenty of the Strangest Pieces of Video Game Box Art Ever!
The combination of an Akira Toriyama-esque grid of ladies and a trip to the gun show are what caught my eye with this one, but it actually gets even better with a piece of knowledge I picked up from my friends over at DropToeHod: the woman featured on the cover is Japanese pro wrestler Cutie Suzuki. That’s up there with “Travis Touchdown,” “Solid Snake” and “Mario Mario” for being one of the best names anyone has ever had in a video game.
Speaking of wrestling, both the NES and the Sega Master System featured games that were called “Pro Wreslting.” The NES version is far better remembered, and I’m going to guess that has something to do with the fact that it promised in-ring action from exciting characters like Starman and the Amazon, while SEGA promised a hellish nightmare world where a wrestler tore his own head off and put it in a submission hold before he passed out on a white tile bathroom floor. Video games just weren’t ready for existential dread in the 8-bit era.
I am not even kidding when I say that I would hang this on the wall in my home. It is essentially perfect, especially when you consider that the box art for Saboteur hit the late ’80s trifecta by featuring a ninja jump-kicking a dude in the face while also shooting an uzi. Clearly, they set out with the goal of topping that and came up with a motorcycle panther swordfight.
This, on the other hand, doesn’t quite reach those heights. Don’t get me wrong, I respect that they were trying to come up with something, anything that could make the idea of a “Scooter Simulator” seem exciting, but even the ancient art of ninjitsu has its limits. No matter how many ninjas in wingtips, floating skulls, metal spikes or 22″ rims you add to that sucker, you’re still trying to make a simulation of scooting, something that wasn’t actually all that fun to begin with. Seriously, when it comes to adding ninjas to something to make it seem more exciting, this has got to be the most catastrophic failure in history.
I stand corrected. That bandolier of tees is a nice touch, though.
Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, there was a strictly enforced heirarchy of dudes. At the top, of course, were Bad Dudes, who were often tasked with tough assignments like rescuing President Ronnie or battling Dragon Ninjas, thankless jobs that were often rewarded only with burgers. Crude Dudes, on the other hand, were near the bottom of the ranks, and were mostly called upon for off-color lowbrow humor. Flattop Knucklespikes, for instance, can be seen above cranking up a wicked armpit fart.
There are a lot of things to love about the art for Renegade. The cryptic “Joystick Only,” the equally cryptic logo for whatever The Hit Squad was, the fact that it gives the standard video game representation of hardcore street gang warfare, which of course includes switchblades, baseball bats and an actual medieval mace, it’s all great. If I had to pick a favorite, though, it’d be the dude in the center, whose torso appears to be composed of abs — and only abs —
of various sizes.
Aw yeah, now we’re talking! Shatter Hand, the game about a renegade cop named Shatter Hand because he has cybernetic hands that he uses primarily for shattering! The only things that can contain his fury are a sleeveless t-shirt and a pair of sweet wraparound shades! Hang this bad boy on your wall and you can get the ultimate dap from 1991 any time you want! SHATTER HAND!
Along the same lines, we have this stirring vision, although it’s not really clear whether the streets are dangerous because you can be electrified by a Vampirella cosplayer, or because of the non-Euclidian geometry that was used for building them. Then again, that’s what you get when you elect Cthulhu as City Planner.
Lady Bug was a Pac-Man style maze game where you played as, you know, a lady bug, but these are facts that you would never know from this amazing box art. Someone clearly went at this with the intent of making the game sound more exciting, and in addition to a robot scorpion with a syringe tail and the spectre of death, the lady bug was changed into a sexy lady in a polka-dot bikini top. This is pure marketing genius, and honestly, I wish it would’ve spread to more famous game.s I mean, if a human Lady Bug would’ve worked, we probably would’ve gotten a human Centipede 20 years earlier than we did.
I cannot even imagine anything that embodies the word “Stealth” more than a stealth fighter in the night sky, which is hidden under a jacket that is being worn by a spy who has gotten lost in a corn maze.
I’m not saying you should do this, but if you locked a bunch of 13 year-olds in a classroom with notebooks, art supplies and a stack of Thrasher magazines, and blasted Slayer’s Reign In Blood for 3 hours, this is exactly the kind of art that would be produced. And it would be worth it.
Since people keep asking, I guess I’ll go ahead and confirm it: Back before she was Editor-in-Chief of ComicsAlliance (and before she had, you know, thumbs) Laura Hudson did in fact star in a video game. In fact, she still has that giant purple diamond. She throws it at us when we’re over deadline.
In the fantasy world of Tanktopia, the land cries out for a hero. One aerobics instructor will rise. Weilding the ancient Sword of Andrazar and the Hair of David Lee Roth, she will challenge either a giant lion looming above a mountain, or a normal sized lion behind an extremely tiny mountain. It’s… sort of hard to tell.
Just so we’re all clear with what’s going on here, this is a video game based on a movie based on a video game. They made a video game tie-in for a movie that they already had a video game for. And even though the game they already had was great, the one they did for the tie-in somehow turned out terrible. Oh Kylie Minogue and Raul Julia. You deserved better.
Speaking of Capcom, tie-ins and things they already had, here’s their video game version of Willow. Since it was based on a movie, one assumes that they had all the posters that were used to promote that that they could’ve used for the box. And yet, someone made the decision to go with an slightly lumpy drawing of Val Kilmer that was finished up five minutes before quittin’ time.
And one more movie tie-in for good measure: Goonies II, a game that confused me more than anything else I have encountered in my entire life. I mean, I watched that movie a lot when I was a kid, and I never once saw those kids meet a mermaid or engage in yo-yo-based combat, both of which are core elements of the game. That aside, this box art is awesome. At fist glance, it even looks a lot like the Goonies movie poster by the legendary Drew Struzan. Even Sean Astin’s giant floating head is a good likeness.
Next to the 8-bit Cyndi Lauper tunes, it’s probably the best thing about this game.
You know, I don’t think we were ever really taught a whole lot about the Vietnam War when I was a school, but you’d think that the deployment of giant two-legged robots would’ve come up at some point during 12th grade American History.
Let it never be said that there is a piece of technology that we will not immediately attempt to use for porn, no matter how blocky and awful that porn may be. I do have to respect Gamex though — the fact that we’re even seeing this means they were fast enough to get copies out the door before the lawyers arrived from Marvel Comics.
And finally, we have MegaForce, which — wait. They made a video game of MegaForce, the 1982 classic film directed by Hal “Smokey and the Bandit” Needham about a team of military specialists driving around in rocket-powered dune buggies and flying motorcycles that taught us that the Good Guys Win — Even In The Eighties?!
Sorry, everybody. You can check out way more game boxes at Oh Videogames, but I have got to get on eBay immediately.