80s, 90s, Quick Lists, Video Games — June 6, 2012 8:30 am

6 Games with Ambitious Artwork

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You know the old saying “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”?  Well, shame on me because I’ve been fooled many times by video game box art.  Back in my day, we had these buildings which contained video tapes and video games available to bring home for three days in exchange for a hefty fee.  For those of you who don’t remember, it was basically like walking through an Indiana Jones temple in terms of epicness.  Tens of games covered the wall, all enticing.  Never having played any of the games on the shelves, you only had box art to persuade you to bring home a title.

Here are six games with ambitious artwork.

6 – Super Off Road

More like Super Way Off.

Super Nintendo is still the home of my favorite racing game, Top Gear.  Loving the 16-bit thrills Top Gear provided, I returned to the video store to find another racing game.  It was going to be hard to impress me after racing awesome sports cars around the world.  That’s when I came across Super Off Road.  It promised more awesome races with the added bonus of monster trucks!  How could I go wrong with renting that one?  Shame on me.

5 – College Slam

Attack of the Killer Basketball.

Sports games were always a snore.  You only rented a sports game if you got to the video store too late on a Friday night.  College Slam was different, though.  The cover featured a mutant basketball that was obviously out to get revenge on the sports arena.  In reality, it looked and played just like every other basketball game ever.  Shame on me.

4 – Adventure

You just have to use your imagination.

Defeating dragons, mastering mazes, and conquering castles certainly seems like an adventure.  The second you hit power on the Atari, you realize the box was horribly misleading.  Your visions of a valiant hero shift to a lone pixel on a gray screen.  You will never lead the battle of your dreams.  You realize you have met your doom.  Shame on me.

3 – Iron Sword II

Fabio would later move on to such gigs as Bird in Face and the Weird Al Show.

It’s easy to fall for the same trick a second time.  The cover of Iron Sword: Wizards & Warriors II depicts Fabio wielding a deadly sword in the midst of exploding volcanoes.  Okay, so anyone who fell for this once kind of had it coming to them.  Immediately, you should be questioning why he’s fighting volcanoes with a sword.  Then, you should wonder how he is surviving the toxic fumes.  But, alas, I own this game.  Shame on me.

2 – Mega Man 2

This is actually pretty badass.

The box art for the first Mega Man game is often the subject of ridicule (you’ve seen it, right?).  I always thought the second game looked more promising.  A lone ranger jumped out of Tron and is battling it out with a super villain on a rooftop.  It’s actually a pretty sleek cover.  The game was fun, but of course the graphics were exactly the same as the first Mega Man.  Shame on me.

1 – Pac-Man (Atari 2600)

At least one of these is lying.

Somehow, the rough draft artwork ended up on the box without anyone noticing.  Obviously, the Pac-Man drawing is a placeholder.  Compare the box with the final art on the cartridge.  Now, Pac-Man is leaving the ghosts in his dust instead of falling into their trap.  He’s also in the same drawing style.  Oh, and did I mention he grew legs and is chasing after Pez?  That never happens in the game.  Shame on me.

Honorable Mention – Virtua Fighter (32X)

Perhaps they were too upfront about the graphics.

I would like to recognize a game that truthfully warns players of how awful its graphics are.  Virtua Fighter for 32X has nothing to hide.  It knows the graphics are awful, it knows the 32X is a total failure, and it knows it isn’t fooling anyone.  If only Virtua Racing had offered the same honesty, I wouldn’t have bought a 32X.  Shame on me.

Did we miss some of your favorite games with ambitious artwork?  Tell us about it in the comments below!


  • Dude, what’s wrong with Super Off Road? Sure, it’s no Top Gear, but the Off Road games are pretty awesome in their own right. Though to be fair, it was much more fun in the arcade spinning the wheel around like crazy.

  • I agree. I think compared to the artwork, though, you expected something else from Super Off Road..College slam is a complete lie though. There’s nothing bad ass enough about that game to warrant an angry 90’s extreme style basketball on the cover.I fell victim to a few of the covers listed above. The first was IronSword, it looked so cool in the video store, plus it had Fabio, which my mom would enjoy. Instead my mom must’ve hated me for playing that pointless game and there was no Fabio in sight to gawk at.The second would be Adventure, or hell, any Atari 2600 game. That system had a hell of an imaginative art team on it’s side. I never understood how they could pull so much detail from a 4-pixel character. Got me every time!NES games were pretty similar in their approach. Another memorable one for me was Adventures of Lolo. That cover is pure crazy awesomeness, but pop it in and immediately you know you’ve been had. I’ve grown to like the game, but it’s not nearly as action-packed as that cover.

    • @MisterZero Mad props to Atari game box designers– no one had a stronger imagination than those guys!

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