Advertising a game can be a complicated affair. While companies put in millions of dollars of work and resources into promoting a big title through commercials and banner ads, the game’s cover art can actually be rather neglected. It’s a shame, too, because the game’s box art is an important factor. While you obviously shouldn’t “judge a book by its cover,” consumers are still roped into buying titles that feature inventive, captivating, or otherwise unique outer appearances. Still, just as there are a ton of excellent examples of great box art, there are always some that just don’t get it right. So here’s a list. The following games might not be terrible box art designs, but they do carry enough disturbing, distracting, or otherwise unprofessional elements that make them stand out (and not in a good way). Enjoy!
Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland (DS)
Oh, Tingle. You are one serious case. Now, Tingle looked weird enough in Majora’s Mask, and though he looked more appropriately designed in Wind Waker, this cover art just reminds us how weird Tingle is. Yes, he loves the Rupees. But he’s REALLY excited about those Rupees. So much that it apparently gave him a cold. The cover art doesn’t really give us a good representation of what to expect from this game, nor does it offer any sort of marketing direction to whatever audience this game is supposed to be targeting. Who is this for? I dunno, but I want to know. In fact, show this box art to your gaming pals at the next LAN party. Seriously. I dare you.
Mister Mosquito (PS2, Japan edition)
Oh, Japan. We’ve had our disputes concerning box art with you before. The whole ICO deal was probably the most prolific. Mister Mosquito was a game where you played as a cartoon mosquito who aimed to pester and suck the blood out of the members of a local Japanese household. While I don’t aim to defend the American box art (which rather derivatively features a shot of the main character’s animated form), this one just feels dirty. It’s like you’re going to play a video game about a foot fetish. It does have a mosquito there, but it’s so small that it doesn’t really distract you enough from the giant foot that takes up almost the whole picture. Japan will always be Japan, but, unlike the ICO case, I think the North American publishers made a smart choice in changing the cover for an American audience. Think about taking this up to the front counter at your local store with a big dumb grin on your face. I’m sure you’ll get a rather disturbed look from the cashier.
Batman: Arkham City – Game of the Year Edition (PC, 360, PS3)
I saw this cover art rather quickly upon hearing about it, but despite my best efforts, I could not find the game on any online stores’ webpages. I tried Amazon, Best Buy, Wal-mart, everywhere. This game was not listed anywhere. It wasn’t until after hours upon hours of searching that I discovered that I was apparently typing the wrong thing. The game was called “Batman: Arkham City – Game of the Year Edition”, not “10 out of 10.” Now I’ve been in my share of advertising classes that I know that the most important thing about video game box art is not how many gaming publications loved it in their reviews. The name of the game itself is kind of important, considering it’s what many people will input to online search engines to learn more about the game, and eventually buy it. Big, bold font can be quite a distraction, WB Games. Learn from it.
Editor’s note: The initial anecdote in this paragraph is not true.
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (Konami’s Best Edition) (DS)
Under similar circumstances, Konami apparently had trouble marketing that Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow for Nintendo DS was in fact a game in a box. So, why not remind buyers that this game is indeed a game! We’ve all seen our share of Greatest Hits, Platinum Hits, and Player’s Choice labels, but Konami’s Best is kind of a distraction. Instead of moving the Castlevania logo a bit lower to make room for the Konami’s Best logo, Konami decided to simply take a picture of the game and place it against a white background, while putting the Konami’s Best banner on top. As James Rolfe said, “it’s like a game within a game!” Only it’s not. I opened this box only to discover a cartridge and some booklets, not another box. False advertising, Konami!
Donkey Kong (Intellivision)
The original Donkey Kong was a light-hearted little arcade game from Nintendo. It featured a simple Italian plumber named Jumpman who was trying to save his girlfriend Pauline from a disgruntled pixelated simian. It was a charming game whose entire image got disturbingly misrepresented on the Intellivision port. What the hell happened here? Apparently, CBS Electronics thought that Jumpman didn’t look masculine enough, so why not give him bulging muscles like he’s some sort of revolutionary on a propaganda poster? And don’t get me started on that thing he’s supposed to be fighting. In fact, forget what I said about those muscles. Jumpman’s gonna need them to take down that ape. Seriously, King Kong in Peter Jackson’s film doesn’t look that scary, and he snapped a giant dinosaur’s neck! Think about what’ll happen to Jumpman. You’re gonna need a bigger hammer, my friend…
The original Okami remains a fantastic game, one of the best on the PS2. I was extremely excited to play this game on Wii upon its release. But it wasn’t until I bought and completed the game in its entirety that something was brought to my attention. There’s something near Amaterasu’s mouth on the Wii box art. It’s hard to see at first, but when you see it, you can’t un-see it. Until you see it, let me discuss a rather important topic in advertising with you all: using an image that is owned by another company, posting that image on video game box art, and selling the game thinking that no one will notice isn’t the best business practice, especially when the watermark for the other company remains in the damn picture. Just sayin’, Capcom. Did you see it yet? No? Well, I’m sure you will. In fact, I’m sure the folks at IGN will give you a hint or two.
I.M. Meen (DOS)
I was originally introduced to this game through Youtube, specifically the infinite number of parody videos involving the awful animated cutscenes (Fun fact: the animation company behind this game also made the animated cutscenes featured in Hotel Mario and the Zelda CD-I games) but I really couldn’t tear myself away from this absurdly creepy box art. In the game, the main villain, I.M. Meen, is a librarian who gets stomachaches anytime he sees children reading or learning. In an effort to punish these kids for being informed and well-educated citizens, he traps them in a labyrinth filled with monsters. Now, in the cutscenes, Meen is a cartoony mix of Jay Leno and Doc Brown, but on the cover art? Not so much. Also note that this is an educational game (for ages 9 and up, as advertised) about learning grammar, but what child or parent would buy this for a young child? That’s not the face of a librarian, unless that librarian is leading you to his…um…quarters. As Meen calls himself in the game, he’s a “special kind of guy.” A bit TOO special, if you ask me.
This game was a futuristic space shooter developed by Kemco for the Super Nintendo. During the lead-up to its release, Phalanx had the disadvantage of being developed during a time when space shooters were extremely common. Standing out in such a crowded market wasn’t easy and Kemco had to find a way to make their game pop and get people’s attention. So what better way to get gamers’ attention than to confuse the hell out of them? So then comes this: Phalanx’s box art. It’s funny because I’m not making any of this up. That’s why there’s a banjo-playing bearded man on the cover of this space shooter. Kemco openly admitted that the entire motive behind this design decision was to screw with gamers’ minds. While the GBA re-release of the game did not have this box art, this will be the one to remember. Hell, it worked in 1992, and we’re still wondering what was going through Kemco’s minds today.
Mega Man (NES)
Arguably the most infamous video game box art ever released, the original Mega Man game on NES had box art that, shockingly, might have been passable during the moments of its release. I mean, it’s a guy with a gun wandering some futuristic world with palm trees in the background. It probably would capture some passerby’s eye, convincing them to buy it. But the problem arises when the game actually starts. I’m completely aware of the technical limitations of the NES; the gameplay shouldn’t look like the box art in the 1980’s. However, that’s not what the game even remotely emits. We’ve all grown up since then, so we can look back on this and laugh and how completely incongruent this box art is compared to the light-hearted nature of the game itself. It remains a mistake in that it advertises a game that simply doesn’t look like what it portrays. Our 80’s nostalgia bursts with gunfire and testosterone, but it’s 2013, and we’re much too smart now to succumb to that.
Resident Evil 6 (PC, 360, PS3)
Resident Evil has become something of a rise-and-fall story. It was big in the 90’s, dropped off a bit in the 2000’s, was revitalized in 2005, and fell again in 2008. The 2012 release of Resident Evil 6 met with some rather lukewarm reception, but before the game hit stores, something happened. Legend has it that there was a reclusive figure looking at the logo for Resident Evil 6 on the internet in early 2012. He began to breathe hoarsely looking at; thoughts began to stir in his subconscious. He stared at the number, his lips quivering. He instantly rushed to the forums and began to type out something that he had no idea would infect the internet like a virus. Once he hit Enter, it was too late. People read it and it tainted their perception of the game. Their eyes shook. They couldn’t ignore it anymore and within minutes, the destructive damage to gamers’ perception was unimaginable. Legend also says that there are small sects of gamers who are untainted by this person’s viral words and can see what the logo is supposed to be, a number 6, though they too are myths. For all we know, this is what the Resident Evil 6 box art will contain and forever will contain:
A giraffe getting a blowjob.
Any other disturbing or confusing box art you’ve seen? Discuss them in the comments blow…I mean, below!
It began with a hand-me-down Sega Genesis from his cousin and since then, he's been fascinated with video games. He enjoys the blissful platforming of the 16-bit era and the rich adventures of the 64-bit era. Favorite games include Metroid Prime, Banjo-Tooie, and practically every 16-bit Sonic the Hedgehog title.
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Advertising a game can be a complicated affair. While companies put in millions of dollars of work and resources into promoting a big title through commercials and banner ads, the game's cover art can actually be rather neglected. It's a shame, too, because the game's box art is an important factor. While you obviously shouldn't "judge a book by it