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Aren't you fed up with the homogeny of all these modern video game covers? Roughly 80 percent are roid-chinned white dudes holding guns while stuff explodes in the background. Don't you wish game companies would let the designers have a bit of artistic freedom? Yeah?

Be careful what you wish for.

7
Winning Post 3

Koei

The Japanese love horse racing games almost as much as they love inexplicable insanity. For Winning Post 3, they didn't feel like picking one or the other, so they went with both. Note that this is a completely normal and boring game where you breed horses and then make them compete -- at no point does a giantess tie huge ropes around the horses to walk them like dogs. Maybe this is supposed to symbolize your control over a stable of animal sport-slaves, but that doesn't explain why she's wearing a mask meant for S&M fanatics and/or Mexican wrestlers.

Before we move on, go back and check the box art again, in the bottom right corner. Didn't see that the first time, did you? Now you'll have to search the corner of every video game box for that face.

Koei
Double-checking your closet couldn't hurt, either.

6
Burger Chase

SuperSoft

Killing animals to eat them is one thing, but turning their remains back into living, sentient beings just for the pleasure of murdering them again might be a little excessive. At some point, the design team for Burger Chase, consisting solely of vegan aliens (vegalians?), got confused and assumed that human beings only eat food because we hate it and want to see it scream.

It's not like the graphic ultraviolence on the cover is even faithful to the actual game: Burger Chase is a blatant ripoff of the arcade classic BurgerTime, in which the chef actively runs away from evil food products and does not torture them to death in front of their panicked friends and family.

Data East
Unless Burger Chase is a prequel; then this makes a lot more sense.

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5
Fly Mr. Science

Bandai Namco Games

This is the cover of Fly Mr. Science -- Great Expedition of the Earth! Challenge the Mysterious and Strange Creatures.

Bandai Namco Games
"There. That's where I left my skin. Can you go fetch it?"

Check your passport. You are now legally Japanese, just from having read that.

The game is a spinoff of a children's science show -- in fact, that's Mr. Science (the Bill Nye of Japan, and also hell) on the right.

Bandai Namco Games
"Kill ...me ..."

Even putting aside for the moment that Mr. Science is surely playing some sort of long con to trick Japanese children into opening his puzzle box, look at those astronauts. Isn't this a game about the wonders of space?

So why are our noble space explorers wearing expressions that say the very concept of "wonder" has died inside of them, and the stink of its rotting corpse is trapped in their sealed helmets?

4
Rock Star Ate My Hamster

Codemasters

If you were just browsing through the covers at your game store, what would you say this title is about, at first glance? Is it a side-scrolling space shooter where you try to escape the black hole that spontaneously appeared inside of Michael Jackson's face? Is it a fighting game where you must defeat the Jheri-curled Klingon who devoured your pet? A platformer in which you control a hamster trying to escape the Singing Goblin King's intestines?

Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
An Ozzy Osbourne ARG?

Nope, the title is a reference to an infamous British tabloid headline, which sadly means that Rock Star Ate My Hamster is nothing but a simple band management simulator with little to no consumption of rodents involved. Instead, you get to control the careers of bargain bin versions of famous stars, like Wacky Jacko, Tina Turnoff, and Bill Collins. Although, hey, good news for game developers: That means the intestinal hamster platformer idea is still wide open.

Probably a better way to phrase that.

Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images
"I know what I said."

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3
Mr. Do!

CBS Electronics/Mattel

There's a lot of weirdness going on here, but it was the '80s: We accepted Don Johnson's unreasonable hatred of socks, we can accept this. Those are probably characters from the game, fighting atop a screenshot of the game itself. Nothing out of the ordinary there, until you look closer and ...

CBS Electronics/Mattel
Please tell us you can see it, too. We're not kidding. Leave a comment.

2
Phoenix Fairy Tales

Phoenix Games

For their fairy tale series, Phoenix Games proudly features the worst CGI models in the history of humanity. And likely all of its future. We know you have no training, four minutes, and crippling glaucoma -- give it a shot. It is still literally impossible for you to do a worse job than the cover designer of Phoenix Games.

Phoenix Games
"Hey, boss, can I just reuse the character models from the blow-up doll simulator?"
"I don't see why not!"

You can't even tell where the characters' heads end and their hair begins. This is the Marianas Trench of the uncanny valley. Still, Cinderella got off easy compared to Snow White:

Phoenix Games
The Hague Courts later revoked Phoenix Games' 3D Studio Max license out of compassion for humanity.

This is not The Lawnmower Man; this is not just a product of early technology. They're still doing it today. Here's one of their Wii titles:

Phoenix Games
"To be a real boy, you need to venture through the Hellmouth into the pit of screaming, tortured souls."
"And then back?"
"Hm?"

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1
The Tortured, Screaming, Disembodied Faces on Every Game Cover in the '80s and '90s

The Assembly Line

According to experts, the video game crash of the mid-'80s happened because of the mass market saturation of low quality games. We think it's because they kept slipping screaming faces into otherwise innocent covers, a juxtaposition that is most apparent in Pipe Mania!! -- a ripoff of Pipe Dream.

The Assembly Line
Which we all know is a ripoff of the BioShock hacking mini-game.

In this game, your goal as a conspicuously unmustachioed plumber is to build a winding series of pipes so that water can flow from Point A to Point B. If you screw up, no big deal, it's not like there's a ghostly giant screaming in agony as you ruin his urinary tract.

This next one is from a volleyball simulator so boring, they titled it Volleyball Simulator. Surprise! You pretend to play volleyball.

Rainbow Arts
Poster included for those who want a malevolent deity screaming in sadistic rapture watching over them as they sleep.

The cover didn't have to feature a mad celestial god screeching in orgasmic joy, but does anyone have to do anything? The world belongs to those who dare.

Here's the disturbing cover for Bust-A-Move 2:

Acclaim Entertainment
"But legal says that as long as we don't actually put you in the Clockwork Orange chair, we're not liable."

If you're not familiar, Bust-A-Move is a puzzle game where you shoot brightly colored balls at other brightly colored balls to make them disappear. Apparently, by the second installment, the game's spherical protagonists had been so overcome by the despair of repetition that they turned to hard drugs to make their short, pointless lives more bearable.

Acclaim Entertainment
They put toothpicks through their eyes just to feel something.

We sort of get what the artist was going for -- they're trying to say the game is so compelling that you'll play it until it feels like your eyeballs are being painfully stabbed open, and you will scream in existential agony, but nobody will hear you, locked within your spherical prison of addiction.

We just don't get why that's a selling point.

Finally, here's the cover of I'm in Shock, the shitty '80s ripoff game titled by the staff of BuzzFeed:

Arctic Software
"This is my shocked face."

Man, isn't that the worst? Just as soon as you pop a squat to try to suffer out that Space Chipotle into the Space Toilet -- that's always when the meteor shower hits. Then you have to shuffle to the Space Controls, Space Pants around your Space Ankles.

I'm in Shock looks like a primitive version of Space Invaders, despite being several years older. So take what you know of the game mechanics of Space Invaders, and try to figure out the context for this cover.

Arctic Software via Internet Archive
Ummm ... "What if Space Invaders ran out of money 2/3 of the way through?"

Did you get it?

Yep, that panicked face is one of the (very human) pilots in the ships you're shooting down.

It was you.

You were the villain all along.

Washing handsDownloadImage Source/Photodisc/Getty Images
"Come out, damned spot!"


Related Reading: Video games can be the source of many nightmares. Take, for instance, Luigi's new role as a rapist in this commercial. Or the monkey people of Halo 3.

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