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The 16 Most Wildly Misleading Video Game Covers Ever

I've been playing video games for a long time, because I grew up in the 1980s and '90s with more pets than friends. And one trend in the industry that has come a long way is the box art for video games. It used to be common practice for companies to just decorate their product with whatever picture they figured would sell the most copies, whether or not that picture had anything to do with the actual game. To be fair, I realize the graphical limitations of certain older systems made it necessary for video game publishers to engage in a reasonable amount of creative embellishment when designing their cover art. However, judging by the following examples, many of those publishers just thought we were all fucking stupid.

#16. Bomberman

Konami

This looks like a Lichtenstein painting brought to life by the magic tablet from Night at the Museum. That robot has a giant gun and a volleyball bomb, and he appears to be rocketing toward us on the wings of an anus-flaying thunder shit.

Actual Gameplay:

Konami

The expression on that ghost's face is pretty much how all of us felt after staring at that cover for 20 minutes on the way home from Toys "R" Us only to be rewarded with a detonating Kubrickian hedge maze once we finally plugged the game in. Also, I'm not sure if the pumpkin and the raindrop are enemies, or if they're just kind of lost.

Don't get me wrong -- Bomberman is a fun game, but that doesn't explain why the cover looks like a terrorism postage stamp when the character you control in the actual game looks like this:

Konami

#15. Mobile Light Force

Psikyo

This is a pictographic definition of the phrase "cable television." I don't know what a Light Force is, but thankfully this one is mobile, because you can't stand in one place for too long with explosions and jet pack robots on the loose. Also, if you look closely at Lucy Liu's black magic flesh copy, you'll notice that she's holding the grip of her futuristic machine gun like the handle of a frying pan, which indicates either the advent of some exciting new assault rifle technology or a startling deficiency in the Mobile Light Force's training program.

Actual Gameplay:

Psikyo

For some reason, we're shooting magic bullets at a 30-story paladin with nary a leather-clad former XFL cheerleader in sight. I'm not sure what was going on in the game's cover, but I'm positive that exactly none of it is happening here. This is because Mobile Light Force was originally a Japanese game called Gunbird, starring three plucky anime heroes:

Psikyo

The American version heroically removed any mention of those three, put a bunch of unrelated Charlie's Angels understudies on the cover that never appear in the game at any point, and changed the name from Gunbird to Mobile Light Force, because apparently they juggled a bunch of Scrabble tiles inside a voodoo shaman's bone chalice and that's the nonsense that came spilling out.

#14. Forsaken

Throwback Entertainment

There is absolutely no telling what the hell is inside this box. It's literally anyone's guess. It looks like an album cover from the late '90s, so I assume that lady is crying because the world doesn't understand her, and the only person who can break down the wall she's built around herself is the guy from Vertical Horizon. Either that or she just woke up and realized there's a tattoo on her face.

Actual Gameplay:

Throwback Entertainment

It's actually a first-person air combat game wherein you whiz through a bunch of ugly gray corridors trying to blow up enemy speeder bikes. It's like watching a bunch of Micro Machines dogfight in the prison from Face/Off. I'm not sure how Angsty Tattoo Face fits into all this, I never got that far in the game. For all I know, you're trying to rescue her from space pirates or something, and the guy from Vertical Horizon is the Space Pirate King.

#13. Dragon Warrior

Square Enix

That picture is bursting with mythical action. With it, Dragon Warrior is promising that I will get to fight smiling dragons in a rad cape and a fancy feathered helmet.

Actual Gameplay:

Square Enix

I'm having trouble getting drawn into this fantasy world of heroic adventure. Dragon Warrior is less like the edge-of-your-seat thrill ride promised by the box art, and more of a meandering chore-laden collection of random encounters spread across a map that is every bit as visually exciting as Mannequin Two: On the Move. And no matter how hard I squint at my character, I can't seem to make out a cape or a glorious helmet feather. Apparently a slime is drawing near, though.

#12. Bionic Commando

Capcom

The various covers for the home versions of the 1987 Capcom arcade game Bionic Commando look like the tarot reading of a G.I. Joe character. If you stare at all three of those images together like a Magic Eye, you'll see a single picture of Buck Rogers in a unitard fighting robot gremlins in an Aztec construction zone.

Actual Gameplay:

Capcom

Well, you get to swing from things, so at least the box art accurately represented one aspect of Bionic Commando. Bafflingly, the actual character in the video game is wearing sunglasses, a feature that they somehow managed to leave out of every iteration of the cover art despite the fact that the game was released during a period of American history wherein sunglasses were the currency of coolness. Also, Hitler is in it:

Capcom
You can't beat Hitler, you damn fool.

That's not a Photoshop. Hitler is really in a 1980s Nintendo game, and he really says "damn."

#11. Dynowarz

Bandai

Apparently, RoboCop shoots T. rex in the neck with a laser pistol while pterodactyls fly through space and three different moons shine down on the purple future mountains of the stellarverse, because the inevitable war between man and dinosaur was too much for one planet to contain. No part of that picture is anything less than lyrical.

Actual Gameplay:

Bandai

Sadly, should you actually find yourself playing Dynowarz, you will spend most of your time controlling a kangaroo-legged spaceman. You occasionally get to drive a tyrannosaur robot, but it looks more like a Cheeto-dusted house cat than anything else.

Bandai

Also, look at all the information crammed into the top of the screen. That's way too much minutia for a game called Dynowarz. If you can't condense all the algorithms down into a single Dinosaur Fury meter, you are doing it wrong.

#10. Phalanx

Kemco

This might actually be the greatest cover of anything ever published, video game or otherwise. One would assume Phalanx is some kind of moonshinin' rhythm game, or a squirrel-trapping simulator. The look on the old guy's face is perfect, like he can't wait for the photographer to finish clicking that big-city picture-box so he can get back to business.

Actual Gameplay:

Kemco

... yeah, not sure where Scooter Coon and his banjo come into play. Maybe he's driving one of the spaceships.

#9. Fester's Quest

Sunsoft

Fester's Quest is apparently the story of a leering child molester with a spider on his face, daring us to come inside his haunted rape mansion. I'm not sure what made someone decide to market this image to children, but I expect the box to be filled with knockout gas and a homing beacon.

Actual Gameplay:

Sunsoft

The actual game is a bald man in a satanic bathrobe, blowing a horn at monsters and occasionally buying hot dogs. What's even more confounding about Fester's Quest is that it's an Addams Family game, released in 1989. That's two decades after the show was on the air, and two years before the movie version came out, so there can't possibly have been a demand for Addams Family merchandise among middle-class 10-year-olds. Also, there is absolutely no mention of The Addams Family on the cover, so unless you were already a serious Addams Family fan, you would have no idea who the hell Fester was. If you were a kid playing Nintendo in the 1980s, you wouldn't have looked at that cover and said "Ooh, an Uncle Fester game!" You would've said "Hey, this looks like the man across the street who always comes outside and sits in his lawn chair to watch me play in the sprinkler."

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