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.
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.
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:
Mobile Light Force
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
... yeah, not sure where Scooter Coon and his banjo come into play. Maybe he's driving one of the spaceships.
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.
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."
Fuck. Yes. This looks like every 1980s barbarian movie condensed into a single convenient package. There's an old guy doing a Jamiroquai dance and an ax-wielding flex warrior pointing the way to fun.
... maybe he was pointing to a different game somewhere behind you.
Raid 2020 appears to be about a cybernetic future spy putting all of his skills in subterfuge and information gathering to the test in order to bring down whatever shadowy organization is sponsoring the aluminum roach droid currently trying to steal his wallet.
Nothing says "stealth espionage" like leaping 12 feet into the air on a commercial pier in broad daylight. I'm unclear where the "multi-terrained action" comes into play, but at least the enemy in the lower left hand corner is trying really hard to be racist.
This looks like a car wash at David Bowie's house.
Or, it's a tile-flipping puzzle game. I guess that makes sense, if you bought this game to spitefully confuse your children after they told you they wanted Labyrinth for Christmas.
Based on this illustration, Life Force appears to be about galaxy-swallowing flame cobras. Also, the snake's body appears to either be mostly invisible or somehow uncoiling in the opposite direction.
I guess the lesson we've learned today is that if a game has indecipherable cover art, it is probably a spaceship game.
Adventures of Lolo
Lolo himself looks pretty kid-friendly, but holy shit, look at that lightning. And he's clearly leaping away from a castle-shattering explosion, clutching what we can only assume to be the Key of Destiny.
There's somewhat less action going on here.
The Uncanny X-Men
Making a video game about the Uncanny X-Men should be easier than finding a Nicolas Cage movie at Redbox. They're the X-Men, we already know they're cool. Just allow us to take command of them and blow up some robots or something, it doesn't matter.
Or, you could paint a handful of featureless blobs in vague X-Men colors and have them goose-step their way through a bunch of ugly mazes designed with the same flare of inspiration as the driving test course behind the DMV. This game might as well just be a black screen that says "SANTA CLAUS ISN'T REAL AND YOUR PARENTS ARE GETTING DIVORCED" in giant block letters.
Judging from what we see here, Mega Man looks like Logan's Run, if Logan were being chased through the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. And Part 2 seems to be about a futuristic zookeeper tasked with artificially inseminating a series of mythological creatures with his gleaming chrome sperm cannon.
Evidently, Capcom hired Rush's album artist to create the covers for Mega Man 1 and 2, with the sole stipulation that he cannot have played either game beforehand.
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Without hyperbole, this cover art is so amazing, it will challenge the way you feel about the decisions you've made in your life, because none of them will ever compare to the epic motherfucking pirate adventure waiting for you inside that box. I want to play the game right now, just looking at it.
Until I remember that the actual game is two to three hours of this, peppered with the occasional swordfight against your exact double:
The most accurate part of the cover art is the skeleton lying mournfully in front of the treasure chest -- that pirate was really excited about that box of gold until he actually got to open it up. Then he just sprawled out on the ground and died of disappointed boredom.