For any game to stand out on the shelves, awesome cover-art is a must.
Even though some of today’s releases have brilliant covers (Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, Star Wars Battlefront, and Just Cause 3 are great examples), they just can’t compare with some of the genius designs from the 1980s.
Join us as we check out 10 of the most unforgettable examples …
Big-haired, muscular dudes are a staple of the 80s cover, but few of them do it as good as Bad Dudes.
The designers frame the Bad Dudes themselves in a low angle, so they appear huge, and manage to toss in plenty of ninja-centric details for good measure (a sword, a shuriken, masks).
Oh, and if that’s not eye-popping enough, they threw a helicopter into the mix too.
This piece of box art’s either cool or terrifying, depending on how long you spend looking at it.
At first glance, the sight of a cat clad in a headband and denim vest, holding a pair of shades, is awesomely silly.
But take a closer peek, and the image might just start to freak you out – look at the snarl, the fangs, and the way those eyes are slightly off-centre.
Still, this is about as 80s as it gets. Aside from the headband and the denim, just check out that brick wall and its graffiti!
All right. This is one of the best things ever.
Let’s walk ourselves through this, nice and easy. First, you have a ninja, a key fixture in any good 80s video-game cover. Second, the ninja in question is riding a motorbike, which is pretty weird considering how they make their bread and butter from lurking in the shadows and stealthing it up.
Next? The ninja’s raising a sword, ready to swipe at an incoming attacker. And is said attacker another ninja? Is it a gun-waving soldier? Nope – it’s a panther.
But not even just one! We get THREE panthers here, all sleek as oil and gleaming in the warm glow of a nearby explosion.
If this were the cover of a heavy metal album, you’d buy it even if you hated the sound of thrashing guitars and screeching vocals. But when this is selling a video game? That money can’t jump out of your wallet fast enough.
This is a masterpiece.
In the foreground: two insanely ripped chaps packing serious heat, firing their uber-military-grade assault rifles at something we can’t see, both sporting oddly-neat hairstyles.
In the background: a horned goat-man; explosions; other animals lurking menacingly; shadowy mountains; and, for good measure, a Gothic castle.
It’s like Arnie’s crack squad of commandos from Predator slipped through a vortex into a Hammer horror movie.
If all this isn’t enough to whet your appetite, the presence of the U.S. Gold and Sega logos should have you salivating.
You know, you just don’t see enough maces on video game covers.
Luckily, Renegade goes some way to fixing this.
For starters, pay attention to the Tina Turner-lookalike holding said mace while looking killer in denim shorts and high-heeled PVC boots (that almost reach her hips).
Then, take a look at your man with impossible abs kicking a headband-sporting thug, all the while pouting in a decidedly flirtatious manner.
We also have an abundance of studded leather, unnecessary belts, and litter for that authentic grungy vibe. The skull-graffiti in the background adds extra grit and 80s-realism.
Lovely, lovely stuff.
Narc was a pretty controversial game when it was first released. It started as an arcade title, but ended up with home-console versions too.
Regardless, the game’s box art is truly beautiful.
We’re presented with what appears to be a masked man wearing sunglasses, clutching two enormous guns (probably setting himself up for a nasty case of backache) and staring out at the audience like we’ve all got something to say.
Throw in the good ol’ stars and stripes, a snarling dog, and what can only be an enraged South American dictator (moustache included, of course), and this is 80s bombast you can’t unsee.
Double Dragon II
The box art for Double Dragon II has more mace action for us!
Not only does it pinch this medieval weapon from Renegade, but it borrows the black-and-red chopper from Bad Dudes’ cover too. Other staples are present and correct: two muscular heroes, one of whom is cradling a hot blonde while fending off a whip-toting villainess. The other tough guy is seen decking a baddie, but is relegated to the bottom-half of the image. Maybe he drew the short straw.
The first Metal Gear game has an unforgettable cover with a strong 80s vibe, but part of its memorable quality comes down to its taking ‘inspiration’ from The Terminator.
It’s pretty well known by now that the Solid Snake adorning Metal Gear’s box art is reminiscent of Michael Biehn’s Kyle Reese, the time-travelling soldier from 1984’s The Terminator. A few changes here and there make all the difference, though, so it’s not identical.
The presence of Metal Gear itself, in the bottom left, is a nice touch.
Like Metal Gear’s box art, Contra’s borrows a few ideas from some major 80s films.
For a start, the chap on your left looks just like Arnie’s Dutch from Predator, while the fellow to the right is clearly modelled on either John Rambo or Billy from said Schwarzenegger flick. And that alien in the background bears a similarity to a certain big-screen monster, right?
Nevertheless, the presence of aliens, massive guns, and soldiers was good enough to draw punters’ eyes to this game back in the day.
Clearly modelled on Miami Vice, Chase H.Q.’s cover features two suited cops (not unlike Crockett and Tubbs) and a sleek car exploding right out of the image. Everything’s bold, colourful, and dynamic.
There’s also the presence of guns, what appears to be the Golden Gate bridge, a snapshot of the game’s arcade version, and that beautiful Ocean logo. What more could you ask for?
What’s your favourite game cover from the 1980s? Let us know!
3 thoughts on “10 Unforgettable Video Game Covers from the 1980s”
Pretty much all the Ultimate games had great covers, the stylish black cardboard boxes, the best being Alien 8 with the 2001 style logo over the black hole and Underwurlde being the stand outs IMHO.
Bob Wakelin did effectively every iconic game cover from the 80s, including (at least) the Narc, Contra/Gryzor and Renegade covers.