Designers have created countless terrific video game covers across the past 30 years or so, but the 90s had more than its fair share of iconic box art.
Take a look at some of the biggest games of the decade, and you’ll see colour, dynamism, and lots of superheroic physiques. Art styles vary from gritty paintings to more cartoony pieces, but the best suit the games they promote beautifully.
Join us as we look at 10 of the most awesome game covers from the glorious 90s …
Streets of Rage
Streets of Rage.
Just those three words are enough to spark intense excitement and wet-eyed nostalgia in many a gamer, and the box art only adds to SoR’s perfection.
Everything you want out of the game is there. You have Axel fly-kicking a no-good punk right in his face. You have Blaze doing the same further back, with impressive precision and a fetching white outfit. All around them, the city’s going to hell – check out the fire, the dude shooting a rifle from a window, and the creepy chap emerging from the sewer.
If this doesn’t make you want to slap the cartridge into your Genesis / Mega Drive as fast as you possibly can, nothing will.
Without doubt, Flashback is one of the defining games of the 90s, and its cover is equally unforgettable.
Who is this guy, with his wild eyes? What has he seen that’s shocking him so much? And, more to the point, why is there a nasty yellow laser beam blasting him right between the eyes?!
This cover is mysterious, colourful, but bold too – they avoided the easier route of showing Conrad blowing Morphs away in futuristic surroundings in favour of a more artistic choice. Hats off to U.S. Gold and Sega for their creativity.
Speedball 2’s a fast-paced little game, set in the heady world of futuristic sport. The cover captures all the energy and fury of the game, popping with colour and vitality.
The characters have the Herculean physiques of many a 90s comic-book superhero, and the central figure’s angry, desperate expression creates a real sense of realism.
ToeJam and Earl 2: Panic On Funkatron
ToeJam and Earl 2 is one of the most unique, charming, downright-funky games ever made.
The game’s cover art is as colourful as the game itself, capturing the panic hinted at in the title (heroes running, arms raised) and features all the key elements. We can see we’re on an alien world, the characters are dressed in suitably funky 90s garb, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Street Fighter II
Look at this cover. Just look at it!
Everything about it grabs your eye, and it actually takes the then-brave option of making Chun-Li a central figure. While Ryu is traditionally viewed as the hero of the Street Fighter universe, he’s shown incapacitated here (or enjoying a quick snooze) while Blanka cannonballs his way at the feisty heroine.
It uses bold whites, reds, greens, and blues to great effect, and has all the grittiness you’d expect of a game about street fighting.
Altered Beast’s cover looks it could have been taken from the sleeve of the greatest rock album ever made.
With the yellows and browns, heavy shadow, and aggressive beasts, this cover is a beautiful thing, capturing the core concept perfectly.
We may be used to the iconic Mortal Kombat logo now, but back in 1992/3, it was incredibly striking.
Considering the dynamism and physicality of other fighting game covers, such as Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat’s cover is bravely ambiguous in comparison. The deep reds emphasise the game’s heavy use of blood (well, maybe not so much in the SNES version), and the use of a dragon captures the mystical aspects of the Mortal Kombat universe.
As with Altered Beast, Doom’s cover art could easily belong to a classic rock album. The bold, angular title; the bright reds and oranges; the horned demons; the brave, muscular warrior fighting for his life.
What’s not to love? It’s as iconic as the game itself.
In true 90s fashion, Golden Axe’s cover features a buff hero, a shapely heroine, and … well, a bearded dwarf who makes himself look even smaller by crouching. Oh, and there’s a mahoosive dragon loitering in the background, too.
Ax Battler, the heroic barbarian, looks uncannily like Dolph Lundgren’s He-Man, and the characters’ choice of outfits are entirely inappropriate for the long, hard journey they’re about to embark on. Still, it’s all absolutely gorgeous. They don’t make them like this anymore.
Super Metroid is a classic game, but its cover is an absolute triumph.
Look at Samus’ energetic movement, and the way her gunfire draws the eye up, across the image, towards the winged monster. The heavy reds and yellows really stand out against the cool blue background, adding real visual depth. The title’s angular placement adds extra dynamism to the art, and the claws at the top right of the image looks set to tear it apart.
What’s your favourite video game cover from the 90s? Let us know!