The Death of Video Game Box Art

Hi. My name is Jaky and I want to talk to you about video game box art, or covers, or cases or whatever the hell you like to call them. If you play video games, even casually, you may have noticed how generic and lazy box art has become. No matter the genre, games seem to like to follow one of two ways of advertising themselves – it’s either a main character from the game, just standing there, you know, probably with a gun. Doing something so badass, like looking at the ground.

or it’s a super close up face shot of the main character just… … being a goddamn face. And the reason these cliches are so frustrating to see is that the game underneath the dull box art could be a beautifully tight little piece of work, that will be revisited, and loved and digested for years to come except now it’s always going to be associated with some shitty picture of dude with a gun. Obviously this is all super subjective, and there’s definitely exceptions but it boggles my goddamn mind how we’ve gone from this to this this.

This to this?! Dawg bless Dawg piss In an attempt to get to the source of this problem we need to travel back to the days of the NES SNES and the GENESNES Back in the still somewhat early days of gaming hitting that loud legal cush mainstream market, unique box art was more common primarily because of the necessity for it. When you couldn’t just slap your 3D model dude on the cover of your game and call it a day, you had to get a little more creative.

I mean It’s hard to get people, well… hard, for Double Dragon II showing them this, but when you show them THIS HOLY SHIT MAN There’s a boy and girl 9 Incredible missions. Dad, I’m Gonna While you could argue that doing it this way is potentially misleading to the consumer, there was some amazing art created for some classic games. But because box art wasn’t just slapped up by some hot boi in photoshop , and actually had to be created by an artist – or artists – publishers would sometimes use a different artist when localizing a game to the U.S. in the hopes of selling more croppies.

Exhibit A: Rock Man Known as MEGA BOY in the U.S. Rock man’s box art debut in Japan fun, colorful, it reflected the game pretty good. Mega Man… Mega Man… not so much [ Evanescence – Bring me to life ] :'( While the Mega Man games on the NES are the easiest, worst examples by far, other games which sometimes get shafted on the U.S. too, all because the publisher thought that THIS was still better than this. But this one is so much more pretty. Whether that’s justified is up to you but regardless of the occasional change in localization between regions I would still consider the 90s as the golden age of video game box art no matter where you lived. Games like : Secret of Mana Super Metroid Chrono Trigger Doom Ocarina of time They’re all memorableass games, and they have box art that’s a good visualization of that, and for some games I actually prefer the changes to the U.S version like Metal Gear Solid’s minimalist design, or Gran Turismo’s ominous car unveiling.

I will say though the PAL cover for Resident Evil 2 is fucking terrifying and the U.S. one just kind of looks like a werewolf, but you know different strokes for different strombees. Either way, game boxes were looking pretty good. The PS1 and N64 continued to have some sick cases in their libraries but advancing technology meant that clean, decent looking CGI characters we’re starting to post up on boxes a lot more frequently. By the time the next generation of consoles dropped, the U.S. started to see the beginning of the end. Exhibit B: ‘Aico’… Huh… Ico.

Fucking… Horn Boy Just gonna call it Horn Boy… So HB is a pretty unique game, you know, it’s lonely. It’s very quiet. It’s atmospheric. It was deliberately trying to be different from other action-adventure games at the time and this is what the cover art looks like in Europe and Japan.

This is fucking gorgeous. And this is the U.S cover. Like.. come on man.. Why?!

it’s fuckin Mega Legs all over again. To get to the source of how something like this can happen and really the source of the shittiness of modern-day box art, we got to examine how things are marketed to Americans. For whatever reason in the US. we seem to have more of a response to a character, particularly a pissed-off one, rather than a stylish logo or some neat art. I mean at least that’s what marketing people think. And it’s not just videogames, it’s movies too.

Just take the movie “Drive” for example. Yeah, there’s scenes of Ryan Gosling being a goddamn hunk badass but it’s also a very stylish artistic film with themes of love and loneliness and yet This is what the DVD looks like. Just Ryan gosling and a tacky ass logo. Our apparent ADD need for a main character getting blasted in front of our faces resulted in a bunch of lazy PS2-era artwork that became the cliches we know today. Just look at Final Fantasy X in Japan. No!

Fuck that! Final Fantasy VII through XII-2 in Japan. All the games follow the same beautiful, consistent minimalist approach with a white background and just a variation of the iconic logo for each game.

It’s so. Fucking. Neat. But America… Fuck that throw a bunch of characters all over that shit. Yeah! Dude with the sword that’s perfect Americans love that shit.

Uhm did somebody say… GIRLS?? YEAH! The funny part about this is while marketing teams did this shit in hopes of better sales games with unique artwork still sold like crazy in the US like look at the GTA games. They all have that tiled style that not only shows what you’re gonna do in the game but the color palette reflects the fucking location and era the game takes place.

It’s awesome! They’re stylish, and effective, and they sold an ass ton of copies. Regardless of some of these sick exceptions though, by the time gaming entered the PS3, 360 and Wii generation unique box art was seriously clinging to its last breath. There were still the few exceptions.

Creative and clever boxes that actually stuck with you, but the typical character with a weapon and/or boobs template was rapidly taking over. Exhibit C: Heavy rain and Metal Gear Solid 4 Now.. Heavy Rain is not a perfect game, by any means.

But it’s different and at the very least it deserves some unique box art to illustrate that, and in Europe that happened. They got this clean ass little piece that told you everything you needed to know without showing too much, cuz you know its a myst… is it a dettractive game. It’s it’s okay I mean, I don’t know but the artwork was great!

But in the U.S. Fuck that. They had to add boobs and a weapon. LET’S JUST COVER ALL THE BASIS BOIS the final straw for me personally was actually when Metal Gear Solid 4 came out. You know, as a kid I was a huge huge fan of the series, I’m still am and this one was supposed to be the last one of the series, and in Europe and Japan, they got versions of the box art that respected that. They got a beautiful illustration that’s actually a clever callback to the PAL and Japan box art for the first Metal Gear Solid game. That is so fucking cool.

America said fuck that though. Naah, instead let’s just throw some raw dogs CGI looking ass old man face on there. Americans love old men You seen Gran Torino? Is great five out of fucking five stars ☆☆☆☆☆ The saddest thing about the current generation of video game consoles is that at least in the previous generations if there was a cover art in the U.S that was pretty butt, we at least had a pretty sweet alternative in a different region around the world, like take Dark Souls for example.

The Japanese cover art is amazing! To me it fits that game perfectly and it’s one of my favorite boxers of all time I fucking love it. Butt the one in the U.S. it’s like none of this makes fucking sense to me the shield is on his right hand but we’re looking at his back and there’s these fucking spirits around and like I don’t… i don’t know these spiritsgetoutofmyfuckinghouse What I’m trying to say is at least we had the alternative but now for the most part the box art you see between regions It’s gonna be the same like Bloodborne, I’m sorry, you’re one of my favorite games of all time but the cover art is fucking boring for everyone. Metal Gear Solid V – the cover art is exactly the same.

Final Fantasy XV – they dropped the white, minimalist and now they have all the dude bros on it, and it’s like Did we do this is?… did they just pick up on what the West was doing is like Oh, they just put a character on that, and it’s it’s cheap and people are still gonna fucking buy the game. Why are we taking the time to actually make something cool?

Let’s just fucking do that. You know this is all just my speculation there’s no hard facts as to why box art is butt, and maybe it’s okay, maybe I shouldn’t even care you know I play most games on PC. People on PS4 and shit, they just download anything now… Terabyte hard drive But My speculation and my theory is that, you know, video game box art… unique video game box art that you’ll actually remember is fucking dead. And America fucking killed it. Rip bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Hey Thanks for watching the video. You know it got a little I got a little hairy at the end there but uh if you if you didn’t hate that you know I got some other videos too I got Games that should bang, talking about two games bang, and what the baby would look like, I got rap reviews where I do silly shit like This I know and I review a game and then there’s uh there’s some other shit, then there’s some melee movies You know if you like crap and Falcon or Marth and they’ve got a sword so yeah …Wake me up…