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Bad Boxes Hiding Great Games

Venom

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Video game box art. In this day and age, it's not something that people really pay much attention to anymore, mostly because the majority of boxes are populated by Generic Space Marine Guy #4112 or Scantily Clad Bikini Lady #894,722. Even so, its function remains as important as ever - to give someone taking their first look at the box a general idea of how much awesomeness to expect from the game. Most covers do a decent enough job telling you what you'll be doing and who will be doing it, but others opt for the less conventional tactic of not telling you anything, and also not giving you any ideas to figure it out for yourself. Sometimes, though, you'll find it's best not to judge a book by its cover.

 

Book, game, whatever. Let's get started.

Golden Axe

 

What you saw at the store:

 

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There's nothing immediately wrong with this boxart at first glance - you've got your three heroes seemingly ready for action, and two of them are holding axes, though neither appear to be golden, for whatever reason. It's not until you look longer and closer that the weird details start to show themselves. Tyris looks like she's modeling for a photo shoot, despite not being an actual person. Gilius appears to be having a conversation with his mount that may or may not involve the threat of an axe in the skull. And Ricardo Montalban on steroids at the front there has a look on his face that's less "let's go on an adventure!" and more "let's go change my loincloth, because I've just made a mess of it."

 

But on the inside...

 

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Pure hack 'n slash bliss. Golden Axe is the grandaddy of the weapon-based beat 'em up, which admittedly isn't a particularly broad genre even now, but even the more punch-y variety of games like Streets of Rage owe their success to Golden Axe to some degree. It wasn't the first beat 'em up, but it remains one of the most successful and fondly remembered of its time, with a number of ports and re-releases ensuring that gamers can continue to foil Death Adder's plans to this day.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

and The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask

 

What you saw at the store:

 

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I'm lumping these together because they both have the same issue - there's nothing there besides the logo. Majora's Mask is at least courteous enough to include the titular mask, but beyond that, you'll just find yourself staring at the logo on either a nice gold background (a throwback to the NES and SNES games, but come on, box art had evolved a bit by this point) or a multicolored techno rave/LSD trip.

 

But on the inside...

 

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Two of the greatest N64 games ever made, or, depending on who you ask, two of the greatest games ever made, period. Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask set the groundwork for future Zelda titles, and successfully combined compelling stories and fantastic gameplay to create two games that people are still talking about and gushing over today, no small feat for a couple of games from the early 3D era of gaming. The boxes may be boring, but the games inside are anything but. Still, at least the 3DS remake of Ocarina did the box a favor and added a little Link riding Epona down there to jazz the place up a bit.

Metal Gear Solid

 

What you saw at the store:

 

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This is the same problem as the Zelda games up there, multiplied by boring and raised to the power of meh. Even if you'd heard of the Metal Gear series at this point, and many Americans hadn't (or simply forgot about it), you'd still be hard pressed to get excited over this box. Beyond the promise of tactical espionage action, whatever that means, you'd literally have no idea what you're getting into. Unless, I guess, you read the back of the case, but we're talking about the fronts here, so shut up.

 

But on the inside...

 

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Turns out tactical espionage action is actually pretty sweet. Metal Gear Solid rewrote the rules on video game storytelling and use of cutscenes before either of those were really a priority for most developers. The sneaky, stealthy action, punctuated by some challenging and offbeat boss fights, drew gamers into a world of espionage that James Bond could only dream of. While the game may not have aged particularly well compared to its sequels (that's what The Twin Snakes is for, though) it still holds a place in many a gamer's heart and the series continues on just as strongly as ever with the upcoming release of The Phantom Pain.

 

 

Mega Man Anniversary Collection

 

What you saw at the store:

 

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What...WHAT IS THAT?? That is not MegaMan. And even if it is, what is he so happy about blasting? Wily's behind you, dude. Also, take a look at poor Rush: he's absolutely horrified by whatever's happening in front of him. Or maybe he's terrified by the prospect of any self-respecting Mega Man fan plunking this thing down on the counter and exchanging actual money for it. Either way, there's way too many disturbing elements to this box to count. Also, there's a Mettaur floating around for no real reason.

 

But on the inside...

 

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A collection of arguably MegaMan's best adventures for one low low price. You've got the first eight Mega Man titles, plus a couple of obscure arcade games that most people never got to play, available to them for the first time. While it's not perfect, it's still a great way to experience the classic Mega Man titles without buying each of them separately on the Virtual Console, or, even worse, tracking down the actual cartridges for a decent price.

Fire Emblem: Awakening

 

What you saw at the store:

 

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What's even happening here? Is it raining people? How many innocent civilians are going to get skewered on those weapons when the warriors eventually hit the ground? How is one of them going the opposite direction as everyone else? WHY is one of them going the opposite direction as everyone else? This box raises several questions, and none of them can possibly have a reasonable, non-terrifying answer.

 

But on the inside...

 

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Awakening takes everything Nintendo has learned over the 24 years they've been making Fire Emblem titles and rolls it into one amazing package. The gameplay is top-notch, and the story doesn't disappoint either. Awakening is probably Nintendo's most successful Fire Emblem game in the West, which is really saying something, because it overcame that boxart to become a fan-favorite 3DS title and a critical darling.

 

Batman: Arkham City GOTY Edition

 

What you saw at the store:

 

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Alright, this one has been beaten to near-death already (thankfully, Batman doesn't kill) but I'm here, and I'm doing it again. The first time you saw this thing sitting on the shelf, you'd be forgiven for assuming a troupe of drunken video game critics had swept through your local Gamestop and vomited on every copy of the game. It's also worth noting that the logo for the game is smaller than literally everything else, so, other than Batman's mopey mug, there's little to indicate what the hell you're even looking at. Is it an interactive Batman comic called "10 out of 10?" A scathing critique on games journalism by the artists at DC Comics? A real-world clue left by a real-world Riddler?

 

But on the inside...

 

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Anyone who somehow looked past all that text to find they were looking at an actual video game was rewarded with the ultimate version of an already fantastic game. Arkham City is the best of the three current Batman: Arkham games, and you can argue with that if you like, but you won't win, because it's Batman, and Batman always wins. Seriously, if you haven't played it, don't let the terrifying red text scare you away - be like Batman, master your fear, and take that box to the counter.

Just Cause 2

 

What you saw at the store:

 

 

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"Hello, 911? My right arm has just spontaneously exploded and is now bleeding an immensely detailed cityscape and half a helicopter, and-what? No, I haven't been doing drugs. Why do you ask?"

 

But on the inside...

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See, if they'd put a picture of Rico surfing an airplane on the boxart, that would tell everyone right there that they want this game. No, that they need this game. (Incidentally, they did put exactly that on the game's Steam page.) Anyway, Just Cause 2 is a ridiculously over-the-top action game with a penchant for destruction, very little of which comes across in the boxart. You'll have an absolute blast tearing through the city in any number of vehicles, bailing out with an infinitely reloading parachute, and grappling onto anything and everything with your trusty hook. You will not, however, stand in a blank room while someone paints a nice picture just behind you, so if that's your thing, go ahead and pass this one up.

Resident Evil 4

What you saw at the store:

 

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Leon?

 

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Uh, Leon...

 

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LEON THE ENEMIES ARE BEHIND YOU WHAT ARE YOU DOING?? Aside from Leon's horrid sense of direction, these boxes just seem so...boring. So typical, so cliche, like the boxes for straight to DVD B-movies. Leon kinda looks like he's just pasted in, which might actually explain why he's not looking at the enemies, because he was never really there in the first place.

 

But on the inside...

 

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Survival horror goodness oozing from every exploded Ganado head. Okay, sure, there was a lot more action than horror, I guess, and you do spend most of your time looking at Leon toting his gun around. Still, the game definitely had the creepy atmosphere and terrifying enemies to keep things nice and unsettling, and there's really none of that on the boxart. At any rate, RE4 is generally considered the kick in the pants the series needed to become relevant again, and, countless re-releases or not, it would still stand tall as the favorite Resident Evil game of many a fan and critic alike, so at this point I suppose it doesn't really matter what they put on the box. We're going to (re)play it anyway.

 


 

These are just a few of the numerous examples of good games hiding behind boring or just plain terrible boxart. Just as good things tend to come in small packages, or so we're told, sometimes great things can come in ugly packages. Or something. Anyway, what are some great games you've played that came in a terrible box? Sound off in the comments while I go write the opposite of this article, "Terrible Games Hiding Behind Great Boxes."

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Dude that Fire Emblem box art is fantastic... and now I want to play the game all over again.

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Like Ciel, I actually really liked the Fire Emblem Awakening box art, haha.

 

Majora's Mask's box art, while simple, is also kinda cool, but yeah, they don't really convey a lot of the game to people who may have no idea what the series is about. xD

 

Nice blog, sir! :D

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Not a fan of the Fire Emblem art myself from a marketing viewpoint but I like the artwork. Lol. I like box art that lets me know exactly what the game is from a distance.

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Rockstar is the best example I can think of for a company who knows how to do box art right.

 

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Not a fan of the Fire Emblem art myself from a marketing viewpoint but I like the artwork. Lol. I like box art that lets me know exactly what the game is from a distance.

 

Oh yeah, the artwork is fantastic. It's just...a little confusing why those intricately drawn characters seem to be crashing towards the ground at high speeds. xD

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I like the minimalistic approach with MGS and with just about anything for that matter.

 

One cover I thought was terrible was Resistance 2. The first had such an iconic cover; defining of the series. R2 was as generic as could be.

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I like the minimalistic approach with MGS and with just about anything for that matter.

 

One cover I thought was terrible was Resistance 2. The first had such an iconic cover; defining of the series. R2 was as generic as could be.

 

Definitely nothing wrong with minimalism, it just doesn't seem to fit the grand scale of the MGS series very well.

 

And yeah, Resistance 2's box is pretty generic compared to lots of things, not even just Fall of Man's (which I agree is pretty great) but a list of generic boxart would have too many options to choose from. xD

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