10 of the Best Game Box Covers EVER

To follow up my Top Ten Stylish Games article, I decided to court controversy by posting my 10 favorite box covers. This has the advantage in that I don’t need to have liked (or played) the game. When I came to write the post, however, I quickly found I had far far more than ten. Grand Theft Auto, Halo 3, Age of Empires III… all great covers, and none made it onto the end list. Because, yes, as you can imagine, I am letting my nostalgia take over again and I am looking mostly at older titles.

The list also began to modify itself when I investigated the differences between European and American covers. Final Fantasy, for example, has long carried a stark white cover and beautiful logo in Japan and Europe, whilst in America they tend towards a more normal character focused cover. Equally Ico, a game that has a classic cover by anyone’s definition, turned out to have been mutilated for an American audience. On the other hand, the US cover of The Legend of Zelda became a classic, whilst the Japanese cover was rather more ordinary.

The result is that this list is even more arbitrary than the last. If you’ve got a favorite, and it doesn’t appear, let me know about it!

Ico

The cover is either incredibly dull, or incredibly brave – depending on your point of view. Since Ico sold next to nothing when it first came out, I’m guessing most impulse buyers, browsing the shelves of their local game store, decided it was dull. A shame, since its one of the few covers that moved completely away from “hard-ass and stylised” to try something a bit more artistic. It’s the starkness that appeals, but perhaps it doesn’t grab the eye of the casual browser fast enough, and is more of a cover that grows on you.

The Legend of Zelda

Prior to The Legend of Zelda, most covers were cartoonish, pixelated or generic. There were some exceptions, but for the most part it often seemed like most cover artists hadn’t even bothered to play the game, let alone put an interesting artistic interpretation on it.

Then came The Legend of Zelda, and the gold and silver minimalism cried out “Buy me! I’m cool, grown up, and different!”.

Unlike Ico, the decision to do something different with the packaging worked. Zelda sold, and the cover became a classic. It was a theme many Zelda games later took up.

The black box, of course, was actually a hole that revealed the inside game. It stood out, and that was what counted.

Outlaws

I can’t make a top ten list without including a Lucas Arts game in it somewhere. It’s not just that they were inspired game makers – but that they borrowed from such diverse influences.

Outlaws, naturally, was a Western. The cover summed up the definitive Western cliche, but the colours, shadows, and slightly twitchy style contributed to make it a parody and a homage, rather than a rip-off.

I’m divided on the title font – it makes it look like a survival horror game, and doesn’t seem to fit with the theme at all. Nonetheless, the game goes on the list.

Final Fantasy Series (FFXII)

In Japan and Europe, the Final Fantasy name sold itself. Covers were white, minimalist, and carried the ornate logo with no background art.

Naturally, they decided to change this for the American audience. Busy covers, smiling characters, and detailed CG art was all the rage. With Final Fantasy XII the logo became the cover. The massive figure, with the subtle color gradients, took central stage. A balance had been found. I have no idea what they went with in America, but in the UK this cover caught my eye instantly.

There’s always been a very Japanese feel to these covers/logos, and FFXII was no exception. There’s a definite samurai edge to it.

Metal Gear Solid

I love the art style for Metal Gear Solid. The colors! The red shadows! The comic book edge!

My brother bought MGS, and I ended up spending most of time staring at the art assets, rather than playing the game. My main issue with the game was the talking. Characters went on and on, and whilst I’m normally a sucker for a story, for some MGS just didn’t cut it for me.

I loved walking around as a box though. I have to say.

Of course, part of the appeal is the chisel-jawed hero and the big-gun. Unlike Ico, MGS stuck with an image that sold, but gave it their own twist.

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow

Another confession. Until I went searching for cover art today, I’d never played, seen or thought about Castlevania. I’ve heard the name, I’ve even seen some fan-art, but for some reason it had slipped below my radar of ‘cool games I should play someday’.

Then I stumbled across a forum, and someone had posted the image you see to the left. What can I say? The art speaks for itself. I still have no idea what this game is about, but after finishing this post I intend to go and find out.

Oblivion

Oblivion is an amazing game. The sheer depth, breadth and time you can spend exploring it makes it legendary. Despite it’s vast complex world, however, it went for a very simple cover.

As you’ve probably figured out by now, I like simple. The peeling paper, the strange rune-like symbol, and the writing around the edge make the game seem mysterious. It also has that odd effect of bringing the feel of the very old into a very modern media (games). Whilst most games emblazon their covers with cutting edge graphics, or futuristic cars and weaponry, Oblivion looks more like an old book. It definitely wouldn’t look out of place on a fantasy lovers bookshelf.

It was pretty, and it worked. Once again, minimalism ftw.

Call of Duty 4

So far we’ve seen manly stylised and minamlist cover art. Now I’m going to point at Call of Duty 4. With most war-game covers, the emphasis is on the machines: the guns, the tanks, the big explosions. Call of Duty 4 focuses on the soldiers. However, that alone wouldn’t be enough to drive into onto the list – what makes this cover interesting is that its the product of a community vote.

The guys behind the game, Infinity Ward, submitted five covers to the Charlie Oscar Delta community, and got them to vote. The final cover is actually a blend of two. If this is the start of a generation of developers getting (and listening to) feedback from gamers I’m all for it.

The restricted palette is definitely something we’re seeing a lot of in game art. It’s a good sign.

Command & Conquer

When I got my first PC, at the somewhat delayed age of 15, the first game I bought for it was Command & Conquer. This wasn’t because I had read great reviews, or desperately wanted a classic RTS. Nope, it was for the cover.

I still think this cover stands out, with the black and white line work, and the colored ‘game reflection’ in the goggles. Luckily for me, judging a game by its cover turned out to be a great idea in this case. It started me on a life-long love affair with C&C, and with RTS in general.

The cover made me impulse buy, and I’m sure it made others. As such, the cover worked very well.

Silent Hill 2

Strangely, SH2 is the only one I haven’t played. None the less, the cover is one of my favorites. I think it’s that minimalism again. This time around, instead of the cover being white (or gold, or cream) it’s black. Despite this, it doesn’t really wear its horror label on its sleeve. The game could be anything – and thus the contents are all the more surprising.

That just about concludes our trawl through the best game cover art. As I mentioned at the start, a list like this simply has to leave off some powerful contenders. Dungeon keeper was rejected, as was World of Warcraft and Max Payne. There are, shockingly, no Mario games on this list. So dig out your old games, and look over the covers. If you find a gem, let me know!

Top Ten Most Stylish Retro Games

I adore the weird, the wonderful, and the bizarre. Occasionally games bore me – I have a “Oh look, I’m a secret agent with a gun and I get to shoot people. How about that?” attitude. The nice thing about video games, however, is that unlike Hollywood, even the mainstream games can be absolutely off-the-wall. With the possible exception of sport and racing games anyway – and even some of those franchises slide into the surreal and the odd.

With this in mind, I’m going to bring you my top ten most stylish retro games. Some of them are weird, and some of them are wonderful. They are all interesting. Before we get started, a disclaimer: these are only games I have played, and is not an exhaustive list. There are some notable games missing, so I encourage you to drop me a comment with a recommendation for your own twisted and fantastical favorite.

1. Silent Hill 3

Silent Hill 3 has the most effed up monsters I have ever seen! Those dogs – and the ‘numb body’! I mean seriously, whoever designed these creatures was a genius. The atmosphere helps of course, and the soundtrack ranks as one of my faves. All of the Silent Hills’ have a bizarre element to them (no kidding?), but I think Silent Hill 3 remains at the top of my list.

2. Monkey Island 4

I loved all the Monkey Island’s, with their intricate and mind-bending puzzles. How can you not love a game that has zombie pirates and spitting contests? Monkey Island 4, however, was the best of the bunch for the art style. As soon as the opening cinematic began and I saw those seashell-like clouds I was in love. MI4 is proof that you don’t need to go down the realism route to make a decent game. The quirky art matches up brilliantly with the irreverant story.

3. Final Fantasy IX

I love all the Final Fantasy games too! My first was FF7, and I loved the dystopian city of Midgar. FF8 could have never matched my love of 7, but it was still beautifully designed. It was Final Fantasy 9, however, that really blew me away. The slightly more ‘cutesy’ style was right up my alley, but it was the airships and the cities that really made me happy. The design of the summons was equally good.

Final Fantasy X is also a good looking game, but by that time everything was just getting a bit too similar.

4. Bioshock 1

Bioshock deserves every inch of its success. Rapture is imaginatively realised, with the art deco styling, the graffiti, and that mix of luxury, decadence and ruin. The soundtrack is also up there, not quite beating out SH3, but pretty close. The Big Daddies, the Little Sisters, and even the Splicers are all just different enough to the usual zombie fare to make this game a definite contender.

5. Max Payne 1 & 2

Graphic Novels are vastly under appreciated. By choosing to mix up the film noir, graphic novel and classic FPS styles, Max Payne gained a unique look. I’m a sucker for box art, and the Max Payne box cover was what made me buy the game. I’m glad I did. I really like the approach they took to cut scenes and introducing that bullet time to the world… yummy!

6. Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee

A platformer-meets-puzzle game, Abe’s Oddysee casts you as a completely defenceless and rather ugly Mudokon slave in a very strangely designed meat packing plant. Distressingly tricky, especially if you decided to rescue all 100 of your fellow slaves, I loathed and loved this game in equal measures. It is one of the few that made me want to chew through the controller wires in frustration, but the feeling of sheer joy when you finally complete a section is better than drugs.

However, we’re talking style here, not gameplay. And Abe’s Oddysee has oodles of it. The alien creatures are weird and very scary, the environments are beautifully realised and atmospheric, and that meat packing plant still haunts my nightmares.

7. God of War

As previously mentioned, I hate button mashing games. God of War, however, somehow manages to escape my usual disgust, mostly through it’s awesome concept artwork, flashy and beautiful combat, and kick-ass mythological monsters. I die often, but I really don’t mind playing through different sections again and again since it’s not everyday you get to battle a hydra or a cyclops.

8. World of Warcraft

I couldn’t really leave this one off the list. I remember the first time I saw the screenshots of the Dwarf on a Gryphon, and how my immediate response was: I want this game!. I’ve always loved Blizzard’s cinematics, which were better directed than most films. The design of the races, the cities, the creatures … and yes, even that slightly cartoony style they have going on all contributes to make me love this game even more. I can live without the music, but riding into Stormwind always make me happy to be Alliance.

9. Kingdom Hearts 1 & 2

Like most people, when I heard the words “Disney” and “Final Fantasy” in the same sentence I almost died laughing. And, like most people, I was wrong. Kingdom Hearts kicks ass. The Disney and Squaresoft styles ended up complimenting each other, the character designs were great, it was cute, it was funny, and I became very attached to the game. The addition of characters such as Chip ‘n’ Dale appealed to the five year old I once was, whilst throwing Nightmare Before Christmas into the mix meant my grown-up self was equally pleased.

10. Grim Fandango

A mash-up of Mexican folklore and real-estate scandal – who could not love it? This game was, hands-down, the best LucasArts adventure game ever. The art reflects it, with sexy paper-doll like skeleton characters and film-noir environments. You get to be the Grim Reaper, and that alone is worth the price of the game. Which has been remastered recently(-ish) too!

So there you have it – a quick guide to some of the more interesting titles kicking around. Not all of them have massive budgets and thousands of polygons to work with, but they all managed to impress me in one way or another.

What Should Gamers Eat?

When I’m addicted to a game, and I mean seriously addicted, I’m talking not even sure whether it’s day or night, I go into what I call a gamer fugue. Basically it’s that period where you sit in your favorite chair or on your bed and say to yourself, “Just ten more minutes” for a good three or four days. There’s nothing wrong with these fugues of course, except I have the nasty habit of forgetting I need to eat or sleep in order to live. The last time I was seriously afflicted was when I got Final Fantasy Tactics Advance so very long ago. But addictions come and go as new amazing games are launched every day (kind of, at least).

Every gamer, whether they’re in their zone or in a fugue has to eat. Period. I’ve been waiting for Nintendo to come out with its intravenous nunchuck attachment that just feeds mashed food directly into the body, but it hasn’t yet gotten past its testing phases.

The times I venture over to notorious gamer friends’ houses, there’s always an interesting combination of foods on the table next to the gaming chair.

Cheetos and Doritos have become iconic in gamer culture. Everyone laughs when someone parodies the famous, “WHERE ARE THE CHEETOS?” line, but who are we kidding? It’s not a parody anymore. Cheetos and doritos fall under the snack food category, which basically means that they’re filling and require no preparation before eating except ripping the bag open.

I feel required to mention Mountain Dew. I rarely drink the stuff unless I need some sort of quick sugar kick to keep me awake. If I’m on the last page of a paper and there are no red bulls, I go to the hall vending machine and buy a mountain dew. Otherwise, to me, it tastes like limey-sugar water. For a time I loved the Code Red, but it’s become increasingly hard to find in these parts. Everyone is hooked on the Baja Blast or whatever it is, and I can’t stand that stuff. Mountain Dew always plays to the fact that a lot of gamers drink it. But I am not a huge fan.

Taco Bell. I am addicted to their restaurant chain. They’re normally open the latest, so when that midnight hunger kicks in between games of Rock Band, Taco Bell is where it’s at. Not exactly the most healthy choice, but every once in a while isn’t going to kill you (hopefully, or I’m screwed). Just…try not to sleep directly after eating their food. If you’ve done it, you know why I would warn people about it.

Pizza is always an option when you don’t have time to go out, or the weather is bad. My suggestion, though, is instead of ordering the pizza out, what we did was one of my friends got one of those home pizza ovens. Now all we do is bring a couple of Digiorno or whatever pizzas to where ever we’re going and set up there. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper, and you don’t get all the hassle and grease that comes with a regular pizza chain.

Candy, candy, candy omnomnom. I am a candy addict, I admit it. I got made fun of on ventrilo during raids because I always had some sort of candy in my mouth while trying to explain a raid encounter in World of Warcraft. Skittles, Starbursts, Hershey’s Miniatures, I love’em all. I try to limit my supply, now, though I do still splurge. The way I cope with not having something sweet in front of me during my game time is by chewing sugarless gum. I’m turning into my grandparents, but whatever. The only downside is how quickly I go through packs of gum nowadays.

A health nut would look at the list I’ve just comprised and probably pop their monocle right into their tea. Can you really blame them? It’s one thing to get together to game one night every week and enjoy all the snacks listed above, but I’m sure people reading know at least one person who eats like that daily. If you are like that, I’m not judging your lifestyle here, just trying to offer some suggestions to help.

The thing all those foods have in common is that they’re easy to grab and hold in one hand while using the other hand to hold a controller. There aren’t any spoons or glasses involved. Though the slime that tends to get all over said controller while eating greasy food is quite disgusting.

Consider replacing your easy to grab finger foods with vegetables. Oh yeah, I hear you groaning out there. Remember the days when you were a kid and would come home to sliced apples and oranges? Me neither. But still. Some baby carrots, celery, apples, they’re all finger foods and exceptionally easy to hold while playing, without any of the grease. Even if you don’t quite want to replace the pizza section of the food pyramid quite yet, try replacing the Doritos and Cheetos with fruits and veggies.

There’s no reason for them to be bland. Stick some peanut butter on your apples and celery, and a little bit of ranch or dressing on the carrots. The key is moderation. If you slather the entire baby carrot in a coating of ranch thicker than your thumb, you might as well still be eating the cheetos.

As for drinks, organic fruit juice is not going to spontaneously make the guys out there grow a vagina just from drinking it. Replace your mountain dew with some orange juice. It still comes in bottles and is just as easy to drink. Just make sure you check the amount of actual juice. It might taste like Florida orange juice, but did you read the label that said it’s only 1% juice? Yikes. You can get that much nutritional value from a lifesaver.

If fruit juice isn’t your thing, try water or flavored water. A lot of brands are actually fizzy water, so it’s like drinking a soft drink anyway. Just slightly less unhealthy.

Getting together and splurging out on junk food once in a while isn’t a big deal, really. I do it too. But the next time you’re going into your gamer fugue, try sitting down with a bottle of water and a plate of apples instead of the alternative, which would leave that nasty coat of orange gunk on your fingers anyway.

Top Ten Most Annoying Online Gamers

We’ve all been there. We’ve all sat in the lobby listening to some wannabe rapper spouting lines about popping caps in people’s (fill in the blank), or that kid who isn’t even old enough to be in the game to start with. And some of us have even endured hounding from members of the opposite sex hoping to get some pictures or voice chat for their trouble.

Some of them aren’t even interested in getting much gaming done at all. They just want to complain or mess things up for others.

If you haven’t seen them, now you will. They’ve been conveniently collected in one place. For your entertainment, here are the top ten most annoying online gamers.

1. The Rapper

We hear you. We hear how you poorly imitate rappers who “sing” using broken English to begin with. Listening to you is not an honor. No, creating rhymes based on players’ handles that you see is not funny. It only takes a miniscule amount of brainpower to do that. Yes, you and your parents may find it adorable and entertaining that you can make childish rhymes incorporating things in your direct vicinity, but when it comes to pwning online, your “rapping” skills are null and void. Please put that mouth to good use, if you know what I mean.

2. The Child

Does your mother even know you’re playing Battlefield, Call of Duty or whatever you’re playing? She does? Oh, AND you had intimate relations with my mom. That’s sweet of you. It’s really cool that you can kill off every single person on the team – your own. It’s really cool that your best friend told you that they hated you today, and that you want to invite all of your troglodytic friends along to the party so you can show them this SUPER NEAT!! trick you learned the other day. Oh, is that your mother telling you to get off the game and come eat dinner? Sucks to be you, kid. Please, just leave the world of gaming for big people and go play some age-appropriate titles. God knows gamers will appreciate it when you go missing and angry parents try to blame it all on Imagine: Babies.

3. 1337 Hax0rz

Yeah, it’s awesome that you’ve figured out a way to use every glitch in the game to your advantage. Modded controllers really make you so much better, too. So respectable. How I wish I could be like you! That just proves how truly amazing you are at a game by breaking the rules. If you were on a football team, you would be the guys busted for steroids. You keep finding new ways to cheat honest players out of rewards, and we’ll keep finding new ways to humiliate you.

4. The DJ

The Xbox Live headsets don’t register much noise outside of your voice. And if you’re using Vent, why do you need blasting music in the background? If we wanted to hear somebody’s unintelligible garbage of a song, why, I think we would have added it to our own libraries by now. A garbled rendition of a Top 40 hit is nowhere near as fun as listening to it in the comfort of your own headphones. No one wants to hear your music. Instead of gaming, why don’t you go DJ some raves or something? Hone your talent where it might be appreciated. And stop leaning so close to your speakers. It takes a lot of effort to get music blasting that loud. Why aren’t you deaf yet?

5. The ZOMGIT’SAGURL Fanboys

You really haven’t had any (human) female contact, have you?

6. The Racist

Oooh, it’s so tough of you to express your displeasure with another race. It really makes me want to drop my controller and run away because you insulted the way I talk, speak, or look because of my race. No. It makes you sound ignorant. It’s a pity being racist doesn’t up your dosage of gaming skill, because you’re usually in dire need of it. Really cute. Didn’t you recognize the trend of randomly yelling “WHITE POWER!” ended when no one responded and you ended up ignored the rest of the game? Please, get a life.

7. The Camper

Yeah, hang out there in that dark corner where no one sees you. Fidget around until you see a target coming, then pop them in the head when they least expect it. While you may be racking up the points and improving your K/D ratio, you’re also looking quite lacking in the contact kills department. If you’re going to trash talk about being the best at a certain game, learn to play it the way everyone else is first. Then you can have your cutesy hide and seek games.

8. The Gametype Idiot

Do you not understand how to play the game, or are you just being stupid on purpose? If you want to get kills, don’t start up a CTF game. If your only concern is upping your headshot count, go do it in a FFA or TD. Why do you think it’s even feasible to want to deliberately delay planting the bomb in order to up your score? If you want to do it so badly, play a gametype where killing is the only objective. Don’t try to pretend your brain can handle much more than that. It’s okay, we’ll understand.

9. The Slut

No, we don’t want to see your n00dz. Exhibit some genuine interest in the game or you’ll be kicked.

10. The Screamer

YES! IT WAS POSSIBLE TO HIT YOU FROM THAT DISTANCE! NO, THEY WERE NOT CHEATING! YES, IT IS TOO BAD! NO, IT WASN’T A CHEAP SHOT! WHY DON’T YOU CALM DOWN BEFORE YOU HAVE A HEART ATTACK? IT’S JUST A GAME!! DID YOU HEAR ME?! IT’S JUST A GAME!

See if You Can Do Better than Donald with Government Simulator, New Game Coming Soon

I enjoy playing political simulator type of games, even though most of them are not really complex and don’t offer a flawless experience (I am mainly talking about the Democracy series here).

But this type of game is still extremely addictive and nice to play, especially because everybody believes that they can do better than the current leadership, no matter where they are in the world. Or at least so I assume. Well, Government Simulator gives you a chance to give it a try, albeit just virtually. Still better than nothing.

Created by Austrian-based studio Ambiera, Government Simulator seems to be a really complex text-based game that is definitely not suitable for all gamers, but for those who enjoy playing deeper simulations or strategy games, it could offer countless hours of fun.

The official statement tells players that “the game simulates a whole country: Population, debt, GDP, economic growth, unempolyment, crime, life expectancy, birth rate, mortality rate, state of the infrastructure and so on. The player can adjust budgets, taxes, laws, and see what the outcome is.”

This would be what makes it or breaks it, depending on the simulation models and how true to real life they really are and how everything else ticks in the game.

There are military options as well, so you can start a war with any country in the world, and adjust its operation mode while the conflict is active. But be sure not to let it run out of control. Some countries for example also have a nuclear option, of course.

The game also includes a media and public relations system, where you can read the most interesting headlines, and try to influence the media with PR stunts, interviews, and similar.

When the game launches, you’ll only be able to play USA, Germany, Russia, France, and Austria – but more scenarios and countries will be available for download and I am sure that the modding community can’t wait to start working on improving the game even further once it’s out.

So yes, this seems to be a really big game with a huge level of depth, which is exactly what you need from a political simulator and what few games (if any) actually deliver. Now we just have to wait and see if it really pays out in the end.

Well, I guess we’ll see for ourselves pretty soon, as the game is set to be released on December 4th, 2017 for PC only on Steam. If you want to find out more and keep an eye on its progress, visit its official website here.