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10 Worst Video Game Box Art Designs Ever

Back in the days before the internet took over, box art was a really important part of any game. When you walked into your local game store it could often be the deciding factor in whether you bought a game or not. I have lost count of how many times I heard the phrase, “this one looks good!” from my own mouth as much as others. But when the box art was bad, the sales of the games were often just as awful, leaving these titles to become bargain bin fodder hidden the dark corners of your local stores.

This list celebrates the very worst of the worst: those pieces of artwork that were drawn by primary school children, the ones that were recollected from the artist’s worst nightmare, and the ones that make you think they must have been on some sort of drugs to even come up with them! These abominations cross the ages, from the early days of 8-bit micros to the modern era of the PlayStation generation, showing that even as graphics improved the hand of the artist didn’t…

10. Mega Man – Nintendo Entertainment System

Top 10-MegaMan

Let’s just go ahead and get this one out the way first. Go to Google and search for “bad box art”, and Mega Man is the one that makes every single list – it has to be the most famous example out there. What makes this one most staggering though is not just how badly drawn it is; it’s the fact that this was a really high profile game, released by a huge company (Capcom) on the most popular system in the Japanese and North American markets at that time – the NES.

It really does beggar belief that something this tragic managed to get through any sort of quality control at a company like that and make it onto retail shelves. It’s also quite surprising to learn that a couple of the other Mega Man releases for the NES also featured some pretty terrible artwork – most notably the European version of Mega Man 4, which looks like a page taken out of a pre-school colouring book. Mega Man on the NES is far too obvious to make the No. 1 spot, but more than terrible enough to make the list.

9. Pro Wrestling – Sega Master System

Top 10 Pro Wrestling

Another staple example of terrible box art is Pro Wrestling for the Sega Master System, a cover that it as confusing as it is crap. You have poorly drawn image of a wrestler in the bottom left hand corner who appears to be grappling his own head… I mean, WHY? Why the hell would he do that? Surely if his head had been removed he would be dead and there would be blood everywhere, yet look at that lovely blond beard, not a speck!

I can only assume that whatever imbecile drew this thought he was being funny in some way, and Sega just didn’t care enough to tell him to do it again. If I could nominate a system for this list it would be the Master System; all the early games had this minimalist style that not only looked awful, but often had only a vague reference to the game itself. Take a look at Action Fighter, Zillion, Black Belt and F-16 Fighter for more equally terrible examples from the 8-bit Sega console. It’s also worth noting that the game wasn’t very good either, so at least you knew what to expect!

8. Cheggers Party Quiz – Nintendo Wii

Top 10 Cheggers

Ah, the Wii! The king of shovelware and a veritable goldmine for bad box art because of that. The lack of quality control on Nintendo’s biggest selling home console is almost breathtaking. If a company felt they could make a game out of something, no matter how ridiculous, they generally did – and in the process kept many a bargain bin fully stocked for years to come. Those of you who aren’t from the UK probably won’t have a clue who this “Cheggers” fellow is; well, this is a guy who was once a hugely popular children’s TV presenter but then got a bit hard on his luck when he fell out of favour and resorted to doing just about anything – including a fully naked a game show!

Thankfully Cheggers’ todger doesn’t feature in this game or we might have had some very interesting uses of the Wiimote! The box for this atrocity makes Cheggers look like he has a horrible disease… in fact, maybe he has because that definitely looks like the curtain to a hospital ward in the background. Get well soon Cheggers! Actually… maybe not if this game is anything to go by.

7. 32 in 1 – Atari 2600

Top 10 32 in 1

By the late eighties, Atari’s best selling 2600 VCS console had got very long in the tooth (having first appeared in 1977) but they managed to keep finding new ways to shift units and squeeze a bit more money out of it. The main tactic seemed to be to sell as cheap as possible, and once they started bundling a 32 in 1 cartridge with the system it seemed to be even better value for money. I mean, 32 games on one cartridge was pretty much unheard of back then!

For those who already owned the system they did a limited release of the cartridge in a box, but took more than a few liberties with the way they did it. Our main issue here is not the fact that they clearly got a bunch of school kids to scrawl it for them, but show amazingly misleading it is! The first thing you notice is that that none other than Mario and Luigi themselves appear on it; now the original Mario Bros. did appear on the 2600 – but certainly not on this cartridge. The other drawings could be associated to pretty much anything however.

6. Bloody – Sinclair ZX Spectrum

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Now there are plenty of bad examples of artwork from the early years of the ZX Spectrum, but it can often be excused somewhat. One-man teams making their own games and often drawing their own artwork with nothing more to help them than a pack of coloured pencils was par for the course. But when I was researching this article one game really stood out: the misleadingly named Bloody by a Spanish company called P.J. Soft.

A hand-drawn affair like many before it, you have this weird psychotic-looking cat who appears to be chomping on some pills, a needle and a doctor who looks like he has a toilet brush in his hand. I’m not sure what the cat has against this guy, but it must be pretty serious with all though dangerous drugs just lying around. What makes this even stranger is the game bears no resemblance to this image at all: it’s just a generic flick screen adventure game starring a character who looks like ALF (remember him?) and some abysmal sound effects. A most peculiar affair indeed.

5. Air Traffic Chaos – Nintendo DS

Top 10 air traffic chaos

Much like aforementioned Wii, the DS is another Nintendo machine with more than its fair share of shovelware, so we expect to find plenty of great examples of bad box art. For some reason though, Air Traffic Chaos really jumped out of the crowd for me. I don’t know if it’s the horribly smug character adorning the box who, for some reason, has to actually tell us what his job is (in case we are too stupid to work it out), or the fact he has his back turned to the actual runway where two planes are currently on a collision course that can only cause a huge loss of life. This grinning idiot it clearly more concerned about giving us the thumbs up to buy this terrible game than doing the actual job he’s supposed to be promoting!

“I am an air traffic controller,” he proudly proclaims. Well, you’ll be an unemployed one very soon if you don’t turn around and actually practice what you preach. No other cover on this list made me as angry as this one.. and just in case you were wondering, the game sucks just as much as this guy’s employment record.

4. Tommy Lasorda Baseball – Sega Genesis

Top 10 Tommy Lasorda

The rest of the world called Sega’s best selling console the Mega Drive and the rest of the world also called this game Super League Baseball,  but the Americans got a special name for their version of this game based on their so-called favourite pastime. I am not really sure who this Tommy Lasorda is, neither do I really care, but he must have been a pretty big deal to get his own video game. It’s just a shame that when Sega approached him to get involved he was clearly a very sick man as on this cover he clearly appears to be suffering from some sort of dementia. Poor old Tommy is just one more take off dribbling down his chin and the poor bastard is also about to be hit in face with a baseball – I guess he’s so out of it that he didn’t even see it coming!

Sega’s artwork for the Mega Drive and Genesis was usually high quality, so this one really stuck out like a sore thumb. Mind you, it’s not a very good game so maybe they didn’t think it mattered. Well it matters to us, god dammit!

3. Snow White and the 7 Clever Boys – PlayStation 2

TOp 10 Snow White

Erm, what the hell? Who on earth are the “7 clever boys”? Did I miss something? Are we not allowed to call them the seven dwarfs anymore? Is this the politically correct world we live in where we have to completely change the titles of popular fairy tales in case they insult somebody?

Once you finally manage to get away from the ludicrous title of this game, you are faced with one of the creepiest images you will ever see. This version of Snow White will haunt your every thought and the serial killer dwarfs – sorry, “clever boys” – will return to kill you while you sleep! Supposedly this game was actually aimed at kids, but can you imagine showing that image to your children? They would be spending the rest of their lives in therapy telling everyone how Snow White had poisoned their very soul with her apple of pure evil.

Phoenix Software produced some truly terrible box art for most of their games, but this one really does the biscuit. Snow White and the 7 Clever Boys is the stuff of nightmares that you won’t forget for a very, very long time…

2. Cock’In – Commodore 64

Top 10 Cock in

Oi, you at the back, stop sniggering! I said stop laughing! And don’t you join in too… c’mon, it’s really not that funny! No, it’s not! It’s just a game for the Commodore 64 called Cock’In… oh hang on, it really is that funny! As you were everyone!

I mean what the blue blazes were they thinking? Did they not even read the title of this game back before they went ahead and printed it? Was it just picked out of a hat? Who knows, but what we do know is that this has to be without doubt the most amusingly named video game ever. The utterly bizarre artwork just compounds the matter too, although with a title like Cock’In it most definitely could have been worse! We appear to have some very camp guy from the Jersey Shore trying to fist bump his girlfriend from art school while she hands him what I can only assume is a testicle. Oh, and I forgot to mention there is also a fish biting her arm. It makes no sense at all and the game isn’t a whole lot better either: you play as a chicken trying to eat food and lay eggs. This one’s just weird all round!

1. Star Trek – Dragon 32

Top 10 Star Trek

And here we have it, the worst piece of box art ever conceived for a game. Well, in my opinion anyway, but this one really is a beauty. The Dragon 32 was a rubbish 8-bit computer that was produced in Wales and had some particularly weird graphics modes. After some initial success it was quickly forgotten, but this Star Trek game is often hailed as one of its best titles.

As good as the game may have been however, the artwork that adorned it is a hundred times worse. Okay, so we have Captain Kirk, check; Mr. Spock, check; the Starship Enterprise, check; the final frontier, check; and a disco… erm, what? Well, from the shapes that the crew are busting there definitely appears to be some sort of mad party going on up there on the bridge. James T. Kirk himself seems to be either off his face in a rave or suffering from some really bad diarrhoea, and his Vulcan friend is either pointing him to the toilet or starting to do the moves from Saturday Night Fever. A travesty of the worst kind made even more atrocious by turning Captain Kirk into a ginger!

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