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
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
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!