Last year, I wrote an article about some of my favorite horror video game box art examples, and loved hearing what you thought of them along with your own suggestions for more artwork I should look into. While many of the actual games from yesteryear weren't the greatest, it was often the case that some eye-catching box art was all it took to get us to fork over our cash to give 'em a try. With that in mind, I'm back to pay tribute to another selection of bloodcurdling box art examples from horror video games. Let's dive right in!
Ghoul School for the Nintendo Entertainment System has some seriously amazing cover art. There's so much going on in this "school" that it's hard to discuss where to begin. First off, the entire building was clearly cut out from a photograph and placed on top of a lightning background with a red hue. Next, each of the windows have something completely random going on: that arched window on the bottom has a skull with eyeballs and wearing what appears to be a head-wrap; several windows have some kind of green tentacle passing through them; there's a giant eyeball in one of the left windows along with some strange creature in the window beneath it; one of the top windows has a set of teeth that look like they came directly out of a Colgate toothpaste ad; and lastly, we have a bunch of fireworks going off in the center window.
Folks, I don't know exactly what in the hell is going on in Ghoul School, but whatever the cost of tuition is, they're clearly not charging enough. This is the kind of formal education we all deserve, so please write to your local government and let them know you want to see these changes take place in your local schools.
With all the Alien themed games out there, most people don't realize that H.R. Giger contributed his talents to another game: Dark Seed. Not only did he contribute his nightmarish biomechanical artwork to the cover, but he actually did all the artwork for this point-n-click horror adventure PC game. It's filled with all kinds of disturbing imagery that would fit right in with any of the Alien films; so this box art really sets the tone for the entire game you're about to play. I should also note that the Playstation 1 (PS1) version of the game showed more of the artwork on the cover, but I've always preferred this striking cropped cube.
What I love about the cover for Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts on the SNES is that it incorporates a lot of elements from the first stage of the game, but the artist also throws in some completely random things. You've got the werewolf, the zombies, the towers that barf up skulls, and some trees 'n tombstones. But check out the right side of the cover art; there's some large green goblin with its arm wrapped around a treet and a skull in its hand. That is definitely not in the game. I particularly love it, because it has always reminded of the cover of Ghoulies, with the lil' green guy emerging from a toilet. You also have some blue monster in the bottom right section, and while the jail cell bars are in the game, I can assure you that no members of the Blue Man Group were ever found behind them. The only thing that would make this cover even better is if there were an alternate version showing Sir Arthur running around in his polka dot underwear instead of his armor.
I've always been a fan of the Monster In My Pocket toy line, and the cover for their first NES game pays a glorious tribute to them. They may be tiny, but these ferocious little monsters cannot be contained by your mortal denim pocket prisons! Do they climb out the top of the pocket? No, no, no... that wouldn't be monster like at all. They make their own damn hole and come bursting forth. But hey, it taught us kids about how everybody can get along; I mean, if trolls, goblins, winged mutants, ram-headed creatures, and glowing skeletal demons can work together, than surely so can we. Best of all, each copy of the game included an exclusive figure of Blemmyes, the green monster seen in the foreground. Best o' luck finding a loose copy that still includes the figure these days.
Castlevania: Bloodlines is a game I sadly never purchased for my Sega Genesis back in the day, and having played it later in life, I really wish I had. Aside from it being a fantastic installment in the Castlevania series, you just can't go wrong with that cover art. Just look at that wonderful assortment of monsters: skeletons, vampire bats, a perched gargoyle, and my personal favorite - the angry merman. And who do all of these terrifying, deadly creatures have standing in their way? A disgruntled gentleman armed with a whip and a frilled poet shirt. Perfect! As a bonus, the word "Bloodlines" has that classic dripping blood aesthetic that any corny horror fan can appreciate.
Unless you're a hardcore fan of the Splatterhouse series or you grew up in Japan, you've probably never seen this cover for the Famicom (NES) game, Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti. I know we've all come to associate Splatterhouse games with boatloads of gore that wouldn't be suitable for young children, but I assure you this is the actual cover of the game. I've always loved seeing Rick and company depicted in such an adorable fashion. I mean, he's making the peace symbol, yet he's armed with a meat cleaver. On top of that, you have other wonderful visuals including a pumpkin-head scarecrow, a large pink rat that appears to be physically attracted to Rick, and a zombie happily hopping on a pogo stick all on a wonderful graveyard with a haunted house in the background. The horrors of Splatterhouse never looked so cute, and I'm so very glad that this actually exists.
I've always had a love for this Clock Tower cover, simply because of the ridiculous villain, Scissorman. Yes, that's his real name in this survival horror game. He's a guy who chases you around with a comically oversized pair of scissors. Sure enough, they didn't try to leave things a mystery on the cover... they just slapped that huge pair o' bloody scissors in the foreground. Clock Tower? What Clock Tower? This is clearly a game about Scissorman! It harkens back to the days of directo-to-vhs releases with equally laughable covers such as The Nailgun Massacre and Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, and I'm absolutely on board with it. Let's just all agree that they should've called the game "Scissorman", followed by sequels such as "Scissorman II: The Scissoring" and "Scissorman III: Re-Scissored".
God, there were so many amazing PC game covers back in the day, and Harvester is certainly no exception. I can't decide what the best part of this overly Photoshopped cover is. You have what appears to be a mosque in the background with neon pink lights, and you have a diner right next to it. After all, mosques and diners are traditionally found next to each other. Then there's the Harvester in the foreground, who's either cosplaying as a reaper or as a Jawa from Star Wars who just happened to find a scythe. Either way, between all this imagery and the font that the designer clearly scored from one of those "10 Best Free Horror Fonts!" sites, I absolutely love this cover.
Another game only released in Japan for the Famicom was Sweet Home. In case you've never heard about it, this is the survival horror game that inspired the Resident Evil series. Yep... without this game, there would be no Resident Evil. The cover also looks like something you'd see on an actual horror movie poster, not on a NES game cover. This combined with the content of the game itself is why it was never released in the Western world, but that doesn't mean we can't admire it. A beautifully nightmarish collage painting blended with watercolors; it's a shame it didn't get a worldwide release. On the plus side, the game has been translated into English, and you can find ROMs of it online to try out.
The Turbo-Grafx16 is often overlooked, because the SNES and Genesis completely dominated the 16-bit market, but it still had some great games and great cover art. Ghost Manor is a perfect example. It's a platform game with loads of wonderful classic horror visuals and a lead character who loves breaking the forth wall to stare at you with a ridiculous smile. Whether or not you're a fan of the game, you can't deny that this isn't a killer cover. It's one of those covers that makes you want to buy the game without knowing anything about it, let alone having read any reviews. You have a castle... er... manor resting atop a giant skull mountain, ghosts flying around, a fireball-throwing goblin, and a killer 3D bloody font.
Note: There was another game entitled "Ghost Manor" released on the Atari 2600, but it has nothing to do with this game, nor was the cover art nearly as fun.
While the box art for the original Splatterhouse on the TurboGraphx-16 is my all-time favorite, it just barely itched out this incredibly badass cover for Splatterhouse 2 on the Sega Genesis. And to be perfectly honest, I still go back 'n forth between which of the two covers is my fave. I mean seriously, just LOOK at this beauty. You have zombies in the moonlight emerging from the background, an angry ghost, and a bright pink alien that was clearly inspired by Giger's Xenomorphs as Rick winds up to bash its skull in with his bloody pipe. Best of all, you have an cctopus wrapping its tentacles around his body. An octopus! An octopus so angry at Rick for whatever reason that it has left the safety of the ocean to kill him on land. That is one hell of a determined cephalopod, and certainly not something you'd expect to see on the cover of a horror game.
Do I even need to explain why the cover of Uninvited for the NES is absolute perfection? Okay, fine. First off, it's drawn in a fish-eye lens style, which automatically wins points for me. Then you have ghouls peering over the top of the door along with a snake slithering around the side of it. There's also a spectre on the left that looks like it would feel right at home menacing people in New York City after the containment unit is emptied in Ghostbusters. But there's no denying that the the real star of the show is our skeletal pal front and center here, who is wearing a lovely baby blue dress and hat. This is one of those cases where I think a game was awarded the Nintendo Seal of Quality solely for its cover art.
Note: This game has no ties to the Uninvited horror movie about a mutant killer cat aboard a yacht. That said, I'd totally play a game with such a premise.
Alrighty, that's all for now. What are some of your favorite examples of horror video game box art? I've barely scratched the surface here since there are tons of horror genre games out there; so if there's some box art you'd like to see covered in a future installment, share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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