I've written about some of my favorite horror video game box art examples over the past two years, knowing that there's always more to be found. Between your fantastic suggestions and my own searches, I've compiled another batch of creepy covers that will surely please your macabre minds. Once again, I must remind state that 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, let's start with another batch of bloodcurdling box art examples from horror video games for you to sink your fangs into!
I mean, come on... COME ON! Look at how incredibly badass that box art is. The box art for The Immortal doesn't look like it belongs to a Sega Genesis / Mega Drive game, it looks like something straight out of a Testament or Iron Maiden album cover! You have the Grim Reaper with glowing green eyes in a fitted hoodie, standing in front of a purple lightning backdrop, and he's using his scythe to slash up the box art of his very own video game! If anybody ever tells you that you're awesome, refer them to this image immediately and say, "No... THIS is awesome."
Let's be honest; awesome as you may be, you'll never be that awesome. None of us possibly could be.
We covered the absolutely ridiculous deaths from Waxworks last year, but the box art for this early nineties PC game was pretty fantastic too. First off, you have this monstrous looking candle in front of a large, wooden castle door. Considering that the candle is the same size as the door, that's one huuuuge candle! But just look at the candle itself - it's covered in melty faces, included a few that are particularly displeased with being placed so close to the wick flame. I think what I liked about it so much was that it reminded me of Freddy Krueger's "Chest of Souls", with all the tortured faces dying to escape. But they can't escape here, because they're trapped waxy visages that are doomed to melt onto those castle bricks.
Also, that "PARENTAL WARNING! Intense Graphic Violence!" sticker might as well say, "HEY KIDS! This game has lots of blood and guts! Buy me now!", because that's exactly what we were thinking whenever we saw one of those so-called warnings. If I was making a horror game to release in stores, the entire front of the box would be covered in those warning stickers to ensure record-breaking sales.
You can never go wrong with Gremlins. We've seen a number of Gremlins games released over the years (it's only appropriate since we saw them playing a vintage Coleco tabletop Donkey Kong game in the movie), but if you ask me, the box art for the Atari 5200 game was by far the best of the bunch. Just look at the expression of utter terror on the face of poor lil' Gizmo. Our favorite mogwai is absolutely horrified that he's surrounded by vicious gremlins who've apparently decided to throw a part at his expense. Just look at Stripe; he's blowing a paper party blow-out noisemaker while trying to spill soda onto Gizmo to create even more gremlins! It's just a beautifully executed painting that truly captures the hilarious havoc that all the gremlins could wreak - and what made them so endearing was how they always had fun while they caused so much chaos.
Fun fact: If you had a friend who wanted to borrow your copy of Gremlins for the Atari 5200, you could pour water on it to instantly create several additional copies!
No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you. Revenge of the Beefsteak Tomatoes was a real game. Released for the Atari 2600 back in 1983, this game was obviously borrowing heavily from the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes film franchise. According to the back of the box, these beefsteak tomatoes couldn't be killed, so you had to trap them by building brick walls in the game. Well, from the looks of the cover, the brick walls faired about as well against the tomatoes as they would against the Kool-Aid Man. This is one of those pieces of art work I'd love to have hanging on my wall with no explanation, just to see confused guests try to make sense of it. The beefsteak tomatoes appear to have been genetically spliced with angry bulls. There are also flying tomatoes with wings made of corrugated aluminum siding sheet metal. So in actuality, the game probably should've been named "Revenge of the Flying Sheet Metal Angry Beefsteak Bull Tomatoes".
And all this time you thought I was weird for naming a game like Bionic Chainsaw Pogo Gorilla.
Now here's a classic Nintendo Entertainment System cover that I've always loved. Dr. Chaos (or Dr. Chaos: Hell's Gate, as it's known in Japan), which is a game we've covered in the past, had players assume the role of Michael, the brother of the titular mad scientist. I wish I could say the graphics in the game itself were as fantastic as this box cover, but you can only expect so much from classic 8-bit NES games. I particularly love how the flying skeleton demon (skele-demon?) has wings that encapsulate this nightmarish scene in a big bubble of horror. When you first look at it, you imagine this guy was just trying to transport his beaker filled with blood, when all these monsters suddenly jump out at him and made him spill it all over the floor. Now, armed with a knife, he has to fight a mummy, a rat, a goblin that likes poking his feet with a stick, a blob-like creature with a syringe protruding from its head, and more. How could you not want to play the Dr. Chaos game after seeing box art like that!?
Stonekeep is a PC game I actually picked up at an SC3 gaming meet-up last year. And just why did I pick it up? The answer shouldn't surprise you: the box art RULES. It features a hologram of a skeleton warrior near an old lantern in a dungeon. That'd be nice enough, but they also drew another skeleton on top of the hologram, that extended onto the actual stone texture box itself, to give the illusion that these skeletons were escaping their 3D prisons and making their way into our world. On top of all that, I found out that they released an extra-large big box version of the game that had a green marble base to make it look like a genuine tombstone!
So, if you're lying on your deathbed, but you're on a budget, tell your loved ones to buy a copy of this game and to write your name on the box with a silver Sharpie pen. It'll do the trick, and no other game can much such a claim.
I loved the Panasonic 3DO. While the system was overpriced upon its release, it did have some fantastic games like Gex, Captain Quazar, and Samurai Shodown to name a few. But we're not talking about those ones today. Today we're talking about Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller. The box art on this game always cracked me up, because it looked like really awful early nineties 3D art. We're talking the kind of 3D graphics you saw in movies like The Lawnmower Man. What's sad, is this came out two years after that film, so you'd think the box art would be better. But you know what? I find cheesy old 3D graphics like that endearing in their own way, and seeing a bunch of computer-generated bodies flailing about as they fall helplessly into the toothy, gaping maw of a giant red demon is a pretty great way to sell a game called "Hell". Well, that and having Dennis Hopper, Stephanie Seymour, and Grace Jones listed in your cast.
Here's an old classic that fans of Apogee games may remember. Monster Bash was a classic PC DOS game about a kid whose dog was kidnapped by the villainous Count Chuck. Not the most terrifying name for an evil character, I'll give you that, but it was still a fun game chock full o' monsters and spooky imagery. And just look at this beautiful cover art. You have a zombie in red pajamas with blue hair (perhaps influenced by the same ones on the NES Ghosts 'n Goblins game?) and a large cobra bout to devour this kid. At the same time, the kid is surfing on a tombstone while shooting at a bloody, severed green hand with his slingshot. All this admist a wonderful graveyard backdrop, and you have another horror game cover that makes you want to play it immediately.
Some box designs are less flashy than others, but still leave a lasting impact. That was definitely the case with Shadowgate. The cover features a stone gargoyle coming to life with glowing red eyes, whipping its pointed tail towards the viewer. I love how the stone is flaking off the tip of the tail to reveal the red, demonic flesh beneath. Also, they threw in a small, purple haunted castle stamp with vampire bats right on the middle of the box. I'm guessing the cover designer had the stamp and thought to himself, "Eh, I'm not using this stamp for anything else, so why not include it?" Why not, indeed.
Ravenloft: Strahd's Possession was a PC game based on the Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting. And just look at that fantastic cover art. You have a vampire standing outside one of his castle windows next to a stone gargoyle, while dozens of vampire bats fly around him in the moonlight. I love how his cape / wings are depicted in this illustration, as you can see the arteries within them being illuminated by the moon.
Ah, who could forget the classic Nintendo Entertainment System game, Fester's Quest? It was a difficult game for sure, but I always loved it for the killer soundtrack and nice graphics. The cover artist really did a wonderful job depicting Jackie Coogan, the original Uncle Fester from The Addams Family classic TV series here. His facial expression is just perfect, including their spooky mansion in the background was a nice touch, and having a spider drop down from the logo onto his forehead is just perfect. Just looking at that box, I can hear the theme song playing in my head, and I'm just waiting to snap my fingers.
Yes, I saved the best of this latest bunch for last. Dracula for the Intellivision is a longtime favorite of mine, because the box art is so perfectly eighties. You simply can't tell me that's not one of the greatest video game boxes you've ever seen in your entire life. It does everything right. First off, you have a photograph of a guy dressed as Dracula in the foreground. And that's why it's so funny, because it really looks like just some guy who bought some fangs, some white makeup, and a wig and did his best vampire expression. I don't know who he is, but I hope he's still out there and has this photograph framed and hanging above his mantle, because this is the best accomplishment of his entire life. Plus, you have what appears to be a rubber hanging vampire bat decoration dropping down on some old man who opened the door in the background. Then, for the icing on the cake, like all Imagic games, it's printed on a shiny silver box and covered in rainbow colors!
Folks, it just doesn't get better than this. Halloween just wouldn't be the same without an overacting shiny rainbow Dracula guy to put a smile on our faces.
Alrighty, that's all for this latest batch. There are still many more out there for me to cover in future installments of these articles, so now it's your turn to share some of your ideas. What are some of your favorite examples of horror video game box art? If there's some box art you'd like to see me cover, share your thoughts in the comments section below!
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