An extremely interesting history of game packaging

Game Boy – 1989 / 1998 / 2001

The black and white Game Boy was a prominent handheld machine for 10 years, yet kept its box art under strict control. The Game Boy logo was always in the same place, in the same font and the same color throughout its notable decade-long tenure. Made it extremely easy to find the Game Boy section at Wal-Mart.

Above: The only real differences were the Players Choice games, which switched the standard silver logo to gold

Above: Early Game Boy Color games occasionally had reflective surfaces (like Pokemon Pinball) but eventually dropped that idea and went for typical boxes

Above: Game Boy Advance continued the sideways logo trend, though the UK logos had a colorful outline instead of the metallic letters we saw in the US

The original Game Boy launched in 1989, and with it (we assume) came Nintendo’s realization that standardized boxes may actually help sales performance. After all, it’s a lot easier to tell what’s what when each game is clearly marked in a consistent manner. Nintendo would put this to good use during its next console era – the SNES.

Super NES - 1991

After the unrestrained insanity of the NES, Nintendo put a firm, seemingly non-negotiable format in place for SNES boxes. And near as I can tell, every single game followed this formula until the day it handed off the reigns to the N64.

Above: Early games had a lot of text on the right hand side. Later games didn’t. But all followed this precise layout

Above: The only vague exceptions are Donkey Kong Country, which was jungle green (and the first SNES game with an ESRB rating), and then Robocop vs Terminator shipped with an embossed, hard case

Beyond those two, both Mario Paint and Earthbound shipped in larger-than-normal boxes (the former came with a mouse and mousepad, and the latter with a strategy guide), but even then, the box design was identical.

3DO - 1993

“What the dicks is a 3DO?” you ask? A hugely expensive console that promised to be a multimedia hub – movies, music, games and more – but sucked at each and every one of these jobs. Ironic that today’s machines do just that, and are hugely successful.

Above: The only REAL notable things (that’s a joke for you Panasonic 3DO fans) were the tall, slim boxes that attracted dust for years

That’s kind of all there is to say about 3DO, really. I only bring up the boxes because they looked so weird next to everything else. I could go into Jaguar games now but… nah, they’re just typical paper boxes.

Sega Saturn - 1995

Sega ended the 16-bit era with a company-wide branding scheme – red bars on Genesis, blue bars on Sega CD and yellow bars on 32X. With the 32-bit Saturn, it kicked off a new console with one type of packaging and one consistent look throughout its short life. The white bar, Saturn designation and curvy Saturn logo would appear universally.

Above: Those same plastic Sega CD cases show up again

Above: Derp, an exception - Sega put out Virtua Fighter (a pack-in) in a CD-sized jewel case instead of the tall cases, and VF2 had art that bled into and overtook the usually white Saturn logo area

Sega stuck to its guns with those plastic cases, having used them for Sega CD, 32X CD and now Saturn. Apparently Sony thought this type of case would become the norm for CD-based games, as it used them for its initial PlayStation lineup.

Next up, we see the PlayStation cycle through FOUR types of packaging, plus the N64 and Dreamcast


  • ackbarsoup - November 24, 2010 4:46 a.m.

    Great article! I swear I learn something new and interesting every time I come to Gamesradar :)
  • TheCakeIsaPie - November 22, 2010 2:15 p.m.

    Brett, you are my hero for making this.
  • zigs - November 22, 2010 10:57 a.m.

    100 comments and no one has pointed out the grievous error in this article!?! On the last page, the very last photo on the shelf of PS3 games, they appear in chronological order, but Ratchet and Clank is sandwiched between Soulcalibur IV and The Sims 3. AND YOU CALL YOURSELF A JOURNALIST?! THIS IS BULLSHIT! HOW MUCH DID MICROSOFT PAY YOU TO DO THAT!? WHERE'S YOUR INTEGRITY? (Loved the article though, I'm enough of a pedant that I did in fact find it extremely interesting!)
  • Darkhawk - November 21, 2010 2:40 p.m.

    What has always struck me about Gamecube cases is how, on the spine, the logo sits at the bottom. As a design choice, it also bugs me, because I would prefer more fluidity between PS2 logos to Xbox logos to Gamecube logos. On the Wii, it's back at the top again.
  • EsotericFerret - November 21, 2010 12:35 p.m.

    This was an awesome article, Brett. Definitely keep up this kind of material.
  • super0sonic - November 21, 2010 9:44 a.m.

    awww man been looking forward to this since it was mentioned on talkradar. It was very interesting and there was a few games with box are so interesting i had to goggle it like Capcoms Section-z and jaleco city connection.
  • tayls - November 20, 2010 10:35 p.m.

    Great article, and one that took me on a nostalgic journey. I obsessed over game packaging from the time I was a small child (maybe that's why I'm a graphic designer now?), and this is laid out beautifully. God, the first version of PS3 game packaging is bad. Just can't get over it to this day.
  • Backspacekilla - November 20, 2010 10:23 p.m.

    Awesome article! My fave is SNES's Super Metroid Box. By the way while were talking about cardboard lol. My favorite console box,unboxing ect,.. is the Japanese PS2 console box and unboxing soooo tech like and that new car smell. Mhmmm...
  • iFeastOnAntista - November 20, 2010 7:19 p.m.

    This is really incredible! How long did it take to write this article? I love this site. :D
  • dinoczar - November 20, 2010 5:51 p.m.

    outstanding article Brett, it is articles like this that keep bringing me back to this site. Very insightful and fun to read.
  • LaffPiranha - November 20, 2010 9:24 a.m.

    Much more interesting than I thought it would be. This article actually got me and my friend talking, in-depth, about the subject at hand. A great read.
  • Scotch - November 20, 2010 8:21 a.m.

    this was fucking awesome
  • WTeen8 - November 19, 2010 9:43 p.m.

    NSMBWii came in a red box, but otherwise.....
  • Asral - November 19, 2010 11:46 a.m.

    A very good and interesting article, but I think you largely left out the differences between boxes in different regions. For instance, in Europe, the PS1 boxes had the logo always on the bottom horizontally, and there were no ridges. There were also color differences between PS2 games, the older ones were in black cases while the newer ones were in blue ones. And the DS cases are also different, in Europe they are in white thick boxes unlike in US or Japan, one of the reasons why I usually buy my DS games from abroad
  • shnazzyone - November 19, 2010 8:49 a.m.

    wow, that was damned thorough. The earlyest examples are interesting. It's madness coming to order over time. It really makes today's gaming seem dull by comparison.
  • TeaserTuesday - November 19, 2010 4:14 a.m.

    Very glad he mentioned the color-specific sides for the N64 cases. Oh and that the first 2 Xbox examples are 2 of the best games ever.
  • Valntyne - November 19, 2010 2:57 a.m.

  • gunslinger19 - November 19, 2010 2:05 a.m.

    I still like the old PS3 cases better.
  • 8bitBaby - November 19, 2010 1:41 a.m.

    wh-what?! " So now half the games are white, and the other half are black. Looks quite a mess on a shelf unless you split them up" WHAT?! why they gotta be segregated maaaaan?! what's wrong with mixing a little... black and white cd cases living in mixed cd case harmony?! i don't think i like your racist game case world, Brett... NOT ONE BIT. XDD
  • CanadianBeaverHunter - November 19, 2010 12:18 a.m.

    That was much longer than I expected. Good work.

Showing 1-20 of 102 comments

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000