An extremely interesting history of game packaging

Nintendo DS – 2004

Before we get to today’s consoles, we should hit up the current handhelds and see how they’ve changed. The DS, as has been the case with Nintendo products since the SNES, has seen very little alteration in its six years. From the beginning DS games have been in hard plastic cases, marking the end of Nintendo’s affinity for paper boxes – the GBA kept the paper dream alive through 2007 and even 2008, but today, it’s all but gone.

Above: If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen one thousand

Above: For the sake of having two entries, the Guitar/Band Hero DS games did come in larger-than-usual (and paper) boxes

There are also a small number of games (Tornado and Metal Slug come to mind) with case sleeves or slightly thicker cases, but they’re an extreme minority and ultimately boil down to yet another hard plastic case.

PSP – 2005

Sony’s first handheld gaming device hit not long after the DS, but rather than SD-style memory cards, the PSP played games off of Sony’s own UMD technology. So, if it looks like a tiny DVD, makes sense to put it in a tiny DVD case then, right?

Above: PSP cases are smaller and slimmer than a DVD, but they did keep a consistent look, with the PSP name and PlayStation logo along the top

Above: Last year, Sony changed its PSP presentation to mirror the new PS3 look. Compare these two 2009 releases to their earlier counterparts

As with PS2, the only other variations I’ve seen are special editions that Atlus, XSEED and NIS are so fond of. Kinda quiet over here!

Xbox 360 – 2005

The 360 continued the green plastic of its predecessor, and until very recently it even kept the same cover setup, with logos and white along the top. Just this year Microsoft freshened things up with a new header and Kinect-minded swooshes.

Above: From 2005 to 2009, all 360 games had a white bar with radiating circles branching out from the upper right corner, plus a thin green bar separating the box art. Also, some games say “Live,” while others say “Xbox Live”

Above: Just a couple of months ago, 360 games gained a thicker, more vibrant wave reminiscent of the new Kinect brand

Above: Speaking of Kinect, its games come in purple cases, and the aforementioned green Xbox wave has an extra swish of purple too

The new green/purple waves came along with the Xbox 360 Dashboard update, which also altered the system’s startup animation and jingle. At least they’re being thorough…

Nintendo Wii - 2006

Wii finally brought Nintendo in the DVD era (a good six years late, but w/e), and each of those standard discs was housed inside an immaculate, Dreamcast-esque white case.

Above: Wii games have had the same diagonal dip and logo placement since 2006

Above: But wait – some games have a Wii logo inside the case, just above the disc…

Above: … while others do not. I can’t find any consistency here at all – what makes some games worth the logo and others not?

Above: Metroid Prime Trilogy actually shipped in a Steelbook – as far as I know, the only Wii game to do so!

Above: Late 2009 saw “eco friendly” boxes slowly replace standard DVD cases for 360 and Wii. If the back of your game case feels flimsy… it is!

As Wii enters its fifth year, we’d expect rumblings of a new console to be near. But Reggie Fils-Aime says Wii is far from done, so could a packaging remix be far off?

PlayStation 3 - 2006

Finally, we come to the most recent console of our time. With such a strong, consistent look on the PS2, we expected PS3 to maintain whatever imagery Sony gave it on day one. But that’s not what happened at all, as Sony changed the logo and overall box structure last year to coincide with the launch of the PS3 Slim.

Above: The first two years of PS3 looked a bit like the PS1 days, with a sideways logo along the left-hand side. Only now it’s in the Spider-Man font

Above: Last year Sony moved the logo and other branding goodies to the top, more in line with PS2

Above: As with Dreamcast, this leads to a confusing mess on your shelf. Order, people, order!

So there you have it – an entirely too long look at game packaging from the ‘70s to today. See anything you’d never noticed before? Think I missed anything? Always noticed this stuff and can’t believe there’s someone else like you who bothered to write it all down? Let us know!

Big thanks to vgmuseum and wikia gaming for storing so many good box shots! A lot of these are my own, but they helped fill the gaps

No 17, 2010

A brief history of colored game cartridges
One of these things is not like the other


Why Japanese box art is better…
Except when it’s not. Nine astounding differences between East and West


The worst box art of 2009
25 of the year’s ugliest attempts at game packaging


  • 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.

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