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GamesRadar's box art battle

ROUND 2


Yars’ Revenge vs Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker

Hajime Sorayama may nod his approval at the fearsome metallic insect barreling his way towards you and blasting Ping-Pong balls, but there’s really not much going on in that Yars’ Revenge cover is there? The title’s type sits strangely off to the right for no apparent reason, and the title itself is kerned horribly. Look at the space between the E and the N in “Revenge” and compare that to the spacing between the N and the G! Lazy. Also, whoever approved yellow type on an orange background also probably enjoys eating peanut butter and mayonnaise together. On saltines.

Winner: Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker


Grand Theft Auto: Vice City vs Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within

I imagine the face in Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within is screaming, “Remove me from the shackles of this shrink wrapped hell and give me a heavier typeface to promote my title because the condensed (Seriously, gaming industy, what’s with the boner for condensed type?) face with its delicate, but spiked serifs are totally getting lost in my wrinkles! And, while we’re at it... who let that ESRB rating get so close to my title anyway?! A little breathing room here, people!”

Winner: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City


EveryExtendExtra vs Red Steel

Red Steel did a clever job of creating a solid logo for their game, but the use of a red drop shadow beneath it is a visual insult to the creativity of the mark. Also, the figures in the background have a realism that, even if they’re in silhouette, is still apparent with details like folds in the fabric of their clothing. Unfortunate, then, that the same realism couldn’t be applied to the sword and gun in the logo. The gun especially, as it looks like someone merely traced an outline. Adding a few more details to it would have given the mark some necessary depth and interest. By the way, let’s pick a deeper tone of red for your blood, shall we? I’d rather not think of ketchup-smothered fries when I picture any kind of fighting game.

Winner: EveryExtendExtra


Awesome vs Left 4 Dead 2

Left 4 Dead 2: four fingers, two are raised, and the opposable digit that separates humans from a majority of species on the planet and allows us to, among other things, play videogames, the thumb has decomposed and fallen off. The entirety of the title and scope of the game neatly packaged in one single element and is visually more interesting and stronger than the original. From that hand you can gather that it’s a zombie game without actually seeing the creatures. And, while both Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 are essentially packaged the same, wouldn’t it have been nice to see 2’s zombie hand grabbing or holding something to further differentiate it from its predecessor? A little something to hint that the game had more in store than the usual zombie fare?

Winner: Awesome


ROUND 3


Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker vs Awesome

I could critique Awesome on why it’s a less successful cover than Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker, but instead I’ll just show you this:


Above: Don’t tell me you didn’t notice

Winner: Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker


Grand Theft Auto: Vice City vs EveryExtendExtra

A title like EveryExtendExtra is just screaming for something interesting typographically. Three E’s, two X’s, an odd number of words that are short enough to be set in a variety of ways (Vertical? Horizontal? Dare I say it... diagonally?), and a main image that, while definitely interesting, is open enough to interpretation that you’re able to go hog wild with the title. Instead we’re given left justified stacked type in Helvetica. Really? That’s it? You give us this pretty awesome Lite Brite at high speed rainbow woman and all you could be bothered to do with the title is left justify it and give us a little shine via Photoshop-filter? *sigh*

Winner: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City


FINAL ROUND


Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker vs Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

Nostalgia is such a difficult thing to let go of, even more so when it revolves around the King of Pop. However, Moonwalker features an eerie, disembodied (and clichéd) Michael Jackson head and a strange rainbow lacking several hues in the spectrum. What was the concept behind having giant-face Michael making eye contact while Smooth Criminal Michael hides his face underneath his fedora? Typographically, the shiny face is visual overkill. Highlight his name or highlight his title, but by highlighting both with the essentially the same effect you effectively make neither important. In fact, the more simply treated “16-Bit Cartridge” line almost takes more heavy visual presence due to its color and lack of cheesy type treatment. How disappointing.

Winner: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

Grand Thef Auto: Vice City easily wins this battle by its strong use of typography (look at that beautiful letter spacing), expertly done illustrations (three of the four characters are making eye contact with you, thus drawing you into the cover), with great use of color and layout. Breaking this cover apart there are basically fourteen individual elements presented, and they all hold hands harmoniously to create a wonderful whole. Even the ESRB rating, usually shoved in a corner to block whatever it has to was thoughtfully paired with the illustration of a boat in a stark white to help it blend in more. The typeface used for Vice City makes a nod towards the neon lights of a major metropolis without having to rely on outer glows, bevels or 3D textures that are so often used (and abused). Subtle. Effective. Brilliant.

Rockstar obviously realized this since the franchise continues to use the same format for the rest of the series, thus successfully creating a visual brand. The platform and technologies may have changed, but the illustration style and concept remain constant and strong. With that I name Grand Theft Auto: Vice City the king of all box art.

That is, until Resistance 3 is released. Oh hello, you pretty thing

May 19, 2011

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48 comments

  • Japanaman - May 24, 2011 1:49 a.m.

    If Castlevania II had the Nintendo Power cover, it would have won the Best Box Art ever award. Maybe God of War will get a cover where Kratos holds Medusa's head dripping blood.
  • JayLin22 - May 22, 2011 12:41 p.m.

    Pretty damn awesome article!
  • super0sonic - May 22, 2011 9:45 a.m.

    You know i loled when i read both the most hated and loved character battles. But for some reason this just made me mad. EveryExtendExtra should have won. Every time i see that game at gamestop i almost want to buy it.
  • Gob - May 22, 2011 2:32 a.m.

    Awezome and Ico's covers were fucking epic; it should have come down to them. I hate Vice City's cover. It's cheesy garbage.
  • RedOutlive10 - May 21, 2011 6:11 p.m.

    Funny because the first thing that comes to mind when Oblivion is mentioned is "BORING".
  • cole1114 - May 21, 2011 4:17 a.m.

    Awesome, was frankly awesome. I feel sick after reading that. Ah well, eye of the beholder and all that flop.
  • criticalkate - May 21, 2011 1:32 a.m.

    A few other criticisms now that I have a little more time to type: 1) Rather than randomizing the initial match-ups, I'd have preferred you at least tried to initially pair up covers that fit the same style or category of layout. For example, Secret Of Mana and Out Of This World are both long-shots with the character(s) appearing very small with their backs facing away from us, taking in the vast world around them...who would've won that round? Or Moonwalker and Every Extend Extra sharing similar traits with the colorful and expressionistic art of Bob Peak. At least those would've been interesting "matches" then. 2) On the topic of Bob Peak I still don't understand your hang up with "floating heads." I could maybe understand it if you just haven't been exposed to the people who did it well, and have gotten sick of it based on the third-rate Bob Peak and Drew Struzan wannabes that pervaded the 70s and 80s, and still do to a lesser extent today. But seriously, go through some galleries of Peak and Struzan's work, these people are modern masters, and in particular experts of visual layout and leading your eye around their paintings. To declare all collage or "floating head" paintings just because you've seen a lot of sh*tty examples is just being close-minded to different styles. 3) Likewise, I don't get your hang-up on condensed type. Tall letters usually get across a sense of "larger than life" or "epic," which is why even that excellent Secret Of Mana logo is condensed type. My main issue with Out Of This World isn't that the type is condensed, its that the letters should've been a little less bold, to make it easier to read. 4) Your critiques of the Spongebob cover(s) have me occasionally wondering if you're being serious, or just poking fun at just how snobby or elitist designers can sometimes be (I say as a designer). The job of a videogame cover isn't to appeal to your limited personal taste in aesthetics, it's to get across the tone of the game in an eye-catching manner. A lot of game covers succeed at either being eye-catching, or getting across the tone of the game, but not a lot of them do both. If Spongebob was in a long-shot atmospheric layout, it might look nice and appeal to your sensibilities, but it wouldn't get across the tone of the game. The existing cover does...it's extremely playful, and undeniably eye-catching next to other videogame covers on a shelf. I wouldn't call it the greatest cover ever (I've never been huge into Spongebob, to be honest), but it serves its purpose for a Spongebob game. 5) I also couldn't tell at first if you were joking by praising Rockstar for taking this GTA cover by Brian Wood that was fantastic the first time around, and then uncreatively turning it into a template to copy/paste new art into. They took something that was unique and eye-catching the first time, and ran it into the ground until it became boring and overused. The GTAIV: Complete Edition was like a glass of refreshing water just by breaking from this over-used template.
  • EwoksTasteLikeChicken - May 21, 2011 12:31 a.m.

    What the fuck? The Doom cover was in the origanal list of best box covers, but it's not now? I'm sorry, I'm never one to criticize GamesRadar, but this really is a bunch of bullshit. Probaly knew it would win though, and that's why it wasn't on here.
  • GamesRadarCheryll - May 20, 2011 11:56 p.m.

    Thanks for all the thoughtful comments, folks! You guys brought up a lot of good stuff so I'm going to try and address all of them here. Here we go... @Gahmah - Many designers would say that typography is the foundation for design, with readability being one of the elements of typography that designers are constantly experimenting with. With that in mind, having bad typography on a cover automatically puts it at a disadvantage. Thanks for reading! @AleeR - Man, that Ico comparison was tough. For the record, I stuck all the titles in a tournament randomizer I found online which matched them against each other. If Ico had gone up against anything else I'm sure it would have fared much better as I'm a big fan of the cover. Ultimately, though, the lack of a solid hierarchy really got to me, so GTA "won". However, I'm positive we could go back and forth about the positive and negative aspects of either for hours... not that I'm encouraging that! Thanks for the comment! @santaclouse37 - Whew! Remind me to ping you the next time I write a design related article for GR! ;) 1) I purposely used technical terms to come off like a little shit. I'll freely admit that. If you do a search on GR we've done similarly when Stephen Pierce was with us and wrote fashion-commentary on the hookers in GTA or the sexiest game developers. Whereas I dropped technical terms, Stephen named dropped designers. In fact, I tried to channel a little Stephen while writing this, but I don't think I can really hold a candle to it. 2) If I could, I'd totally go back and talk about why things "won" over others, but I was worried about the article getting too dense. Now that I'm aware that there may be people out there willing to read it, though, I'll keep it in mind for next time. (Ha. Next time.) 3) You caught me on the Awesome cover. That was almost a pure case of "Man, the game is just called 'Awesome'... how could it NOT go farther in this battle?!" Also, staring at that cover for as long as I did I STILL have no idea what the game is about and, though I doubt I'll ever play it, I'm convinced it will live up to its name. Awesome (ha ha ha) comment, though, really appreciated it! @CH3BURASHKA - The US Ico cover was a tragedy in print form! @MattOfSteel - We have a lot more fun talking shit here at GR than warm and fuzzy stuff. I mean, we dedicated an entire week to it. Thanks for your input, though! @FireCoroner - Please see my response to santaclouse37 above. I think I may have covered your question in there. @criticalkate - I've maybe seen a portion of one Star Trek movie and am way more familiar with Star Wars, so that's what I was drawing from. When I referenced the Star Wars posters it was towards the general look and feel of the set rather than a direct rip. Many posters in that time period have the same visual language, but after checking out the older Star Trek stuff you and a few other people mentioned I have to agree... MJ definitely wanted to be aboard a starship at some point. Thanks for the comment!
  • Eliath - May 20, 2011 11:15 p.m.

    While I fundamentally agree with your choices I must say that my fanboy rage requires me to tell you that you are wrong and Secret of Mana wins. Thanks.
  • criticalkate - May 20, 2011 10:46 p.m.

    Sorry, I never noticed the similarity between the Moonwalker art and the Star Wars posters, because the similarity isn't there. I believe you've just confused the Star Wars movie posters for the Star Trek movie posters. Take a look at the first handful of Star Trek movie poster, as well as the first Superman movie poster, and you'll see the real inspiration for the Moonwalker art (the artist being emulated by that game cover, btw, is named Bob Peak).
  • FrozenImplosion - May 20, 2011 8:15 p.m.

    I have to disagree with many of the picks, yet still an very interesting article idea.
  • JamesT - May 20, 2011 5:33 p.m.

    I actually think they're yanking our chain with the Ico vs. GTA entry. The description for it is a dead giveaway, describing the Vice City cover to a T and not really applying to the Ico cover. (besides the color pallete comment).
  • 510BrotherPanda - May 20, 2011 5:26 p.m.

    No love for Giorgio de Chirico-style artwork, Cheryll??? Maybe it's just me, but I feel that this article is more about the design aesthetic than the box art itself... ...And probably because I'm not a graphic designer myself, I've never been a fan of the Grand Theft Auto series' covers. All I see is "another bunch of mob/party pictures mushed together into comic book windows". Or the background design of a Windows-type phone. One or the other.
  • FantasticMrStarFox - May 20, 2011 5:13 p.m.

    Call me cynical but I've never really liked the GTA series. Awesome article as always.
  • 93bleach - May 20, 2011 3:53 p.m.

    Actually the michael Jackson cover is almost an exact rip off of the poster for Star Trek: The Search for Spock
  • FlyinMX - May 20, 2011 2:37 p.m.

    Fun fact: Ico's box art is based on the art style of early 1900s artist Giorgio de Chirico. Actually that makes it a tough pill to swallow that it lost, to GTA of all things, and I haven't even played the game!
  • Y2Ken - May 20, 2011 2:35 p.m.

    I wonder how Dave H feels about Secret of Mana getting booted in the first round, seem to remember he's a big fan of it. The game in particular, but I would surmise that he has reasoning why the boxart is amazing. Personally I'd pick Resistance 3.
  • AirickG - May 20, 2011 12:55 p.m.

    On second thought I don't hate this article, just disagree with the outcome
  • HankVenture - May 20, 2011 12:46 p.m.

    @santa.. ok, I forgive you..... this time.....*ground hog stare*

Showing 1-20 of 48 comments

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