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Trantor: The Last Storm Trooper (Amstrad CPC, 1987)
Of course, dressing like a street punk wasn’t your only option if you wanted to look badass in the ‘80s. You could also, as Trantor demonstrates, dress like a colorblind woman.
Crackout (NES, 1991)
For whatever reason, the ‘80s had like this ginormous boner for floating, disembodied lips, particularly if they were sassily exposing their teeth. Combine that with stark rectangles in pastel shades of purple and blue, and you had an image you could hang on your wall. Preferably in between the Nagel print and the poster with the sharp-angled palm trees and the word “PARTY!” intended for use as a verb.
Campaign ’84 (Colecovision, 1983)
Campaign ‘84’s box reminds us, once again, that there was more to gaming in the ‘80s than bright colors and stretch pants. There were also depressing games with depressing boxes in depressing shades of blue about the most depressing election in the depressing early years of the depressingly garish decade.
Brain Strainers (Colecovision, 1984)
Speaking of depressing boxes, how’s this for a well-thought-out appeal to potential buyers? Doesn’t that little girl’s expression just make you want to play Brain Strainers, like, right now? Actually, her face is probably the same one made by every kid who unwrapped this piece of “Family Learning Software” on Christmas morning in1984. Money well spent, Mom and Dad.
Rock ‘n’ Ball (NES, 1990)
Oh, thank God. There we go. After those last two despair-inducing boxes, Rock ‘n’ Ball’s pinks and greens are exactly what we needed to recalibrate our sense of awful. It’s also got everything an ‘80s kid could ever want: hockey players, bazookas, cleavage and a stand-in for the player who’s wearing gym shorts and awesome sweatbands. Oh, and anthropomorphized missiles thrown in for no reason. You have no idea how often those ended up scribbled on desks.
Friday the 13th (NES, 1989)
Wow, thanks, LJN! Only you would ever think to surround Jason Voorhees with neon-pastel vomit, thereby making him even more of an ‘80s relic than he already is.
T&C Surf Designs: Wood & Water Rage (NES, 1988)
This image brings together seemingly everything ‘80s kids were expected to be obsessed with: surfing, ramp skating, pink-centric checked patterns and cartoon characters used to sell surfboards and awful, awful Nintendo games.
Freedom Force (NES, 1988)
For whatever reason, the image of a hot woman clinging to some grimacing dude with a gun was one frequently repeated throughout the ‘80s, but Freedom Force isn’t content to stop there. No, it’s going to ‘80s it up with a goddamn aquamarine background, an irregular trapezoid for the heroes to live in, a ninja in a two-tone outfit and an effing zebra-print triangle thrown in JUST BECAUSE! Yeah!
Throw in a jumbo jet and an entire can of Aqua Net for the hero’s hair, and you’ve got an image guaranteed to never look dated or ridiculous.
Power Blade (NES, 1991)
Only in the ‘80s could a man in a tank top and giant sunglasses look this badass while gripping a boomerang. Which is strange if you consider that Power Blade was released in 1991 and set in the future.
Apache 3 (Arcade, 1988)
True, there’s nothing particularly ‘80s about this sell sheet for Apache 3, and as a flyer promoting an arcade game, it doesn’t exactly count as “box art.” But it still harkens back to a simpler time in America, when you could put images like this next to the word “warpath” on a flyer and nobody would so much as blink at it:
Above: RARRRGH THE ARTIST TOOK “APACHE” WAY TOO LITERALLY BWARRRGH
Cabbage Patch Kids Picture Show (Colecovision, 1984)
The fact that this looks vaguely like a doll-porn shoot directed by a little girl is nowhere near as depressing as the realization that somewhere on the internet, right now, someone is getting off to this image.
Ninja Scooter Simulator (Commodore 64, 1988)
Finally, a game that not only addresses a glaring omission in all other ninja games, but does so realistically enough to call itself a “simulator.” We must always remember that when the world cried out for a game about ninjas on scooters, only Silverbird had the balls to deliver.
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