When I was new to video games back in the late 80s and early 90s, it seemed that every game tried to have a distinct cover art to differentiate itself from the rest, even if the game was a transparent ripoff of another - you certainly wouldn't mistake Golden Axe Warrior for Zelda just from looking at their cover art, nor would you take a look at Silent Assault and mistake it for Contra, or even confuse any of the Ninja Turtles games for one another. There were exceptions to this, of course, but for the most part each piece of box art was distinct in some way.
But now it seems like every game is trying to rip
same aesthetic style, posing and color schemes just to maybe trick
people into buying their product instead, thinking it'll be just as
good. Possibly an effect of the oversaturation of similar
first-person shooters and widespread word-of-mouth provided
by the Internet that lets everyone know within a matter of hours (if
minutes) if a game is good or bad. But we're not here to get
that discussion, so let's take a look at some of the most abused box
art cliches, shall we?
Gun in your face
nothing says "Buy this game" better than a guy pointing a gun in your
almost as if he's threatening you. Bonus points if he has
sunglasses, a sneer on his face, or both.
Soldiers Stand Alone in a Washed
Out, Featureless Backdrop
- generally the protagonist - prepares to stand against an unseen foe
while absolutely nothing interesting goes on behind them or, in the
rare cases where a reverse angle is used, in front of them either.
The protagonist is always the only thing allowed to stand out
more washed-out and featureless the backdrop is, the better.
Gritty ugly character up close
better way to draw people to your game than to have some ugly character
looming at you in extreme close-up before you even buy it?
not sure why companies keep doing this, actually - it's a
good way to scare off a potential buyer, regardless of whether the game
is actually good or not. Planescape Torment is the prime
- great game with one of the best stories ever written for the
electronic medium, but how
many people do you know who took one look at that box art and thought
"hey, this looks cool!"? I'd be honestly suprised if it were
heroic-looking figure in the foreground, situated near the bottom of an
image, whilst some stern-looking faces loom in the sky above.
they major characters? The main villains, perhaps?
don't really even know, because we have no idea who these characters
even are until we have at least a passing familiarity with the story,
and that generally involves buying the game and playing it for a while.
It was actually kind of a clever motif until everybody started
Tower of characters
character should I choose for the box art? It should probably
the main character, but I like the supporting characters too.
hell, I can't decide - just throw them all on there in a big pile!"
Action flying right off the box!
of reminiscent of the vague menace of the gun-in-your-face cliche, only
now it's a guy (or vehicle) swooping in from far in the
background to clobber
your face right off. Or just knock an enemy conveniently
in his intended path into doing the same.
Giant Monster Showdown
the most awesome of all cliches, this one is actually quite effective
in establishing some sense of scale in the game's action - it lets you
know right away that you're going to be fighting monsters the size of
skyscrapers. Still, it is used quite a lot.
You have to be pretty
confident that your game will sell enough based solely on its
logo (or in some cases, just its sequel number)
to use this one. Hence why we rarely see it from anyone
of the big-name companies like Square Enix. But when
use it, oh boy, do they use it constantly.