Publishers may be forgiven for thinking that game box art doesn’t matter in today’s modern world of DLC, shopping online via tablets and even smaller smartphone displays. However, when publishers get it wrong, gamers are quick to let them know – case in point BioShock Infinite.
The old saying, ‘you can’t judge a game by it’s cover’ rings true – the US box art for Ico was terrible, which probably contributed to the game’s low sales, despite its critical acclaim. Meanwhile, the rest of the world got a gorgeous, Magritte-style digi-pack, which reflected the game’s arty heart. Two covers, one great game.
When done well, cover art uses eye-catching design to reflect the game’s tone, characters and themes. I’ve picked out the best of 2013.
Ni No Kuni Wrath of the White Witch
This is simple, stylish box art design that doesn’t shout for attention. The understated parchment colouring and swirling, etching style line-work is gorgeous and stands out from the crowd. It suggests the fairy tale whimsy of the game without being explicit. Classy.
Grand Theft Auto V
GTA’s now iconic vector graphics have become an essential part of the series. This cover gives us a sexy girl, sunsets, speed boats, guns, helicopters, flashy cars and the logo is reminiscent of a dollar note. It ticks every aspect of a GTA game.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
Dramatic hooded pose. Check. Cutlass. Check. Flintlock pistol. Check. Pirate ship, flag and actual pirate. Check. We’ve got action, exotic locale and everything piratey, short of a parrot and a wooden leg. Job done.
The Last of Us
This cover makes the grade because it puts Ellie front and centre. Even though she’s not the playable character for most of the game, she’s the heart of the game and Joel is in the background, supporting her. It’ represents the world and the character dynamic perfectly.
More box art that dares to put a female character on the cover. This is a reversible cover that allows gamers to decide which character they prefer. In addition, the cute, paper cut art style reflects the game design. It’s cute, quirky, happy and bold.
This is the new moody, lonely, vulnerable Lara and she’s got box art to match. The sass of earlier games is gone. She’s got her trusty bow and arrow, instead of a pair of pistols and she’s on the edge, literally and figuratively.
BioShock Infinite (alternate cover)
Someone in their ‘infinite’ wisdom decided to create the dullest cover for BioShock Infinite and exclude Elizabeth from the design too. Fortunately, fans reacted and Irrational Games responded by producing a series of alternate covers, which were voted for by fans. This is the most intriguing and tells us more about the tone of the game than the original boring guy with gun cover. It also proves that publishers, developers and marketers don’t have to patronise gamers with the same old, safe design.
Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon
No it’s not a poster for a cyber punk sequel to Escape from New York and yes, that is Michael Bien of Terminator fame. It’s an hommage to 80s film posters and it’s perfect. My favourite game cover of the year.