Since about four minutes after anyone can remember first hearing the word “website,” there have been “Top 100 Worst Video Game Box Art” listicles on the internet. It is now 2018 and many of the boxes writers had beef against in 1998 still top today’s iterations of those lists. In this special 30-minute video, Gita Jackson and I (Tim Rogers) discuss 60 textbook examples of “bad” video game box art for exactly 30 seconds each. What a fancy concept!
Our mission is simple: to be nice. This mission was not difficult: many of these boxes aren’t just good—they’re amazing.
For example, the much-ballyhooed art for Kemco’s space shooter Phalanx features an excellent photograph of a bearded old man playing a banjo. I feel like this was easy to make fun of for websites in the 1990s because it was totally different from anything else. Phalanx came out in 1992, and it tops lists as recently as 2017. This is one way of saying people are still talking about it. If you ask me, that level of uniqueness in one’s field is tantamount to greatness. Watch our video to see how emphatically Gita Jackson agrees with me.
I asked my good friend Alex Jaffe to come up with this list. He’s a list-making expert, you see. Jaffe scoured dozens of “Worst Box Art” lists from throughout video game journalism history. He sent me a big folder full of 60 JPGs, which I gamified into a 30-minute slideshow that Gita and I watched and commented on in real time.
Jaffe had this to say about the analysis process he applied to arrive at his list: “My findings were that after the first couple results, you find most other sites parroting the same stuff, with a couple new ones thrown in. It’s interesting how it snowballs: if a prominent site features an obscure game, then that obscure game will show up on just as many lists as the more obvious ones.”
This was always my suspicion as to how these sorts of opinions form, so it’s neat to have some mathematical analysis done on the subject.
Don’t worry, though: we don’t discuss maths in this video. It’s all quick quips. And if the promise of quick quips isn’t tantalising enough for you, I can also guarantee you a beautiful animated pixel art megalopolis in the background. That’s “Kotaku City,” drawn and animated by my good friend Brent Porter.
Tell us about your favourite “bad” box arts in the comments! Also, tell us what your favourite box art is.