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50 greatest video game covers

Judging a game by its cover

50 greatest video game covers

Video game boxes are tricky beasts. Designers and artists face the challenge of balancing a game's content with enough action and entertainment to draw the eye of a passing gamer/mother, hoping their art will convince the customer that their game is worthy of purchasing.

Some covers in this list opt for the grand and epic, choosing to dress up their game with a touch of artistic licence (just check out the Tetris cover in our selection). Others choose the exact opposite, going for clean, striking designs that pull in inquisitive minds.

This is our list of the 50 greatest video game covers of all time. Think we missed any major contenders? Let us know in the comments below.

Ico (2001)

This boy-meets-girl story was as minimalist as its cover suggests. Beautifully built, it played like a work of art. The US version of the cover couldn't be more ugly by contrast.

Sonic and Knuckles (1994)

Sonic was such an iconic character by 1994 that Sega were able to heighten the cool factor by reducing the insatiable hedgehog to this moody silhouette.

Steel Empire (1992)

The Japanese cover of this side-scrolling aerial war game is the epitome of steampunk. We just can't stop looking at it.

Phoenix (1982)

From an era in which box art hinted at the grand visions the game's designers had attempted to capture in pixels, the Phoenix cover art is superbly over-the-top.

Awesome (1990)

The box art for Awesome fulfils the title's promise. Grand, brooding and industrial, how can you not want to plug this in?

Secret of Mana (1993)

A cover worthy of hanging on your wall, depicting the game's three protagonists gazing out over a gorgeous vista begging to be explored. It's just so pretty.

Dune II: Battle for Arrakis (1993)

The cover of this seminal RTS is certainly brooding, but not terribly informative. It has something to do with starting fires in the desert.

Final Fantasy X (2001)

One of the PlayStation 2's most popular titles, Final Fantasy X's box art is bite-the-back-of-your-hand beautiful. Sweeping, mythical and brilliantly simple.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002)

The GTA cover art has been of an exceptional quality since Grand Theft Auto III. Vice City represents the series on our list thanks to its classic neon typography.

Armored Core V (2012)

The box art for Armored Core V is simplistically insightful - buy this game for bullets, mechs and lens flare.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003)

Aping the infamous Drew Struzan film posters, the box art for Knights of the Old Republic manages to blend its own characters into the classic Star Wars aesthetic.

The Secret of Monkey Island (1990)

The Secret of Monkey Island proves that for real quality, it's hard to beat hand drawn artistry.

Quake III Arena (1999)

One of the granddaddy of all multiplayer games, the Quake III logo is wonderfully stylish, and resists the temptation of plastering the cover with massive guns.

Limbo (2010)

This special edition cover for Limbo manages to capture both the atmosphere and aesthetic of the game's content. Twisted, terrifying, brilliant - everyone should play this game.

Doom (1993)

The cover of the classic first-person shooter has been echoed ever since it ripped its way out of hell in 1993. The typography alone makes this cover worthy of inclusion.

Street Fighter IV (2009)

The cover for one of the best looking fighting games of all time also manages to be one of the best looking covers of all time. There's a lot of energy squeezed into this scene.

Out of this world (1991)

Another World/Out of this World/Outer World might have changed its name in every region it was released in, but stuck to this image for its global release. Epic.

Tetris (1984)

How do you sell one of the least visually inspiring games of all time? You give it to a Japanese graphic artist, who does this to it.

Heavy Rain (2010)

Somehow, the Heavy Rain cover manages to make origami look dramatic, which isn't an easy skill.

Hotline Miami (2012)

Ever been to a party that ended like this? Us neither. This amazing cover doesn't even begin to do credit to how superbly odd Hotline Miami is.

Half Life (1998)

Another gem from Valve, the cover of Half Life still manages to give us goose bumps.

Katamari Damacy (2004)

One of the strangest games we've ever played also has one of the strangest, yet charming covers.

Dead Space (2008)

The first severed limb to appear in our list, this is exactly the last thing you want to happen to you in Dead Space.

Left 4 Dead (2008)

And here's the second severed limb to make the list. A more inventive use than Dead Space, it manages to carry both humour and gore. Well played Valve.

Speeball 2 (1990)

We've no idea what 'BRUTAL DELUXE' means, but we'll be asking for it next time we order anything.

Mortal Kombat (1992)

Instantly iconic, the Mortal Kombat logo has gone on to appear on sequels, card games, comics, films, TV shows and countless geek-owned t-shirts.

Jet Set Radio Future (2002)

Sequel to the Dreamcast classic, Jet Set Radio Future was a chaotic mix of neon and cell shading.

Baldur's Gate II (2000)

Opting for the old 'is it a book or a box', Baldur's Gate II is very stylish, instantly appealing to fantasy fans.

Metal Gear Solid (1998)

The metallic grimace of Solid Snake reveals little of Metal Gear Solid's substance, yet that cold hard stare is beguiling - you want to know what's so solid about this metal gear.

Gran Turismo (1997)

One of the few racing titles to appear in our selection, the original Gran Turismo cover is arguably their best. It's bold and aggressive, and despite a lacklustre tagline, makes us want to go driving.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1991)

The correct way to make a cover look good with well balanced typography, A Link to the Past still looks gorgeous over twenty years after it was released.

Craxy Taxi (2000)

The arcade classic was a massive hit for the ill-fated Dreamcast. A bold cover, simple, striking and clean.

Arkanoid (1986)

We take off our hats to the artist who penned this Arkanoid cover. For a game whose major concern is bouncing a ball into a wall of bricks, this certainly makes the experience look a lot more... active?

Alien Breed (1991)

Despite being over twenty years old, the Alien Breed cover is still a benchmark for scary. Does exactly what it says on the box.

Halo 4 (2012)

The most ambitious cover art of the many Halo titles, it succeeds at depicting a moment of high action that many similar FPS covers fail to achieve. Yeah, that's Master Chief, but what the HELL is going on behind him?

Tatsujin (1988)

Flames? Check. Lasers? Check. Giant flying space... thing? Check. Where do we sign?

Diablo III (2012)

One of the most recent releases to make our list, Diablo III is diabolically sinister, and undeniably cool.

Driver (1999)

Making the wheelman cool long before Ryan had anything to do with it, the Driver cover is one of our all time favourites.

BioShock (2007)

Leading with its central nemesis, the BioShock cover manages to put across a lot more drama than its latest sibling BioShock Infinite.

Grim Fandango (1998)

The Grim Fandango cover manages to be as darkly comic as the game itself.

Skyrim (2011)

A cover that screams: "Here be dragons and fantasy and all that stuff you love."

Shadow of the Colossus (2005)

"We're going to need a bigger horse..."

Dragon Quest VIII (2004/2005)

Journey of the Cursed King is another cover to demonstrate the effectiveness of beautiful drawing.

Okami (2006)

While the Wii version of the box contained an unfortunate hidden watermark advertising games site IGN, the PlayStation 2 cover of Okami is a glorious work of art.

Resistance 3 (2011)

Should you manage to see your way past the grim PlayStation Move sticker, the Resistance 3 cover is a bold, striking piece of cover design.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 (2010)

A radical shift from the first Mario cover to appear in our list, the Galaxy 2 case is an uplifting blast of colour and fun. Think of all the mums and grandmas that will have been sucked in to buying this gem thanks to that chirpy little smile from Mario.

Scurge: Hive (2006)

Beautiful contrast created by the orange and black colour choice of Scurge: Hive - a game noted for its brilliant aesthetic.

LocoRoco 2 (2008)

Welcome to the utterly insane world of LocoRoco 2. We have no idea what's going on, but it looks like jolly good clean fun.

The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall (1996)

We're not quite sure we could become obsessed with anything so mouldy as the cover of Daggerfall claims, but this atmospheric cover is certainly worthy of inclusion.

Borderlands (2009)

The inventive cover of Borderlands is a well executed spectacle.