Video Games - The Lost Art
Updated: Nov 20
When I was a kid in the 80's, I would buy Nintendo Power and look at the game hints and cheats. There was another thing that was hidden in those magazines, the video game cover art. There would not be a ton, but you could see a few. The fun that I had was to see if I can imagine the gameplay. Who can forget the iconic Super Mario Brothers cover art with Duck Hunt?
Back when Atari was around, the video game graphics were not that great. The arcades would beat it very often in this category. How could they lure players to buy their game? The answer is cover art. Atari has been known for having some of the best cover art of any video game console. Game buying decisions were made on the art on the cartridge or cardboard box.
Atari Cover Art
There are different styles, but when you see them you think to yourself, that is Atari. This is because it had its own style. Did it mean that the games were good? Hell no. The football game is one of the worse games that I have ever played. The better sports games back then were on ColecoVision.
In my opinion, the level of detail on the cover art is amazing. Although the in game graphics were not great, in our heads, we would imagine that it would look like on the box. Also remember, back then, the internet did not exist. You got your video game news from a few publications or from a friend. So knowing if a game was good was not really an option. Parents would choose the game as well, with the determining factor of how violent the cover art looked. Berzerk and Missile Command are my favorite covers from the Atari years.
Nintendo started their video game career by making and publishing games for the ColecoVision. One of the most popular games was the first unofficial Super Mario character in Donkey Kong. Super Mario has been called Jump Man by gaming enthusiasts. They had their own style on their own. Not all games on the NES had the 8-bit cover art, but many of the first party titles did. Compared to Atari, they decided to go completely in a different art direction. They opted to go for the 8-bit look and feel.
Nintendo Cover Art
if you were a NES fan, almost of these games bring up memories. They are etched in our minds. That is the sign of a great cover art. The same way that a good album cover can stay in your memory forever. Video game cover art is very similar.
Vintage Video Game Inspired Art
During the last few years, fans of the old consoles have started to create Atari or NES inspired art. I like it as it can provide a different perspective of games that we already know. You can see examples below.
Video Game Inspired Art
I know that today with photoshop it is not too hard to make a cover, but I still find it pretty cool. Seeing popular movies or games in old cover art from almost 40 years ago is pretty impressive.
When I buy a game today, I do not look at the cover art. In fact, in most cases, I do not even know what the cover art is. The main reason is that with demo's and digital downloads, the need is just not there. It does not determine if I will be purchasing a game.
I think that it is great that artists and gaming enthusiasts are doing these types of things. Although retro gaming is the rage right now, people must not forget one of the most important part of old school gaming, the covers.
I have been reading Art of Atari which depicts the importance that Atari placed on the look of the game cartridge and cover art. It got me thinking, no one thinks twice about the cover art for River Raid, however someone thought about the art for that game. Some of these covers took weeks to perfect. These artists should not be forgotten.
Art of Atari
This is an awesome book if you would like to know how Atari rolled in its infancy, until the crash. You can even purchase it through our Amazon Store. You get a great book and you get to support this site. You can purchase it here:
So what video game art did you like growing up? Did you like cover art from other systems? Let me know at the coordinates below.
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