10 Remarkable Game Covers and Their Creators

We talk about the history of creation of several iconic game covers, people behind them and sources of inspiration that helped to create these masterpieces

A major part of the video game audience does not spend years following the development process or news, and does not read previews. Instead, many people simply pass by the store and get reeled in by a beautiful cover. Thus, the name of the game and its box art are very important parts of the marketing campaign which has a big influence on the financial success of the title. In this article, we have selected 10 noteworthy and original covers which live in the memory of players and critics years after the release.

Ico

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Artist: Fumito Ueda

Artist’s works: gen DESIGN studio and official website

The director of the project, Fumito Ueda, famous for Shadow of the Colossus and The Last Guardian, was responsible for the Japanese cover. His main task was to reflect a simple plot of the game which at the same time is full of allegories. The main source of inspiration was the work of the Italian surrealist painter Giorgio de Chirico, which beautifully conveyed the atmosphere of the Ico world.

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Giorgio de Chirico’s works had a direct influence on Ico cover. In the picture: The Enigma of a Day, 1914

Ico gained wide popularity in Japan but had poor international sales. Later, Sony Entertainment management (Ico publisher) noted that the main reason for low sales was the lack of sensible English title and featureless North American cover of the game.

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Game cover for Japan and North America
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Other works of Fumito Ueda
 

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

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Author: Mike Sass

Author’s work: official website

Mike Sass, who worked for BioWare for more than 12 years, was responsible for the cover of Knights of the Old Republic. The artist faced a difficult task as he had to show new characters and setting while retaining the recognizable features of the original universe. Sass later recalled that working with Star Wars was both a fascinating and difficult experience due to the wide popularity of the setting: any violation of the world’s canons would have been immediately noticed by the fans. He was inspired by the work of the American artist Drew Struzan, the author of more than 150 posters of Hollywood movies, including those of Star Wars.

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Drew Struzan worked on posters for Blade Runner, Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade, and Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith

The cover of KotOR has become one of the most recognizable works in the gaming industry as it perfectly presented the new setting in the old aesthetics. Later, Sass worked on Jade Empire, Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect.

Doom

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Author: Don Ivan Punchatz

Author’s work: gallery site

The author of Doom’s box art is an American artist Don Ivan Punchatz. Before Doom, Punchatz worked in many well-known publications, including TIME, National Geographic, and Playboy. In addition, his design was featured on music albums, and he also created special effects for the cinema. In 1993, the artist was hired to develop the cover and logo of the new shooter from id Software.

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Don Punchatz’ illustrations ‘’Ancient Evenings’’ for Playboy, 1983
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Don Punchatz’ illustrations ‘’Ancient Evenings’’ for Playboy, 1983
 

According to the idea of the lead artist, Adrian Carmack, Doom was an extremely dark and bloody game about the war with demons, and the cover had to show it. id employees often acted as models for the game, and John Romero became the prototype of the Doomguy from the box art.

‘’Don Punchatz, the illustrator who created the DOOM logo and the famous front box cover art came over to id in mid-1993 with a male body model. The model’s job was to strike various poses for the marine who would be on the cover of the box. He did this for about 10 minutes and we just didn’t see anything that we thought would look cool on the cover. I kept telling the model what to do but he couldn’t see the scene in his mind. Frustrated, I threw my shirt off and told him to give me the gun and get on the floor – grab my arm as one of the demons […] Don took several pictures. I moved the gun some, the demon grabbed my leg, other arm, etc. At the end of it, we all decided the arm-grabbing pose was going to be the best. And that’s the story of how the cover composition was created.’’
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Later, when creating the box art, Punchatz left an open stomach of the marine, apparently referring to half-naked Romero

Punchatz reduced his usual fee to fit into the modest budget of the game. In response, id offered him a percentage of profits, but the artist refused. He later laughed: ‘’So how was I to know this thing called Doom would make a jillion smackers?’’

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Artist’s other works
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Artist’s other works
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Artist’s other works
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Artist’s other works
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Artist’s other works
 

Don Ivan Punchatz died from a heart attack in 2009, remaining in the memory of many gamers as ‘’that guy who has drawn the Doomguy.

Diablo II

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Author: Gerald Brom

Author’s work: official website

The image of Dark Wanderer from the cover of Diablo II was painted by the American artist Gerald Brom, who also worked on Doom II, Magic: The Gathering and other games.

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Doom 2
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Brom worked on Heretic and Magic: The Gathering
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Draft of Diablo II cover
 
‘’I simply love monsters, love the macabre, it is my youth, it is who I am […] it is how I satiate my inner demons. Also, if you look closer you might find for the most part, I seek beauty in the darker side of things. I am drawn more to the romantic gothic side of evil even in its more grotesque forms, the aesthetics of tragedy and death,’’ — Gerald Brom about his works.

Half-Life 2

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Author: Dhabih Eng

Author’s works: official website

The man who created the modern image of the famous physicist with the crowbar was a young American artist of Thai origin, Dhabih Eng. He played games from the age of six and earned his reputation back at school when he illustrated gaming magazines. In 1998, Eng worked at Valve Corporation as a freelance artist and created the image of Gordon Freeman.

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Illustrations by Dhabih Eng and Chuck Jones

In 1999, Eng got a full-time job at Valve and actively participated in the development of Half-Life 2. He recreated the image of the protagonist and came up with images of many key characters of the second part of the series (Alyx, Eli, G-man and others).

Grim Fandango

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Author: Peter Chan

Author’s work: official website

The world of Grim Fandango appeared thanks to the efforts of the artist Peter Chan who had already worked on other LucasArts titles: Full Throttle, Monkey Island 2, and others.

His vision combined noir films with Humphrey Bogart and Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. This is a traditional feast of commemoration of the dead in South and Central America which lasts for several days.

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10 Remarkable Game Covers and Their Creators
 

During the holidays, people often dress up in skeleton costumes – calaca, cook sweets in the form of skulls – calavera (the surname of the main character is in tune with this treat) and participate in major carnivals.

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It’s worth noting that the cover of the original edition had 3D models made based on Chan’s illustrations. However, the 2015 edition directly uses the work of the artist.

The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall

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Author: Mark Jones

Author’s work: official website

Having been released before the phenomenal success of Morrowind, Daggerfall remains a game that everyone has heard about, but few know what it really is. The map of the UK size and problems with launching the game on modern computers are the reasons why The Elder Scrolls series started from the third part for many players.

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Cover of the spin-off The Elder Scrolls: Battlespire, created by Mark Jones

The cover of the game features The Underking who played a major role in Daggerfall. The author of this box art is Mark Jones who joined Bethesda Softworks in the final stages of The Elder Scrolls: Arena development. Jones has always called himself a fan of dark fantasy, and he believes that the work on the ‘’Elder Scrolls’’ is one of the best in his life.

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10 Remarkable Game Covers and Their Creators
 

Later, Jones described Daggerfall as a constantly evolving organism. Everyone worked at a very fast pace, sketching many ideas. Ultimately, only three artists out of twenty ‘’survived’’ to the end of the development – the ones who learned to work really fast.

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Jones tried more than a dozen font options to create the logo
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Clannfear – one of the Daedra created by Jones
 

Having finished the work on Daggerfall, Jones participated in the creation of Battlespire, Redguard and Morrowind.

Another World

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Author: Eric Chahi

Author’s work: official website

Just one man was responsible for the development of Another World – the Frenchman Eric Chahi. He has created all the aspects of the game (except for music) – graphic style, plot and box art. Chahi stated that he was inspired by numerous fantasy-style works and sci-fi by Michael Whelan, Frank Frazetta, Richard Corben and Zdzislaw Beksinski. Besides artists, his work was influenced by cinema (Star Wars), manga (Dragon Ball), books (Dune, Hyperion).

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Art by Michael Whelan
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Art by Frank Frazetta
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Art by Richard Corben
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Art by Zdzislaw Beksinski
 

After Another World, Chahi headed the development of Heart of Darkness and From Dust. He also helped release reissues of his first game.

GTA III

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Author: Stephen Bliss

Author’s work: official website

The box-art of the GTA series has long become the signature Rockstar feature. Starting from the third part, the GTA cover gets a style – ‘’cover as a comic book’’. The author of this style is Stephen Bliss who worked in Rockstar for more than 15 years. During this time, Bliss participated in the creation of box art for all major projects of the studio, from GTA III to GTA V.

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Bully cover

Having first got into Rockstar back in 2001, Bliss designed the cover and the visual style for GTA III. Later, he continued collaboration with the authors of GTA, working on Vice City and subsequent projects of the studio. Bliss’ work was influenced by DC and Marvel comics, mixed with comics of 1960 – 1980’s (punk-art, Robert Crumb, Robert Williams, Raw comics magazine).

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Illustrations by Robert Crumb
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Illustrations by Robert Williams
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Raw comics magazine
 

Bliss also participated in the creation of the visual style for Red Dead Redemption and L.A. Noire, crafting a unique style for each project. In 2016, Bliss left Rockstar to work on his own projects.

Borderlands

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Borderlands was first shown in 2007. Back then, it was a darker and more realistic cooperative shooter with RPG elements. In 2009, everyone was surprised as the game unexpectedly found a new bright and crazy style.

First Borderlands trailer before style change

At that time, Gearbox was known for the Brothers in Arms series which sales were moderate. Borderlands’ development took three years, but inside the studio, no one believed in the commercial success of their product as the game faced many competitors. Then, one of the founders of Gearbox, Brian Martel, proposed to make the whole game in the style of a comic book, using the popular ‘’Purple Cow’’ business concept presented by entrepreneur Seth Godin.

‘’The idea is that you’re driving through the French countryside, seeing these idyllic dairy farms in the sun. It’s all astonishingly beautiful for the first dozen or so miles, but then all the cows kind of blend together. However, Godin says if you saw a purple cow, all of a sudden, you’d say, ‘’Wow, that was cool!’’ — Martel on Borderlands design.

That’s how the bold cover was created – according to rumors, the original version was more provocative. This approach brought results, and Gearbox sold three million copies of Borderlands in less than half a year and won the love of fans around the world.

Often, finding a cover illustrator is an almost impossible task. In some cases, box art is the work of the whole marketing department; in other cases, the artist’s identity remains a corporate secret. Thus, our list of great and unique video game covers is far from complete and reflects solely the opinion of the author. If you know the artists of other box art or just want to talk about your favorite illustration, share it with us in the comments.

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