No one really knew how to market videogames in the heady days of the ’80s and ’90s. For some reason, PC game makers seemed to have a harder time figuring it out than most folks — old school DOS games usually relied on mediocre graphic design and embarrassingly amateur illustrations on their covers, as we saw just last week in my 10 Seriously WTF DOS Game Covers
list. Honestly, it wasn’t that big a deal for us back in the day, since the games themselves were often nothing to write home about.
But when the scales tipped the other direction, look the HELL out. Some classic DOS game covers are so badass they shame the Resident Evils and Uncharteds of today like shirtless Chris Hemsworth next to Bricken. Here’s 10 classic DOS games that cannot possibly live up to the promises the testosterone-fueled boxes make.
10) Crime Wave
I wouldn’t be surprised if this game didn’t come with a coupon for a duffel bag full of crack. Something seriously wrong has gripped this town, so wrong that no one minds wearing sunglasses that look like buttcheeks or getting set on fire. In fact, this city’s so insane that pink karate guys are wandering around kicking the fire. Strung out girls posing with guns, drugs, and cash on your cover while what looks like an EMT fires a rocket launcher. This must have been the best day to come to work at the photoshop studio ever.
9) Escape From Hell
The guy on the right speaks for all of us when he says, “OOOOOOOOOOOOH YEAH.” Even he can’t control his excitement for you to escape hell, because he knows it’s going to be crazy fun until it gets too hard and you shut off the game and do something else. I’m guessing that each of these characters is illustrated in the order of appearance, which means that you get to meet a sexy bikini chick right before you get to the gates but OH NO skeleton with a torch is right there to ruin your mojo. I am, however, worried about the mummy, wrapped in bandages, standing next to a fire. Think that one out next time, bro.
8) Temple of Apshai Trilogy
I hesitate to fill this list with too many sword and sorcery games because about 95% of them look just like this one, but I chose Temple of Apshai because DAMN, that’s a full dungeon full of stuff that wants you dead. On one cover illustration we have a giant spider, bats, a hairy thing with horns, a dragon, poisonous acid water stuff, and a damn demon coming out of a cup. And this is only one hallway of this place!
7) Crazy Football
Yeah, I’m thinking that scoring field goals isn’t the purpose of this game. In the land of impossible abs, football has evolved into a sport played completely enclosed in a bricked-in field with no spectators. Humans are just one of many races that are invited to play, and if they want to fight with swords or axes, that’s just dandy. Padding is reduced to shoulderpads only and uniforms are now just loincloths. Yes, the future sure looks fun! Epcot really needs to get on this, like ASAP. After all, it’s the future and stuff.
Damn right your hair stood up, kid, because there’s sheer awesomeness crashing through your arcade and you will be nothing but a damn casualty of gaming. A cyclops strangling a dragon who is drawing blood from his side? This game better come with a f’ing bite guard so you don’t damage yourself. Upsetting speedo on the Cyclops just adds to the fun, like if Ric Flair evolved to his next sweaty Pok?mon evolutionary form.
5) Saboteur II
Put this scene in any action movie, even Gymkata, and you have a film that will scorch every seat in the theater. Granted, I don’t know how well Saboteur II pulls off a level where you, presumably a ninja or a goth burn victim, drive a motorcycle one-handed while fighting off panthers with a katana, but if that’s only one scene I the game, the rest of it just has to be disgustingly awesome. If you could go back in time, you’d actually see this exact image scribbled on the covers of all my school notebooks.
4) SWIV 3D
I can’t help but laugh at how just silly/cool this cover is. That explosion is gi-normous, but luckily you got out in your badass military helicopter and your… truck. Yeah, it’s just a truck, I don’t care how big a grill you put on it, it’s a truck. That helicopter is so mad that it’s shooting four missiles and a laser! That truck is less mad, it just has one laser. A red laser, but seriously, truck, the helicopter has missiles. It’s one of those instances where player one is like, “Aw yeah, I just fired some missiles and blew up a tank and all these guys’ guts came out of the tank hatch!” and player two is like, “I get some okay highway mileage, despite my large frame.”
3) Narco Police
See how badass trucks can be? All you need is to show one on the cover of your game and people start giving you respect. That narco policeman looks like he doesn’t take no guff from no one, with so much headgear that I’m surprised he’s walking erect. And how badass are these narco police? They’re so bad “the Law is out to get them.” Damn, when you’re a cop and the Law is still out to get you, you’re seriously bad. Or maybe it’s just bad copywriting.
2) Conflict: Europe
Fat soldiers: much cheaper than regular soldiers. Since I’ve been looking over these video games, I am always stymied about how many of the games involving European invasion, Nazi fighting, and WWII military campaigns have some copy on them in German. How much fun is it for Germans to kill their ancestors in a videogame? Unless they just sabotage the game. “Ha ha, Douglas MacArthur, would you like to see what happens when your puny aircraft carrier runs aground? Oh, it looks like your ship has crashed and all you Americans have died. Pity. Yes, I would like to play again.”
1) Crack Down
I can imagine the pitch to SEGA for this game.
“Okay, so you and your friend are both businessmen, with totally corporate haircuts, but then a goat demon attacks and you get guns and then there’s an ape who helps you fight against the goat demon and his castle and his army of mummies.”
“Can the mummies have flamethrowers?”
“Fuck yeah, they can. And you and your friend don’t have to wear shirts. Or you could just wear vests if you wanted.”
“Sounds like a deal. I’d shake on it, but I appear to have been blown on my ass by all the awesomeness.”