enhörning (enhorning) wrote,

Thoughts on computer games, cover art, and backlog

So... I've been doing a little project over the past couple of weeks, to visualize my options for computer gaming, and wrapped it up today.

Gamers sometimes talk about their backlog - their unplayed games that they own - in very negative tones. I don't see it. To me, it's about having options available to me, when the mood strikes me to play a game, it is there. And if I never get around to some of them, so be it... as long as I keep playing and having fun, that's the main thing.

Sales, on Steam and elsewhere, do lead to easily picking up a lot of games. And, as they are spread out across different platforms, multiple digital services, as well as physical media, it's hard to get an overview. I've for a while had either a text list or a spreadsheet of games I'd like to get around to playing, but that is still boring to look at. As I've quite liked to have my image diary for what I've managed to do in months, I decided to take a similar approach here. It started out with just taking any version of the cover, but I quickly got ambitious, and searched / cropped / photoshopped to get good versions without logos and stuff. This is the result:

That's 450 game covers, in random order, except that games that I want to play in sequence (usually because they're part of a series) are next to each other. Hmm... how long would it take me to get through all of them? An optimistic estimate would be 2 games a week, so 4½ years. Of course, in that time, I will have bought even more games. Still, there are a lot of games there that I am quite excited and curious to try.

Oh, the covers are a bit small on that image? Here they are again, but spread out over 9 images of 50 games each:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Some quite big and well-known titles in there. Some indies. Some classics. Some recent games. Some supposedly great ones. Some that received mediocre reviews but still interest me.

So... I've looked at a lot of games covers. There are certainly some crappy ones (Bioshock Infinite, X-Blades, Anachronox, ...), but there are quite a few good ones. Here are some of my favourites (in alphabetic order) with brief commentary:

Very striking use of contrast and light. And appropriate, given how aiming your source of light is your weapon in the game. Also, the forest outline in the background sets the right mood of a remote and isolated location.

The look evokes the Alien movies, and the reflection of the alien on the helmet looks menacing.

Several covers tried doing this thing of having images inside of parts of a bigger image... here is one of the few case where I thought it worked well - nicely evokes a tense spy thriller.

Just from looking at that symbol, the game's classical Greek inspirations are immediately obvious!

Perfectly captures the menace of entering a dark (very dark) underworld.

The covers for all three Arkham games that I have are nice and stylish, but this one is my favourite, with Batman as the predatory bird-of-prey perching hidden high above, surveying his potential targets.

Really brings forth a sense of tangible antagonism between its two cover characters.

The foggy town, barely lit up by the lamp post, with the grim-looking fishman in the foreground, are all okay... but what pushes this to a great cover for me is the person on the ground in the shadows, helplessly flailing his arms in the air - what is his story? I'm sure the explanation can't be pleasant.

The pose, and camera angle where you don't see his face, evokes classic spaghetti westerns.

A beautiful image with these classic monuments, against the sun, and with the Nile in the foreground. Makes me wish I could go see some of them IRL.

Horror game covers try to inspire feelings appropriate to the genre... but are a bit hit and miss. This one, for me, succceeds... actually made me felt slightly queasy when I had to spend a while looking at different versions and editing them.

Captures the foreboding, depressing atmosphere that I well recognize from when I played Demon's Souls, and which I expect to encounter again in the Dark Souls games.

Nice use of light and shadows, with the image mostly on the dark side, but those yellow eyes from the demonlings and main character standing out.

It would be boring if every cover went for this two-colour approach... and not all covers that try it pull it off. But here, it works very nicely and stands out.

Makes the main character look cool, in a suitably futuristic way.

And same here! Lots of games, of course, try to make their main character look cool, but few succeed this well.

... Devil May Cry certainly goes out of its way to present Dante as a cool and hip character... but the covers don't really capture it that well, I feel, except for this one, which is supposedly the worst game in the series.

Perhaps this one only works for me, because I recognize the male character from having played through Dishonored... but seeing him threatened like this makes the aggressor seem all the more menacing - and the violence in the centre of the image contrasts starkly with the colourfulness of it, and the roses.

Another good example of only using two colours... not quite as striking as Demon Stone's cover, but still outstanding. I'm disappointed that Inquisition abandoned the style of the first two covers, and had a rather dull cover.

Evokes fantasy adventure - the adventuring party is on their journey, and they all are looking excitedly forward, wondering what they will encounter next.

Fire and sunset blending together, beautiful savannah but with the ugliness of a wartorn country in the foreground. Captures the mood of the game quite well.

Sorry Deus Ex, but this is the most Cyberpunk cover I've seen.

Cold, elegantly dressed, calculating. Fits the game and character. Whereas the later Absolution went for a more in-action cover, which looked dull in comparison.

Sets the grindhouse cinema tone for the game.

The previous Infamous covers emphasized the player's choice whether the main character would be good or evil. Here, you don't have that choice... he just looks menacing. The white background serves to lift forward the dark vampiric version of him.

Another cover that puts the focus on the baddies rather than the hero, and makes them seem quite threatening.

Evokes classic fantasy adventuring.

Strongly hints at wielding immense destructive powers. Wonder if the game will live up to this vision of being a powerful battlemage?

Grizzled fighter. Yep, another over-used archetype, but I think this cover succeeds in presenting it convincingly.

Great use of light and shadow.

Artfully monochrome. Again, if every cover tried this, it would get dull... but here, it's done well and works. (Max Payne 3's cover is awfully boring next to the first two games.)

An action shot that works in making me feel the intended intensity.

Several of the early MGS games have nice covers, but this one in particular works well. Otoh, MGS 5 Ground Zeroes is a disappointing stylistic departure.

Classic fantasy, great picture. (I could also have included Larry Elmore's cover for Might & Magic VI: The Mandate of Heaven...)

Love this - it's not the cover I expect from a game about Ninjas. Colourful and bright.

Not sure why this one works, but it does. Makes Faith seem like a strong character just by looking at her.

Colourful and nicely presenting the somewhat crazy style and era of the game.

Strong use of contrasting colours, and the way that this represents the gameplay as well (you're switching polarity between red and blue to deal with obstacles) makes this a good cover for me.

The redness of Mars, and the iconic sledgehammer (for a game about destruction and demolition) makes this a nice cover.

Sets the mood nicely for an horror game set on-board a ship.

I like the way they use the outline of Africa to set the geographical location for the game.

There were a few covers with a skull or empty helmet being the focus for the cover... but it's the alien-ness of the skull that makes this good.

The mirrored views work well here, in a game where the player is losing his humanity and himself eventually becoming the enemy.

I like the Riddick character, and think Pitch Black is a great movie. This cover captures him well.

Another cover that succeeds well with using only a few, stark colours. Also, the Eiffel tower outline is iconic and anchors the geographical place for the game.

Sam, on top of an enormous pile of defeated enemies, raising his huge gun towards the sky as if it were a holy symbol (and the sky responding by highlighting it with a beam of light).

I think part of my liking for this cover is due to how much I like the thematic idea of the game - Sherlock Holmes meets the Cthulhu mythos!

An unusual art style makes this beautiful cover stand out. Also captures its Asian setting.

Four different versions of Spider-Man, lined up next to each other, each with quite different colour schemes and suits. Looks striking, and reflects the game.

Looks very muddy and dirty!

The first Splinter Cell cover is still the best - the use of light and shadows (and the game excelled, for the time, at using this in-game as well), and establishing the iconic black-green colour scheme for the serie. Also, his posture, waiting sneaking... wheras the latest two covers, trying to show him more in action, just look bad.

Whereas this one succeeds by breaking with what we've come to expect from Sam Fischer - here, he's presented as a prisoner, not a heroic secret agent.

That lightsabre outline. And again, it reflects the game - this (and its sequel) still have the best swordplay I've seen. Considering how much lightsabres feature in the films, it's a shame how boring they often become in Star Wars games - but not here!

Classic, the omni-present menacing AI observing you.

I adore this cover for the latest Thief game - the way Garret is about to snatch the very title text of the cover away amongst his stolen goods.


look great and capture the mythological setting of the game, and the monsters wherein.

Eminently suitable cover for a game about being animals in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo.

While not quite as foreboding as Arx Fatalis's cover, this still portrays the descent into a dark dungeon in a good way.

That vampire sure does look sinister.

Did anybody actually look through this all the way to the bottom?
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