BOX=ART: Retrogamer and modern video game box art history.


Video game box art and artist history database




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BOX=ART is a site dedicated to the history of video game box art/ cover art and the artists responsible for them.

Box arts are profiled using high quality scans and with the intention of acknowledging the men and women who have played such a major role in shaping our gaming experiences.

Not only for video game enthusiasts, BOX=ART is for all who enjoy quality artwork.

All information on this site is through my own findings and is believed to be correct.  Any corrections, errors or admissions that need to be made, or artists that would like to be involved in BOX=ART, please feel free to contact me.

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Box art index - S

Artist index - S

Shinkiro (Toshiaki Mori).  Japanese box artist from 1991-present.

Born in 1962, Shinkiro would study technical drawing after being inspired by America artist Frank Frazetta.  For many years he free-lanced as an illustrator working on commercial product magazines whilst dabbling in cartooning. He would join SNK’s design department in 1990 amidst the dawn of the Neo Geo, where he would work alongside the company’s founder/ producer Eikichi Kawasaki. His first box art design would be for ASO II: Last Guardian, 1991 (Alpha Mission II) and he would finish that busy year with further cover arts for games; Sengoku, Robo Army and Eightman amongst others.  

These early box arts would be created using traditional mediums such as oils, gouache and spray paint, before he made the transition to digital artwork using Apple Macs and paint package Photoshop in the mid-90’s. Interestingly an interview from around 2001 has him state that his favourite personally designed cover art is Ghost Pilots (1991).  It’s a wonderfully charming artwork with an interesting colour pallet and a cool title (complete with Grim Reaper), although it does lack what makes a Shinkiro cover art so great: characters.

Looking at his box arts from 1991 you could be forgiven for thinking they were done by another artist.  Comparing Sengoku, Ghost Pilots, Robo Army and ASO II the difference in style, technique and the mediums used is diverse, ranging from anime (Robo Army) to traditional 80’s sci-fi (ASO II). The only box art instinctive of the art style to come would be in Sengoku with it’s unmistakeably heavy shading, chiselled jaw lines and confident look to it’s characters. This box art would also start a trend for the artist whereby he juxtaposed characters: the background ones coloured in distinctly darker bluish hues. Check out Art of Fighting, Fatal Fury Special, King of Fighters ’97 and Psi-Ops for further examples. You can also see the influence that N. C. Wyeth, one of Shinkiro’s favourite artists, has had on these box arts when you study his character posture and shadowing.

Artistically we move into more familiar territory the following year with two of SNK’s first big series,  Art of Fighting, and Fatal Fury and again in 1993 with Samurai Showdown and the delightfully camp 3 Count Bout. All would have the characteristics detailed above and would exemplify a common complaint made about Shinkiro’s art: that his faces whether masculine or feminine all looked samey.

By 1998 box arts for Metal Slug X and King of Fighters ’98 completed his transition to digital art.  He would do well in maintaining his style after the jump to digital. His lines would become cleaner, box arts more cluttered and washed in garish background colours but style of content would remain largely unchanged.

SNK in 2000 would fold (later becoming SNK  Playmore) and Shinkiro would be quickly snapped up by rival Capcom.  His box arts for them would start to look more realistic with Biohazard: Gun Survivor 4, Dead Rising and Glass Rose, but he would still create more stylised works with Tatsunoko vs Capcom, Ultimate Ghosts ‘n Goblins and Final Fight One (albeit all three are directed towards a younger/ retro audience). He would also produce works for Marvel with the Unlimited Spiderman comics and UDON’s Street Fighter comics.

Still going strong today, but alibi not in such large volumes of work, his more recent covers have been within the Street Fighter universe.

Simon Bisley.  English box artist.

Gods | Mindscape | 1991| EU/ JP ver.


King of Fighters ‘94 | SNK | 1994.

Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars | Capcom | 2010.  

Steinar Lund.  Norwegian/ English box artist from 1981-1995.

After studying Interior Design at Kingston college, Steinar would decide on a career as a painter and start to build his portfolio.  Come the early 1980’s he would get his break into the video game industry by freelancing for early Sinclair studio Quicksilva.

Founder’s Nick Lambert and Jon Hollis would take on the aspiring box artist after Steinar took it upon himself to supply them examples of art roughs. It led to him being commissioned for game QS Defenda (1981) and a claim to creating the - thus far known - earliest piece of coloured art to adorn a European video game. He would carry on working with Quicksilva alongside artist’s David John Rowe and Rich Shenfield on titles such as QS Asteroids (1981), Xadom and Smugglers Cove (both 1983) before branching out and freelancing for Melbourne House.  

But it would be upon meeting with famed designer Jeff Minter and working on Llamasoft’s cover arts that the embodiment of Steinar’s art style, along with his penchant for vivid and surreal characterisation would be truly revealed.

His box arts for cult classics such as Ancipital, Attack of the Mutant Camels (both 1984) and Batalyx (1985) would epitomise his early work: intoxicatingly colourful, abstract and fun.  They would also exemplify the artist’s own inspiration found in the works of Salvador Dali, Roger Dean and Maxfield Parrish.

By the latter half of the 1980’s his cover arts had started to become deliberately richer and more detailed due to the dawn of 16-bit gaming (Amiga, Atari ST, DOS) and the demand for a level of artistry that complemented the finer graphics the games now offered. Cover arts such Armageddon Man, Hunt for the Red October (both 1987) and, one of his personal favourites, Return of the Jedi (1988) would all display this new level of detail that also benefited from the larger boxes now commonly used.

This period furthermore produced The Last Ninja (1987). The box art would be instantly recognisable to 80’s gamers, and ended up as one of Steinar’s most well known due to the game’s success. It would inspire the cover art designs for the two European sequels, and be used again for the Amiga CD32 release of The Last Ninja 3 (1994).

Ending the decade Steinar teamed up with Microprose and his versatility would again be flexed with M1 Tank Platoon (1989).  Its high level of detail, historic accuracy and a near photo finish look would lead the artist on to other similar Microprose projects such as Gunship (1989), Team Yankee (1990) and F-15 Strike Eagle II (1991) and define his later box art career.

His final cover art would be sci-fi epic Space Bucks (1995), which unfortunately would be heavily redesigned from the original (a first for the artist). As with many box artists of his generation, Steinar left the industry by the mid-90’s when CG art started to wrestle out traditional art.

Steinar’s preferred art media throughout his box art career was airbrushed inks and acrylics. Both would prove sturdy and gave him the intense colours that defined his cover arts.

Presently Steinar is freelancing as an illustrator while also developing his photography and video skills. He’s a published musician, and his many works and further details can be found HERE.

Ancipital | Llamasoft | 1984.  

Return of the Jedi | Domark | 1988.

Stephen Bliss.  English box artist.

Grand Theft Auto III | Rockstar Games | 2001 | EU ver.

Steve Purcell.  North American box artist from 1988-2009.

After studying at the California College of arts and crafts Steve would freelance for a number of years as a jobbing artist and as a penciller for Marvel comics. This period would be the genesis of Steve’s most enduing characters: Sam & Max.

LucasFilm Game’s artist Ken Macklin (Manic Mansion) would introduce his art director, Gary Winnick to the newly released Sam & Max comic strip, and on the strength of it Steve was hired in 1988 as an adventure game artist and animator. His first task would be the box art for Zak Mckracken and the Alien Mindbenders (1988) before working on in-game pixel art for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).

It would be his work on The Secret of Monkey Island (1990), including the games box art, that would expose his art at an international level.  Compared to the familiar territory of Zak’s cartooned style, Monkey’s more painterly realism in opaque watercolours would creatively stretch the artist.

The following year’s sequel Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge (1991) Steve would credit as a more successful box art from a design perspective. It’s character art was created by taking photos of his girlfriend modelling in pirate attire whilst being dramatically lit. LeChuck’s Revenge would be painted in oils over the course of a month, and as with the first game, Steve would be responsible for the conceptual art and animation.

What followed would surprise Steve; LucasArts approached him on using the Sam & Max licence.  Sam & Max: Hit the Road was released in 1993 and would be a landmark game in character development, humour and design.  Steve would be responsible at every level of the games creation including the duo’s cover art.

Steve has said that he always found painting box art fun because of the opportunity it gave to flesh out the pixelated characters on screen, defining their look and world in paint over computer art. This traditionalist view point could also go some way in explaining why he created the box art for Telltale’s Tales of Monkey Island (2009) using acrylics at a time when most artists favoured digital art (he has always favoured traditional media even when creating comic strips).

Leaving LucasArts in 1996 would free Steve to pursue a Sam & Max animated series and also gave him the oppportunity to freelance for other developers and their characters including Sega’s ToeJam and Earl.

Defenders of Dynatron City | JVC Musical Industries, Inc. | 1992.

Herc’s Adventure | LucasArts | 1997.

Monkey Island II: LeChuck’s Revenge | LucasArts | 1991.

Mortimer and the Riddles of the Medallion | LucasArts | 1997.

Pipe Dream | Lucasfilms Games | 1989 | EU/ NA ver.  

Sam & Max: Hit the Road | LucasArts | 1993.

Secret of Monkey Island, The | LucasFilm Games | 1990.

Tales of Monkey Island, The | LucasArts | 2009.

Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders | Lucasfilms Games | 1988 | EU/ NA ver.  

Susumu Matsushita.  Japanese box artist from 1983-present.

Growing up in Tokyo and training in industrial design, Susumu would get his break in the late 1970’s producing cover arts for Japan’s Popeye and Young Jump magazines. The latter publication’s #1 issue would sport Susumu’s first popular character, Mac Bear.  Mac’s look would be heavily influenced by the American comics Susumu grew up with, and helped cement the artist’s reputation for illustrating colourful, anthropomorphic animal characters. With Tokyo Disneyland opening in 1983, the Japanese would fall in love with these Americanised animal characters and Susumu’s career would go from strength to strength.

The earliest known box art is Computer Othello (1983) for Sony’s HIT BIT range on the MSX platform.  It would portray a busty, vixen with overtly large and engrossing eyes, a somewhat enduring character trademark of the artist. The MSX platform’s popularity would see many machines produced across Europe and Susumu’s covers would make it west intact.  It is thus some of the earliest – if not the earliest – Japanese box art released in Europe, and Susumu would certainly become the first high profile box artist to have art used overseas.

To coincide with the release of Nintendo‘s Famicom in 1986 Japan’s first and still most revered gaming magazine Famitsu would be published in August of that year. Susumu would become the main cover artist from issue #3 and from issue #7 he would create one of Japan’s most recognisable characters Necky the fox, the magazine’s mascot.  Necky’s popularity would establish the artist as one of Japan’s premier character designers.

It would also be this year that he’d create the Susumu Matsushita Enterprises Company, bringing on board assistant artists to help with the demanding workload. 1986 also saw the artist design the cover for the first Adventure Island game.  It would be a wonderful explosion of characters, colour and chaos that would be replicated on not only all subsequent series covers but the majority of Matsushita designs.

The artist’s next big series’ would be the Japanese only Derby Stallion (1991) and Motor Toon Grandprix (1994).  More modern gamer through will probably remember the concept work Susumu did for Capcom’s Maximo series (2001-2004).  The art is darker than his usual work and would be used to portray the in-game characters also.  The artist would additionally be responsible for the game’s logo.

Well known as a traditional media artist, Susumu will normally sketch out a design in acrylic paint before applying oils by airbrush.  The process of designing a composition is a complex one of layering paint using delicate stencils so to achieve crisp lines.  Of greatest importance is the attention given to the characters expressions.

Outside of video game box art work the artist is well known for producing promotional characters for Japan’s Space World resort, character and logo designs for Japanese sporting teams, as well as his continuing work with Famitsu.

>Squaresoft (now Square Enix) had always made a habit of producing poignant and thought provoking box arts (see, Final Fantasy, Alcahest and Romancing SaGa), and Mana was no different. For a game so geographically lush and a story centred on mother nature, the choice of artist, the late Hiroo Isono, would be inspired.

Hiroo’s penchant for painting forests and paradise would bring the longing world of Mana to life, and the cover art for the Super Famicom version would beautifully depict the scale and gravity of the world around those marvelling heroes.

The western release would thankfully and surprisingly retain the Japanese original, but due to the SNES’s landscape box shape, it would unfortunately crop the magnitude and awesomeness of the tree.

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Secret of Mana (聖剣伝説2) by Hiroo Isono.

Japanese artwork. Published by Squaresoft globally in 1993.  

Super Famicom ver. pictured.  Also availble on: SNES.

Shadow Dancer (シャドー・ダンサー ザ・シークレット・オブ・シノビ) by Jun Satoh.

Japanese artwork. Published by Sega in 1990 for the Japanese Mega Drive market.

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Shadow of the Beast III by David John Rowe.

English artwork. Published by Psygnosis in 1992 for the European Amiga market.  

>The final Beast box art would see veteren box artist David Rowe take the reigns from fantasy painter Roger Dean who’d painted the first two. It would be one of Davids more complex pieces and one the artist looks back at fondly.   

The lettering would retain Roger Dean’s font.

>Pictured from top - original box art, outline sketch and colour rough.  

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Shadow of the beast III big.jpg

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>Programming whiz Ray Tobey would team up with comic book artist Jackson “Butch” Guice who would be responsible not only for the box art but also the inlay/ comic strip the game shipped with. Looking like the cover to a classic bronze age comic book with its heavy lines and bold colours, the scene is set as our hero embarks his fighter amidst an invasion.

The Skyfox title lettering was credited to a Rick Parker and is a well done example, complimenting the action without being too prominent.

Following on from this commission Butch would have a successful career with both Marvel and DC comics, but Skyfox at present appears to be his only penciled cover art.

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Skyfox by Jackson “Butch” Guice.

North American artwork. Published by Electronic Arts in 1984 for the European and North American markets.  

Amiga ver. pictured.  Also availble on: Amstad CPC, Apple II, Atari ST, C64, Mac, ZX Spectrum.

Sam & Max: Hit the Road by Steve Purcell.

North American artwork. Published by LucasArts in 1993 for the European and North American markets.

DOS ver. pictured. Also available on: Linux, Mac, WIN.  

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Secret of Monkey Island, The by Steve Purcell.

North American artwork. Published by LucasFilm Games globally in 1990.

DOS ver. pictured. Also available on: Amiga, Atari ST, FM Towns, Mac, Mega CD/ Sega CD.  

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Shadow of the Beast by Roger Dean.

English artwork. Published by Psygnosis globally in 1989.

Amiga ver. pictured. Also available on: Atari ST, FM Towns, Master System, Mega CD, Mega Drive, PC Engine, ZX Spectrum.

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Sonic the Hedgehog by Greg Wray.

North American artwork. Published by Sega in 1991 for the North American Genesis market.

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>Debut North American box art. Wray’s Sonic design would add a slight edginess to Akira Watanabe’s original and would take the step of placing the hedgehog within the game’s world over a graphic design as seen on both Europe’s and Japan’s covers.

Wray’s background as a Hanna Barbara and Disney artist would perfectly compliment Japan’s original and deliberate vision of Sonic foremostly appealing to the North American market. The chararter art would arguably not look out of place in a Micky Mouse cartoon and was designed using air brush.

It would end up being Wray’s only series cover, as duites passed to the equally talented Greg Martin for Sonic 2.


Stryx by Peter Andrew Jones.

English artwork. Published by Psygnosis in 1990 for the European and North American markets.  

Atari ST ver. pictured.  Also availble on: Amiga.

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>Peter Andrew Jone’s Stryx would carry on the Psygnosis/ Psyclapse tradition of using already completed artsworks and re-commissioning them.  Originally created in 1970, Stryx was classic sci-fi pulp complete with diabolic robot and death rays: something straight out of 50’s cinema.  

As with many of Peter’s earlier box arts, such as Laser Zone, Blood Money and Alien Legion, they originally found life on the cover of a 70’s novel.  So far Stryx can not be found published elsewhere but it is highly unlikely it went unused.

The lettering is most definitely by Roger Dean who would be responsible for many of Psygnosis’ title designs as well as the classic Shadow of the Beast box arts.


Super Mario USA (スーパーマリオUS) by Yoichi Kotabe.

Japanese artwork. Published by Nintendo in 1992 for the Japanese Famicom market.  

>The well-documented history of Super Mario Bros 2 had Nintendo of Japan (NOJ) take its abandoned attempt for Mario’s first sequel and fashion Fuji TV’s then mascots into it calling it Yume Kōjō: Dokidoki Panic (1987).

These changes were made only for Nintendo of America to request it be made into Super Mario Bros 2 (1988) after the Japanese release of that game (The Lost Levels) was deemed too challenging. Subsequently, after the game’s success in the West, it was brought back to Japan as Super Mario USA (1992).

Interestingly, NOJ would take Dokidoki Panic’s original box art, with character art by Tadashi Sugiyama and an unknown Fuji designer, redraw the piece, so it would be more in line with Mario’s previous box arts, and replace Fuji’s characters with Yoichi Kotabe’s Mario designs.  

Being of Mario heritage Dokidoki Panic and Mario USA share obvious design traits with other Famicom Mario cover arts such as bold colouring, distinctive line work and chaotic characterisation (see Super Mario Bros 1 and 3 on the Famicom) while the box layout is vertically designed instead of horizontally, as found on the vast majority of Famicom releases.  

To finish, its pink border (which also extends to the game’s cart) is a stark reminder of how daringly colourful Japanese box art can be.

>Pictured from top - Original box art and Doki Doki Panic.

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Super Street Fighter II X: For Matching Service (スーパーストリートファイターIIX) by Kinu Nishimura.

Japanese artwork. Published by Capcom in 2000 for the Japanese Dreamcast market.  

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>Eschewing Street Fighters usual montage led box arts, Super Street Fighter II X: Grand Master Challenge, for Matching Service would instead depict the ever present Ryu shadowed by the mysterious – although maybe not so by 2000 – Akuma.  

Meaning devil in Japanese, Akuma would poignantly be upturned alluding the demonic connection both characters are consumed by. The two hand drawn black and white sketches were originally used in 1994 as promotional material for the release of Super Street Fighter II X, and were composed by Capcom steward Kinu as part of a collection of sixteen character artworks.

Along with artist Bengus, who provided the box arts for the worldwide 3DO versions, Kinu’s sketches would portray a grittier take on Ryu and company. It ended up being an abstract, and unique, styalistic blip in an otherwise usually formulaic sea of bold and colourful Street Fighter cover arts.


Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

Published by Parker Brothers in 1982 for the North American market.  

Atari VCS ver. pictured.  Also availble on: Intellivision.

>The very first Star Wars game would pass over 1977’s A New Hope in favour of the more recent Emipre Strikes Back. Compared to later series box arts Empire is a rather artistically simple affair that focuses on the games main setting, the battle of Hoth.

The art direction is very much inline with other Parker Brother covers from the early 1980’s, as is the imposing silver border and bold type.  

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Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (ストリートファイターⅡ) by Mick McGinty.

North American artwork. Published by Capcom in 1992 for the European and North American markets.  

Amiga ver. pictured.  Also availble on: Atari ST, C64, DOS, Game Boy Advanec, SNES, ZX Spectrum.

>Debut western Street Fighter II series box art. Artist Mick McGinty’s, The World Warriors would be used on all home computer and console releases bar the Japanese Super Famicom version (the only Japanese release of the game).

The artists western portrayal of original artist Akiman’s Japanese characters would polorize Capcom of America, with some believing that Akiman’s box art should have prevaled State side. Ultimately it was decided against as not being suited enough to American tastes, in a time when Japanese art was not yet accepted as it is today.

The box art was designed using McGinty’s favored medium of the time, air brush.

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Super Street Fighter II X (スーパーストリートファイターIIX) by Kinu Nishimura.

Japanese artwork. Published by Capcom in 1994 for the Japanese 3DO market.  

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>Exclusively used for the Japanese 3DO market, the box arts montage style would would be at odds with usual Street Fighter cover arts, but all the stronger for it.

Drawn in pen and made up of a individual character artworks, the box art’s X would also add a styalised approch.

Kinu would get to reuse an artwork from the same session six years later with the limited release, Super Street Fighter II X: For Matching Service.

The North American release would use an artwork by Bengus and marks the only time a Japanese artwork adorned an American Street Fighter II game.


Super Star Wars by Tom Chantrell.

North American artwork. Published by JVC Musical Industries Inc. globally in 1992.  

SNES ver. pictured.  Also availble on: Game Boy, Super Famicom.

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>This box art would recommission Chantrell’s famous “Style C” one sheet poster for the original movie release in 1977.


Adventure Island | Hudson | 1986.

Adventure Island | Hudson | 1988.

Adventure Island Part II | Hudson | 1991.

Adventure Island III | Hudson | 1992.

Adventure Island IV | Hudson | 1994.

Alibaba and the 40 Thieves | Sony | 1984.

Backgammon | Sony | 1984.

Best Play Baseball, The | ASCII Corp. | 1988.

Best Play Baseball II, The | ASCII Corp. | 1990.

Best Play Baseball ‘90, The | ASCII Corp. | 1990.

Best Play Baseball Special, The | ASCII Corp. | 1988.

Chess | Sony | 1984.

Computer Othello | Sony | 1983.

Derby Stallion II | ASCII Corp. | 1994.

Derby Stallion III | ASCII Corp. | 1990.

Derby Stallion ‘96 | ASCII Corp. | 1996.

Derby Stallion: Best Race | ASCII Corp. | 1991.

Derby Stallion: National Edition | ASCII Corp. | 1992.

Down the World: Mervil’s Ambition | ASCII Corp. | 1994.

Elfaria | Huson Soft | 1993.

Elfaria II | Huson Soft | 1995.

Game ABC game Programming Master | Sony | 1984.

Ikinari Musician | Tokyo Shoseki Co. | 1987.

Maximo vs Army of Zin | Capcom | 2003.

Maximo vs Army of Zin | Capcom | 2004.

Maximo: Ghosts to Glory | Capcom | 2001.

Maximo: Ghosts to Glory | Capcom | 2002.

Monkey Magic | Sun Corp. | 1999.

Monkey Magic | Sun Corp | 2000.

Motor Toon Grand Prix | Sony | 1994.

Motor Toon Grand Prix | Sony | 1996 | NA ver.

Motor Toon Grand Prix II | Sony | 1996 | EU/ JPN ver.

Navy Blue ‘90 | Use Corp. | 1990.

New Adventure Island | Hudson | 1992.

Puzzle Mate: Oekaki Mate | Compile Heart | 2008.

Puzzle Mate: Nampure Mate | Compile Heart | 2008.

Puzzle Mate: Crossword Mate | Compile Heart | 2008.

Shadows of the Tusk | Hudson Soft | 1998.

Super Adventure Island | Hudson | 1992.

Super Adventure Island II | Hudson | 1994.

Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts | Capcom | 1991.

Tiny Barbarian DX | Starquail | 2017.

Willy Wombat | Hudson Soft | 1997.

Wonder B-Cruise | SunSoft | 1999.