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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About BOX=ART

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 from a variety of angles 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.


Related BOX=ART pages.


Updated - 18/05/15, by Adam Gidney

Notable and influential VCS/ 2600 box arts, 1977 - 1986.  

Please note. Box arts were designed exclusively for the VCS/ 2600 on original release.

>Click on images below  to enlarge.


Overiew

For what could be argued as the world’s first truly popular gaming machine, the Atari VCS (later named the 2600) would house many firsts in box art history. Debuting in 1977, the VCS immediately captured American imaginations with no small part accredited to its pioneering cover arts.  



BOX=ART hardware

 >Atari VCS/ 2600

Competition in the late 70’s was far from stiff compared to today’s crowded scene, but established machines such as Magnavox’s Odyssey and Fairchild’s Channel F did provide early gaming rivalry for the VCS.  


Its wild popularity compared to these machines was certainly due to its strength in game quality and the inspired artworks that adorned debuting title such as Combat, Star Ship, Street Racer. For the first time the basic pixelated world on screen was vividly brought to life through box art providing a much-needed window to fuel gaming imaginations.  


Pioneering artists such as Cliff Spohn and Susan Jaekel brought traditional art techniques to the table and successfully produced exciting montages with Hollywood inspired movie poster finishes.   Atari’s art team, headed by James Kelly, would also brand early cover arts with a distinct coloured banner, whilst early box layout interestingly eschewed the need to heavily promote the console’s name compared to the Odyssey, Channel F and later Odyssey2. In fact, launch box arts Surround, Star Ship and Indy 500 removed the VCS credit altogether.


Capitalising on the just released movie phenomena, Superman (1978), the VCS would be the first gaming machine to use a comic book hero in a game with Superman (1978). Its box art would use the man of steel’s images cut from the 1976 300th issue by artist Curt Swan, and would mark the first time an artist outside of Atari’s collective was used.


The start of the 80’s saw the world’s first 3rd party publisher Activision release the exclusive Dragster on the VCS, and with it one of gaming’s most recognisable box art designs. Its brash and bold palette would instantly stand out from Atari’s dusty-toned cover arts and would distinctly brand Activision’s games up until 1982.


In 1980 Atari released the world’s first licenced video game, Space Invaders. The mega hit‘s established Japanese characterisation unfortunately would not be used in North America and marked the start of it’s long, and at times shaky history of reinterpreting eastern character art.  Also that year the world’s first celebrity likeness would be used in the Pele endorsed Pele’s Soccer (James Kelly). The newly named Atari 2600 in 1982 would boast another box art first in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Painted by James Kelly it would be the world’s first movie licenced video game cover art, and Harrison Ford the first movie star to be immortalised by box art.


The following year saw Nintendo’s Mario depicted for the first time in the West in Mario Bros (Colco’s Donkey Kong release the year before still christened its hero as ‘Jumpman’).  It would end up being one of a few examples of the plumber appearing on non-Nintendo hardware; the Famicom’s (1983) and NES’s (1985) successes would keep the mascot firmly behind Nintendo doors.


The videogame crash of 1983 would have a great impact on the American videogame industry and 2600 box art. The aftermath meant little videogame production happened between 1984 and 1985, by which time the NES dominated the American market.  The resurged interest in the videogaming did lead to further game production for the 2600 but was mainly comprised of American designed games with box arts that had little artistic merit.  This unfortunately was also the case for what little Japanese inspired box art was released (compare Double Dragon on the NES and 2600). By 1990 the Atari 2600 had run its course.


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star ship banner.jpg

Star Ship

1977

By Cliff Spohn


breakout banner.jpg

Breakout

1978

By Cliff Spohn


Sky diver big.jpg

Sky Diver

1978

By Greg Vance



boxing vcs big.jpg

Boxing

1980

By -


nightdriver big.jpg

Night Driver

1980

By Steve Hendricks


peles soccer big.jpg

Pele’s Soccer

1980

By James Kelly


missile command big.jpg

Missile Command

1981

By George Opperman


defender big.jpg

Defender

1981

By Steve Hendricks



gravitar-2600-big.jpg

Gravitar

1983

By -


journey-escape-big.jpg

Journey Escape

1982

By -


pitfall-atari-2600-big.jpg

Pitfall!

1982

By -

Raiders-of-the-lost-ark-big.jpg

Raiders of the Lost Ark

1982

By James Kelly


slot-racers-big.jpg

Slot Racers

1978

By John Enright


solar-storm-big.jpg

Solar Storm

1983

By Michael Becker


solaris-atari-2600-big.jpg

Solaris

1986

By -


superbreakout-2600-big.jpg

Super Breakout

1981

By Cliff Spohn


superman-vcs-big.jpg

Superman

1978

By Curt Swan


tac-scan-big.jpg

Tac-Scan

1983

By -


dragster.jpg

Dragster

1980

By -


Space invaders vcs big.jpg

Space Invaders

1980

By -




asteroids-atari-2600-big.jpg

Asteroids

1981

By Chris Kenyon


vanguard big.jpg

Vanguard

1982

By Ralph McQuarrie



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