Box art was once a primary marketing tool for selling a game. Some of the most iconic and recognizable images in video games happen to be right on the cover. When the Super Nintendo came to North America and other regions from Japan, the art needed to be transformed from its original vertical box layout to a horizontal one. This resulted in cropped art, ill-placed logos, and sometimes the cover was scrapped for a new one.
Here are some of the best covers from imported games on the SNES and Super Famicom!
Compared to its Japanese version, this looks like an entirely different game. The letter branding was stretched to fit the horizontal layout, and they added a flame monster with a visor helmet that looks like it is trying to steal the logo! The original ship design is long and lean, whereas the imported version appears more compact. Even the missiles got a visual change!
As one of the most beloved RPGs released on the platform, the artwork for Secret of Mana is iconic. Not only did Secret of Mana see a drastic color change on the localized game title, but it appears nearly 60% of the original artwork was cropped to fit the horizontal box. The detailed work on the Japanese cover deserves recognition and makes you wonder how big that tree actually is!
There weren’t too many airport management simulations on the SNES, but AeroBiz was a popular release in Japan. The switch from 2D to 3D illustration must have been a marketing call to attract NA audiences to the unorthodox gameplay combination of this title.
Unfortunately, there was no import of this game to NA and PAL regions. The game is based on the Amazing Spider-Man Lethal Foes comic series and features several of Spidey’s most formidable foes. Perhaps with the Spiderverse in full swing, we may get another look at a Lethal Foes – Sinister Six crossover!
Dragon Quest III is an example of a game that was released for the NES, but the remake was never imported to North America. Although this remake was released in Japan. North American Audiences needed to wait almost 11 years to play the remake on the GameBoy Color. Interestingly enough, the title didn’t even get a subtitle until 2014, when it was released on Android and OS.
There is no contest. The Japanese illustration of Alien3 makes this one of the most frightening covers on the console. The North American version, however, just got a logo. This is an example of a game that was imported from North America to Japan, so the cover art was most likely locally sourced for release.
Both box covers for Mother 2 (known as Earthbound in the West) were excellent. While considered the same game, each version has distinct opening menus and many changes from the localization. Legends of Localization made an incredibly in-depth article listing the differences between these two versions for those interested.
Well. Not much to say about this one. And yes, that is the actual imported box art. We checked. According to this article from Destructoid, the team that designed the imported title knew nothing about games at the time and just wanted to “try and get the potential purchaser to stare at the package and try and figure out what just happened.” The cover still works, expected garnering interest even after all these years.
As iconic as the Super Mario World art is, it feels rather plain compared to the Japanese vertical version, which was filled with life and color. Selling 20 million copies, there was much more to this game than what was on the box art. Also interesting to know how Yoshi was able to “spill” over the box art lines where as most other games needed to crop.
Both versions of Suzuka 8 hours have incredible art and illustration for this motorcycle racing game and would make excellent posters for any fan of import roadsters! This game was also famous as an arcade cabinet racer that had large bikes for players to ride on.
The Super Nintendo was a fantastic console with some incredible games with the box art to match. Games in this console’s library had instantly recognizable covers, and due to the horizontal crop for import titles, the artists needed to get extra creative. Let us know if there are any games you think should be on this list!
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