Cover Me Badd #1 – The 20 worst NES game covers

Cover Me Badd is the first in a regular series looking at the worst video game covers in history. Each article will focus on a specific format. And no, I haven’t misspelled ‘bad’, you pesky youngster.

Hammerin' Harry isn't in my list. So that should tell you something
Hammerin’ Harry isn’t in my list. So that should tell you something

As anyone who’s read my film review site will know, I’m a fan of shite things. If something’s painfully awful I’m right on top of it like white on rice.

One of my favourite examples of this is video game covers. If you know me you know I’m a massive retro gamer and over the years I’ve seen my fair share of terrible game box art, to the extent that I’ve become something of a crap cover connoisseur.

In the first Cover Me Badd article on Tired Old Hack I’m going to kick off by exposing the worst game covers for the console most dear to my heart, the trusty Nintendo Entertainment System. ‘Enjoy’.

(Click each cover to see it bigger. If you can stand it.)

The Adventures Of Gilligan’s Island (Bandai)

The Adventures Of Gilligan's IslandIn case you aren’t down on your old American TV shows, Gilligan’s Island was a big deal back in the 1960s. As in, two decades before the NES came out.

It was odd, then, that it would be resurrected on a console owned primarily by younger gamers (despite what people say about console gaming now, back then it was mostly a kids’ thing).

Never mind the show or the game, though. Have a look at that horrendous colourised artwork. The scene in this cover is actually part of a storyline I just made up, in which some treacherous sea-dog has sold the Skipper a batch of invisible cigars: you can see him enjoying one, in fact.

Meanwhile, Gilligan is trying to look for said sea-dog so he can get a refund. But deep down in his heart he knows that refund isn’t coming.

Amagon (Sammy)

AmagonI’ve always been torn about this one. Part of me wants to put it in my top 10 greatest covers of all time, and hates me for saying it’s one of the NES’s worst.

But the other part of me put that part in a sleeper hold and now it’s out of action for a while, so here it is.

A few things confuse me about this cover. Given the choice of a big ginger lad with his shirt off or a smaller ginger lad with a dirty big machine gun, I’m going with the machine gun every time. And yet it seems that the bigger chap is supposed to be a powered-up version of the little guy.

What disturbs me more, however, is that since the big fella’s legs aren’t visible it seems he may be sitting in the little one’s backpack in a sort of human version of Banjo-Kazooie. Or, even worse, that he’s emerging out of the little guy’s anus.

After all, that would certainly explain the disgusted look on the faces of all the creatures surrounding them. Except for the crab, who seems to be getting a kick out of it.

Anticipation (Milton Bradley)

AnticipationHere’s a shocking fact: although this NES version of board game Anticipation was published by MB, the game was actually developed by a little company called Rare.

I can think of at least eight reasons I hate this cover, and they’re all looking directly into your eyes. Take the poindexter at the top in that hideous shirt, for example. After you’ve played the game perhaps he could come over and help teach you some BASIC.

The thought of this is seemingly too much for his mate in the sickly yellow jumper, who looks so excited he’s just had an accident. For him, the anticipation is over.

That’s more than we can say for the startled woman in the middle, who’s seeing a camera for the first time in her life and is absolutely terrified. Her girlfriend next to her is clearly amused by her chum’s fear, but maybe if she actually took a look at the jumper she was wearing her grin wouldn’t be quite so wide.

On the right we have the “aw come on” guy – he’s the guy who always says “aw come on” whenever his friends do anything. “Aw come on Mitch, did you really have to eat my leftover pizza?” “Aw come on Susie, that homeless guy didn’t mean to upset you.” “Aw come on Archie, I don’t want to pose for the cover of some crappy Nintendo game.”

The front row doesn’t fare much better, mind you. In the middle is every dad in every ’80s sitcom ever created, while at the bottom left is one of those models who’s been told to press lots of buttons and look like she’s concentrating really hard and everyone will believe she’s touched one of this Funtendo things before in her life.

And the less we say about Mouth in the bottom-right corner, the better.

Bandai Golf: Challenge Pebble Beach (Bandai)


It’s little wonder that Pebble Beach is, as the game’s packaging helpfully points out, “one of the world’s most difficult and challenging golf courses” when the rain takes the form of large sharpened golf tees.

This may also explain why the golfer’s eyes have been blackened out, because in reality the unedited picture shows a golfer with blood pouring out of his eyes like Robin Williams in One Hour Photo, golf tees sticking out of his face like Pinhead from Hellraiser.

Such a graphic sight would have been so disturbing that Bandai wisely decided to censor the illustration.

Bases Loaded 3 (Jaleco)

Bases Loaded 3Hey, you! Are you interested in playing Jaleco’s third NES baseball game? What’s that? You need some sort of celebrity endorsement?

Well, what if we not only featured a famous baseball player on the front of the box, but also told you in no uncertain terms that Chicago Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg plays that very game?

Yes, even though it hadn’t been released when he agreed to appear on the box, just trust us, he plays it.

In fact, he plays the game so much that his thumbs are a quivering shadow of what they used to be, which may go some way to explaining why he’s just dropped that baseball.

Blackjack (AVE)

blackjackI would imagine dodgy developer Advanced Video Entertainment (who made unlicensed NES games without Nintendo’s approval) couldn’t go with the original name of Stereotype Pontoon because of a copyright issue.

Just look at that rogue’s gallery of generic casinogoers facing you. There’s the Texas oil baron on the far right who has more money than sense. There’s the James Bond guy who’s pretended to befriend the oil baron so he can get closer to the Sheik guy on the left.

There’s the glamorous floozy who’s been hired by the Sheik to try to seduce James Bond and kill him later.

Then there’s the Sheik himself, who’s currently asking the waiter why there isn’t a little umbrella in his drink when he made a point of specifically asking for one because they please him greatly.

Also note the dancer with the large ‘M’ made of tinsel on her head. This cover is actually a cropped version of the original artwork: if you were to pan to the right you would see an entire chorus line of 40 dancers with tinsel hats spelling out “MR BOND THE SHEIK HAS HIRED THAT WOMAN TO KILL YOU”.

Bubble Bath Babes (Panesian)

Bubble Bath BabesHmm, that’s odd. I can’t seem to find an Official Nintendo Seal of Quality anywhere on this box. Maybe they just forgot. Actually, Bubble Bath Babes is one of three unlicensed ‘adult’ games released on the NES by Panesian.

This particular one is a rip-off of Puzzle Bobble. The only difference, of course, is that Puzzle Bobble has a pair of cartoon dinosaurs at the bottom of the screen whereas Bubble Bath Babes features a distinctly different sort of pair.

That cover’s just disturbing though: not just because of the three bikini-clad ladies on the front (the rightmost of whom seems completely bored by the whole thing), but because of those three pervy naked guys in the background.

Oh, and then there’s the pervy sun too: if he’d been in Super Mario Bros 3 instead of the angry one, Mario could have faced a whole new problem.

Cowboy Kid (Romstar)

Cowboy KidPresumably the photographer for this photo was being paid by the minute, or he’d have been asked to wait for the other members of the Village People to come back from the loo before he took it.

In fairness, this isn’t the worst cover I’ve ever seen but I’m concerned that it doesn’t quite fit the title much.

If this chap genuinely is a ‘Cowboy Kid’ as the game’s name suggests, I’m somewhat intimidated by his ability to grow facial hair at such a young age.

Dance Aerobics (Nintendo)

Dance Aerobics“Oh, hello there shopkeep. I was wondering if you could help me. I’m looking for a Nintendo game but I can’t remember the name of it.

“It’s basically got a lot of pictures of children doing exercises on the cover.

“What’s that? You’re trying to find it on your computer? Thank you.

“Hmm? You say you operate your computer by repeatedly pressing that red button under the counter? Well, that seems a little unconventional, but okay.

“Why hello, officer. I was just asking this helpful shopkeep for a game with children doing excerc… my word officer, you’ve put those handcuffs on a little too tightly.”

Ghost Lion (Kemco)

Ghost LionGhost Lion is (I’m assuming) the tale of a wizard who comes to 1980s Earth, runs into a gym, grabs a woman off one of the treadmills and tells her she has to save the kingdom from some sort of nasty demon chap.

“But wizard,” the 1980s exercising woman asks, “I’m not suitably dressed to defend your kingdom. I’m heading straight to the film studio after this workout session to appear as a background dancer in the upcoming hit movie Flashdance.”

“Worry ye not,” replies the wizard. “All you need is some pishy wee arm bracelet thing and you’re sorted. Oh, and here’s a ghost lion to accompany you too.”

“He doesn’t look like a ghost to me,” says the woman. “In fact, the white paint on him is still wet.”

And with that the wizard cackles and explodes in a puff of smoke, leaving the woman in the gym with a paint-covered lion, which gets angry and mauls seven people to death.

So yup, this is the game about that.

Hot Slots (Panesian)

Hot SlotsIt’s our old chums Panesian again, this time with a rubbish slot machine game.

As you’d expect, when you reach a certain amount of cash and ‘beat’ the game you’re treated to an animation of an 8-bit woman stripping and asking you curious, badly spelt questions like “are you going to rack up my charries”.

At the moment, though, I’m more concerned about where Panesian got their ‘models’, because I’m a little suspicious they cut them out of adverts they found in a phone box.

It looks like a shit casino too: obviously space is at a premium if they’re lying their slot machines in the middle of the aisle.

Jeopardy: 25th Anniversary Edition (Game Tek)

Jeopardy 25th Anniversary EditionIf you ask me, what this cover needs is a little more text. This minimalist style really isn’t getting the JEOPARDY! message across.

You see that little gap underneath the Seal of Quality on the bottom right? There’s no text there at all. I think Game Tek should have put some there, because that gap looks cavernously empty without it.

In fact, I reckon it should probably say JEOPARDY! on there somewhere again, because having two large logos on the cover isn’t enough in my eyes.

So, in conclusion, if I was in charge of this cover I’d remove the Seal of Quality and chuck the JEOPARDY! logo on there another four or five times instead.

Jovial Race (Sachen)

Jovial RaceCall me old-fashioned, but when I think of racing we think of anger, aggression, the need to be faster than everyone else, the spirit of competition, a battle to be the best. Being jovial doesn’t come into it.

I also wouldn’t consider taking part in a race in a massive 1950s sports car that takes up the entire road, because overtaking would be a concern.

What’s more, I would make sure that if I was taking part in such a race, I’d do it somewhere that didn’t have cloud vortexes in the sky, threatening to suck up the entire racetrack at any moment.

And finally, were I to somehow accept all the above conditions, I still wouldn’t race as one of the weird blue water people from that old TLC music video.

Lee Trevino’s Fighting Golf (SNK)

Lee Trevino's Fighting GolfFor a second I thought that title was a statement and that Lee Trevino had decided to go on a one-man mission to end golf for good. Turns out it’s just a normal golf game though, with very little attempts to fight golf on display.

That doesn’t mean Lee Trevino isn’t still up for a fucking scrap, though. Look at the anger in his strained eyes as he tries to uppercut the game’s logo itself.

I also like that this game was “endorsed by the US National Video Game Team”, which may sound like high praise indeed until you see what they actually look like.

Little Red Hood (HES)

Little Red HoodAh, who doesn’t love the story of Little Red Hood? No, not Little Red Riding Hood, she’s the one who went to visit her granny and got in a scrap with a wolf.

I’m on about Little Red Hood, the one who ran around her front garden booting troll pirates up the hole.

It would appear that the lovely chaps at HES have taken a few liberties with the popular fairy tale and changed the plot a little: for example, now Little Red Hood has a pet dog she can ‘sic’ on her would-be captors, and it would also appear that menacing snakes now inhabit the road to Grandma’s house.

That’s assuming Grandma even still lives there, of course: going by the way HES likes to arse around with the rules I wouldn’t be surprised if Little Red Hood was visiting some sort of cybernetic sparrow creature instead.

Magic Darts (Romstar)

Magic DartsLegendary darts player Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor would be turning in his grave if he thought there was a darts organisation somewhere that allowed participants to launch six darts at the board with one throw, regardless of how “magic” they are.

(Or if he was dead.)

Indeed, though he was never asked about it explicitly, I’m fairly certain that the not-late Taylor was against any kind of sorcery, necromancy or general dark arts being introduced to the sport.

Not that he’d have anything to worry about, mind you: considering the person on this box has still only managed to score 105 it’s safe to say Phil would be able to hand their warlock arse to them anyway.

Monopoly (Parker Brothers)

MonopolyIt’s pretty hard to mess up a Monopoly box. Just make sure you show a bit of the board, get that famous logo in there, be sure to stick the Pringles guy on there somewhere and your job’s pretty much already done.

Hell, you could even stick some of the little metal counters on there too, just to drive the point home.

Which is why I don’t understand why some bright spark at Parker Brothers decided that the best way to illustrate everyone’s favourite greed-based board game was by having said Pringles chap leap an overstretched leg off the board and into an endless void

Why is he doing that? He’s about to contravene every rule in Monopoly’s extensive rulebook, and probably disappear from all known existence in the process.

He’s also completely stepping over the GO square, as if to say “I don’t need your pishy $200, I make millions a week on sales of my crisps”. Lanky prick.

Real Player’s Pak (HES)

Real Player's PakMost of Australian company HES’s games look rubbish on their own, so bundling six on one cartridge leads to a veritable bonanza of badness on the cover.

Look! It’s Cosmos Cop! He’s just like Robocop except he seems to be having trouble working out how to operate a rifle.

Then there’s the horrifying terror that is Bubble Monster, featuring a boy scout who also can’t handle a gun.

Follow that up with the white-hot action of Porter, generic thrills with Magic Carpet and Adam & Eve, then finally the bizarrely titled Bookyman, in which a mouse has to seemingly brush things up.

Six dollops of utter shite, then.

Soccer (Nintendo)

SoccerIt isn’t so much the pixellated footballers I have a problem with here: it’s commonly known that every early NES game released by Nintendo had a similar ‘fake screenshot’ cover.

It’s more the fact that there’s no way you should be playing football like this.

The lad dressed as a jockey has clearly gone in with the studs showing, while the one in the wrestling leotard isn’t even bothering with the ball.

I’m assuming the wrestler guy is supposed to be the goalie, but since they’re both wearing caps it’s hard to tell.

Taboo: The Sixth Sense (Tradewest)

Taboo The Sixth SenseFinally, picture the scene. It’s Christmas morning. Bobby is ten years old. He’s opened up all his presents but deep down he knows there’s one left. A special one.

He hasn’t told his parents but one night Bobby looked in their wardrobe and saw all his presents, already wrapped, in a big bag. And there was one with a special gold ribbon on it, one that Bobby hasn’t seen yet today.

Still, he plays along, thanking his parents for a brilliant Christmas. “Actually Bobby,” his mum says, exchanging a mischievous glance with her husband, “that isn’t quite everything. Since you’ve been such a good boy this year, we’ve got one more present for you.”

Even though he knew about it, Bobby’s heart still skips a beat. His eyes light up as he’s given the special present, the one with the gold ribbon. He’s seen the present already, but he soon realises he doesn’t need to act excited any more: he genuinely is.

He carefully unwraps the ribbon and peels off the paper to reveal a copy of Taboo: The Sixth Sense, Tradewest’s astrology game. The sun on the cover looks back at him with sympathetic acknowledgement, as if to say “you know what this is, Bobby. You know what your parents have done.”

With water trickling from his eyes, Bobby looks up at his parents. His vision blurred by the salty tears, he blurts out his true emotions without thinking.

“Thank you so much, mum and dad,” he gushes. “You found my list, and you knew exactly what I wanted. This is the greatest Christmas ever, and were I ever to live to two hundred years of age, today will remain one of the most blissfully satisfying days of my life.”

Plot twist: Bobby’s a fucking idiot.

Next time on Cover Me Badd: The 20 worst SNES game covers


  1. I didn’t think it would be possible to leave out the awful Mega Man cover from a list such as this, but it seems there’s enough shite to go around even without it.

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