Welcome back to Box Art Brawl, the ongoing series where we examine three video game cover variants from across the globe and vote to find out which won is the toppermost of the poppermost.
Last week we looked deep into the eyes of cinematic sci-fi platformer Flashback. It was decided that the Japanese variant, with its minimalist approach, was the best of the three with Europe in second place and North America in third.
This week we're taking a look at a little-known platforming curio which only the true genre devotees will likely have heard of. It's called *checks notes* Super Mario Bros. and was released for the Japanese Famicom and the North American Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985, arriving on European shores two years later...
Okay, we can't keep that up. This is up there with the most famous video games of all time (and is the most expensive ever sold at auction, too). We all know this, we all own this (probably multiple times) and we could probably choose our favourite cover without needing to look at the options. It's going to be most interesting this week to see how you lovely people vote - these images have become so iconic that it's difficult to divorce them from nostalgia.
Still, the way you arrive at your decision isn't for us to dictate - simply browse below and go with your gut. Ready? Let's-a go, indeed...
We kick off with the North American version. We have always admired the 'Black Box' Nintendo games for the way they displayed the pixels, blowing the sprites up loud and proud on the covers. Other companies would concoct some elaborate image to give the player an idea what that jumble of pixels onscreen was supposed to represent, but Nintendo went with the in-game art.
What is there to say? It's so familiar that it's hard to look at this objectively. We like the bold simplicity, and having Mario at an angle that you'd never see in-game sets him apart from the block-and-lava background. The speed lines trailing behind the plumber inject some dynamism. The 'Super Mario Bros.’ font is a little uninspiring, we suppose, and the starfield seems entirely arbitrary.
We guess the question to ask is: if you had no idea what Super Mario Bros. was, would this make you interested to play it?
Japan got the typical landscape Famicom box presentation which provides a stark contrast to the NA cover. Using every colour in the artist's palette, we get a lovely bit of Mario key art featuring a host of friends and foes from the game. Bowser and a couple of his minions are looking more than a little off-model, but they're all recognisable and, as an introduction to the colourful cast of the Mushroom Kingdom, it's a winner.
Negatives? Well, we suppose this multi-coloured cover and the yellow Famicom cartridge the game came on might have made the game itself seem a little bland-looking once you booted it up. Yep. Can you tell we're scraping the barrel for cons?
Okay, okay, before UK readers start raising eyebrows, we know this isn't the cover that hit store shelves in the UK. Europe received a few different variants depending on the country, with the UK version being practically identical to the North American one up top. For the sake of variety, we've gone with the mainland European version which blends the 'Black Box' look with the key art of the Famicom box.
Again, there were variations depending on country (some had the 'Action Series' logo just like the NA box, for example), but the main text turns blue and the Nintendo Seal of Quality stands out that little bit more with its white background. Some later NA versions also had the white background on the seal. Regardless, the amount of black in the border gives the impression that we're looking through a window at the craziness occurring behind.
There we are! Three boxes, one game and one decision to make. Take a long hard look below and click on your favourite before casting your vote by hitting that 'Vote' button:
It's a toughie, that's for sure. Thanks for voting. For all UK readers who want to pick 'their' cover, it's up to you whether you go with the NA version, or show solidarity with our continental compadres. Politics in video games, you say? No, no - this is Box Art Brawl! See you next time.