The Perfect Circle: Gaming's Best Disc Art
Search around a bit on the Internet and you'll find plenty of treatises on videogame box art, be it good, bad, strange, or, um, "most awesome." But no one seems to pay attention to the art that actually gets printed on the disc itself.
This isn't all that surprising. Most players barely glance at the disc before shoving it into their game system, and most publishers just end up shoving a smaller version of the box art on there anyway. But there are a few games that seem to take pride in that last bit of imagery the player gets before starting up a game.
These are just some of those games, culled from hundreds of examples of disc art that ranged from atrocious to merely generic. For this list, I was looking for examples of disc art that was:
Enjoy the list, and please share your thoughts and favorites in the comments.
20. Grand Theft Auto III
The thick, black lines and singular, striking image on this disc introduce you to the gritty violence of the game even before you stick it in your PlayStation 2. I think the designer missed an opportunity to use the hole in the disc as the hole in a barrel of the gun, but the image is pretty effective as it is.
19. Tennis 2K2
The low-res graininess of this tennis ball photo actually gives the image a texture that really helps it pop. I also like the heavy shading in the upper-right corner, which gives a sense of depth and roundness. Plus, using a round ball on a round disc is just no-brainer brilliant.
18. Tao Feng: Fist of the Lotus
This disc is totally in my face! Sure, the narrowed eyes and bloody, bared teeth might give you nightmares, but at least they're memorable, and that's more than you can say for most on-disc art.
17. Playboy: The Mansion
Sometimes less is more. I love how the solid blue on the right gently transitions into the seductive silhouette on the left. The subtle Playboy logo in the background is a nice touch, too -- much better than the distracting larger logo on the bottom of the disc, which feels out of place. And what's with all that text in the corner? Do people read Playboy discs for the articles?
16. UmJammer Lammy
I chose this disc mainly because I'm amazed at how many of the game's iconic characters and images are squeezed into a 12-cm diameter circle, all without feeling especially cluttered. I also like the way the name of the game is elegantly worked into a neon marquee on the left. Most importantly, it captures the whirlwind feeling of the game in visual form almost perfectly.
15. We Love Katamari
The King of All Cosmos commands you to enjoy this disc, and you had better obey!
14. Gears of War
A very strong design, though I really don't know why the name of the game needs to be on there so prominently. Were they afraid players would confuse this with that other game with a red, spray-painted skull and crossbones as its logo? Seems unlikely...
13. Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition
As I said in the introduction, I have a soft spot for discs that use the circular shape as an excuse for large, circular art. This image evokes the game's tone of automotive bling, too. Makes me wish I had an Xbox with a clear top, so I could see the spinning rim as I play...
At first glance it's tough to figure out what this disc is supposed to be, but close examination reveals a classic VHS tape label -- the kind you might see on the type of overdubbed, passed-around snuff film for which the game is known. The extra layer of irony that comes from a VHS label being placed on a DVD, combined with the striking impact of the disc's extreme blackness, is enough to get it on this list.
11. Halo 3 Limited Edition
This design earns points for being brave enough to use the game's iconic "3" logo without feeling the need to put the "Halo" name anywhere on the disc. I like how the size and placement on the logo looks like a pincer around the disc hole, too.
10. Secret Weapons Over Normandy
Most designers, when assigned to make some disc art for a game called Secret Weapons Over Normandy would probably throw together some World War II-era planes flying over a beach and call it a day. But this designer went the extra mile in tracking down a historically accurate-looking airplane status gauge -- the kind you'd see if you were flying an actual secret mission over Normandy -- and fitting it to the size and shape of the disc. The garish Totally Games logo is the only real sore point.
9. Crazy Taxi
This distinctive, sharp-toothed, checkerboard logo, which is relegated to a tiny corner of the box art, is blown up so large here that it looks like it's threatening to jump out at you at any moment. The use of see-through text for the title and Dreamcast logo helps prevent those text elements from becoming a distraction -- a nice touch.
8. Namco Museum Vols. 1-5
Singling out any one disc from this arcade classics collection, as above, doesn't really do justice to the striking effect of having all five laid out in order to form the distinctive Namco logo. It's a design decision that exudes a bold confidence in the company's branding, and works especially well when the discs are arranged together in a CD wallet.
7. PaRappa the Rapper 2
Another great minimalist design. The lack of a title on this disc forces the owner to identify the grinning frog logo on Parappa's trademark orange cap to identify the game. Some might argue that this goes against the utilitarian purpose of disc art (i.e., telling you what game you're holding), but I say that extra bit of mental work should make you appreciate the design that much more.
6. Showdown: Legends of Wrestling
A relatively simple design, I placed this one high on the list because of the creative use of the disc hole, which looks like it was hammered through a now-shattered pane of glass. It's a high-impact image that evokes the visceral energy of wrestling without the need to show any of the "Legends" implied by the title.
5. Tony Hawk's Project 8
This disc wins the "Great Use of White Space" award for capturing that iconic moment when time seems to stand still as you sail high above the ground, board in hand. The nice, clean lines, simple color scheme, and text that doesn't overwhelm the art help put this one high on the list.
4. Diablo (PlayStation)
I love how the actual title of the game is almost an afterthought here, displayed in tiny type at the very top so as not to distract from the clawed, demonic hand reaching out to grab the player. I also like the subtle hint of a shadowy figure peeking in from the upper-left corner -- possibly the owner of that fearsome hand?
3. Katamari Damacy
On first glance, the green circle that dominates here seems to just be a relatively boring (if clean and stylish) background for the game logo. Then your eye slides downward to see the little Prince of All Cosmos, rolling his gigantic Katamari along the floor of the PlayStation 2 logo (an excellent conceit). Thus the game is distilled into its essence with an economy of space and color that most other game discs should envy.
2. Shadow of the Colossus
With no large title and no easily identifiable images, it's hard to know what to make of this disc at first. Then your eye finally makes out the pattern as the top half of a stone-textured colossus, lumbering out from under the framing of a stone arch. Once you see it for the first time, it becomes impossible to un-see, and impossible to separate from your memories of the game.
1. PaRappa the Rapper
This is the disc that inspired me to make this list. Rodney Greenblatt's simple image of Chop Chop Master Onion is so iconic, so perfectly, quintessentially connected to the game, that no other images or text are needed to identify it. The bright colors also match the feel of the game and ensure that the disc stands out at you when skimming through a notebook full of discs dominated by dark tones. A truly stand-out design.
So, what do you think? Did I miss anything? Think some of these picks are crazy? Share your thoughts (and your personal favorite disc art) in the comments.
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