Best of 2012: Top 10 Game Cases

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Time to kick off my ambitious goal of presenting ten top tens of entertainment media in 2012. This is going to require an unprecedented time management effort, but hey, hopefully I’ve grown enough this year to meet the requirements. First up, something I’ve always paid perhaps a little too much attention to: videogame cases.

We live in an age where games are available as full digital downloads more readily than ever, but physical production is still plenty relevant. When you look at a game on a store shelf, a lot of things go through your mind, whether consciously or (more likely) subconsciously. Is the cover eye-catching? Does it stand out from its brethren? Does it give you an adequate idea of what the game will have you doing? Does it do something other than feature a man looking straight at you while striking a badass pose? All these things and more churned around in my mind before I could spit out this list of my top ten favourite game cases of 2012.

But the list doesn’t just take into account what the front cover of a game looks like; I’ve also considered the back, the spine and, where applicable, even the inside of the case. All facets of physical presentation have been accounted for. Yeah, I’m definitely a cool guy.

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VR BEST OF 2012 DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s scary. You have been warned, fanboys.
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10. Assassin’s Creed III

Case_Assassin's

When compared to the cover art of the first four Assassin’s Creed games, one thing immediately stands out about the front of the ACIII case. Connor, the newest member of the Brotherhood of Assassins to be introduced to series fans, isn’t simply standing in an ominous pose with a hood over his head. No, he’s actually doing something, and something rather violent at that. That redcoat he has in his very capable grasp is not going to be breathing for much longer, or so the implication stands. The motion-blurred battlefield depicted in the background, complete with prototype American flag, adds to the kinetic excitement of the image, suggesting a history-rich experience well worth playing through.

9. Forza Horizon

Case_Forza

The super-slick Forza Motorsport series is pretty much peerless, in my admittedly limited opinion, when it comes to its presentation. It makes cars look good, both in-game and on-box. The case for this year’s series iteration, Forza Horizon, does a typically excellent job in this regard while also very quickly depicting what makes it stand out from its cousins. A beautiful sunset-bathed nature shot combines with a liberal application of electric pink, particularly noticeable on the case’s spine, which puts an exclamation point on the statement that Horizon is essentially a love letter to both the open road and to 80’s-style muscle under the hood.

8. Diablo III

Case_Diablo

The cardboard case containing the heavily-hyped Diablo III is a work of Blizzard through and through. The mega game developer and publisher presents the same kind of box that also houses World of Warcraft and its expansions, only it focuses much more heavily on two ominous colours: red and black. The logo looks awesome, the three ambiguous lines representing an enigmatic hybrid of scratch marks and light beams catch the eye, the embossed creature artwork is high-quality and the front flap lifts up in typical Blizzard style to reveal plenty of reasons to buy the game. Such is the highly persuasive mark of a company with a lot of money.

7. Gravity Rush

Case_Rush

The topsy-turvy world of Gravity Rush is well-represented on its Playstation Vita casing. One of the game’s frequently-used background shades dominates the front and back artwork, where the imposing size of the game’s heavily urban environments is hinted at. The front cover showcases the central gameplay mechanic, shifting the direction of gravity, in serene style, provoking curiosity in the ignorant viewer. The panel-in-panel design of the two featured screenshots on the rear of the case also pack the bonus of alluding to the comic book-style narrative delivery the game leans on, which is a nice touch.

6. Kid Icarus: Uprising

Case_Icarus

I’m a sucker for games that come in boxes rather than plastic cases, maybe because it reminds me of the days of the Nintendo 64. So even though the reason for Kid Icarus: Uprising‘s abnormal packaging decision is an ultimately inconsequential 3DS stand, I just love it to bits. It’s a happy accident that the larger box size subconsciously suggests added depth, because KI:U is absolutely jam-packed with content. The striking blue it chooses as its main colour certainly doesn’t hurt its visual appeal, nor do the compartmentalised weapon illustrations it displays on the back.

5. Sleeping Dogs

Case_Sleeping

Sleeping Dogs was probably the 2012 game that packed the most number of pleasant surprises into the experience it offered, at least as far as I’m concerned. Low expectations may have been a factor in this, but I digress already. These surprises started with the game’s case, which features a funky mural-style drawing depicting several of the game’s characters, as well as a typical action scene one might expect to encounter while playing. Chinese imagery litters the semi-symmetrical artwork and the only four colours used are typically East Asian in hue. All of it comes together rather nicely, especially against PS3 or PC casing.

4. Nintendo Land

Case_NintyLand

Sure, its a shiny new console and all, but I haven’t quite gotten over the standard casing scheme of Wii U games just yet. That blue is just so damn soothing. It just makes me happy to look at. All the launch titles for Nintendo’s new home console rock said blue with confidence, but the game that arguably does it the best is Nintendo Land. The hectic front cover sums up the variety of game experiences on offer when you play the game, throwing in as many Nintendo franchise references as possible and leaving the consumer in no doubt as to the kind of in-game atmosphere to expect. But the star of the Nintendo Land case is the back cover, which presents a neatly divided (and colour-coded) breakdown of all the ways to play the excellent hardware showcase.

3. Unit 13

Case_Unit13

For all the game’s flaws, there are few Playstation Vita titles out there that understand what a portable shooter should be like more than Unit 13. The third person action-fest makes good use of the concept of bite-sized gameplay and it leaves said gameplay at the head and heart of the experience. Its physical cover showcases this with brilliant minimalistic efficiency, telling you just what to expect from the cartridge inside while also managing to look really awesome. There are no generic faces and no pretenses in that artwork; just a mosaic grenade made up of many smaller gun paintings. Very nice.

2. Borderlands 2

Case_BL2

How do you improve on the neat stroke of design genius behind the cover of the first Borderlands, which featured pseudo-gameplay footage inside a cloud of imaginary blood spilling from an imaginary head exit wound from a stock-standard enemy type holding an imaginary gun? Why, you double the amount of imaginary exit wounds and guns, of course. The brilliant cover design of Borderlands 2 does so many things right; it intuitively establishes itself as a sequel, it splashes an infamously eye-catching colour all over the front, back and sides of the case (that’s orange, by the way) and in the dual “blood”-soaked images on the cover it highlights two of the coolest things about the game: Its fantastic villain, Handsome Jack, and the hectic four-player co-op the series is known for.

1. New Super Mario Bros 2

Case_NSMB2

Mario’s third side-scrolling adventure under the misguided “New” naming scheme was a little disappointing to some when it launched, but it sure was presented nicely. Despite holding the honour of being the first-ever full retail game available for download over the Nintendo Network, NSMB2 shipped in a beauty of a case. The gloriously avaricious central concept propelling the game, the quest for a million coins, is promoted in all its golden glory on the front of the case, while the back features the standard brightly coloured box set-up Nintendo has been doing well for years. But there are two things that kick it up to the top of this list: It comes in an actual yellow case, unlike all other 3DS games, and the inside of the slick features a breathtaking gold-overload spread.

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Honorable Mentions

Guildwars 2
Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two
New Super Mario Bros U
Halo 4
Dishonored

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