Can you survive An Unholy Return: The 31 Games of Halloween?
A Brief History of Gaming
The Scariest Video Game Magazine Covers of the 1990s
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on October 31, 2014   |   Episode 38 (Show Archive)  

Are you sick of handing out candy to a bunch of entitled brats? Then turn off your porch light, pretend nobody is home and join us as we look at the scariest magazine covers of the 1990s. From being buried alive to the ills of drinking soda, this episode of A Brief History of Gaming has to be seen to be believed.

Although there are dozens of Halloween-themed magazine covers, we edited out the designs that simply recycled box art or licensed images. Some of these covers were specifically designed for the October issue, while others pop up throughout the other eleven months. These may not be the best covers, but each is memorable in their own unique way. Just keep reminding yourself that they are only magazine covers.

GAMEPRO (October 1990)

What could possibly be scarier than being buried alive? If this GamePro cover is any indication, it's being buried alive by the Wolfman, Frankenstein's monster, Igor, Dracula and a sexy witch. But as scary as this unusual situation should be, I have a hard time taking it seriously. Perhaps it's because everybody else is having so much fun. And considering that any one of these monsters could rip away my flesh in the most painful way possible, I might be getting off light by merely being buried alive.


Ladies and gentlemen, the evidence is clear; drinking Pepsi will turn normal people into hideous monsters with spikey fingers and blood leaking out of every orifice. On the other hand, I'm kind of into those blue eyes and I can see the benefit of having a tongue shaped like a hook. The monster is appropriately disgusting, going much further than American magazines from that era. But all this is undermined by the product placement. I never thought I would say this, but Dead Duel deserves better.


Not only is Maniac Mansion a ghoulishly funny point and click adventure game, but it's also inspired one of the greatest Nintendo Power covers of all time. Every inch of this cover perfectly embodies the spirit of Ron Gilbert's creation. We see Bernard and Dave signaling punk rock chick Razor. Wendy Wells pokes her head out the window after investigating the telescope. And there is Dr. Fred Edison making sure nobody can get in ... or get out. Easily my favorite Halloween-themed cover.


Much like the game it's spoofing, this Die Hard Game Fan cover subscribes to the theory that you can never have too many monsters on your magazine cover. Here we see our teenage heroes (and Monitaur) surrounded by a giant baby, a masked killer with a chainsaw, an axe-wielding child, zombies, skeletons and some very toxic mushrooms. And with the toxic waste seeping into the ground, mutant insects can't be far behind. It's possible that Zombies Ate My Neighbors has more monsters than Cabin in the Woods.

GAMEPRO (July 1992)

There are two ways to look at this cover: Either this is the bloodiest issue of GamePro magazine ever published, or the Xenomorph is taking a leisurely stroll through the fire and flames. No matter where you come down on this pointless debate, one thing is clear -- this is the single most intense GamePro cover of all time. The impact is significantly diminished by talk of Bart Simpson, Hook and Evander Holyfield, three names that seem woefully out of place next to the deadliest killing machine in the solar system. And for the record, I think it's blood.


Now this is a hideous design. It's weirdly shaped, has shining lights for eyes and looks like it was recently stepped on. No, I'm not talking about the hairy mutant from Nightbreed; but rather the Amstrad GX4000 that is supposedly "burnin' rubber!" It has a sloped hood and kind of looks like an uncomfortable hat. And even when sitting next to Jim Henson's laziest creation, I have a hard time choosing which monstrosity is scarier. In completely unrelated news, this was the final issue of The Games Machine magazine. Coincidence?


Nintendo Power would like us to believe that we're looking at Simon Belmont, famed vampire hunter and star of Castlevania II. But it can't be Simon, because the Dracula slayer doesn't wear a helmet. What's more, Simon famously uses a whip, not a sword. Even if you can get past the weird inconsistencies, we're still left with a cover that looks like it was sponsored by Party City. Dracula's head is nothing more than a cheap mask, and that armor isn't fooling anybody.

ENTERTAINMENT (January 1992)

This 1992 cover is so bright and colorful that you may not even recognize its horror theme. But look closer, because what we have here is a terrifying depiction of a town fleeing from giant mutated ants. The use of retro art fits perfectly with a game that was designed to mimic campy sci-fi movies from the 1950s. It Came From the Desert? If this magazine cover is to be believed, those Godzilla-sized ants actually came from the mountains. I guess that's not as catchy.

GAMEPRO (May 1992)

So let me see if I have this straight: Rick crashes his car, his girlfriend gets kidnapped by demons and somebody (or something) glues a hockey mask to his face. I can buy all that, but what I don't understand is how Rick is able to emote in that mask. This isn't Mission: Impossible, it's just a regular hockey mask. It's made out of fiberglass. So why does the mask need eyebrows on this GamePro cover? How is he able to make the mask frown? It makes no sense.


Long before Resident Evil 4 turned the survival horror series into an action game, Electronic Gaming Monthly published this laughably absurd design. In what seems like a nod to Ralph Steadman, this issue sees a zombie fleeing from four blood-thirsty Resident Evil characters. It's a fun switcheroo, even if this cover fails to capture the tension of the early installments. What's really scary is that this issue previewed seven different Resident Evil games. 1999 was a good year to be a member of S.T.A.R.S.



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