When you played Mega Man or Bad Dudes, Marc Ericksen helped you imagine it

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Marc Ericksen painted the box art for over 90 video games in his career as an illustrator. For 20 years, Ericksen’s imagination helped turn low-res pixels into rampaging aliens, martial arts masters, and military machinery. That blob of dots? It’s obviously a wasp-shaped space cruiser from the Galaxian empire. Eurogamer has a terrific profile of Ericksen and his work. It includes gems like his apprehension over making fanciful art for such minimalist game content.

“When I was doing these game covers, 20-30 years ago, in the back of my mind I was always worried that I was cheating the kids. Because here you put this big, exciting art then they put the game in and all that’s happening is these little things are moving around on the screen. And I always thought ‘this is really cheating the kids. The game doesn’t look like this,” he says. “So that first year at the show [PRGE], one of the first things I asked people was ‘hey, listen you played these games when you were a kid. Did you ever feel gypped? That there was this exciting piece of art on the cover and then you got home and the game was sort of dull?'”

“Universally they’d all say ‘oh my god no! This art is what gave us a construct in our minds of what we were doing in the game. If we hadn’t had your art, we wouldn’t have been able to imagine it! It made the game so much more fun!’ That was a total surprise to me and one of the most delightful things that I found out in my time reconnecting with gamers – that they loved the art. That’s huge to me.”

Marc Ericksen no longer works in the industry, but his artwork lives on.