You can’t buy a new graphics card for love nor money these days. When the RTX 3070 Ti went on sale last week, it followed in the footsteps of all new GPU launches this year and disappeared in a puff of smoke in 23 seconds flat. It’s a real shame, as some of these new GPUs would be pretty decent upgrades if your current PC’s starting to struggle a bit.
However, I put it to you that the real crime of 2021 is the current state of graphics card box art. It’s just so… bland and sensible these days. Not like the good old days, when Palit’s robo frog was giving you the evils from on high with a menacing grin, PNY’s purple Verto face could turn you to stone with their piercing, cybernetic snake eyes, or… whatever the hell’s going on with that goblin up there. Seriously, is that a glowing bagel on a stick? And what is with that terrible haircut? Oh no. Today’s graphics cards don’t know they’re even born. So here’s to you, GPUs of yore and their terrible box art. We miss ya.
As Alice0 mentioned the other day, it’s this sort of graphics card heritage that would make a great addition to Colorful’s just-announced GPU Museum. That said, I’m not gonna lie. A quick image search of old graphics card box art reveals a lot of scantily clad ladies in often preposterous combinations of fishnet tights, camo gear and terrible face paint. I mean, how else where graphics card companies going to make their latest silicon board look sexy to prospective buyers? Honestly, I’m glad we’ve moved on from all that now, but there are plenty of characters I’d love to see more of, like Palit’s robo frog.
The Robo Frog – Palit GeForce GTX 275
Just look at that good boy. Sure, the way he’s somehow looking down on you and grinning manically is a teensy bit menacing in hindsight, but Palit have given this little green dude another lease of life with his new cyborg bod. Just imagine the power he can wield rendering all those watery pools of 1995. Glorious. More of him, please.
Biker Lady From The Future – Axle GeForce 9600 GT
One of the aforementioned scantily clad ladies clad in the classic gamer colours of red and black, but honestly, what else says “GOTTA GO FAST” than a cool cyber bike from the late noughties? Sporting key selling points such as a massive 1GB of VRAM and HDMI with an optional dongle, this box art has it all. If someone would give the lady a nice cardy, I’d be happy to see her return.
The Purple Verto Borg – misc PNY GeForce
PNY’s terrifying human snake cyborg hybrid graced the box of many a GPU back in the day, and for my money, I think thet GeForce FX 5900 SE (bottom right) is probably his most terrifying incarnation. His giant purple head, backed by flames mirroring his golden yellow snake eye… It’s unnerving stuff – even if it’s an expert deployment of some good old fashioned complementary colour design. His eyes… they stare into my soul. No more of him, please.
Knockoff Poison Ivy- Point Of View GeForce GTX 480
Gosh, I love a graphics card with a hood that matches the box. I’m not entirely sure what the heck this second rate Poison Ivy-alike is doing with her stringy green, red petal… thing, or whether that glowing green orifice is part of her own shoulder or something else entirely. All I know is that it probably, maybe, looked achingly cool back in 2010 (yes, 2010) where everyone was still caught in the passionate throes of having watched The Dark Knight for the fifteenth time on DVD. If there was one thing you wanted to see in Nvidia’s 3D Vision gubbins, it was probably this lady. Maybe.
Buff Guard Dog – XFX GeForce 6800
Back in the heady days when XFX still made Nvidia cards, their GPU hero was this mean looking masked dog boy. I have a feeling he’d put up a pretty good fight against Palit’s robo frog, because my word, just look at those rippling muscles. If buff guard dog wasn’t enough of a loss to the GPU box art world, though, just get a load of that weird, cross-shaped box! As if it’s been crushed by the paws of buff guard dog himself. More of that, please, XFX.
Lara Croft’s “Super” Sister – Sapphire Radeon HD 4870
As yes, the Croft that even Lara’s ashamed to admit she’s related to, Sapphire’s ‘Prepare To Dominate’ lady adorned the box of many a GPU back in the day. Was there ever a time when she wore actual shorts? Who can say. Such information is lost to the annals of time now, but I do like the idea that she still feels the need to mask her identity with a little eye mask all the same. Still, I’m glad this one’s hung up her pistols and entered retirement now. Someone’s got to watch the Croft mansion while Lara’s doing her disaster tourism, after all…
Camo Girl – Sapphire Radeon HD 7790
The other Croft often shared graphics card box art duties with her best friend Camo Girl. No one knows her true identity, though, thanks to her expert camo mask. In fact, most of her other GPU stable mates just plain ignored her most of the time because she was so carefully camouflaged against her surroundings. Except when someone put a whacking great red and black backdrop behind her, though. Then she stood out like a sore thumb. I’d imagine she had pretty sore shoulders from carrying around that big ring of bullets all day, too. Poor lass. You deserve a nice rest love. Just let me lead you down into this bunker here, where you’ll feel most comfortable. Yes, that’s it. You lie down while I seal the door forever behind me. What’s that? Nothing dear, you go sleep now. It will all be over soon.
Final Fantasy Samurai Summon – Asus Radeon HD 7750
Holy, flying whale cakes, now that’s what I call an incredible bit of graphics card box art. Who needs sexy army ladies when you can have a cool, massively over the top samurai orc boy riding a majestic horned demon horse that looks like they’ve just cantered in as part of an elaborate Final Fantasy summon? Asus’ Radeon HD 7750 ticks a lot of boxes here (sorry). Not only have you got an incredibly powerful mascot on the front, but there’s fire, there’s lightning, an ominous gothic castle in the background and, most importantly of all, it’s got SUPER ALLOY POWER. And of course the final graphics card looks just as formidable as well. None of that Fishcer Price plastic nonsense that makes it look like a knock-off Bop-it or anything here, no sir. Where’s Yuna when you need her, eh? I want this GPU summoned back into existence, STAT.
Mr Midas – Zotac GeForce 8800 GTS
Another cracking box and GPU hood matching combo, Zotac’s eerie golden Midas man is just as terrifying as PNY’s Verto borg in my eyes. Even XFX’s Buff Guard Dog would have a hard time piercing that shiny gold bod, I reckon. I mean, just look at him. This guy is smugness personified. He knows his 512MB of GDDR3 memory is the bees knees, just as much as he loves raving about his HDTV, HDCP, PCI Express 2.0 and Low Noise Cooling features. He looks down on you, Mr Midas does. And there’s nothing you can do but grovel under his piercing white gaze and submit to his furious might.
Honestly, there’s such a wealth of bad graphics card box art out there that it’s hard to know where to go next. Do we celebrate monochrome bondage lady? Or pink robo lady? What about sneaky gremlin boy with the green bagels? he must be a relation to the moob goblin from the header, surely. There’s also Wannabe Thief Fan, and perhaps my favourite, Chrome Alien Lad. He’s much better than all the other quasi-winged folks on these boxes. Bring back that guy, ATI. If anyone deserves a second chance at box art stardom, it’s our mate in chrome. I mean, just think how good he’d look with ray tracing these days. That boy would SHINE.