If you amass a collection of videogames for a current generation console today, you can expect the boxes to be a standard size and shape. Your game collection will look pretty uniform, as it sits there proudly on your gaming shelf.
However, in the days of the Commodore Amiga, you could potentially find yourself tackling a challenge of Tetris-proportions, storing your collection of 16-bit gems in your bedroom. The games may have come on 3.5” floppy disks, but the boxes that housed those disks were often big enough to hold everything you would need for a manned mission to Mars.
Yes, those cardboard Amiga boxes may not have been the most environmentally-friendly (although, to be fair, David Attenborough never had to narrate shocking footage of a Shadow of the Beast box wrapped around a dolphin’s head) but they were certainly a lot of fun to buy. Untold adventures awaited in those big boxes. Some contained plastic inserts to keep the contents neatly stored, and others just the let the disks and manuals roam free. But it was always exciting to open the box of a Commodore Amiga game.
Look at those big boxes!
So much excitement contained inside... Of course the Amiga (like its 16-bit counterpart the Atari ST) suffered from its fair share of game piracy: illegal copies swapped in playgrounds up and down the land. But if you bought a pirated game, you were missing out on some superb box art, extremely detailed gaming manuals, and other potential joys such as posters, postcards, and T-shirts too. Items like these are often packaged in “limited edition” versions of videogames nowadays: Uncharted gets you a Nathan Drake figurine, Zelda Breath of the Wild bestows a Master Sword model, and Hitman offers you an Agent 47 trouser press, but in the days of the Amiga there was usually the one version of a game to buy, and – in the least – you could expect that box to contain a manual, rich with a backstory, artwork and of course the all-important controls. The biggest shame of the current videogame generation is that the move to encouraging digital sales has caused publishers to cut-back on the contents of a physical release. A manual has become a luxury.
Hired Guns featured not one, but four manuals.
On occasion, Amiga boxes had to be the size they were to incorporate all the disks the computer game came on. Games like Rainbow Islands may have come on one disk, but then The Secret of Monkey Island 2 had about 76 floppy disks in its box. If we were to discuss phrases that the newest generation of videogamers may never have heard of, I think we can safely say that “disk-swapping” would be one of them. My late 80s / early 90s postman perhaps doesn’t miss the days of Commodore Amiga game boxes. I used to order many of my games from Special Reserve, a computer game mail order company who often had a double-page spread in the monthly gaming magazines (I still remember the fortuitous timing of two computer games I’d ordered from Special Reserve being delivered on my birthday in 1991: Warzone and Projectyle. It was very exciting to see the postman approach the house with an Amiga-game-shaped parcel in his hand.)
Monkey Island 2. Stand back when you open the box; you may drown in floppy disks.
The distinctive Psygnosis logo featured on all its game boxes; in some cases it was even on the inner box (such as this one for Nitro). A special mention must go the greatest Amiga box of all: The A500 Batman Pack. The cardboard box that began my love of all-things Amiga was filled with such a perfect package: besides the wonderful machine itself, there was the magnificent Batman (featuring several gaming styles, including side-scrolling platform gaming and into-the-screen driving in the Batmobile), cute and colourful platformer The New Zealand Story, combat flight simulator F/A-18 Interceptor and – for when you want to get creative – Deluxe Paint II. It was without a doubt the finest Amiga bundle, and certainly superior to the Amiga 1200 Comic Relief pack that I bought several years later.
Those big-box Amiga games represented an exciting time in computer gaming, but – importantly – unlike today’s generation of consoles, the excitement began not when you loaded the game up, but when you opened the box.
New Zealand Story
The New Zealand Story: Tiki the Kiwi on the rampage with a bow and arrow. (Featuring the legendary artwork of Bob Wakelin.)
You can find out more about Ben and his love for Amiga games on his channels below