Back in the day when people still read magazines, GamePro magazine was my gaming magazine of choice. Sure I had a handful of issues of Nintendo Power, Electronic Gaming Monthly, and Sega Visions. But GamePro was the one that really resonated with me.
You know how people on the Internet will give you snarky advice preceded by “ProTip” sometimes? ProTips come from GamePro magazine. True story!
I started reading GamePro in 1992, and I’ve already reviewed those covers so I thought it might be fun to take a look back at the covers of all 12 issues from the year prior to when I started reading, as well!
While EA’s John Madden Football and Take-Two’s “2K” games have dominated sports genres in the last couple of decades now, back in the late 80s and early 90s, sports video games were put out by all kinds of companies, whether they were licensed by a pro sports league or not!
Arch Rivals was basically a precursor to NBA Jam, maybe the most popular basketball of all time. Lakers vs. Celtics was the start of EA’s run of pretty great basketball sims on the Sega Genesis, which culminated with Team USA Basketball, a celebration of the 1992 Dream Team’s Olympic Gold Medal victory.
Ski or Die was essentially Skate or Die but for the downhill sport. Wrestlemania Challenge is my favorite WWF game on the NES. And Tecmo Bowl is still maybe the most famous NES Football game.
I love the early 90s computer graphics that make up this cover. Pre-Photoshop digital work like this always fascinates me!
CD Rom Games! Every disc-based game reviewed in this issue is for the TurboGrafx CD peripheral: Final Zone II, Magical Dinosaur Tour, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, and something called Murder Club, and there’s a preview for Valis III. I’ve never played any of those games.
In fact, the only games on this cover I’ve played are Mega Man for Game Boy, and Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse on the Sega Genesis. Both were great sidescrolling platformers for 1991.
I’m not sure who did this cover, but I think the June issue gives a hint.
“Comic Carts” is the headline, but the animation character Mickey Mouse is the main art piece. Odd.
Silver Surfer and Dick Tracy on NES have become pretty infamous thanks to the Angry Video Game Nerd. Kabuki Quantum Fighter getting a shout-out on the cover is cool, that game is pretty underrated. Operation C is a Game Boy edition of Contra, and Shadow Dancer is the sequel to the Genesis classic, The Revenge of Shinobi.
Not much to say about the art — It’s a recycled piece of Disney stock art.
Francis Mao returns to draw Bimmy Lee and Jimmy Lee from Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones on NES. I appreciate that the entire piece is done in red-and-blue, to prevent any confusion about getting the colors of either Lee brother correct, since they’re both both colors!
Hey, a preview for the Super Famicon, the Japanese version of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. While the TurboGrafx-16 and Sega Genesis have been out for a couple years at this point, the 16-bit era is about to go into full swing!
Bonk’s Revenge (TG16) and Battletoads (NES) are the two highlighted titles in here that I can speak to: They’re both great, but hard as heck. And speaking of Battletoads…
These guys make Turtles look like pond scum! If you thought the water level on Ninja Turtles 1 was tough, it’s got NOTHING on the ‘Toads Turbo Tunnel stage!
Not sure where this Battletoad art comes from. I think it might be Francis Mao, but he did a great job of getting all three toads — Rash, Zitz, and Pimple — On-model for this cover!
Golden Axe Warrior is a Sega Master System game that’s basically a clone of the original Legend of Zelda on NES. It’s been over a decade since I’ve played it, but I remember enjoying it a lot.
I don’t think I’ve played anything else on this cover… But Whomp ‘Em is maybe the least culturally-sensitive game title of the year.
Will Sonic the Hedgehog leave Mario in the dust? Well, by 2023 we know the answer is emphatically no, but he did give Mario a pretty good run for his money in the 1990s!
Right by the barcode box, there’s text that reads “Gary Yealdhall.” I tried looking that name up, and it looks like he was an illustrator from the Baltimore, Maryland area with a style pretty similar to that Sonic illustration. And, in fact, the Battletoads cover from last issue is a pretty similar style, too. And, that CD-Roms cover from the February issue also has a similar airbrushed style.
I couldn’t find much about Mr. Yealdhall online. If you know more about him, post something in the comments!
Boy, that Rocketeer game sure was terrible. And this issue has so many baseball games I’ve never played! Valis III, which was previewed in the February issue gets a full review here. And the truly abysmal Who Framed Roger Rabbit game on NES gets covered, too.
I wish I had this issue when I picked up my TurboGrafx-16 a couple of years later. I only ended up owning a couple of games for that console, and the pack-in game was pretty brutal.
This issue adds the “#1 Video Game Magazine” tagline under the logo, which would stay there for YEARS.
I don’t know where this Rocketeer art comes from, but it’s pretty cool. I wonder if Bo Knows?
By sheer coincidence, I’m currently reading a Spider-Man Epic Collection that includes issues from 1991. GamePro’s in-house artist Francis Mao’s take on Spidey, Electro, Sandman, Dr. Octopus, and the Lizard are pretty accurate to the time period.
Ninja Gaiden III was HUGE when it came out, at least in my elementary school social circles. Mega Man for Game Boy, previewed in the February issue, finally gets released.
I never owned this issue, but the cover became iconic, because it was used on the subscription ads for the magazine for a LONG time after this! I may have seen this American Gladiators cover more than I’ve seen episodes of the show.
The Sega CD gets previewed, even though it was still two years away. More reviews for games that were previewed in earlier issues: Ninja Gaiden III and Bonk’s Revenge, specifically.
I’m not sure where this cove art comes from, but it looks like someone trying to ape Drew Struzan’s posters.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (NES) is a terrible game based on a fun movie. Bucky O’Hare (NES) is a great game based on a fun cartoon. Super Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts (SNES) is solid but way too hard. Toejam & Earl is an underrated Genesis classic. Decapattack is a weird-ass Genesis game that’s not bad enough to be infamous, but not great enough to be considered a classic.
There are zero NES games listed on this cover! The Super Nintendo has been released, and Nintendo’s first home console is going to get less and less spotlight until the plug is quietly pulled in 1993…
I don’t know if I can ever express exactly how big and popular the two Addams Family movies were in the early 1990s. I guarantee you that they got the cover feature here for the movie, not for the game.
Super Castlevania IV is definitely the best game listed on this cover, although Super R-Type was a decent shoot-em-up launch title for the Super Nintendo.
Look, I’m not a sports guy, but it’s weird that there were so many futuristic sports games all released at the same time, right?
I’m pretty sure no TurboGrafx-16 games ever got the cover feature on GamePro after this!
And we finish off the year with the second Simpsons-based game for NES, Bart vs. the World… which isn’t very good. I’m a big fan of Mega Man 4, though! And the Batman game referenced on this cover is Return of the Joker, which is one of the most graphically-advanced games on Nintendo’s 8-bit console.
All three SNES games listed were bangers for 1991; UN Squadron is a shooter based on the anime series Area 88; Super Adventure Island is a solid platformer and the fourth game in that series (or more if you include the Wonder Boy games); and Final Fight is… not the best port of the game, but it certainly sold a lot of units!
The covers for 1991 are all over the place. No repeat games or franchises getting cover stories, which is nice! This was only GamePro’s second full year in publication (they started partway through 1989), so they were definitely still trying to figure out who their audience was and what would appeal to the biggest market.
I didn’t start reading GamePro until the following year, but one of my older cousins gave me his GamePro collection at some point in probably 1993, so I ended up with a lot of these issues. I’m not sure I ever read through them all before eventually selling them off to a used bookstore, but I kept them around for something like 15 years.
These looks back at gaming history are a lot of fun for me. Expect more of these GamePro cover reviews in the future!