What’s your favorite PC Gamer magazine cover?

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Duke Nukem on the cover of PC Gamer magazine, November 1997

(Image credit: Future)
THE PCG Q&A

Find all previous editions of the PCG Q&A here. Some highlights:
– What do we want from Fallout 5?
– What’s the greatest length you’ve gone to just to run a game?
– How many save files do you keep per game?

Our community manager, Stevie Ward, has been going through her collection of PC Gamer’s print edition and asked what everyone thought was the magazine’s best cover of all time. “I have to say, it actually tends to be games I don’t play”, Stevie said.  She helpfully linked to a gallery of recent issues,  and you can also look at our sweet subscriber covers on Twitter, which present a guff-less version of the magazine, light on text.

What’s your favorite PC Gamer magazine cover?

Here are our answers, plus some from our forum.

Evan Lahti, Global Editor-in-Chief: I don’t have much affection for Duke, but the “Come Get Some!” November ’97 issue is the one I most closely associate with my time as a PC Gamer reader, even though it featured an infamous game: Duke Nukem Forever. I love the splashy feature opener in the image below. I still remember individual boxouts and ads from this issue, like the absurdly text-heavy “The way to a man’s heart is through his sternum” ad for Half-Life that has absolutely nothing to do with the game. 

This was a moment in PC Gamer’s history when our page count was at its peak (a bricklike 448 pages in this case), and the issue remains a time capsule from an interesting moment in PC gaming history—post-Doom, post-Quake, but pre-EverQuest and Unreal Tournament, a moment when everyone was excited by the possibilities of online gaming, but also a time when those imaginations were outpacing what was playable.

(Image credit: Future)

Robin Valentine, Print Editor: Not only am I going to pick one of my own covers, I’m going to cheat and choose a split-run. We put together the ‘Escape Your World’ issue at a point where lockdown was really wearing us all down. I wanted to make an issue that reflected that feeling, but in a positive way—at a time when you couldn’t explore or travel in the real world, we embraced the escapism inherent to games. 

It took a lot of work to find a way to visualise that. Usually we would always try and avoid a design that didn’t have a strong central character, but in this case I really wanted the landscape itself to be the focus—glorious digital horizons stretching out before you. And just to make our lives as difficult as possible, we also decided it had to be a split run, showing off these four different worlds. 

(Image credit: Future)

Huge credit to my art editor John Strike for his design work on these—seeing them again now they feel like a bit of a magic trick, to me. It’s lovely to be able to look back on something from that pretty miserable point of the pandemic and feel proud of what we made happen. 

Now, if the rest of you don’t choose issues I edited too, I’m never going to talk to you ever again. 

Jacob Ridley, Senior Hardware Editor: Flicking back through the library of past PC Gamer covers brings back so many memories of reading gaming mags in the school yard while I was a little kid, thinking one day I’d be so lucky to play games for work.

That said, I’m actually going to have to pick the December 2020 issue (#350) as my favourite. That was my first cover story; I even have it framed hanging on the wall in my house. I think younger me would be pretty proud of that.

(Image credit: Future)

Mollie Taylor, News Writer: I have a bit of a soft spot for the May 2021 issue, since it’s the first issue where I got to write something! It also happens to be the issue that has Genshin Impact on the cover, quite possibly one of the least PC Gamer covers I’ve ever seen. As an anime and Genshin Impact lover though, it is very Mollie. 

The team is always harping on about the Planet Zoo cover as well, which I’m sure will end up making an appearance in someone’s answer. It is very cool, another one that feels a little less on-brand. Any covers that subvert the stereotypical PC Gamer aesthetic I’m totally here for.

(Image credit: Future)

Phil Savage, Editor-in-Chief, UK: Issue 310 was my first full issue as magazine editor—my first issue deciding the game that would grace the cover. I wanted to use the magazine as a vehicle to celebrate the breadth of the PC as a platform, and so I decided to take a chance. My first cover game was going to be a mod.

The thing about mods is they don’t necessarily have slick concept art to use. Luckily, Black Mesa was a remake of Half-Life, a game with some of the most recognisable iconography in PC gaming. John Strike, our art editor and the secret hero of PC Gamer magazine, created the beautifully textured background, and we spent a little extra to pay for a fluorescent Pantone for the lambda symbol. As good as it looks on screen, the physical copy is so much more vibrant.

We paired the Black Mesa feature with a huge, multi-part retrospective on Half-Life 2—celebrating the fact that the issue came out during the 10th anniversary of Episode 2. The whole thing came together brilliantly, both artistically and conceptually. It remains one of the best issues I’ve worked on.

(Image credit: Future)

Ted Litchfield, Associate Editor: I’m going to have to go with the Game Gods, November 2000, though maybe not for the cover itself, but what it represents. I was about five years old when this issue came out, and I’m not sure if it ever passed through my hands via my older brother. It crops up on Twitter here and there and I always smile when I see it. 

This is such a lovely piece of turn-of-the-millennium fun, from the outfits on display to the titular “Game Gods” themselves and the projects they worked on. Alice, Daikatana, Sigma, and Unreal Tournament are such a perfect sampling of gaming 22 years ago, not necessarily in terms of quality in Daikatana’s case, but it definitely brings the vibes. The cover as a whole represents a time in PC gaming I never actually experienced for myself, yet largely informs my taste to this day.

(Image credit: Future)

Morgan Park, Staff Writer: I wasn’t much of a magazine reader growing up, but I knew I’d find a winner if I looked for magazines older than me. My vote is March 1995, issue 16. 

It’s hard to beat a cover that enthusiastically tells readers to “GET HIGH!” before introducing a review for a flight sim. The red plane against the blue sea is striking and almost distracts from the awkward “It’s showtime” text over a wavy American flag. Not to mention the banger of a demo disc included here: an early slice of Full Throttle and Mortal Kombat 2? Sick. 

(Image credit: Future)

Andy Chalk, NA News Lead: I have to go with issue 186 of PC Gamer’s US edition, April 2009, featuring FEAR 2: Project Origin, and more to the point a large, stark image of an oddly attractive (and entirely unclothed) Alma. This is not at all what you’d call an accurate representation of the character, and yet somebody decided that the thing to do would be to take this insane, murderous, absolutely terrifying woman—an embodiment of supernatural horror, really—and make her hot. Really hot. And also naked. And then use lines like “Alma wants you (to die)” and “Everything is exposed in our final verdict!” 

I mean, what were they thinking here? FEAR 2 is a very different sort of shooter than its predecessor (and not nearly in the same league) but there’s absolutely nothing about it that makes me think, “Yeah baby, it’s sexy Alma time!” It’s such a bizarre choice, I can’t help but find it intriguing. Or maybe baffling is a better word for it. Either way, that’s a hell of a cover.

Oh, and by the way, Metacritic says we “exposed” FEAR 2 as a 72% shooter: “FEAR 2 fails to innovate, which would make it merely a respectable but forgettable shooter if not for some good scares.” I’d say that’s pretty much spot-on.

(Image credit: Future)

Stevie Ward, Community Manager: It’s amazing how the covers really do capture a time in gaming… going back into the archive and I can really feel how it felt sometimes, some of them just kickstart a bunch of memories of events and releases around that time. 

It’s like… old family photos but for gamers… does that make sense?

I’m also biased but because I was the community manager for this, it always gives me the feels:

(Image credit: Future)

From our forum

mainer: I envy you that you still have room to keep your PCG Magazine collection. Back in the ’90s I used to save all my monthly copies (and they had many more pages back them), as well as those of Computer Gaming World & Computer Games & Strategy Plus. But I eventually ran out of room to store them, somewhere in the middle 2010’s (I think). So, I took them all to my local Salvation Army Store (they actually took them back then). I still wish I had them.

I can’t remember any of the images, but from the ones in your link, it would have to be the June 2011 issue, with Commander Shepard on the cover for Mass Effect 3. I’ve spent literally hundreds of hours in the ME games over the years, and I was so excited for ME3. There were a lot of PCG articles after that because of the controversial ending, but it was still a great game.

(Image credit: Future)

Frindis: I got some prints water-sealed and stored in a safe secure location to use a little James Pond jargon. Diablo 2, Quake, and System Shock 2 are some of my favorite editions. Why? Well, not juuust because of the games, but because they were a few of the magazines I used to read whenever I took a train from my hometown to the capital of Norway: Oslo. The ride took about two hours or so, so I just had enough time to read through the whole magazine, not to mention the return ticket to get excited about playing the demo discs.

Volley: It was the June 1996 Cover that got me my first PC gamer magazine purchase, still my favorite.

(Image credit: Future)

Mknott: This is literally the same or at least very similar to one I was thinking of, I played so much X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter back in the day and was playing Jedi Knight a few weeks back multiplayer in 2022.

Brian Boru: The most iconic of those is undoubtedly 2011-09.

The rest are largely forgettable in a mass of similar covers on any newsagent magazine racks. I assume there are loads of sales data to support cramming as much ‘content’ as possible onto a cover, cos that seems to be the overwhelming design choice across all sorts of mags.

Honorable mentions: 2011-03 Total War Shogun 2, 2017-11 Half Life, 2013-09 The Indie issue, 2018-10 Metro Exodus, 2012-12 The Future of Minecraft, 2018-05 Jurassic World.

(Image credit: Future)

theMediaman: As a ’90s gamer, I’m partial to the early issues.

(Image credit: Future)

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