The cover for Adventure on the Atari looks nothing like the title it’s promoting. The game itself is essentially made of a series of rectangles, with a few blocky enemies prowling around, while the main adventurer is simply a square. You’re forced to imagine the fantasy world you’re meant to be exploring. But imagining it is a whole lot easier thanks to the vibrant artwork of Susan Jaekel. Because of her painting on the cover of the box, you knew that you were actually venturing through a hedge maze with three huge dragons lurking inside. It filled in the gaps left by the game’s rudimentary graphics — and Adventure was far from alone.

The original Atari featured a wealth of games with box art that was quite a bit more imaginative than the “grizzled man holding a gun” template that’s so popular today. The concept of playing a video game in your house, on your television, was still in its infancy in the late 1970s, and Atari needed a way to market its games. One solution was to commission intricately detailed covers that sold the idea of a game much better than any simple screenshot could. “The game-playing experience wasn’t 100 percent of the experience,” says Tim Lapetino, an artist and designer currently working on a book about the history of Atari cover art. “Part of what made the world complete was the artwork that conjured up this other place. I wasn’t sitting in my living room anymore; I was on this desolate planet or in space. And it was mostly because of that art.”