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Forums - Gaming Discussion - 8-bit Generation Wars!! Tech Specs and Graphics: Lynx Vs Gameboy Vs Nes Vs Master System Vs PC Engine Vs 2600/7800 Vs Gameboy Color

 

Which one had the best pixel art graphics for the 8-bit generation era?

Gameboy 1 3.85%
 
NES 7 26.92%
 
Master System 5 19.23%
 
PC Engine 11 42.31%
 
2600 0 0%
 
7800 0 0%
 
Lynx 1 3.85%
 
Gameboy Color 1 3.85%
 
Total:26

I have made some research about hardware and graphics capabilities of the 8-bit generation consoles, and several interesting things came out.
This thread will be focused on hardware/graphics capabilities of those older console.

But first, if you missed the other parts, you can check generation comparisons here:
- Part 2: 16-bit Generation
- Part 3: 32/64-bit Generation

I have searched the web for data, mostly wikipedia, specialized sites, dev forums, old articles and lost in time interviews, but some data may be inaccurate or not. I have some skills in programming and OpenGL (mostly the fixed graphics pipeline) but I'm not an engineer or AAA developer so, if you, tech specialist guys of the forum, have better knowledge and better quality data feel free to post corrections and report errors!

Many of you probably already know about it, but let's take a look again just for fun :)

Group-1: Gameboy vs NES vs Master System vs PC Engine

  Gameboy NES Master System PC Engine

Producer

Nintendo

Nintendo

Sega

NEC

Year

1989

1983

1985

1987

Lifespan

1989-2003

1983-2003

1985-1991

1987-1994

Media

ROM Cartridge | 64 KB ~ 1 MB

ROM Cartridge | 8 KB ~ 1 MB

ROM Cartridge | 128 KB ~ 4 MB

or Sega Card | 8 KB ~ 32 KB

ROM Cartridge | up to 2.5 MB

Bit-Generation

8-bit

8-bit

8-bit

8/16-bit

CPU

Sharp LR35902 | 8-bit | 1.05 MHz | 0.62 MIPS

Ricoh 2A03 | 8-bit | 1.79 MHz | 0.78 MIPS

Zilog Z80A | 8-bit | 3.59 MHz | 0.53 MIPS

Hudson HuC6280 | 8-bit | 7.16 MHz | 3.1 MIPS

RAM

8 KB onboard

2 KB onboard + 8 KB on Cartridge + 1 KB (exp. chips MMC*)

8 KB onboard

8 KB onboard

GPU

Embedded PPU | 8-bit | 2.10 MHz

Ricoh RP2C02 PPU | 8-bit | 5.37 MHz

Sega VDP 315-5124 | 16-bit | 10.73 MHz

Hudson VDC HuC6270A | 16-bit | 7.16 MHz

GPU Co-Processor

-

-

-

Hudson VCE HuC6260 | 16-bit | 7.16 MHz

VRAM

8 KB

2 KB + 256 bytes + 32 bytes

16 KB

64 KB

Color Palette

4 colors (black-green)

48 colors + 6 grays

64 colors

512 colors

Max Colors on Screen

4 shades of green

25

32

482

Max Sprites on Screen

40

64

64

64

Max Sprite Size

8x8 or 8x16

8x8 or 8x16

8x8 or 8x16

32x32 or 32x64

Max Resolution

160x144

256x240

256x192

512x224

Parallax Scrolling

1 Fixed Layer, scrolling layers simulated by default using line scrolling

1 Fixed Layer, scrolling layers simulated by using line scrolling via expansion chips

1 Fixed Layer, scrolling layers simulated by default using line scrolling

1 Fixed Layer, scrolling layers simulated by default using line scrolling and dynamic tiles

Special FX

Color Cycling and Swapping, Tile Animation, Sprite Flip, Wobble Fx

Color Cycling and Swapping, Tile Animation, Sprite Flip

Color Cycling and Swapping, Tile Animation, Tile Flip, Fixed Sprite Scaling 2x

Color Cycling and Swapping, Tile Animation, Sprite Flip, Shearing Fx, Wobble Fx, Mosaic Fx (software), Sprite Scaling (software)

Expansion Chips on Cartridge

none

Nintendo AOROM/CNROM/UNROM/FDS/MMC1~MMC6 | Konami VRC1~VRC7 | Sunsoft 5B/FME-7 | Namco 163

none

none

Gamepad

DPAD + 2 Buttons (A, B) + 2 Service Buttons (START, SELECT)

DPAD + 2 Buttons (A, B) + 2 Service Buttons (START, SELECT)

DPAD + 2 Buttons (1, 2)

DPAD + 2 Buttons (I, II) + 2 Service Buttons (RUN, SELECT)

Max Players

1 Player

2 Players

2 Players

2 Players

[GAMEBOY]: Although it had a slower CPU/GPU than the NES, thanks to its bigger video RAM and fewer colors on screen it seems quite often on par with it, especially on sprite and background details. Look at Link's Awakening, it resemble more of A Link to the Past on SNES than The Legend of Zelda on the NES! Despite on the NES, parallax scrolling was tricky and demanding to implement, so it wasn't much used.

[NES]: One of the oldest 8-bit console on this list, and despite of this, thanks to the many chips on cartridge it managed to stay relevant (graphically speaking), introducing simulated parallax scrolling, better tile animations but also sound enhancements.

[MASTER SYSTEM]: One of the fastest console on this list, known for its smooth and colorful graphics, hosted several arcade ports such as Outrun, Hang On and Space Harrier. It couldn't flip sprites but at least it could create a 2x sized copy of sprites thanks to an hardware feature.

[PC ENGINE]: Often considered the first 16-bit console on the market, thanks to its fast cpu it could execute (software side) many advanced effects, such as sprite scaling and famous SNES mosaic effect, however, being not supported by the hardware they were quite demanding and used sporadically.

Some examples of graphics output comparison:

Gameboy NES Master System PC Engine