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Forums - Gaming Discussion - 16-bit Generation Wars!! Tech Specs and Graphics: Megadrive Vs Super NES Vs Neo Geo Vs PC Engine CD-ROMs/SuperGrafx Vs Megadrive+MegaCD


Which one had the most impressive graphics for the 16-bit generation era?

PC Engine / SuperGrafx + Super CD-ROM 1 3.57%
Megadrive + MegaCD + SVP Chip 4 14.29%
Super NES + SFX* Chips 12 42.86%
Neo Geo 11 39.29%

Here we are again, as promised, for the 16-bit generation comparison!

First of all, if you missed the other parts, you can check generation comparisons here:
- Part 1: 8-bit Generation
- Part 3: 32/64-bit Generation

Second, I had to put again the PC Engine here for comparison being graphically more similar to the 16-bit generation than the 8-bit one. However, I will add in the CD-ROM / Super CD-ROM specs to it, being an upgrade more in line with 16-bit generation consoles and it's where the PC Engine really shines. I will add the PC Engine SuperGRAFX too.

As for the first topic I tried to search for every information I could find on the web, trying to be as accurate as possible but, again, feel free to post corrections and report errors if needed.

Ok, we are ready to start!

Group-1: PC Engine (CD-ROMs) Vs Megadrive Vs SNES Vs Neo Geo

PC Engine + CD-ROMs Megadrive Super NES Neo Geo







1987 | 1988 CD-ROM | 1991 Super CD-ROM










ROM Cartridge | up to 2.5 MB or CD-ROMs expansion | up to 540 MB

ROM Cartridge | up to 4 MB

ROM Cartridge | up to 6 MB

ROM Cartridge | up to 40 MB (330 Mbit)







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

Motorola 68000 | 16-bit | 7.67 MHz | 1.33 MIPS

Ricoh 5A22 | 16-bit | 3.58 MHz | 1.50 MIPS

Toshiba 68HC000 | 16-bit | 12.0 MHz | 1.75 MIPS

CPU (secondary)


Zilog Z80 | 8-bit | 3.58 MHz | 0.53 MIPS


Zilog Z80 | 8-bit | 4.0 MHz | 0.58 MIPS


8 KB onboard + 64 KB optional (CD-ROM) or + 256 KB optional (Super CD-ROM)

64 KB onboard

128 KB onboard

64 KB (32x2) onboard


Hudson VDC HuC6270A | 16-bit | 7.16 MHz

Sega VDP 315-5313 | 16-bit | 13.42 MHz

Ricoh 5C78 S-PPU1 | 16-bit | 5.58 MHz and Ricoh 5C77 S-PPU2 | 16-bit | 3.58 MHz

SNK NEO-GRZ (last gen) | 16/24-bit | 24 MHz

GPU Co-Processors

Hudson VCE HuC6260 | 16-bit | 7.16 MHz



SNK NEO-G0, PRO-C0, NEO-IO, NEO-273/CMC, NEO-ZMC2, Sony CXA1145 | 16-bit


64 KB

64 KB

64 KB

84 KB

Color Palette

512 colors

512 colors

32’768 colors

65’536 colors

Max Colors on Screen





Max Sprites on Screen





Max Sprite Size

32x32 or 32x64




Max Resolution





Parallax Scrolling

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

2 Scrolling Planes implemented in hardware, up to 64 scrolling layers, line/tile/row/column scrolling (vertical and horizontal)

4 Scrolling Planes implemented in hardware, multiple scrolling layers, line/tile scrolling (vertical and horizontal)

1 Fixed Layer implemented in hardware with up to 3 scrolling planes, line/sprite scrolling (vertical and horizontal)

Special FX

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

Color Cycling and Swapping, Tile Animation, Sprite/Tile Flip, Shadow/Highlight Fx, Semi-Transparency Fx, Silhouette Fx, Wobble Fx, Shearing Fx, Background and Sprite Scaling (software), Raycasting (software), Sprite Combiner for up to 64x64 Sprite Size (software), 3D Rendering (software)

Color Cycling and Swapping, Tile Animation, Sprite/Tile Flip, Semi-Transparency Fx, Wobble Fx, Shearing Fx, Mosaic Fx (hardware), Mode7: Background Scaling and Rotation (hardware), Sprite Scaling and Rotation (via expansion chips), 3D Rendering (software)

Color Cycling and Swapping, Tile Animation, Sprite/Tile Flip, Basic-Transparency Fx, Wobble Fx, Shearing Fx, Background and Sprite Scaling/Shrinking (hardware)

Expansion Chips on Cartridge


Sega Virtua Processor SVP (for 3D graphics, T&L, enhanced Scaling and Rotation)

Nintendo SuperFX1~SFX2 (for 3D graphics, enhanced Scaling and Rotation), Nintendo DSP1~DSP4 (Scaling and Rotation), SA-1, S-DD1, S-RTC, Capcom CX4 (Enhanced Transparency, 3D Effects)



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

DPAD + 3 Buttons (A, B, C) + 1 Service Button (START)

DPAD + 6 Buttons (A, B, X, Y, SL, SR) + 2 Service Buttons (START, SELECT)

DPAD + 4 Buttons (A, B, C, D) + 2 Service Buttons (START, SELECT) | JOYSTICK + 4 Buttons (A, B, C, D) + 2 Service Buttons (START, SELECT)

Max Players

2 Players

2 Players

2 Players

2 Players

[PC ENGINE CD-ROMs]: Thanks to the CD-ROMs add-on the system was finally equipped with more RAM and that was necessary for enhanced graphic output and games complexity. However, the overall graphics capabilities were not modified and several advanced effects were not possible or delegated to software implementations, like sprites scaling and mosaic effects that were very cpu intensive thus used in limited ways.

[MEGADRIVE]: With its fast cpu and DMA access, this machine was capable of the so called "Blast Processing" being able to reproduce many advanced effects via software, such as combining sprites up to a 64x64 max size and sprite scaling, although with notable limitations. The new Sega VDP graphic processor was a beast in terms of parallax scrolling, implemented in hardware for the first time, it could combine an incomparable amount of different scrolling methods, for up to a theoretical 64 simultaneous hardware/simulated scrolling layers. Another worth mentioning hardware feature was the highlight/shadow effects the VDP was capable of (also called 2D hardware lighting), gifting backgrounds and sprites with highlights, shadows, silhouettes and semi-transparency effects. Finally, the secondary cpu was used for sound processing or for compatibility mode with Master System games.

[SUPER NES]: Like in its name, this console continued the tradition evolving from the architecture of the NES, but this time with powerful 2x new Ricoh graphic processing units. The dual PPUs were very capable in many advanced effects such as the famous mosaic effect, and was capable of freely scale and rotate a single object on screen, typically a background but also sprite-like objects (visually speaking) thanks to its Mode7. Worth noting that multiple sprites scaling and rotation were common in SNES games thanks to its expansion chips on cartridge, like the DSP* chips that included a math co-processor or the more advanced SFX* chips. Another common effect was semi-transparency of sprites (also enhanced by the CX4 chip) in which this machine was very capable, and in hardware parallax scrolling with its 4 scrolling planes, although on the last 2 planes there were severe limitations (fewer colors).

[NEO GEO]: Was designed around brute-force sprites rendering, reaching limits never seen before in colors, quantity on screen and size. Despite of this, it was lacking some hardware features its rivals had such as semi-transparency effects, that were very limited and rendered mostly with dithering or flickering, and true scaling and rotation for sprites. Specifically, it was able of scaling sprites and backgrounds but limited to a shrinking effect only. It was capable of parallax scrolling but also in this case limited to the well known line scrolling or by using up to 3 layers of brute-force simulated sprite scrolling, in which it had to sacrifice sprites count on screen. Curiously, it was marketed as a 24-bit console despite having 16-bit chips, but at least it really had a 24-bit bus for its gpu, thus I will leave a reference of this in the specs.

Some examples of graphics output comparison:

PC Engine + CD-ROMs Megadrive Super NES Neo Geo