What Can Super Mario Teach Us About Graphics Technology?

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What Can Super Mario Teach Us About Graphics Technology?

In the process of playing the famous Super Mario Brothers or Mario Galaxy, everyone thinks only of entertainment, no one can even think that behind each graphic element there are many graphic concepts that have evolved over two decades. The example of a small, cheerful and skillful plumber can explain how the old block graphics functioned, how it evolved from small pixels, squares and rectangles into complex dynamic systems. Spend your time profitably, and just play Super Mario game online and learn about the graphics in the game.

Rasters, sprites in Super Mario Brothers

Absolutely every element of the game world (location) in a TV or computer monitor, laptop consists of pixels. They are composited and a bitmap is created, which in the days of old consoles and computers was called sprites. In simplified code form, it is a collection of bits. The efficient system at that time called the Nintendo Entertainment System (abbreviated as NES) had an effective resolution of 256 x 224 pixels, which means that it was possible to embed a total of 256 by 240 pixels into a picture. If you compare the ancient system with modern ones, then we can say that it was very limited in terms of displaying pixels. The picture slowly changed, the overlap lines were clearly visible, the colorfulness was determined by the zones, and not by individual elements.


The seventh generation console from Nintendo has 640x480 pixels in its arsenal, which is much more. The picture is more dynamic, the pixels changing on the screen are already imperceptible.

The opposition of pixels, polygons, vectors

Blocky graphics have long been outdated, new games use vector shapes. They involve the use of polygons, namely points and straight connecting lines. Legs, arms, hat, eyes and other parts of Mario can be created using polygons. In older games, pixel blocks were drawn sequentially, the processor had to perform a huge amount of operations. For vector graphics, an algebraic grid (graph) on the board is not required, the drawing of objects in the game world is carried out almost instantly. Also, raster graphics allow you to create objects in three-dimensional space, which makes the game more interesting for the player.

Learn more about polygons

Each polygon object (points, lines of different lengths) are called primitives or basic elements of this algebraic (computer) world. Unlike location rasters, vector graphics are devoid of such a concept as resolution. Mario in the game world can be flipped, zoomed in and out without loss of image quality.

How Donkey Kong Came Got Into The Super Nintendo

In one of the relatively recent games for the console called Mario Kart Games, the main antagonist is Donkey Kong (constantly prevents Mario from overcoming obstacles and getting to the beautiful princess). From 1990 to 1995, Kong was the protagonist of the Run and Jump game series, also titled Donkey Kong Country. The players were pleasantly surprised by the vector graphics used. But the Super Nintendo system was not capable of supporting vector graphics. The question is brewing how the developers were able to significantly develop the graphics capabilities. Most of the games from RARE used the so-called rasterization in their development. In a simplified form, it allows you to turn polygonal graphics into two-dimensional pixel images. If you insert such views into game locations, then you get the feeling of advanced graphics. If you take a closer look at the gaming locations and understand better, then there is no high-tech graphics.

A little about rasterization

Rasterization is a kind of photo of polygonal graphics, that is, the formation of a similarity of three-dimensional graphics in the form of a grid and its subsequent rendering in pixels. In the sensational game "3D Adventure in the Kingdom of Kong" there was absolutely no 3D graphics, all game locations consisted of simple pixel sprites using all the tricks of computer graphics (drawing and overlaying polygons, overlaying color schemes of objects and many others).

The confrontation between 8-bit processors and images

Many older console players are mistaken that the NES had 8-bit graphics and the SNES and SEGA systems had 16-bit graphics. Correlation with the image on the TV screen, monitor is not direct. The NES had a 6-bit image, but for example the Super Nintendo supported 15-bit, but the screen limits were only 8 bits. What does all this mean anyway?

A little bit about beats

A bit is the smallest unit of information that is processed by the processor of the console, computer. It is not difficult to guess that an 8-bit processor processes 8 data bits per cycle. As we learned earlier, the NES had exactly this, and the SNES and Sega Genesis systems had 16-bit chips. Modern computing devices are built on the basis of 32 or 64 bits, which can produce billions of clock cycles per second.

Bits and Final Screen Image

If we talk about the quality of the image on the screen, then 8 bits means that you can display only 28 colors and 256 shades, respectively (mostly a combination of green, blue and red). Subject to technical constraints, the NES had 26 available colors, while the SNES had 28.


Now that you know a lot about graphics in video games, the Mario series helped you better understand the intricacies of programming objects in the game world and their interaction with each other. Now game graphics are created using special engines that automatically form locations, separate objects, add a 3D effect, make objects believable in the process of dynamics and interaction. The life of game designers used to be an order of magnitude more difficult, since they had to manually program each point and line of a vector image, determine colors in the static and moving position of objects, also do not forget that it was required to launch a musical composition on an 8-bit processor (complex and long-term optimization of all processes). For a better understanding of the complexity of graphics, buy or find a console among old things, feel nostalgic while playing old games and meanwhile take a closer look at the elements of the playing field, compare with the technical parameters of the system.

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What Can Super Mario Teach Us About Graphics Technology?

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