The Sprite Scaling wiki last edited by Jagged85 on 02/21/15 11:26PM View full history


As game hardware improved, sprite scaling became a popular technique, first for arcade games in the 1980s, and then for console and computer games in the 1990s. Scaling allowed for characters, items, or other sprites to smoothly grow or shrink on the fly, creating a 2.5D effect.


The first games to use sprite-scaling were arcade driving/racing games, by companies such as Sega and Namco; some of the earliest examples include Sega's Fonz (1976) and Turbo (1981), and Namco's Pole Position (1982). Some of the earliest action games to make use of extensive sprite-scaling were Sega's SubRoc-3D (1982) and Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom (1982).

Super Scaler

After Burner, released for the Sega X Board arcade system in 1987. Its Super Scaler technology featured advanced sprite scaling and rotation capabilities.

See: Super Scaler

Sprite-scaling was later popularized by Sega's powerful Super Scaler arcade graphics boards, which were capable of scaling thousands of sprites every second; some of Sega's popular Super Scaler arcade games included Hang-On (1985), Space Harrier (1985) and Out Run (1986). With After Burner (1987), Sega introduced sprite rotation, adding greater three-dimensional depth. They continued producing hits such as Thunder Blade (1987), Galaxy Force (1988) and Last Survivor (1988).

Following the success of Sega's Super Scaler games, rival arcade developers such as Konami, Namco and Taito began producing their own sprite-scaling arcade games in the late 80s.

X68000 and Neo Geo

Knight Arms, released by Arsys Software for the Sharp X68000 computer in 1989, made use of sprite-scaling graphics.

See: Sharp X68000 and Neo Geo

Among home gaming systems, the Sharp X68000 computer (launched 1987) was capable of smooth sprite-scaling, though it wasn't able to scale as many sprites as Sega's Super Scaler arcade systems.

SNK's Neo•Geo arcade-based console (launched 1990) was notorious for utilizing sprite scaling in its fighting games to simulate a camera "zooming" in and out of the actions depending on how close the combatants were to each other.

Mode 7 and Ray-Casting

Doom, released for PC in 1993, is the most well known example of ray-casting graphics.

See: Mode 7 and Ray Casting

Another popular type of sprite-scaling was Mode 7, used to scale and rotate backgrounds for various games on the SNES console (launched 1990).

The ray-casting method was yet another popular form of sprite-scaling, most commonly used for first-person shooters on the PC in the 1990s.


See: Billboarding

While long past its heyday, sprite-scaling is still used today in polygonal 3D games, in the form of billboarding. This technique was commonly used for rendering trees in early 3D games, although this has become less common in modern games. It is still frequently used when rendering smoke and fire.

Hardware Capabilities

This is a table listing the sprite scaling/zooming and rotation/mirroring capabilities of various classic gaming systems and/or graphics chips. Only systems and chips with hardware support for some form of hardware zooming/scaling or rotation/mirroring are listed here.

Integer zooming (including 1/2/4/8× vertical and 1/2/4/8× horizontal) indicates that sprites can only be zoomed in terms of integers (such as doubling or quadrupling), rather than smooth scaling. Voltage control indicates an analog method of smooth scaling through hardware voltage control. Anisotropic and affline indicate smooth scaling, i.e. what usually comes to mind when thinking of sprite scaling. Similarly for rotation effects, screen orientation means the screen can only be rotated in right-angles, while mirroring means it can only be flipped, whereas affline indicates smooth rotation.

For the other sprite capabilities of these systems and chips, see here. For a full detailed table of sprite capabilities, with references, see here.

Systems / Chips
YearZooming / ScalingRotation
Fujitsu MB1424119751, 2× vertical, 1, 2× horizontalScreen orientation
Atari 260019771, 2, 4, 8× horizontalHorizontal mirroring
Taito Z801977NoScreen orientation
Atari 8-Bit & 520019791, 2× vertical, 1, 2, 4× horizontalNo
Namco Galaxian19791, 2, 3× vertical, 1, 2, 3× horizontalHorizontal and vertical mirroring
ColecoVision, MSX, Sega SG-100019791, 2× integerNo
Namco Pac‑Man1980NoHorizontal and vertical mirroring
Sega G801981Vector scalingScreen orientation
Sega VCO Object1981Voltage control scalingBackground tile mirroring
Commodore 6419821, 2× integerNo
Namco Pole Position1982Yes, anisotropicHorizontal and vertical mirroring
Sega 315‑5011 & 315‑50121982Yes, anisotropicHorizontal and vertical mirroring
Famicom / NES1983NoHorizontal and vertical mirroring
Amiga (OCS)1985Vertical by display listNo
Sega Master System & Game Gear19851, 2× integer, 1, 2× verticalBackground tile mirroring
MSX219851, 2× integerHorizontal and vertical mirroring
Sega OutRun1986Yes, anisotropicHorizontal and vertical mirroring
Namco System 21987Yes, anisotropicYes, affine
PC-Engine / TurboGrafx-161987NoHorizontal and vertical mirroring
Sharp X6800019871, 2× integerHorizontal and vertical mirroring
Sega X Board1987Yes, anisotropicYes, affine
Taito Ninja Warriors1987NoHorizontal and vertical mirroring
Taito Z System1987Yes, anisotropicHorizontal and vertical mirroring
Capcom CPS1988NoHorizontal and vertical mirroring
Sega System 241988Yes, anisotropicHorizontal and vertical mirroring
Sega Y Board1988Yes, anisotropicYes, affine
Taito B System1988Sprite shrinkingHorizontal and vertical mirroring
MSX2+ & MSX TurboR19881, 2× integerHorizontal and vertical mirroring
Sega Mega Drive / Genesis19881, 2× integerHorizontal and vertical mirroring
Fujitsu FM Towns19891, 2× vertical, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5× horizontalHorizontal and vertical mirroring
SuperGrafx1989NoHorizontal and vertical mirroring
Amstrad Plus19901, 2, 4× vertical, 1, 2, 4× horizontalNo
Neo Geo1990Sprite shrinkingHorizontal and vertical mirroring
Sega System 321990Yes, anisotropicYes, affine
Super Famicom & SNES1990Background, affineBackground affine rotation and sprite mirroring
Amiga (AGA)1992Vertical by display listNo
Taito SZ System1992Yes, anisotropicHorizontal and vertical mirroring
Atari Jaguar1993Yes, anisotropicYes, affine
Capcom CPS21993NoHorizontal and vertical mirroring
Sega Saturn & ST-V1994Yes, anisotropicYes, affine and distortion
Sony PlayStation1994Yes, anisotropicYes, affine
Capcom CPS31996Yes, anisotropicHorizontal and vertical mirroring
Data East MLC System1996Yes, anisotropicHorizontal and vertical mirroring
Hyper Neo Geo 641997Yes, anisotropicYes, affine
Game Boy Advance2001Yes, affineYes, affine
Nintendo DS2004Yes affineYes, affine
Systems / ChipsYearZooming / ScalingRotation

This edit will also create new pages on Giant Bomb for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Giant Bomb users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.