Today’s computer technology has advanced so far beyond its early stages, producing graphics with mind-bogglingly stunning clarity. Across computers and video game consoles, you can play brilliant, graphically demanding games such as Final Fantasy XV, Red Dead Redemption II, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and the very recent Elden Ring. Back in the day, computer processors didn’t have the amount of power they do now to produce such impressive visuals.
In layman’s terms, 8-bit graphics are developed by storing 8 bits of image information in a computer’s memory or an image file, so that each pixel is represented by 8 bits (or 1 byte). The maximum number of colors that can be displayed on the screen with 8-bit graphics is 256 or 28. The first console to introduce an 8-bit game style was the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES, which has sold more than 60 million units to date. It was the defining console of its generation, birthing a style that modern developers still use and replicate to this day. Myriad classic 80’s and 90’s games were developed using 8-bit graphics, some of the most popular names being Super Mario Bros., Kirby’s Adventure, Mega Man and Pokémon Red and Blue.
In modern gaming, 8-bit graphics are mostly a thing of the past, although many newer games still utilize this art style in order to convey a sort of nostalgic and retro, arcade effect. While rudimentary 8-bit games are not really on the scene anymore, there are plenty of widely loved games out now that manage to successfully appeal to fans of the classic 8-bit style. These include titles such as Stardew Valley, Shovel Knight and Undertale. Of course, these games are only retro in appearance, as they are far more advanced than anything NES developers could’ve made at the time. For them, creating the 8-bit look of a game was a necessity, not an artistic choice. Many argue that this was the “Golden Age” of gaming, and people still chase the vibe of those 2D, simplistic and blocky images. If this is you, maybe you’d like to go the extra mile and get your favorite retro video game character tattooed too.