WikEd fancyquotesQuotesBug-silkHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extensionPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifierAnalysisPhoto linkImage LinksHaiku-wide-iconHaikuLaconic

In the early days of video games, memory was limited and quite expensive, and some games simply could not afford the CPU cycles to present a continuous, smoothly scrolling game world. The world was thus divided into a series of "screens", analogous to rooms with fixed camera positions. Travelling off one side of the screen caused the game to scroll by an entire screen at a time to reveal the next area -- or, if the hardware couldn't afford actual scrolling -- simply "flip" to the next screen with no transitional effect.

A curious side effect of this is that, just as the game couldn't afford the memory to provide continuous scrolling, it couldn't afford the memory to keep track of whatever was offscreen, either; the screen edges essentially became borders to NPCs, monsters, attacks and projectiles alike, and only the player was able to cross from one screen to the next. Is there a hungry wolf bearing down on your Sir Graham? Simply run off the edge of the screen to the next, and it'll forget all about you.

Some of these games made things more interesting by giving every screen a title and displaying these titles prominently, perhaps next to the Status Line.

Sometimes Justified Trope (or at least Hand Waved) by placing actual barriers (walls or doors) at the edge of a screen to provide a logical separation.

It can become a cause of Trial and Error Gameplay, by preventing the player in a Platform Game to evaluate whether or not that gap before them is a Bottomless Pit or if there is a screen below it to land safely on. It can also lead to the Player Tic of performing some action (like jumping) near the edge of the screen to see if it persists across the transition.

Common in games designed for old computers like the MSX and Apple II which had no special video hardware for scrolling. Even the Nintendo Entertainment System only had enough video RAM for scrolling in one direction (though extra VRAM could be put on cartridges), so it wasn't uncommon for NES games to use some flip screen transitions just to avoid the programming complexities of scrolling vertically and horizontally in the same area. More recent games featuring Retraux themes may purposefully invoke this.

Early examples

  • Many classic Adventure Games, including those made by Sierra used discrete 'screens' with no transition effect between them, with NPCs and monsters (generally) limited to the screen they resided on.
    • Sierra's Quest for Glory series, however, allowed wandering monsters to pursue the player from one screen to the next.
  • The game version of Below The Root encouraged the "edge of the screen" trick to avoid hostile NPCs.
  • The NES version of Cybernoid flips from screen to screen when you reach the edge. However, it has a fun unit where an enemy appears just against the side you flipped in from.
  • The original The Legend of Zelda scrolled in full-screen intervals, both horizontally and vertically. Dungeon maps were explicitly divided into a grid of discrete rooms, but the overworld map was not.
    • A Link to the Past had map areas about twice bigger than the screen, giving it both a smooth scrolling within a map area and a "flip" scrolling from one area to the next.
    • The first Gameboy title, Link's Awakening, had exclusively "flip" scrolling.[1] The Oracle games also used it on the overworld map, but added rooms bigger than the screen in dungeons.
      • It used this for both of the above-view moments and the 2D sections.
  • In Mega Man classic, horizontal scrolling was generally continuous (doors and gates aside), while vertical scrolling occurred in full-screen intervals.
  • Super Mario Bros 2 had continuous horizontal scrolling, with vertical scrolling occurring in intervals of three-fifths of a screen; although offscreen enemies and items were still accounted for and could drop in on the player from above.
  • All the Glider games do this, with a Check Point every room. The drawback of not being able to see surrounding rooms was remedied by 9-room mode in Glider PRO. Rooms were titled in Glider 4.0 and Glider PRO; the former game even put the title of the room where you died on the High Scores list.
  • The 2D Prince of Persia games (flip).
  • The Amstrad CPC oldie Mission Elevator displayed three floors, and scrolled two floors at a time.
  • Many Games by Capcom based on Disney animations in the NES era like The Little Mermaid, Darkwing Duck and Duck Tales games.
  • Metal Gear 1987 and Metal Gear 2 Solid Snake on the MSX2 used flip screen scrolling, as did the NES version of Metal Gear and Snakes Revenge.
  • Adventure, with very confusing warping due to the Atari 2600's graphics limitations.
  • ET the Extra Terrestrial
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Atari 2600 Superman
  • Faxanadu. Ironically, this was averted in the PC 88 and MSX game it was based on, Dragon Slayer II Xanadu.
  • With many games that appeared both on the MSX and the Nintendo Entertainment System, the NES versions featured continuous scrolling within sub-levels in the horizontal direction only, but their MSX counterparts used flip-scrolling exclusively. To name a few:
    • Castlevania 1986/Vampire Killer
    • Castle Excellent/Castlequest (the NES version still flipped between rooms, but rebuilt them all to be wider than the screen)
    • Dragon Slayer IV/Legacy of the Wizard (sub-areas are the same width in both versions, though they're divided into five slightly overlapping screens on the MSX)
    • The Goonies (the PC 88 version, based on the NES version, also lacks scrolling)
    • Maze of Galious
  • Pitfall had this exclusively. The sequel introduced smooth scrolling, but only for vertical transitions.
  • Smash TV, using much the same excuse as The Legend of Zelda: progress from one room to the next.
  • Blaster Master generally scrolls in all directions, but flips when going through doorways between "rooms", both in sidescrolling and overhead modes.
  • The Guardian Legend, during the labyrinth areas.
  • Early Isometric Projection games such as Head Over Heels work this way, out of necessity.
  • All the Hydlide games except Virtual Hydlide.
  • Mantra, being very closely inspired by Zelda, did this. May qualify as Retraux, since the classic Mac platforms needed a lot more power than the NES hardware Zelda was built on to do tile-based games because of the lack of hardware sprite support.
  • Super Mario Bros. Special, a port of Super Mario Bros for the PC 88, flipped the screen not at the right edge, but a few tiles short from the edge. Together with Ratchet Scrolling as in the NES game, this imposes considerable Fake Difficulty, since the levels (specially redone for this version) make jumping over screen boundaries ridiculously risky.
  • Golvellius does this in the overworld sections.
  • Kid Kool on the NES had continuous horizontal scrolling, but flipped on vertical transitions.
  • Magical Doropie had full horizontal scrolling, but flips on vertical transitions, like the Mega Man clone it is.
  • Spelunker (computer and NES versions) scrolls continuously in the vertical direction only.
  • Kid Niki: Radical Ninja did this in the Apple II version.
  • Mighty Bomb Jack and Metroid on the NES were careful to keep horizontal corridors separated from vertical shafts by doors.
  • The Amstrad CPC port of Contra (known as Gryzor) scrolled by about two-thirds of a screen, in addition to its Ratchet Scrolling. The MSX2 version scrolled at screen boundaries.
  • Nazo no Murasamejo had this throughout the game.

Retraux examples

Other examples

  • Animal Crossing on the Gamecube features a form of this without the justification of limited technology. In addition, objects and characters continued to move and act, even across screen borders. Lampshaded by calling them "Acres". The DS and Wii games avert this with continuous scrolling, but still use 16x16 "acres" for internal purposes such as building placement (never across an acre boundary), capping geometry density (no more than 6 trees per quarter-acre), and so on.


  1. And glitch in it could be exploited for Sequence Breaking.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.