Just for fun, I wrote my own Chip8 interpreter/emulator and it works.

The point is that it works in the terminal, meaning that a pixel is rendered using curses and a # character.

For the Chip8 that's easy because the resolution is 64x32, but now I wanted to try something different but still in the terminal (again: this is just for fun and learning).

So the questions is: what systems were there for which the resolution would fit with no problems in a terminal?

I know that the Gameboy is something like 160x144, which could probably fit, but you'd have to shrink your font quite a lot to make it work.

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    That question is way too broad, as it basicly covers all systems with text based screens - starting from all early ones like PET or TRS-80 - and all of them had games writen for. Unless you come up with a more specific description what you're looking for, this can't get a satisfactionable answer – Raffzahn Dec 21 '18 at 12:15
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    Arr what a shame. I was writing an answer and the question got closed. – Wilson Dec 21 '18 at 12:42
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    How about a resolution of 9x3? - Mattel Football I (Football II upped it all the way to 10x3!) – Glen Yates Dec 21 '18 at 15:20
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    "Simon" is a game that is still being sold today, which uses a 2x2 grid. Beat that. – DrSheldon Dec 21 '18 at 23:47
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    Perhaps the question should emphasize that the system be programmable after shipment. That would eliminate Mattel Football, Simon, Mastermind, Tamagotchi, and other single-purpose systems. Should probably also emphasize pixels vs. characters, else 40x24 Apple II is in the running despite having higher-resolution modes. – fadden Dec 26 '18 at 15:41

Here are a couple contenders:

  • The Microvision, with a 16x16 pixel display. To emulate this one you might need to have both Intel 8021 and TI TMS1100 cores.

  • Hartung Game Master, with 64x64 pixel display. This one is already emulated by MESS in case you want to consult a reference implementation

  • I consider this to be the best answer for my needs because of the interchangeable game cartridges. I forgot about the microvision and I had never known that the Hartung even existed. Thank you so much! – ChatterOne Dec 27 '18 at 20:12

The Nokia 3310 had a monochrome screen resolution of 84x48, and the game Snake II:

enter image description here


Disregarding systems with serialized text output that can be said to have a "resolution" of 1 character at time (or, strictly speaking, 5 to 8 bits) and of course it would "fit" in a terminal, there is a whole class of games for the visually impaired (sometimes called audiogames) that do not need video output at all.

One of perhaps the first well known ones was Real Sound: Kaze no Regret for the Sega Saturn. However, although the video output is not necessary for the game, the hardware still has rather decent video output - the same is valid for audiogames running on "typical" PC's.

Anyway, there is a game hardware with no graphical output at all (and thus the "lowest" resolution possible) - the Bop It.


An honourable mention for the Fairchild Chanel F, which had 102 x 58 pixels visible, out of 128 x 64 in the 2KiB frame buffer, and only 64 bytes of RAM usable by programs. Software (all games) was provided as ROM cartridges.

  • Wow. You couldn't even store the whole screen in RAM! I assume you drove the screen manually? – wizzwizz4 Dec 30 '18 at 16:56
  • @wizzwizz4: There was separate RAM for the frame buffer; I've explained a bit more. – John Dallman Dec 30 '18 at 17:58
  • I've been wondering about this: if it's 128 total but 102 visible then that aligns with the length of an NTSC line versus the visible portion. But in reality no TV displays the entire visible portion. So if that's from where the 102 rather than 128 comes, you could probably display only about 90 or so and still match real televisions, possibly making this an even better suggestion than it already is? – Tommy Dec 30 '18 at 21:30

This is not so much a presentation of a system as an attempt to show that the very premise is weak. For the question.

What systems had the lowest resolution ever that still allowed games to be made?

A system with a single pixel would as well qualify. After all, there are plenty games that can be played with a single response signal.

  • hitting a button as soon as it lights up
  • playing a certain sequence that gets presented (aka Simon)
  • presenting a certain time duration to be repeated.
  • ... and so on.

All with a 1x1 b&w resolution :))

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