Comparison between CGA, EGA and VGA graphics

The graphics artists not only had to draw graphics using very little resources, many games needed separate graphics for all different graphics adapters. The designers of the CGA graphics adapter choose 4 horrible colors in the default palette: black, white, vile cyan and magenta. Making graphics look good using those colors is almost impossible. Here is a comparison between Hercules monochrome, CGA, EGA and VGA graphics of some games.

Commander Keen 4: Secret of the Oracle

Apogee also released a CGA version of Commander Keen. Here's a comparison between the CGA en EGA graphics:

Commander Keen 4 titlescreen in CGA
Commander Keen 4 titlescreen in CGA
Commander Keen 4 titlescreen in EGA
Commander Keen 4 titlescreen in EGA

The Shadowlands map in CGA
The Shadowlands map in CGA
The Shadowlands map in EGA
The Shadowlands map in EGA

The Hillville level in in CGA
The Hillville level in CGA
The Hillville level in in EGA
The Hillville level in EGA

Space Quest III

For Space Quest III, they could just rely on the SCI engine to do the conversion of graphics for different graphics adaptors. It just replaced the EGA color with a dithered color for CGA graphics, and most of the times it looks okay, but sometimes it just looks bad. I remember playing Space Quest III on a monochrome screen, and it was just impossible to find out what you're looking at.

Space Quest Opening in Hercules Monochrome:
Space Quest Opening in Hercules Monochrome

Space Quest Opening in CGA
Space Quest Opening in CGA
Space Quest Opening in EGA
Space Quest Opening in EGA
Planet Ortega in Hercules Monochrome:
Planet Ortega in Hercules Monochrome

Planet Ortega is quite boring in CGA
Planet Ortega is quite boring in CGA
And really cool in EGA!
And really cool in EGA!
Planet Phleebut in Hercules Monochrome:
Planet Phleebut in Hercules Monochrome

Planet Phleebhut is still purple in CGA, but much darker.
Planet Phleebhut is still purple in CGA, but much darker.
Planet Phleebhut in EGA!
Planet Phleebhut in EGA!

Prince of Persia

The title screen of Prince of Persia is completely redrawn for every graphics adapter.

Prince of Persia title screen in 4 colours CGA
Prince of Persia title screen in 4 colours CGA

Prince of Persia title screen in 16 colours EGA
Prince of Persia title screen in 16 colours EGA

Prince of Persia title screen in 256 colours VGA
Prince of Persia title screen in 256 colours VGA

Soko-Ban

For Soko-Ban, they didn't go through the process of creating new graphics for the different graphics adaptors. The EGA version of Soko-Ban uses exactly the same graphics as the CGA version, but with a less painfull colour palette. A bit of a shame though, as 12 colours are unused now.

Soko-Ban title screen in CGA
Soko-Ban title screen in CGA
Soko-Ban title screen in EGA
Soko-Ban title screen in EGA
See also Soko-Ban for more CGA - EGA comparisons.

Budokan

Subj1 told me in the comments below that I should check out the marterial arts game Budokan on various graphics adapters. Check out the results:

Budokan title screen in 4 colours CGA
Budokan title screen in 4 colours CGA

Budokan title screen in 16 colours EGA
Budokan title screen in 16 colours EGA

Budokan title screen in 256 colours VGA
Budokan title screen in 256 colours VGA

Budokan in 4 colours CGA
Budokan in 4 colours CGA

Budokan in 16 colours EGA
Budokan in 16 colours EGA

Budokan in 256 colours VGA
Budokan in 256 colours VGA

Tagged:

Cga graphics   Ega graphics   Vga graphics   Graphics adapters   Cga graphics  

Comments:

william lewis (one month ago)
You don't show prince of persia in hercules mode . it was pretty awesome as i discovered by accident that my otherwise text only gfx card suddenly could do high res!
imperia (3 months ago)
Prince supports Hercules mode too i think.
DHeadshot (3 months ago)
Great comparison, though you missed Grand Prix Circuit (Hercules, Tandy, CGA and EGA).
armonicoenfuga.com.ar (one year ago)
Awesome!
robot (one year ago)
viva monochrome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
bhm (one year ago)
jmnghjhjm
LaPeche (one year ago)
Thanks for this article!
We remember how low res were terrible.
Please note Budokan in 256 colors is not VGA but MCGA.
Anthony (one year ago)
great webpage! Great memories...
Jeff (2 years ago)
CGA was horrible with a lot of later bitmapped graphics games, but some of my fondest memories was playing some of the earlier CGA games, when EGA was just showing up. I was just a kid then, and perhaps that has a lot to do with how I remember it, but those CGA games were still a ton of fun. I couldn't care less about the color palette of games like Qbert and Dig Dug.
captain awesome (2 years ago)
awesome page man!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Subj1 (5 years ago)
Great article, finally someone gave tribute to this great aspect of DOS games - how they had to be made to run on different adapters. You should also through the DOS versions of Golden Axe and Budokan into the mix, as they had some of the best real-time dithering algorithms for different adapters, including the 2-color Hercules Graphics Card

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Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon  thumbnail
On board of the Freighter
Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow And The Flame  thumbnail
A huge rock blocks the entrance to the Skull Caverns. The slabs disappear in the quicksand when you step on them!
Commander Keen: Secret of the Oracle  thumbnail
Bouncing around on a red friendly Bounder in Border Village!
Terminal Velocity  thumbnail
Planet Centauri III, featuring cool beaches and palm trees!
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Trying a little trick in level 34: Framework
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The Gods and Killing Items room. In this room is a cool wax snake and the difficult Sumerian Lyre puzzle.
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Walking to the volcano
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Running around in the 3D bonus level on planet Turtemple.
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What dessert do you order to share with Michelle? Fresh strawberries of coarse!
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Awesome graphics in the opening screen.
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Your independence is too dangerous for us to tolerate.
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Grand Prix Circuit title screen
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Lots of cool buildings in the background on Bloogbase Management District.
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Roger lands on the surface of planet Pestulon
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There are some places in Shivers where you can 'look up'. This is a beautiful view of the Ixupi cutout in the Tombs and Curses room.
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The Sierra logo and Windlenot's Museum of the Strange and Unusual.
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It's Roger Wilco sitting at Patti's piano!
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Look, it's Santa Claus!
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Now what are you going to do?
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The staircase leading to the Planetarium. A beautiful song is played here.
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The opening screen: Fun School in Dreamland
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Why would you want to bypass this scene?
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The opening screen, where George Broussard famously misspelled his own name.
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Felicia the cat