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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


Platformania

Platformania is a free online platform where you can make your own levels and share them with your friends!

Platformania in CGA mode
Platformania in CGA mode
Regular Platformania
Regular Platformania



Platformania in CGA mode
Platformania in CGA mode
Regular Platformania
Regular Platformania


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, CGA 4 shades monochrome, CGA 4 Color mode, EGA 16 Color mode:
Space Quest Opening in Hercules Monochrome, CGA 4 shades monochrome, CGA 4 Color mode, EGA 16 Color mode

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


Misc. Games

EGA is so much easier on the eyes! With 16 colors there are ways to make skin colors at least look a little bit more natural.

Skate or Die! titlescreen in CGA
Skate or Die! titlescreen in CGA
Skate or Die! titlescreen in EGA
Skate or Die! titlescreen in EGA

Zeliard used a different CGA palette, with a bit more forgiving skin tone for the characters. The 16 color EGA version uses a higher resolution to allow dithering. It also plays in 16 color MCGA mode, where a special 16 color palette looks incredible.

Zeliard titlescreen in CGA
Zeliard titlescreen in CGA
Zeliard titlescreen in 16 color MCGA
Zeliard titlescreen in 16 color MCGA
Princess Felicia  in CGA
Princess Felicia in CGA
Princess Felicia in 16 color MCGA
Princess Felicia in 16 color MCGA
Murella Town  in CGA
Murella Town in CGA
Murella Town in 16 color MCGA
Murella Town in 16 color MCGA
Murella Town in 16 color high resolution EGA vs MCGA:
Murella Town EGA VS MCGA

Tagged:

Cga graphics   Ega graphics   Vga graphics   Graphics adapters   Cga graphics  

Comments:

gaal (3 hours ago)
CGA is not so bad. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=niKblgZupOc Take a composite monitor or television and you will see all its colors:)
jrodman (2 months ago)
CGA was so bad, although https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHXx3orN35Y is an amusing, modern demonstration of what was possible that no one did.

EGA was still awful. What a horrible ion of 64 colors for the palette. I don't know who IBM thought they were competing with there, it was brought out in time to still be the worst product on the market compared to its competitors (atari ST, amiga, IIgs, mac, etc)

Finally, VGA was a reasonable product with its 200k color palette and a 256 color mode, it stepped ahead of the competition.
SFH (one year ago)
Good old times. My first desktop was Mac II with 1MB Ram 1987. LoL
LeeC (one year ago)
Funny how people very rarely used the BlackRedGreen & Yellow CGA palette. In all the games I worked on, I never used it... made things look like a Dragon 32... just a bit less green. ;-)
Dreams (one year ago)
I have added a few more screenshots that show what MCGA can do, and also a different CGA palette.
Ark333 (one year ago)
This brings me great memories... I remember going to a friends house and watching the awesome EGA/VGA graphics, I was really sad about my CGA computer. There was a game that had the best CGA graphics in history, tho, its name is "Life and death".
william lewis (2 years 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 (2 years ago)
Prince supports Hercules mode too i think.
DHeadshot (2 years ago)
Great comparison, though you missed Grand Prix Circuit (Hercules, Tandy, CGA and EGA).
armonicoenfuga.com.ar (3 years ago)
Awesome!
robot (3 years ago)
viva monochrome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
LaPeche (3 years ago)
Thanks for this article!
We remember how low res were terrible.
Please note Budokan in 256 colors is not VGA but MCGA.
Anthony (3 years ago)
great webpage! Great memories...
Jeff (4 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 (4 years ago)
awesome page man!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Subj1 (7 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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