[[quoteright:268:[[VideoGame/CaveStory http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/cavestory-comparison.png]]]]
[[caption-width-right:268:Same character: Official artwork vs. in-game sprite.]]

In video games, there is a tendency for characters' proportions to change considerably between their official artwork and their in-game appearance. It's quite frequent to see box art with relatively realistically-proportioned characters, while the same characters appear with [[SuperDeformed large heads and small bodies]] when they're in game.

The reason for that is usually graphical limitations. When you only have a 16 x 16 block of pixels to work with, trying to make a sprite with realistic proportions will result in a character with almost no visible face to speak of. This is especially true in older video games (especially licensed games) appearing on fourth-generation and older game consoles; only a few games (like ''RollingThunder'') seemed to avert it. Strategy games on home computers of the time were [[http://www.awesome-engine.com/2011/06/18/1990s-tv-anime-part-3-nintendo/ more likely to avert it]].

It should be noted that many Japanese games didn't originally use the "original" cover art Western players are familiar with; covers were often [[AmericanKirbyIsHardcore completely redone to appeal to American and European sensibilities]], with characters not looking SuperDeformed even if that was a deliberate design choice (as in the case of ''VideoGame/RiverCityRansom'').

Mostly averted by early Western video game designers who tried to use proper proportions, and thus wound up with faceless 'walking stick' characters.

See SuperDeformed for other uses of big heads and small bodies. For the artwork changes that can't be chalked up to graphical limitations, see CoversAlwaysLie.
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!!Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Action]]
* The ''Film/{{Ghostbusters}}'' game for the SegaGenesis uses super-deformed sprites, but characters are normally proportioned in portraits and cutscenes.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Action Adventure]]
* The first game in ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZelda'' series.
** Also, the three GameBoy games: while the manuals and other artwork weren't deformed, in the color remake of the first game, it crept from the sprites to the photographer's pictures. All these games, including the first above, used 16x16 sprites.
** The SNES game, while still a bit deformed, was more reasonable, not unlike ''VideoGame/ChronoTrigger''.
* In ''VideoGame/GoldenAxe Warrior'', a ''Legend of Zelda'' clone for the MasterSystem, the hero is depicted as a shirtless gladiator on the game's cover illustration and title screen, but looks more like a cute knight in the actual game.
* ''VideoGame/CaveStory''. Provides the page picture. Apparently, the chibi sprites have become iconic enough that the higher-resolution WiiWare port used the same proportions--and the Nintendo3DS remake ''also'' uses those proportions for character models.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Arcade]]
* In ''VideoGame/BomberMan'', this actually affected its future style a lot. The [[http://www.1101.com/nintendo/famicom_mini/images/bomber_man.jpg Japanese]] and [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:BombermanCover.jpg American box art]] of the NES game[[note]]which [[OlderThanTheyThink wasn't the first game]], but Bomberman in ''that'' game [[EarlyInstallmentWeirdness was a completely different character]][[/note]] shows Bomberman as a realistic human in PowerArmor, then subsequent releases made Bomberman look cartoonier and closer to his game sprite. The one serious attempt to use the realistic character style, the DarkerAndEdgier ''VideoGame/BombermanActZero'', was widely considered [[DorkAge a bad idea]] and quickly abandoned. Even the American-made ''VideoGame/AtomicBomberman'' used a chibi style, despite being slightly more detailed.
* In official illustrations, PacMan has never looked like the [[http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/57/Pacman-cutscene.png partially eaten pizza]] we all know. He's always [[http://images.wikia.com/pacman/images/f/fa/JapanesePacMan.png had legs]] and looked like the form you see in cartoons and later installments.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Beat 'Em Up]]
* ''ScottPilgrim: The Video Game'' renders the characters as somewhat chibified compared to the comic versions.
** The comics themselves are slightly chibi as a reference to this trope.
* The character sprites in the NES version of ''VideoGame/DoubleDragon'', while not super-deformed per se, are greatly simplified and rather cartoonish compared to [[http://www.gamengai.com/bn_inf.php?id=512 the illustrations in the game's manual]], which made the characters look like they came out straight from the pages of ''FistOfTheNorthStar''. Some of the character sprites only vaguely resemble their illustrated depictions in the manual (Abobo doesn't sport his trademarked mustache in the manual for example). However, the in-game sprites are actually more accurate to the character designs in the original arcade version than the illustrations were.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Fighting]]
* Any NeoGeoPocket version of an {{SNK}} FightingGame turned the cast super-deformed in battle.
* MegaMan, as he appears in ''VideoGame/SuperSmashBros for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS'', maintains his proportions from the 8-bit games, [[http://img2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20140901035215/ssb/images/b/bf/Megaman.png making him appear somewhat stubbier]] as compared to [[http://p4rgaming.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/original.0.png his official art]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:First Person Shooter]]
* [[Characters/DragonRage Cael Cyndar]] has this problem in ''VideoGame/DragonRage''.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Platform]]
* ''VideoGame/LaMulana''. In UpdatedRerelease on WiiWare, character's head indeed is smaller compared to {{Retraux}}-PC-MSX version due to having more pixels (480p/480i on Wii vs. 240p on pseudo-MSX).
* Apparent in the original ''SuperMarioBros'' when grabbing a [[strike: Magic]] Super mushroom. Mario's proportions change by head getting smaller relative to body. Even more pronounced in ''VideoGame/SuperMarioBros2''.
** According to the developers of ''VideoGame/DonkeyKong'', most of Mario's facial features and his overalls were due to technical limitations at the time of its release.
* ''VideoGame/BlasterMaster'' games where in-game, main character's head is about as big as the rest of the body.
* ''VideoGame/{{Psychosomnium}}''. Everyone has really big, rectangular heads on tiny bodies; one character even looks like they should, by all logic, fall over from the sheer proportional weight of their cranium.
* The original ''VideoGame/MegaMan'' series. Apparent when it reached its 7th installment, especially by comparison with ''VideoGame/MegaManX''.
** And mimicked in the doujin ''{{Rosenkreuzstilette}}''.
* Averted in the NES versions of the ''{{Contra}}''. The 8-bit hardware couldn't replicate the distinct character designs that were given to Bill and Lance in the original arcade version, so instead the designers concentrated on making them both into musclebound shirtless commandos, with the colors of their pants being the only difference.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Puzzle]]
* The NES version of ''VideoGame/LodeRunner'' uses the same sprites that Hudson Soft would later use in ''Bomberman''. Most computer versions, however, averted this, having sprites more reminiscent of stick figures.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:RPG]]
* ''Franchise/{{Disgaea}}'', SuperDeformed as in-game characters, relatively normal in portraits in cutscenes.
** Downplayed in ''VideoGame/{{Disgaea 4| A Promise Unforgotten}}'', due to the new high definition sprites allowing for much more detail on the characters, though the body proportions are still a bit off in the case of the humanoid characters.
* ''AttoutekiYuugiMugenSouls'' has every character appear like this in game and during cutscenes that use the in-game model.
* Seen in-game in ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVII'': Overworld/dungeon/towns use SuperDeformed models to keep the polygon count down. Battles and [=FMVs=] [[note]](well, most of them: some [=FMVs=] superimposed the low-polygon models, while some rare [=FMVs=] made by a different team used prerendered versions thereof, such as Cloud's TrainEscape early in the game)[[/note]] use realistic models.
** See also ''every FinalFantasy game that uses 2D sprites''. ''VI'' and the PSP version of ''IV'', like the ''Chrono Trigger'' example below, are slightly more proportionate, but it's still very noticeable.
* ''VideoGame/ChronoTrigger'' is a less egregious example than most; the game's sprites are fairly proportionate except for the heads (some enemies are closer to reality there, but they're bigger). Portraits are still done in a radically different style.
* The ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWars'' series probably followed this trope from its early days on the GameBoy but have since taken the concept to heart, with only a few exceptions (''VideoGame/ShinSuperRobotWars'' and both versions of ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWarsGaiden''). This is used to keep the sizes of the varying HumongousMecha reasonable. For example, a [[Anime/MobileSuitGundam Zaku II]] is 17.5 meters tall, while [[Anime/NeonGenesisEvangelion Eva Unit-01]] is about 70 meters tall. Though it should be noted that when attack animations go into a close-up of the robot, they're in their proper proportions.
** The series usually uses proper proportions when it duplicates iconic footage from a robot's original series.
* ''VideoGame/HalfMinuteHero'' plays this straight.
* ''VideoGame/TalesOfSymphonia'' has a bit of this, much like the ''FFVII'' example. It's not nearly as extreme as it would be with 2D sprites, but in portraits, anime cutscenes, and the OVA, the art is definitely more realistically proportioned than the [[CelShading cel-shaded]] gameplay models.
* Some ''Franchise/{{Pokemon}}'' games have this; the portable games started out this way but grew less top-heavy as hardware power increased (''VideoGame/PokemonBlackAndWhite'' are the most proportionate so far sprite-wise, although this trope is still in effect; the difference between fully-proportioned and super-deformed character is even more subtle in ''VideoGame/PokemonXAndY''). The console games don't use this at all, though.
** In fact, all of the games introduce you to your character's in-game battle sprite, and signal the start of gameplay by the sprite morphing into the smaller in-game sprite.
* ''VideoGame/GoldenSun'' has all the characters appear to be as big as ''FinalFantasy'' characters are on the SNES, but once a battle starts, everyone appears in proper proportions and looks. This is more evident in ''GoldenSunDarkDawn'' where the characters look a LOT younger than how they appear in their artwork due to using low polygons in the overworld maps and the new graphics style. However, they resemble their artwork appearance more closely once they enter a battle.
* Most character sets created for non-3D RPGMaker video games are this, especially when they're made to resemble anime or film characters.
* The first four ''VideoGame/DragonSlayer'' games, through ''LegacyOfTheWizard'', had all character sprites fit the size of a single tile. ''Sorcerian'' moved away from SuperDeformed sprites, but ''The Legend of Heroes'' brought the look back.
* Many ''HarvestMoon'' games follow this trope.
* The ''{{Lunar}}'' games featured super-deformed character sprites until ''VideoGame/LunarDragonSong''.
* ''[[http://chrontendo.blogspot.com/2009/08/why-must-everybody-laugh-at-my-mighty.html Indora no Hikari]]'', a Famicom game by Kemco, has the hero's in-game sprite looking more SuperDeformed and less BadAss than his depiction on the cover.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Turn Based Strategy]]
* ''BattleForWesnoth'', where CharacterPortrait[=s=] are done in a realistically proportioned style, while sprites are much more cartoony.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Pinball]]
* Creator/BallyMidway's ''[[Pinball/MrAndMrsPacManPinball Mr. & Mrs. Pac-Man Pinball]]'' goes as far as this trope can get, reducing Pac-Man and a Ghost to ''flashing lights''.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Visual Novel]]
* The {{Utawarerumono}} VisualNovel does this during the battle segments.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Webcomic]]
* Oddly enough for a webcomic, ''Webcomic/{{Homestuck}}'' has this. Being an adventure game / RPG pastiche, the art for the [[KidHero main characters]] consists of copy/pasted "sprites" about knee high to most adult characters. However, when depicted in hand-drawn action shots, they suddenly gain much more realistic proportions, sometimes even lapsing into NoodlePeople. An excellent demonstration of the style is [[http://www.mspaintadventures.com/?s=6&p=003541 this animation from the fourth act.]] (Warning: sound.)
[[/folder]]
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