Video game sprites or polygon models of different colors to tell otherwise identical Player Characters
apart. This was especially prevalent in games up to the mid 80s
, where ROM size
meant even different sprites for them would take up too much space. In later years storage capacity have grown bigger, allowing game designers to give each player character a different design, but this trope lives on as a way for players to tell each other apart when they are both playing as the same character
In early days, certain players were forcefully assigned certain character colors with no way to choose a different color (ex: P1 blue, P2 red, P3 green, P4 yellow). Nowadays, games will often allow players to choose colors.
This trope can apply whether the multiplayer is cooperative or competitive.
It can also apply to a Mirror Match
with a computer controlled opponent as long as it is using the same character as the player.
In two player games, you typically see Red and Blue; four-player games almost always add Yellow and Green. Red and Blue have historically been used, such as the Red and Blue Corners in Boxing, whereas the other two are included for Chromatic Arrangement
SRPGs often do this with the generic classes.
Also, there can be some minor differences, as long as the color is the primary way to tell them apart.
of Color-Coded Characters
and Palette Swap
Compare Good Colors, Evil Colors
, Color-Coded Patrician
, Color-Coded Armies
Action Adventure Games
Beat Em Ups
- The arcade version of Bad Dudes had two main characters whose only differences were the colors of their parachute pants (white for Player 1 and green for Player 2).
- In the game's Spiritual Successor, Crude Buster (aka Two Crude Dudes), Player 1 wears yellow and has a faux-hawk style, while Player 2 wears green and has a bald mohawk.
- Castle Crashers, though, going by the FAQs, there is some debate over whether one of them is the Yellow Knight or Orange Knight. In addition, there are several unlockable enemy characters.
- Double Dragon - In most games in the series, Billy (Player 1) wears blue and Jimmy (Player 2) wears red.
- The only exception is the arcade version of Double Dragon II, where Billy and Jimmy wore black and white respectively. The NES version brought them back to their original colors.
- The arcade version of Double Dragon 3 allowed up to three players simultaneously, depending on the cabinet, in which Player 3 controls a yellow-clad Lee brother exclusive to this game named Sonny. There are other playable characters in the game (selectable from the get-go in the Japanese version, but available only as purchasable extras in the export versions), but rather than being individual characters, the additional characters are grouped as teams of siblings (Urquidez, Chin and Oyama), essentially an excuse to allow all three players to control the same character type, but with a different name tag and palette.
- In Super Double Dragon and Double Dragon Advance, Billy and Jimmy actually have different hair styles for their sprites. Instead of the regent style they used in the arcade and NES games, Billy has straight brown hair, while Jimmy has a blond flap-top style.
- Dynamite Dux: Player 1 is the blue duck Bin, and Player 2 is the red duck Pin.
- Most games that copied the Final Fight template (usually 3 playable characters) followed this color scheme: blue, red, and green (yellow for Streets of Rage 1).
- Golden Axe featured Tyris Flare (red; the best magic, the best speed, but weak), Ax-Battler (blue; average magic, average attack, and average speed), and Gilius Thunderhead (green; the worst magic, the worst speed, but has the best range with his axe).
- Ninja Gaiden (arcade version) has Player 1 as a blue ninja and Player 2 as a red ninja. While neither character are actually identified in the game, Ryu Hayabusa (the main character in the NES version) wears a blue ninja outfit, while his father Ken wears a similar red outfit, matching the colors of the two player characters (leading some fans to speculate that the events depicted in the arcade version is a mission that Ryu and Ken Hayabusa went through before the events of the NES series).
- In Robo Army, Maxima (Player 1) wears red, while Rocky (Player 2) wears blue. However, the two characters are also head swaps, with Maxima having a human head with beret, whereas Rocky is completely robotic.
- Violent Storm inverted it compared to most brawlers that followed the Final Fight template. Kyle wears green and is the weakest but fastest. Boris wears red and is the strongest but also the slowest, although not as slow compared to other mighty glaciers in brawlers. Wade wears blue and is average between the other two player characters.
- The Superman Arcade Game by Taito allowed a second player to play a Superman colored red and gray instead of blue and red.
- Daytona USA gives each player their own car color, even in a round consisting of as many as 8 players. The colors are as follows — 1P: red; 2P: blue; 3P: yellow; 4P: green; 5P: black; 6P: pink; 7P: cyan; 8P: orange.
- Kirby Air Ride, with additional colors as some of the unlockable rewards.
- Micro Machines, the first two, would have this as their way of telling players apart, Player 1 being red, Player 2 being blue, Player 3 being green, and Player 4 being yellow.
- Urban Champion involves two almost identical boys beating each other up, differing only in clothing and hair colors.
- Every Street Fighter installment since Champion Edition allowed both players to use the same character by distinguishing one player with an alternate color scheme. Super Street Fighter II, the fourth Street Fighter II game, actually has eight palettes for each character, allowing all eight players in the Tournament Battle mode to use the same character. Street Fighter IV retained the tradition of palette swapped costumes, despite the switch from pixel art to polygonal models and the introduction of alternate costmes.
- Dissidia: Final Fantasy, the interesting part is that the alt colors make sense if you've played the other FF games or are otherwise a Final Fantasy nerd—some of the alts are based on original concept art of the character that didn't make the final cut for the original game (Cecil, Firion, The Emperor), some are versions of the character as they appeared in their actual game, their default Dissidia design having changed that (Golbez, Tidus, Terra), and others make references more complicated than that (Final Fantasy III was originally a game of four AFGNCAAP Heroic Mimes, while the remake did away with that and gave the characters all personalities, back stories, unique appearances, and names; Dissidia references this by basing the FFIII representative on the Onion Knight of the original game, while having his alt look like Luneth, the "hero" of the remake). And yet others are outfits the characters actually wore (Cloud's AC outfit or Squall's Seed Uniform). And others are a referance to OTHER characters (Ultimecia and Jecht).
- Mortal Kombat used mainly shading variations (likely since Sub Zero, Scorpion, Reptile, Ermac, Human Smoke, Rain, Noob Saibot, and Chameleon were already palette swaps at various points).
- Also, the women, Mileena, Kitana, Jade, and the often forgotten Khameleon.
- As well as Cyrax, Robot Smoke, and Sektor.
- Super Smash Bros. uses alternate costumes of characters marked red, green, or blue when playing team multiplayer. When the same character is on the same team, they're differentiated by being a slightly different shade from the other players. Free For All battles also had alternate palettes for each character, which can be selected from the menu.
- The fourth generation games for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U changed the presentation for team battles so that teams are indicated by color-coded outlines instead, allowing the freedom of giving players the character palette of their choice. A yellow team is also present for the Wii U version's eight-player mode.
- Also, in Free For Alls and Single Player mode, you can tell which controller port you're using based on the color of your shield/stock/icon/KO explosion; P1 (Red), P2 (Blue), P3 (Yellow), P4 (Green). Computer players are given gray.
- As of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, an eight-player mode was introduced, so there are four additional colors: P5 (Orange), P6 (Cyan), P7 (Purple), P8 (Dark gray).
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash Up uses colored 'auras' to separate players, much like Super Smash Bros. in that they are required for team matches. In free for all matches, the aura colors can be decided by the player out of a standard 256 color pallet. While alternate models exist, this is the main way to separate fighters.
Hack and Slash
- The multiplayer for Metroid Prime 2 involves multicolored Samuses (Samii?) fighting each other.
- Team Fortress 2. Lampshaded in that their companies are abbreviated to RED and BLU.
- It's lampshaded even further since the founders of said companies are named Redmond and Blutarch, respectively.
- And after the Mann Vs. Machine update, RED and BLU have a common enemy called Gray Mann (whose "team", ironically, isn't this—they're robotic doubles of the actual characters, as the "Vs. Machine" part of the update title implies).
- Halo. Palette Swap was the only way of distinguishing players in the first game, with the second offering a (rarely used) Elite playermodel, and the third finally adding a number of unlockable armor customizations (all of which are still rather generic).
- Halo Zero used this too.
- Its predecessor, Marathon, also had human players all look the same, but player sprites were split in two (primarily in order to avert Fight In The Nude) so that the color of one's shirt and pants could be set separately, to denote both the individual player and the player's team.
- Averted in co-op play in Halo 3. Player 1 is the Chief, Player 2 is the Arbiter.
- Quake (or at least QuakeWorld) also let players recolor the top and bottom halves of their models based on personal preference or team affiliation, and sometimes mods used this as well. The original QuakeWorld Team Fortress used pants color to assign people to the RED and BLU teams.
- The first Doom game's multiplayer had each player a different color. One of the colors was brown, and this mixed with the oldschool graphics and brown colored enemies caused problems.
- Heretic made the players red, yellow, green, and blue, averting the problem with Doom.
- Duke Nukem 3D, Blood, and other first person games at the time followed suit.
- Project Blackout has a red team and a blue team (although the "red" team is sort of a misnomer—they actually wear camo).
- Monday Night Combat uses orange and blue for its two teams.
- BioShock 2's multiplayer depicts friendly hacked machines with blue lights, and enemy ones with red. Unhacked ones are white. One wonders why they didn't just keep up the red-yellow-green scheme of the single player.
- Gauntlet Legends at first appears to have standard Color Coded Multiplayer, but upon closer inspection, all of the art and in-game models for each color of each character class are radically different, with each color even having something of a theme (e.g. all of the blue characters have black frizzy hair, all of the red characters have straight blond hair?).
- Each color variation also sports differing costume styles. The reds mostly had fur and were more barbarian-looking; the blues were often more regal and medieval-like; the greens were forest-themed with leather sashes and vests, and the yellows had an Egyptian/desert-themed flair to them.
- Runescape differentiates teams in Castle Wars and similar activities with different colors of capes or hats.
- In Guild Wars, the two teams in Pv P are red and blue. The factions in Factions have red and blue flags to support this. It also tends to refer to objectives in Pv P maps by color.
- Super Mario Bros.
- The original Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 1, Super Mario Bros. 3, and Super Mario World did this with Mario and Luigi. They are identical sprites, but Mario is red and Luigi is green. The exception was Super Mario Bros. 2, the single-player game that put Luigi on Divergent Character Evolution.
- Then Super Mario All-Stars gave Mario and Luigi different sprites in all of the remakes. In the version of All-Stars that included Super Mario World, Luigi got a new sprite in that game as well. Some of his actions had to be animated differently in order to keep his hit box intact (for example, he slides on his knees).
- In New Super Mario Bros. Wii, two Toads are color coded yellow and blue, but players can select between them or Luigi (Player 1 is always stuck with Mario, however).
- The "Classic" Mario Bros. minigame included in the GBA version of Super Mario Bros. 2 (and with the GBA versions of Super Mario World, Yoshi's Island, and Super Mario Bros. 3, and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga) plays this straight by making all the other player characters (including Luigi) into palette swaps of Mario. Strangely, the Player 3 and Player 4 characters wore Wario's and Waluigi's color scheme respectively (yellow and purple, if with different overall colors).
- Jazz Jackrabbit 2 had eight customizable colors for six body parts, allowing an almost infinite variety of color-schemes.
- The NES version of Rush'n Attack has a 2-Players mode in which Player 1 is in blue and Player 2 is in red, even though both characters are supposed to be Green Berets. The power-up carrying enemy soldiers also happen to be a yellow palette swap of the player as well.
- In M.I.A., the arcade-only Spiritual Successor to Rush'n Attack, Player 1 is green and Player 2 is blue.
- Kirby's Return to Dream Land lets players be Kirbies of different colors, but they can also choose between King Dedede, Meta Knight, or Waddle Dee, who don't have Kirby's trademark Power Copying, but they do have their own weapons.
- In Michael Jackson's Moonwalker, the first player controls Michael Jackson in a white suit, the second controls Michael in a red suit, and the third player (available in the Arcade Game only) controls Michael in a black suit.
- Shadow of the Ninja assigns the first player the purple-clad ninja Hayate and the second player the orange-clad kunoichi Kaede. Their sprites are different, but their movesets are identical.
- The NES versions of Contra and Super C as shown above. Since the NES was unable to produce the same level of detail as the arcade versions, the developers made both characters into palette swaps of the same shirtless commando, with Player 1 (Bill) in the blue pants and Player 2 (Lance) in the red pants.
- The arcade versions of both games used different sprites for each player (Bill had blond hair and wore a tank top, while Lance had black hair and fought shirtless), but they still wore differently colored headbands in the original Contra (blue for Bill and red for Lance). In Super Contra, Bill wore green and Lance wore purple.
- Contra III for the SNES, despite being made on a superior hardware than the NES, kept both characters as palette swaps, presumably for tradition's sakes. However, the colors of their combat suits are light green (for Bill) and orange (for Lance) instead of the blue and red they wore in the NES games.
- In Contra 4 for the DS, the four default characters are all palette swaps of the same sprite. Bill and Lance wear blue and red respectively, while their "American counterparts", Mad Dog and Scorpion, wear green and purple (a reference to Bill's and Lance's respective colors in Super Contra). The four alternate characters: Lucia, Sheena, Probotector and Jimbo/Sully (the Contra III versions of Bill and Lance) all have four selectable palettes as well.
- Hard Corps: Uprising allows the player to choose from one of five alternate palettes (in addition to the default) in case two players decide to use the same character.
- The arcade version of Rastan Saga II has Palette Swapped Co-Op Multiplayer. The most obvious difference between the two characters is skin color, but the indicative colors are gold for the first player and blue for the second player.
- In Ninja Crusaders, the first player controls a red ninja and the second player controls a blue ninja.
- The two teams in Killer Queen are identical sprites with blue or gold color schemes.
- Two-player mode in the Amiga version of Lemmings: one player controls the blue lemmings, the other player the green lemmings, and each player's goal is to ensure that as many as possible (regardless of colour) enter that player's exit, also colour-coded.
- Helter Skelter: The first player controls a red ball, and the second player controls a blue one.
- Age of Empires gives you two options for this: Either each team can have a different color or all your enemies can use a single color different from yours.
- Starcraft has this too. There are eight colors available, and you can be any of those colors (race does not matter). Color coding also happens for single player.
- Ditto for the numerous Command & Conquer games, where usually 8 colours are selectable.
- Battlezone II's Strategy and MPI gamemodes default to Team 1 having red units and Team 2 having blue units. Free-for-all strategy has Yellow and Green. In deathmatch, each player is given a random color at the start of the round - every player fears the neon pink Attila.
- Pikmin 2's battle mode sets one player as Olimar (who has a slight red scheme) and gives him an army entirely made of Red Pikmin, with the other player as Louie (who has a slight blue) with Blue Pikmin. The third game, where each player may now have a mix of colors to get, colors the Pikmin's stems with cyan or magenta and uses these colors for the player.
- Dragon Quest Wars.
- In Dokapon Kingdom, players who share the same class look identical, other than color and gender. You can go to the barbershop and get a new hairstyle, but it is sometimes lost upon death.
Shoot Em Ups
- The Just Dance series of games, Usually in Duet and Dance Crew songs, but the majority have visually distinctive dancers.
- Multiplayer in UmJammer Lammy has Player 1 as Lammy and Player 2 as Rammy, a gray-scale Palette Swap of Lammy (though she is her own character).
- Reflec Beat's two sides are distinctly labeled "red side" and "blue side", although "red" in this case looks more like pink.
- Touhou fighting games Immaterial and Mising Power and Scarlet Weather Rhapsody have an alternate palette for each character. Hisoutensoku amps it up by having eight palettes per character.
- Gradius V's player 2 ship is a red-colored Vic Viper, much to the disappointment of those expecting player 2 to be the (red-colored) Lord British (like in Life Force/Salamander).
- The Raiden series features a red Raiden and a blue Raiden. Raiden Fighters, on the other hand, make the red Raiden (Raiden mk-II) and blue Raiden (Raiden mk-II Beta) play differently.
- The cooperative 2-player mode of Twin Cobra gives the first player a red helicopter and the second player a blue helicopter. These were Palette Swaps of each other, but they received Divergent Character Evolution in Twin Cobra II.
- In the Twinbee series, the players' ships are Twinbee (blue), Winbee (pink), and Gwinbee (green).
- In Gokujou Parodius, all the Player 2 characters are all differently-named palette swaps of the Player 1 characters using the same weapon sets. However, Sexy Parodius gave the Player 2 characters slightly different weapon sets.
- In Aegis Wing, the four ships are distinguished only by color.
- In Ikari Warriors, both players are shirtless men with black hair and pants. Player 1 (Paul) wears a red headband reminiscent of John Rambo while player 2 (Vince) wears a blue headband.
- In Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony, each player has an aura that is red, blue, yellow or green depending on the player.
- The multiplayer for the new Punch Out has Mac fighting a clone of himself in different clothes. Doc Louis even lampshades this.
- In Wii Sports, Player 1 is colored blue, Player 2 is red, Player 3 green, and 4 yellow.
- In Speedball, the Player 1 team wears green, and the computer or Player 2 team wears red. Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe changed the Player 1 color to blue, and added colored indicators and health bars to make the difference more obvious.
- The Advance Wars series has its Color-Coded Armies. Multiplayer modes decide the colors from which slot each person is using.
- The Link Arena mode in the Game Boy Advance Fire Emblem games assigns blue units to the first player slot, green units to the second slot, red units to the third slot, and purple units to the fourth slot.
- Destroy All Humans! 2.
- In MindJack, players on your team are blue 'wanderers', players on the enemy team are red. When in control of an NPC, the respective colour outlines the NPC.
- While Transformers: War for Cybertron didn't use this, having players choose separate models and colors for the Autobot and Decepticon versions of their classes, the sequel Fall of Cybertron does use this; one creates just one model for a class and differentiates the Autobot and Decepticon versions of it by picking from different pools of palette options. Also, the game automatically swaps voices and Tron Lines colors based on faction, with there being an option to use player-relative colors (blue = allies, red = enemies, regardless of faction) or absolute colors (red = Autobots, purple = Decepticons, regardless of which team the player is on).
- S4 League is a little weird with this. Players on your team will have their equipment rendered with their natural colors which can be blue, yellow, green, or purple. Players on the opposing team will have their equipment Palette Swapped to be red. In Battle Royale, a free-for-all mode with no teams, all other players will be wearing red. As a result of this POV-based color-coding system, equipment that is naturally red does not exist.
- In Glider Pro, the second paper airplane is folded from a yellow sheet instead of a white one. However, these use completely different sprites, because all the game's graphical resources have to share the same 256-color palette.
- In the Versus Mode of Metal Gear: Ghost Babel, the second player controls another Solid Snake clad in a red sneaking suit instead of the blue one wore in the story mode.
- Vindicators made the first player blue and the second player red, right down to the control panel on the original arcade cabinet.
Non-video game examples:
Anime and Manga
- In the Disney Princess edition of the board game Pretty Pretty Princess, all the player pieces are Aurora in her bejeweled dress, with one being pink, another blue, another purple, and the fourth gold.
- The pieces in just about any board game by Milton Bradley or Parker Brothers with have players coded Red, Blue, Green, Yellow
- In Chess, the leading player is the white side, while the other player is the black side.
- Go has an inversion of chess's color-coding: the leading player is the black side instead.
- In El Goonish Shive, when Nanase creates one shadow copy of herself, the copy is colored with one of the primary additive colors (red, green, or blue), while Nanase is colored with the corresponding primary subtractive color (cyan, magenta, or yellow, respectively). This actually makes sense from a scientific standpoint: the real Nanase is absorbing the color the fake one is producing.
- Ctrl+Alt+Del's "Players": One is blue, Two is red, Three is yellow, and Four (the lone girl) is green.
- Red vs. Blue started out as merely a parody of this trope. Later, the Reds and Blues discovered that the two armies who were pitted against each other were just simulations for Freelancer Agents to train. Which finally, after most of eight seasons, actually hit the Reds' and Blues' Berserk Button.
- Older Than Feudalism: Ancient Roman chariot races had four teams, using almost exactly the same colors as today: Red, Blue, Green, and White. From the normal seats, color was the only way to tell who was who. Unlike modern sports teams, which have actual names instead of just team colors, the color was all that identified the factions.
- This distinction carried over to Byzantine chariot races. The supporters of Blue and Green—the biggest teams—eventually got mixed up in political, religious, and social disputes, and their demes (fan clubs, basically) became, in effect, street gangs-cum-political parties. Tying fully into this trope, each deme wore the colors of its team (Blue supporters wore blue and Green supporters wore green). This led to the Nika riots of 532, when the Blues and Greens teamed up in protest of the Emperor's actions to keep their roiling culture in check.
- In Real Life sports, if two teams have primary jerseys with the same colors, one is forced to use the secondary kit. In most American sports, the issue is avoided entirely as the home team traditionally wears its colored uniform while the road team wears its white uniform. There are a few exceptions to the color-at-home rule:
- In basketball the home team wears white while the road team wears a dark color. The most famous exception to this rule is the Los Angeles Lakers, who traditionally wear gold at home, except for Sunday games when they wear white.
- In baseball the home team wears white while the road team wears gray, which can get even more complicated because baseball teams also wear colored jerseys. However, even when wearing colored jerseys, one constant remains: the home team wears white pants while the road team wears gray pants.
- In college and minor league hockey, the home team wears white while the road team wears their colored jersey, which is the inverse of what the NHL does.
- Variants in casual sports include single color\multicolor (if the other team doesn't have an uniform - though it's asked for everyone who is wearing the same color as the adversary to get another shirt), and shirtless\shirt on.
- Boxing, Professional Wrestling and other Ring sports typically have competitors in the Red Corner and the Blue Corner.
- For martial arts, the competitors wear different colors: Olympic (Greco-Roman) wrestling has red or blue singlets, Judo has white or blue dōgi, and Taekwondo red or blue helmets/pads over white dobok.
- While not related to uniforms, several game shows have seated their contestants behind red, yellow, and blue podiums. A notable example is Wheel of Fortune. Some have red and blue podiums like Card Sharks, for example.
- The Japanese quiz show Panel Quiz Attack 25 takes this one step further and refers to the four players by their colors—Aka (red), Midori (green), Shiro (white), or Ao (blue)—rather than their names, when buzzing in.