Digitized Sprites


When the sprite graphics in a Video Game are made by conversion of an external image (such as a photograph, CGI render, hand-drawn artwork, video feed, etc.) into a sprite, as opposed to the Pixel Art methods typically associated with the creation of videogame sprites. This can actually save a lot of time and effort in the production cycle, but the results are often not as pleasing (particularly when photography is used).

This was popular in the The '90s (The 16 Bit Era Of Console Video Games) before processing power and tech prices could make Polygonal Graphics practical for home computers and video game consoles. The process could actually make more detailed graphics than many of the early polygon-capable game systems, since it was taking more advanced CGI and converting it to 2D images.

Also, if a photo is used, it could be anything from Real Life pictures, to actors, to Stop Motion (e.g. Claymation models).

Compare Sprite/Polygon Mix (and can overlap if the sprites or bitmaps are also digitized). Also compare Full Motion Video.


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  • Police Quest: Open Season
  • Sierra used this technique heavily in their '90s adventure games, though the artists would usually touch up the sprites in their paint programs. They did this heavily in games like King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow but left the sprites largely untouched for the Police Quest games to fit the series' more naturalistic setting. Phantasmagoria also seems to drift back and forth between digitized actor sprites and heavily Chroma Keyed Full Motion Video.
  • The Game Boy Advance video game adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe uses digitized sprites for player characters and backgrounds.
  • The Neverhood. The CD includes a "behind-the-scenes" video showing how the claymation and CGI were created.
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds uses actual 3D models almost everywhere, but the wild audience of the Treacherous Tower is pre-rendered, to avoid rendering too many characters in addition to the (already numerous) monsters in the arena with you.


    First Person Shooter 
  • Some of the monsters from DOOM and DOOM 2 were first created as clay, 3D, or latex models which were photographed and then rendered into sprites. In mods, it's common to see weapons from modern 3D games imported into Doom via the same technique.
  • Rise of the Triad used the Apogee staff in costumes to create the enemies. Tom Hall played the final boss.
  • Blood also used detailed models for all the monsters. More info about the work process can be found here.
  • The first Dark Forces game was populated using these. It's easy to tell what's rotoscoped, what's hand drawn, and what's a digitized render by the light levels of the sprites. Sprites with minimal lighting like those of the Dianoga and Gammorean Guard are drawn, moderately shaded human enemy sprites are rotoscoped, and the highly shiny droid enemy sprites are taken from renders.

    Light Gun Game 

  • The Sega Genesis and Game Gear game Bugs Bunny in Double Trouble features these.
  • All graphics elements (sprites and backgrounds alike) from the first three Donkey Kong Country games were created from renders of 3D models created and animated on expensive SGI workstations.note 
  • Vectorman
  • Gargoyles on the Genesis used this to contrast the futuristic machine enemies with the hand-drawn sprites of enemies from Goliath's original time.
  • Iji's sprites are 3d models from Blender, rendered with flat-shading.
  • Deliberately averted in Yoshi's Island. According to Super Mario Bros. creator Shigeru Miyamoto, the reason why the game is drawn with a sketchy, storybook-like artstyle is that around the time the game was released, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System was almost near the end of its life, and it was now mandatory for its last few games to use Digitized Sprites in order to compete with true 3D games. Miyamoto, however, despised the look of these prerendered sprites, and as a result the game's graphics style is how it is, looking like illustrations straight out of a storybook.
  • Mario vs. Donkey Kong, first installment.
  • Toy Story had sprites based on the CG models used in the film.
  • Many of Disney's video games video games throughout the 90's such as Aladdin and The Lion King used cels drawn by Disney's film animation team drawn specifically for the game.
  • Sprites in Wario Land: Shake It! used hand-drawn animated cells.
  • Shinobi Legions
  • Mischief Makers does this along with Sprite/Polygon Mix.
  • Castle Of Magic actually gives this ability to the player. They can take photos of real-world objects and turn them into sprites in the game, for everything from the basic gem pickups to the bosses' heads.
  • Penguin Brothers: Many enemy sprites are obviously digitized 3D models, as are the zoomed-out versions of the player characters.


    Real Time Strategy 
  • Age of Empires and Age of Empires II used CGI Renderings for trees, animals, buildings, and units alike.
  • The first two games of the Total War series, Shogun and Medieval, used CGI Renderings for every unit.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • Fallout used 3D models converted into sprites for all of its graphics. The sole exception were talking heads, created from clay models painstakingly digitized into 3D and then saved as sprites.
  • The Golden Sun games on the Game Boy Advance digitized most of the sprites.
  • A modern example: Project Zomboid uses this as a Retraux.
  • The Enhanced Remake of Quest For Glory 1 used clay models for its in-battle monster graphics.
  • Super Mario RPG, much like Donkey Kong Country, derived its sprite and environment graphics from pre-rendered CGI models.
  • The first six installments of the Final Fantasy series generated their monster graphics by directly scanning artwork into the game.

    Shoot Em Up 
  • Cho Aniki: Kyuukyoku Muteki Ginga Saikyou Otoko. There is a short video in the main menu showing how the digitizing were created.
  • Ginga Fukei Densetsu Sapphire has many enemies, particularly bosses, made of prerendered polygonal models.
  • Silpheed for the Sega CD had all ships and background objects as prerendered flat-shaded polygons.
  • Viewpoint


    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • Saints Row IV has the mission Saints of Rage, where The President goes into a 16-bit side-scroller to rescue Johnny Gat,resulting in Digitized Sprites (mostly to allow the player's customized President, converting their normal 3D model). It's all, naturally, Lampshaded, and comes complete with choppy sound bites and nonsensical food healing items.

  • American Girls Premiere and its predecessor, Opening Night, used chroma-keyed footage from live actors and props, with the former using the American Girl catalog along with actors dressed as characters from the franchise, and the latter using generic characters, sets, and props. It wasn't as refined as Mortal Kombat's though, as the characters were poorly chroma-keyed, and was grainier due to the dithered 256-colour palette.
  • Sociolotron sprites are still renders of 3D models at various animation frames. The independent developer didn't have the artistry to illustrate the full graphic set needed to animate the characters, and at the time most systems and internet connections didn't have the speed to render huge communities of 3D animated models. It was a necessary compromise that has lingered while the developer focuses on game mechanics and setting instead.