In the early days of video games, memory was limited and quite expensive, and some games simply could not afford the CPU cycles to present a continuous, smoothly scrolling game world. The world was thus divided into a series of "screens", analogous to rooms with fixed camera positions. Travelling off one side of the screen caused the game to scroll by an entire screen at a time to reveal the next area — or, if the hardware couldn't afford actual
scrolling — simply "flip" to the next screen with no transitional effect.
A curious side effect of this is that, just as the game couldn't afford the memory to provide continuous scrolling, it couldn't afford the memory to keep track of whatever was offscreen, either; the screen edges essentially became borders
to NPCs, monsters, attacks and projectiles alike, and only
the player was able to cross from one screen to the next. Is there a hungry wolf bearing down on your Sir Graham
? Simply run off the edge of the screen to the next, and it'll forget all about you.
Some of these games made things more interesting by giving every screen a title and displaying these titles prominently, perhaps next to the Status Line
(or at least Hand Waved
) by placing actual barriers (walls or doors) at the edge of a screen to provide a logical separation.
It can become a cause of Trial-and-Error Gameplay
, by preventing the player in a Platform Game
to evaluate whether or not that gap before them is a Bottomless Pit
or if there is a screen below it to land safely on. It can also lead to the Player Tic
of performing some action (like jumping) near the edge of the screen to see if it persists across the transition.
Common in games designed for old computers like the MSX
and Apple ][
which had no special video hardware for scrolling. Even the Nintendo Entertainment System
only had enough video RAM for scrolling in one direction (though extra VRAM could be put on cartridges), so it wasn't uncommon for NES games to use some flip screen transitions just to avoid the programming complexities of scrolling vertically and horizontally in the same area. More recent games featuring Retraux
themes may purposefully invoke this.
- Many classic Adventure Games, including those made by Sierra used discrete 'screens' with no transition effect between them, with NPCs and monsters (generally) limited to the screen they resided on.
- Sierra's Quest for Glory series, however, allowed wandering monsters to pursue the player from one screen to the next.
- Early text adventures typically divided the world into a grid, with a name and description for each square "room". When adventure games got graphics, this trope was carried over. Moving towards a compass direction to the next room became walking off the edge off the screen.
- The game version of Below The Root encouraged the "edge of the screen" trick to avoid hostile NPCs.
- Cybernoid (originally for the Amstrad CPC) flips from screen to screen when you reach the edge. However, it has a fun unit where an enemy appears just against the side you flipped in from.
- The original The Legend of Zelda scrolled in full-screen intervals, both horizontally and vertically. Dungeon maps were explicitly divided into a grid of discrete rooms, but the overworld map was not.
- A Link to the Past had map areas about twice as big as the screen, giving it both a smooth scrolling within a map area and a "flip" scrolling from one area to the next.
- The first Game Boy title, Link's Awakening, had exclusively "flip" scrolling in both the above-view and platforming sections.note The Oracle games also used it on the overworld map, but added rooms bigger than the screen in dungeons.
- In Mega Man (Classic), horizontal scrolling was generally continuous (doors and gates aside), while vertical scrolling occurred in full-screen intervals. Later games have continuous scrolling in all cases, but keep the flip scrolling for the hallway just prior to the boss for the nostalgia factor.
- This led to one great Good Bad Bug in Mega Man 3. The Giant Bees that dropped nests full of smaller bees that homed in on you could be taken out effortlessly by backtracking just enough for them to leave the screen and thus vanish from existence.
- Super Mario Bros. 2 had continuous horizontal scrolling, with vertical scrolling occurring in intervals of three-fifths of a screen; although offscreen enemies and items were still accounted for and could drop in on the player from above.
- All of the Glider games did this until Glider Classic, with a Check Point for every room. The drawback of not being able to see surrounding rooms was remedied by 9-room mode in Glider PRO. Rooms were titled in 4.0 and PRO; the former even put the title of the room where you died on the High Scores list.
- Prince of Persia and Prince of Persia 2 (flip).
- The Amstrad CPC oldie Mission Elevator displayed three floors, and scrolled two floors at a time.
- Many Platform Games by Capcom based on Disney animations in the NES era like The Little Mermaid, Darkwing Duck and DuckTales games.
- Metal Gear 1987 and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake on the MSX2 used flip screen scrolling, as did the NES version of Metal Gear and Snake's Revenge.
- Adventure, with very confusing warping due to the Atari 2600's graphics limitations.
- E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- Atari 2600 Superman
- Faxanadu. Averted in the PC-88 and MSX1 game it was based on, Dragon Slayer II: Xanadu, even though those systems lacked scrolling hardware.
- With many games that appeared both on the MSX and the Nintendo Entertainment System, the NES versions featured continuous scrolling within sub-levels in the horizontal direction only, but their MSX counterparts used flip-scrolling exclusively. To name a few:
- Castlevania/Vampire Killer
- Castle Excellent/Castlequest (the NES version still flipped between rooms, but rebuilt them all to be wider than the screen)
- Dragon Slayer IV/Legacy of the Wizard (sub-areas are the same width in both versions, though they're divided into five slightly overlapping screens on the MSX)
- Ganbare Goemon! Karakuri Douchuu
- The Goonies (the PC-88 version, based on the NES version, also lacks scrolling)
- Maze Of Galious
- Pitfall had this exclusively. The sequel introduced smooth scrolling, but only for vertical transitions.
- Smash TV, using much the same excuse as The Legend of Zelda: progress from one room to the next.
- Blaster Master generally scrolls in all directions, but flips when going through doorways between "rooms", both in sidescrolling and overhead modes.
- The Guardian Legend, during the labyrinth areas.
- Early Isometric Projection games such as Head Over Heels work this way, out of necessity.
- All the 2D Hydlide games, except for the Sharp X1 port of the first game.
- Mantra, being very closely inspired by Zelda, did this. May qualify as Retraux, since the classic Mac platforms needed a lot more power than the NES hardware Zelda was built on to do tile-based games because of the lack of hardware sprite support.
- Super Mario Bros. Special for the PC-88 flipped the screen not at the right edge, but a few tiles short from the edge. Together with Ratchet Scrolling as in the NES original, this imposes considerable Fake Difficulty, since the levels make jumping over screen boundaries ridiculously risky.
- Golvellius does this in the overworld sections.
- Kid Kool on the NES had continuous horizontal scrolling, but flipped on vertical transitions.
- Magical Doropie had full horizontal scrolling, but flips on vertical transitions, like the Mega Man (Classic) clone it is.
- Spelunker (computer and NES versions) scrolls continuously in the vertical direction only.
- Kid Niki Radical Ninja did this in the Apple ][ and Commodore 64 versions.
- Mighty Bomb Jack and Metroid on the NES were careful to keep horizontal corridors separated from vertical shafts by doors.
- All of the side-scrolling Metroid games keep the scroll effect every time you go through a door for the sake of nostalgia.
- The Amstrad CPC port of Contra (known as Gryzor) scrolled by about two-thirds of a screen, in addition to its Ratchet Scrolling. The MSX2 version scrolled at screen boundaries.
- Nazo no Murasamejō had this throughout the game.
- Bagman (1982) is one of very few arcade games that did this.
- Goof Troop
- Castle Wolfenstein, although enemies you've killed stayed dead.
- Montezuma's Revenge
- The castle stages in Alex Kidd in Miracle World and Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle.
- Alien Syndrome (Sega Master System version)
- Hunchback is another example that originated in arcades. The screen doesn't scroll until Quasimodo hits the Check Point at the right side of every screen, even though the intro has continuous scrolling.
- A lot of early Digital Pinball Tables used playfields several screens tall. When the ball moved off one screen, Flip Screen Scrolling would be used to show the next one:
- Skweek uses screen-flipping in the Amstrad CPC and IBM Personal Computer ports.
- Smurf: Rescue In Gargamel's Castle and Cabbage Patch Kids: Adventures In The Park, both ColecoVision games, use screen-flipping.
- Faria uses this in the tower areas.
- Animal Crossing on the Gamecube features a form of this without the justification of limited technology. In addition, objects and characters continued to move and act, even across screen borders. Lampshaded by calling them "Acres". The later games avert this with continuous scrolling, but still use 16x16 "acres" for internal purposes such as building placement (never across an acre boundary), capping geometry density (no more than 6 trees per quarter-acre), and so on.