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Flip-Screen Scrolling

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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.

Sometimes justified (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.


Early examples:

  • Many classic Adventure Games, including those made by Sierra use 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, allow wandering monsters to pursue the player from one screen to the next.
    • Early text adventures typically divide the world into a grid, with a name and description for each square "room". When adventure games get graphics, this trope was carried over. Moving towards a compass direction to the next room becomes walking off the edge of the screen.
  • The game version of Below The Root encourage 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 Legend of Zelda:
    • The original The Legend of Zelda scrolls 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 has 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, has exclusively "flip" scrolling in both the above-view and platforming sections.note 
    • The Oracle games also use it on the overworld map, but added rooms bigger than the screen in dungeons.
  • In Mega Man (Classic), horizontal scrolling is generally continuous (doors and gates aside), while vertical scrolling occurs 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 leads to an interesting bug in Mega Man 3. The Giant Bees that drop nests full of smaller bees that homed in on you can be taken out effortlessly by backtracking just enough for them to leave the screen and thus vanish from existence.
  • Super Mario Bros. 2 has continuous horizontal scrolling, with vertical scrolling occurring in intervals of three-fifths of a screen; although offscreen enemies and items are still accounted for and can drop in on the player from above.
  • All of the Glider games do this up to Glider Classic, with a Checkpoint for every room. The drawback of not being able to see surrounding rooms is remedied by 9-room mode in Glider PRO. Rooms are titled in 4.0 and PRO; the former even puts 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 displays three floors, and scrolls 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 and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake on the MSX2 use flip screen scrolling, as did the NES version of Metal Gear and Snake's Revenge, the latter of which also had flip screen scrolling on its side-scrolling levels.
  • 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's based on, Dragon Slayer II: Xanadu, even though those systems lack scrolling hardware.
  • With many games that appeared both on the MSX and the Nintendo Entertainment System, the NES versions feature continuous scrolling within sub-levels in the horizontal direction only, but their MSX counterparts use flip-scrolling exclusively. To name a few:
    • Castlevania/Vampire Killer
    • Castle Excellent/Castlequest (the NES version still flips between rooms, but rebuilds 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
  • Activision's Pitfall has this exclusively, as also did Keystone Kapers. The sequel Pitfall II: Lost Caverns introduces 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 and Highway Encounter 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, does this. May qualify as Retraux, since the classic Mac platforms need 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 has continuous horizontal scrolling, but flips 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 does this in the Apple ][ and Commodore 64 versions.
  • Mighty Bomb Jack and Metroid on the NES are 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) scrolls by about two-thirds of a screen, in addition to its Ratchet Scrolling. The MSX2 version scrolled at screen boundaries.
  • The Mysterious Murasame Castle has 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 Checkpoint at the right side of every screen, even though the intro has continuous scrolling.
  • A lot of early Digital Pinball Tables use playfields several screens tall. When the ball moved off one screen, Flip Screen Scrolling is 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.
  • Flashback: The Quest For Identity
  • Mad Professor Mariarti: The Atari ST version is purely flip-screen; the Atari and Acorn Archimedes versions have horizontal but not vertical scrolling.
  • Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee and Abe's Exoddus. The later games dropped this.

Retraux examples:

Other examples:

  • 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.


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