Classic Color Palettes: Video Games

Classic Color Palettes: Video Games

While technology may have limited the color palettes of some of the first, and most popular, video games, their colors are no less influential on modern game design and culture as a whole. Just as every note from the music of Super Mario Bros is familiar, for gamers and non-gamers alike, so are the simple palettes of every platform and character from these classic video games.

Super Mario Bros.

Super Mario Bros.Hidden Areas

As of 2008, Super Mario Bros. is the best selling video game of all time (selling over 40 million copies to date). It was largely responsible for the initial success of the Nintendo Entertainment System, as well as ending the two year slump of video game sales in the United States after the video game crash of 1983.

Water LevelBowser

One of Shigeru Miyamoto's most influential early successes, it has inspired countless imitators, two direct sequels, and many spinoffs, as well as an entire video game series. Mario went on to become Nintendo's most well-known mascot. The theme music, by Koji Kondo, is recognized worldwide, even by those who have not played the game, and has been considered a representation for video game music in general.
- wikipedia


Pac-ManGhost Pack

At the time, the ability to produce color was a technical achievement, and the marketing department at Atari felt that it was important to stress the color capabilities of the Atari. They asked programmers not to use black backgrounds except to represent outer space. As a result, the maze on the 2600 port was given orange walls and a blue background, instead of blue walls on a black background. (Similar treatment was given to the Atari 2600 conversion of Ms. Pac-Man.)

The flicker also makes the colors of the ghosts almost indiscernible (appearing to be a pale yellow or green), but the ghosts are in fact colored differently from one another (light shades of red, yellow, blue, and green which do not stand out well against the saturated blue background). The eyes of the ghosts on the 2600 port spin constantly, while the eyes of the monsters in the arcade game indicate their direction of movement.
- wikipedia

The Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zeldanew game

The Legend of Zelda is a video game designed by Shigeru Miyamoto and developed and published by Nintendo. Set in the fantasy land of Hyrule, the plot centers on a boy named Link, the playable protagonist, who aims to rescue Princess Zelda from the primary antagonist, Ganon, by collecting the eight fragments of the Triforce, a powerful artifact.


As the inaugural game of The Legend of Zelda series, it was first released in Japan as a launch title for the Famicom's Disk System peripheral, a year and five months before it was released in the United States. Because the Famicom Disk System was not released outside Japan, the game was published internationally on the Nintendo Entertainment System's cartridge format in 1987, with an internal battery to facilitate data saving. Nintendo released the game in Japan in 1994 on cartridge format for the Famicom.
- wikipedia

Screen shots from Moby Games

Showing 1 - 24 of 24 Comments


yay! very interesting article! i thinkg you should write more about colours of old digital stuff! q;)


One of my favorite games was Super Breakout with it's simple bands of rainbow color.


Great article! This brought back a lot of found memories of playing NES and Atari 2600.


is it bad that i grew up on an NES and i know EXACTLY what goes on...?

crazy stuffage. also good stuffage. i miss my old least my N64 still works! :P


Space Invaders

I miss all these games.
Pacman and Mario bros and Space invaders.
Never liked Pong or those other hard ones

The colors they used were maybe not the mosst subtle, but definitly made the then computers pop.


My jaw just fell off and rattled across my desk. These ROCK! Great blog post, just great! Long live Mario!


awesome! Zelda has definitely inspired some colour creativity out of me :)

triforce surplus

I'm not sure if many people have played Tiny Toon Adventures for the NES...

Tiny Toon Adventures

My cousin had it and I have fond memories of watching her play. Good times.

Pulp Fiction

I have fond memories of my father introducing this twelve year old to these games.


YES, Zelda! (: *happy*

and when I go bowling, my name is Peach and my boyfriend's is Mario. (:



Come help us gather more game colors in the Game Obsession group.


Yay! Finally an article on video games! I'm so excited! So inspirational as well.


Glad to see one of my favorite hobbies getting some respect!

As for the Super Mario series... I feel like #3 and Super Mario World had the best colors, while SMW2: Yoshi's Island had the best Art Direction.

awesome post!


What an awesome article, especially since I love making video game-related palettes.

That having been said, I'm sort of surprised no one mentioned this one~

Duck Hunt

and then I got on a real Duck Hunt kick..

Black Duck

Blue Duck

Whoop. Nearly 4:00 am. I have a couple more Duck Hunt and other classic games I want to get palette'd, but I suppose they'll have to wait for another day~


I have created a whole bunch of palettes based on games that I play or have played (Warning, some of them are not "classic" games):

The Legacy of Rosemond Hill:
The Diamond Mystery of Rosemond Hill:
Pickle Wars Trilogy:
Crystal Caves:
Commander Keen Series:
Word Rescue Trilogy:
Rainbow Web Trilogy:
Royal Envoy:


Thank you for your article, I was looking for Zelda colour palettes and The Legend of Zelda and Level-3 are the ones that I am looking for :)

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