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.
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.
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.
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.
The Legend of Zelda
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.
Screen shots from Moby Games