A Guide to the Graphics of the Sega Mega Drive / Genesis

This guide is intended as a beginner-friendly, non-programming-oriented guide to the graphics of the Mega Drive—from how the VDP works to the types of graphical effects that are commonly used on the console.

New to the hardware? Start here.

Just want to see some cool graphical effects? You can find them here.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Overview of the VDP
  3. The Inner Workings of the VDP
  4. Graphical Effects on the Mega Drive
    1. Introduction
    2. Full-Screen Scrolling
    3. Row / Column Scrolling
    4. Line Scrolling
    5. Animation
    6. Multi-Jointed Characters
    7. Tilting / Rotation
    8. Scaling
    9. Shadow and Highlight
    10. Transparency
    11. Silhouette
    12. Palette Swapping
    13. Vertical Scaling
    14. Sprite Raster Effects
  5. Overview of the Mega Drive’s Hardware Architecture
  6. References / Further Reading
  7. Changelog
  8. Reader Comments

Many thanks go to Sik (plutiedev.com) for providing feedback and corrections. All errors are my own.

The impetus for writing this guide comes from the successful funding of my upcoming book, Legends of 16-Bit Game Development: A History of Treasure and the Sega Mega Drive / Genesis. Pre-orders are now open if you want to ensure you get a copy of the first print run.

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