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Wonder Boy scrolls left to right following the player character, and shows more screen in front of the character than behind.
Mega Man on the NES

A side-scrolling game or side-scroller is a video game in which the gameplay action is viewed from a side-view camera angle, and the onscreen characters generally move from the left side of the screen to the right. These games make use of scrolling computer display technology.

Use of side-scrolling

The most popular use of the side-scrolling format is in the platform game genre. Platform games are action games that feature jumping, climbing, and running characters who must be guided through many diverse levels. Games such as Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog are among the most famous side-scrollers of this type.

The side-scrolling format is also popular among beat 'em ups, such as the popular Double Dragon and Battletoads series. Side-scrolling is even used in certain role-playing games such as the 2D Castlevania: Symphony of the Night or the Korean MMORPG MapleStory. Often in beat 'em ups the screen will scroll to a certain point then stop and require the enemies on screen to be defeated before it moves on.

Another popular use of the side-scrolling format is in the Shooter genre, typified by games like R-type, and more recently Jets'n'Guns. In this game style the player usually starts with a basic ship that flies from left to right and acquires Power-ups that allow them to face an ever increasing horde of enemies. The popularity of this genre traces its roots back to such fast-paced games as Defender.

With video games that use side-scrolling, often the screen will scroll forward following the speed and direction of the player character, and can also scroll backwards to previously visited parts of a stage. In other games or stages the screen will follow the player character but only scroll forwards, not backwards, so once something has passed off the back of the screen it can no longer be visited. Some games have stages where the screen scrolls forward by itself at a steady rate, and the player must keep up with the screen, attempting to avoid obstacles and collect things before they pass off screen. The screen in shoot 'em ups such as R-type often side-scrolls by itself in such a way. The Mario series has used all of three of these different ways of side-scrolling.

The screen in many games that use side-scrolling, for the most part, follows the player character and tries to keep it near the center of the screen. Other games will adjust the screen with the character's movement, making the character off-center in the opposite direction of its movement, showing more space in front of the character than behind.


The first video game to use side-scrolling was Defender released by Williams Electronics in 1980. This was a major breakthrough in that it allowed the game world to extend beyond the boundaries of a single static screen. Defender is also notable for introducing the mini-map or radar. In 1982, Sea Dragon and Moon Patrol were some other early side scrollers. Karateka in 1984 was the first side-scroller to include cutscenes.

The art of the side-scrolling format was greatly enhanced by parallax scrolling, which is used in side-scrolling games to give an illusion of depth. The background images are presented in multiple layers that scroll at different rates, thus objects closer to the horizon scroll slower than objects closer to the viewer. This technology was first featured in Moon Patrol.[1]

In recent years side-scrolling games have become less popular in favour of 3D games, which allow characters to move in all directions, rather than just forward or backward. Side-scrolling is still a popular format on handheld systems such as the Game Boy Advance, since many games are ports, and because of the limited memory of such handheld systems. For the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable there are many games which you can move in all directions, such as Super Mario 64 DS, as well as side-scrollers, such as Sonic Rush. Games such as New Super Mario Bros. on the DS, Alien Hominid on the Gamecube/PS2/360, the Playstation 2 Action RPG Odin Sphere, and the Xbox 360 game Braid are examples of modern sidescrollers. Modern platforming games, like Super Paper Mario, Crush, Sonic Unleashed, include both 2D and 3D element and most recently New Super Mario Bros Wii and Muramasa: The Demon Blade. Side-scrolling remains popular in online games.


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