8 Best Games With Digitized Sprites

Video game graphics have come a long way since the days of vector graphics. Numerous techniques have been developed and perfected over generations to give us the best virtual experiences. One such method was the use of digitized sprites. Actors would be photographed and followed on blue screens for their models to be placed in the video game.

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Although the effect looks primitive today, it’s still what we find closest to “real graphics.” The following games use digitized sprites effectively to create unique graphics. It also helps that these are all classics that most players still enjoy today. The graphics, while indicative of the times, give them a unique flair that most modern games lack.


8th Mortal Kombat

Scorpion stands on a stage with his fist raised in the original Mortal Kombat.

This fighting game not only stands out for its violence but also has great gameplay. With shorter combos and special moves that are relatively easy to remember, Mortal Kombat was more accessible than more complicated piers.

The digitized sprites only added to the controversy surrounding their violence, as critics could argue that the graphics were so realistic in their betrayal of death. The blood and gusset are really too cartoony to even come close to realism. After Mortal Kombat 3, the series left digitized sprites and was no longer published in arcades, although the core gameplay remains intact.

7 street rash

In Road Rash, bikers race down the street in oncoming traffic and punch each other

Racing games can be some of the friendliest competitive video games out there. Most encourage driving as fast as possible to beat the competition. However, Road Rash is all about violently taking out the other racers on the bike.

The name itself is even aggressive. You must use weapons to knock others off their bikes, but also be careful not to become a victim yourself. The racers are all represented by digitized sprites and FMV cutscenes are included in the game to add realism.

6 killer instinct

Killer Instinct SNES gameplay One-on-one combat with Cinder KOing his opponent

After the success of Mortal Kombat, it only made sense that more mature fighting games would come out that also used this graphic style. Killer Instinct was developed by Rare, which later spawned classics like GoldenEye 007. The game uses pre-rendered character models created with the Silicon Graphics Workstation rather than real actors filmed for the roles.

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This allowed for more imaginative character designs that wouldn’t be as easy to capture if it were a person in a suit or even a doll. A sequel came out with a similar visual style, and then a reboot came out with the launch of the Xbox One in 2013.

5 area 51

Area 51 light gun gameplay of the player being attacked by enemies

Many light gun games used digitized sprites before games like Virtua Cop and Time Crisis normalized using polygonal models for characters. Area 51 is among the best of these titles since it came out a bit later in 1995. True to its name, the game lets you shoot down humanoid aliens and mutants in a research base.

The graphics will not make anyone believe that you are shooting real people, but today they have a special charm. The console ports didn’t fare as well critically, so unless you can find the arcade machine, it’s quite difficult to get the authentic experience.

4 Alien vs Predator

A screenshot from Alien Vs. Predator for the Atari Jaguar showing a human character loading a gun while confronting a Xenomorph

while the film adaptation of Alien Vs. Predator was unsatisfactory; The video game version of the comic book series managed to capture the essence of both creatures as well as the Space Marines. While digital sprites look primitive in this game today, they can still scare you if you’re the one holding the controller.

The game features three campaigns for Xenomorphs, Predators, and Space Marines. It was one of the few FPS games that prioritized atmosphere over bombastic action, and it was even more special because it was being played on a console.

3 demise

The player launches a missile at a demon in Doom.

As the first king of the FPS genre, Doom lives on forever. When you play this classic shooter you’re so in the zone that it’s easy to forget the enemies are digitized goblins. Most of them are sculpted models.

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Making something in 3D and then bringing it into a 2D space still gives them detail and life that other methods of the time might not have achieved. It also worries us to know that these demonic monsters actually exist in the real world, albeit as clay models.

2 Original anger

Primal Rage Gameplay Two dinos fighting

While many fighters photographed actors using digitized sprites to get their action, Primal Rage used models and stop-motion animation exclusively. This meant that each animal could operate beyond the limits of human ability, and many weren’t even humanoid in form.

The game’s list is small, but each beast is bursting with detail, and the animations are incredibly smooth for 1994. Obviously influenced by Mortal Kombat, Primal Rage also features special finishing moves to take down prehistoric foes in an intriguing way.

1 Donkey Kong country

Donkey Kong Country Gangplank Galleon features Donkey and Diddy Kong fighting King K. Rool on a ship

Donkey Kong Country’s graphics were stunning on the SNES. How did Rare come up with something so realistic on console? It was the same thing they did with Killer Instinct. The characters were pre-rendered and then compressed into the 2D game.

While many details are lost in the transition, they still look beautiful and made for stunningly unique graphics on console back then. It also helped that it’s just a great platformer. Digitized sprites are long since out of fashion, so it makes sense that they weren’t used in the more recent games Donkey Kong Country Returns.

NEXT: The best games for combining polygons and sprites