Home Programming Articles PICO-8: a console for retro gaming

PICO-8: a console for retro gaming


PICO-8 is a console designed to create, share and play video games in a pure retro style. The PICO-8 console contains everything necessary for the development of video games: it goes from the tool for creating pixel art sprites to instruments for the generation of music or sound effects.

The birth of this console is driven by the desire to encourage all those who have always dreamed of programming video games, but who have had to give up because of the steep learning curve of programming languages or more or less complex frameworks. PICO-8, therefore, wants to allow all fans to easily enter the world of game development, with a large community able to support them and help them in their first steps.

Technically, PICO-8 is a virtual machine able to run in our operating system, able to run both games and tools that allow you to develop new ones. PICO-8 can be found on the official Lexaloffe website, and costs around $ 15.

One of the interesting aspects of this console is its compatibility with the limited resources of Raspberry Pi, which can therefore easily be transformed into a real independent console.

Below we will offer a brief overview of the features offered by PICO-8, and the tools that this console makes available to us.

Technical specifications
PICO-8 has a limited memory of about 32 KB per game and allows a resolution of 128 × 128 pixels per frame with a 16-bit color palette. If on the one hand, this allows a limited expressive capacity, on the other hand it pushes the programmer to focus more on the gameplay and on a graphic style typical of the 80s-90s video games. It is clear, therefore, that this machine will allow you to create games of very limited size (a bit ‘like those that ran on the old consoles).

Limited memory availability, however, is not necessarily a problem. In fact, PICO-8 uses the Lua programming language, a very light and performing scripting language.

Tools available on PICO-8

First name Description
Code Editor Editor that allows you to program the logic of your game in Lua
Sprite Editor Graphic editor created to allow the creation of pixel art, in pure retro style
Map Editor Editor similar to the previous one, but some additional features more suitable for creating maps (or levels) of the game
SFX Editor Editor for creating sound effects
Music Editor Editor that allows the combination of sound effects created with the previous tool by creating musical patterns


Code Editor
Code Editor
Sprite Editor
Sprite Editor
SFX Editor
SFX Editor


PICO-8 turns out to be a good solution for those who want to approach the world of game development for the first time. The console has many basic and minimal tools to begin the creation of a video game, while the Lua language is easy to learn and use, being very suitable for the novices of programming.



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