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A side-scrolling game, side-scroller, or horizontally-scrolling game is a video game in which the gameplay action is viewed from a side-view camera angle, and the onscreen characters can generally only move to the left or right. These games make use of scrolling computer display technology. The move from single-screen or flip-screen graphics to scrolling graphics, during the golden age of video arcade games and during third-generation consoles, would prove to be a pivotal leap in game design, comparable to the move to 3D graphics during the fifth generation. Although side-scrolling games have been supplanted by 3D games, they continue to be produced.
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A common use of the side-scrolling format is in the platform game genre. Platform games are action games that feature jumping, climbing, and running through many diverse levels. Super Mario Bros. (1985) is among the most famous side-scrollers of this type.
The side-scrolling format is also popular among beat 'em ups, such as the popular Battletoads series. Side-scrolling is sometimes used in role-playing video games such as the 2D Bookworm Adventures Deluxe or the Korean MMORPG Montaro. 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. 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 forward, 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.
For the most part, the screen of a side-scrolling video game 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.
A game can use the side-scrolling mechanic without being considered a side-scrolling game. One such game is Awesomenauts, where a side-scrolling mechanic is used, but since the objective is not simply met by scrolling to the side, it is not considered a side-scroller.
Sega's Bomber was a side-scrolling shooter arcade game released in April 1977.Defender (which has a controversial release date of either 1980 or 1981), released by Williams Electronics, was a major breakthrough in that it allowed the game world to extend beyond the boundaries of a single static screen. Defender included a mini-map, or radar, also used in the 1980 games Battlezone and Rally-X.
In 1981, Scramble was the first side-scroller with multiple, distinct levels. The art of the side-scrolling format was then greatly enhanced by parallax scrolling, which is used 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. Moon Patrol is usually credited with introducing this feature in 1982, though Taito's Jungle Hunt also features parallax scrolling and was released the same year.
In 1984, Hover Attack for the Sharp X1 was an early run & gun shooter that freely scrolled in all directions and allowed the player to shoot diagonally as well as straight ahead. 1985, saw the release of Thexder, a breakthrough title for platform shooters.
In 1985, Konami's side-scrolling shooter Gradius gave the player greater control over the choice of weaponry, thus introducing another element of strategy. The game also introduced the need for the player to memorise levels in order to achieve any measure of success.Gradius, with its iconic protagonist, defined the side-scrolling shoot 'em up and spawned a series spanning several sequels.
1987's Contra was particularly acclaimed for its multi-directional aiming and two player cooperative gameplay. However, by the early 1990s and the popularity of 16-bit consoles, the scrolling shooter genre was overcrowded, with developers struggling to make their games stand out.
Taito's Speed Race, a 1974 racing game designed by Tomohiro Nishikado, featured overhead vertical scrolling.Kee Games' Super Bug (1977) and Atari's Fire Truck (1978) have a top-down view multi-directional scrolling. Both games are black and white, though Super Bug uses a yellow overlay in the center of the screen. In 1980, Namco's color driving game Rally-X also allowed scrolling in multiple directions, and it is possible to pull the screen quickly in either direction. It also features an early example of a radar, to show the car's location on the map.
Activision's Grand Prix is a side-scrolling racing game for the Atari 2600 published in 1982. By 1984, there were other racing games played from a side-scrolling view, including Nintendo's ExcitebikeSNK's Jumping Cross. and Mystic Marathon from Williams Electronics, a horizontally scrolling footrace between fantasy creatures.
The first scrolling platform game was Jump Bug, a platform-shooter released in 1981. Players controlled a bouncing car and navigated it to jump on various platforms like buildings, clouds and hills. It featured levels that scrolled both horizontally and vertically.
In 1984, Pac-Land took the scrolling platformer a step further, aspiring to be more than a simple game of hurdle jumping. It was not only a successful title, but it more closely resembled later scrolling platformers like Wonder Boy and Super Mario Bros. It also featured multi-layered parallax scrolling. That same year saw the release of Legend of Kage, which offered levels that extended in all directions. Sega released Flicky, a simple platformer with horizontally scrolling levels that featured their first mascot character. Namco followed up Pac-Land with the fantasy-themed Dragon Buster the following year.
Nintendo's platform game Super Mario Bros., released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985, became the archetype for many scrolling platformers to follow. The title went on to sell over 40 million copies according to the 1999 Guinness Book of World Records. Its success contributed greatly to popularizing the genre during the 8-bit console generation. Sega attempted to emulate this success with their Alex Kidd series, as well as with the Wonder Boy series. The later Wonder Boy games were also notable for combining adventure and role-playing elements with traditional platforming.
In 1984, Hong Kong cinema-inspired Kung-Fu Master laid the foundations for side-scrolling beat 'em ups with its simple gameplay and multiple enemies. Also in 1984, Karateka successfully experimented with adding plot to its fighting action. It was also the first side-scroller to include cutscenes.
In 1986, Nekketsu K?ha Kunio-kun deviated from the martial arts themes of earlier beat 'em up games and introduced street brawling to the genre. The Western adaptation Renegade (released the same year) added an underworld revenge plot that proved more popular with gamers than the principled combat sport of other games.Renegade set the standard for future beat 'em up games as it introduced the ability to move both horizontally and vertically.
In 1987, the release of Double Dragon ushered in a "Golden Age" for the beat 'em up genre that lasted nearly 5 years. The game was designed as Technos Japan's spiritual successor to Renegade, but it took the genre to new heights with its detailed set of martial arts attacks and its outstanding two-player cooperative gameplay.Double Dragon's success largely resulted in a flood of beat 'em ups that came in the late 1980s, where acclaimed titles such as Golden Axe and Final Fight (both 1989) distinguished themselves from the others.Final Fight was Capcom's intended sequel to Street Fighter (provisionally titled Street Fighter '89), but the company ultimately gave it a new title. Acclaimed as the best game in the genre,Final Fight spawned two sequels and was later ported to other systems.Golden Axe was acclaimed for its visceral hack and slash action and cooperative mode and was influential through its selection of multiple protagonists with distinct fighting styles. It is considered one of the strongest beat 'em up titles for its fantasy elements, distinguishing it from the urban settings seen in other beat 'em ups.
Side-scrolling was a well-known phenomenon in arcade, and various home computer and console games of the 1980s, as they often possessed hardware optimised for the task like the Atari 8-bit family  and Commodore 64, but IBM compatible PCs did not. Smooth scrolling on IBM PCs in software was a challenge for developers. There were a small number of PC ports of smooth scrolling arcade games in the early 1980s, including Moon Patrol  and Defender. The second version of Sopwith, released in 1986, also featured smooth scrolling.
In 1990 John Carmack, then working for Softdisk, developed a smooth scrolling technique known as adaptive tile refresh. The technique was demonstrated in with the proof-of-concept game Dangerous Dave in Copyright Infringement, which was a clone of the first level of Super Mario Bros. 3, but with Mario replaced by the character Dangerous Dave of earlier Softdisk games. The success of the demonstration led Carmack and others at Softdisk to resign and form their own company, id Software. Id Software went on to develop Commander Keen that same year, which was the first publicly available PC platform game to feature smoothly-scrolling graphics.