Fantasy video game console

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Example of a game running on the limited emulated hardware of the PICO-8 fantasy console

A fantasy video game console (or simply fantasy console) is an emulator for a fictitious video game console.[1][2] In short, it aims to create the experience of retrogaming without the need to emulate a real console, allowing the developer to freely decide what specifications their fictional hardware will have.

One popular example of a fantasy console is the PICO-8, which was used as the platform for the original Celeste game.[2][3] Though many fantasy consoles, such as the PICO-8, the TIC-80 and the Pixel Vision 8, use the Lua programming language, a variety of other languages, such as JavaScript and Python, are supported by other fantasy consoles.[4][5] Even if two consoles use the same programming language, that doesn't mean they are compatible. There are often subtle differences in the syntax, and most notably in the API. There are some tools trying to automatically convert these console's cartridges (including the scripts), but they aren't perfect.[6]

Another example is the Gigadrive, an imaginary revision of Sega Genesis designed by M2, who also developed an emulator of this system. This console was given double VRAM, four more background layers and Z-values in each layer and sprites to archive 3D effects in patched Genesis games.[7] These emulated games were sold in Nintendo 3DS under the label 3D Classics.

As of November 2021, fantasy consoles PICO-8 and TIC-80 are among the top 20 most used game development platforms on[8]


Joseph White, creator of PICO-8, coined the term "fantasy console",[9] and describes it as follows:

A fantasy console is like a regular console, but without the inconvenience of actual hardware. PICO-8 has everything else that makes a console a console: machine specifications and display format, development tools, design culture, distribution platform, community and playership. It is similar to a retro game emulator, but for a machine that never existed.

— zep, "What is a Fantasy Console?", PICO-8 FAQ[10]

As developer Björn Ritzl puts it, fantasy consoles simulate the restricted hardware of an old system packaged into a user friendly experience with integrated tools for asset creation and game logic programming.[11]

See also[edit]

  • CHIP-8 - A predecessor to fantasy consoles.
  • TIS-100 – A video game where the player programs a fictional 1970s computer.


  1. ^ "Channel F emulator created for Pico-8 Fantasy console". RAM OK ROM OK. 5 March 2020. Archived from the original on 2 November 2021. Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  2. ^ a b Hayes, Spencer (25 July 2017). "Your field guide to fantasy consoles". Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  3. ^ Prescott, Shaun (24 October 2018). "Someone has ported Wolfenstein 3D for the Pico-8 fantasy console". PC Gamer. Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  4. ^ R., Bhagyashree (28 January 2019). "Introducing SCRIPT-8, an 8-bit JavaScript-based fantasy computer to make retro-looking games". Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  5. ^ Aversa, Davide (8 September 2020). "And so you want to choose a Fantasy Console". Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  6. ^ "PICO-8 to TIC-80 converter". GitLab. Retrieved 6 December 2022.
  7. ^ "SEGA Blog | SEGA 3D Classics – 3D Sonic the Hedgehog Interview with Developer M2". 2015-07-26. Archived from the original on 2015-07-26. Retrieved 2022-10-12.
  8. ^ "Most used Engines". Archived from the original on 31 August 2021. Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  9. ^ "Compare Fantasy Consoles". April 2020. Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  10. ^ zep. "PICO-8 Fantasy Console - FAQ". Lexaloffle Games. Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  11. ^ Ritzl, Björn (9 March 2021). "Developer case study - From fantasy computer to Defold". Defold Foundation. Retrieved 2 November 2021.