Wraparound (video games)

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Wraparound, in video games, is when an object moves off of one side of the screen and reappears on the other side. In Asteroids for example, the player's ship flies off of the right side of the screen, then continues on the left side with the same velocity. This is referred to as wraparound, since the top and bottom of the screen wrap around to meet, as do the left and right sides (topologically equivalent to a Euclidean 2-torus).[1]

Some games wrap around in certain directions but not others, such as games of the Civilization series that wrap left to right, but the top and bottom remain edges, representing the North and South Pole (topologically equivalent to a cylinder). Some games such as Asteroids have no boundary and objects can travel over any part of the screen edge and reappear on the other side.[2] Others such as Pac-Man, Wizard of Wor, and some games in the Bomberman series, have a boundary surrounding most of the playing area, but have a few paths connecting the left side to the right, or the top to the bottom, that characters can travel on. Wraparound can apply to scrolling games such as Defender, where the player can infinitely fly in one direction because the horizontal extents of the landscape are connected. Some games even incorporate diagonal wraparound, where movement from one corner of the screen wraps to the opposite corner.


Notable examples of video games that employed wraparound mechanics.:

  • Pac-Man (1980): When Pac-Man reaches the edge of the screen, he reappears on the opposite side, enabling continuous movement through the maze.
  • Asteroids (1979): In this arcade shooter, the game space wraps around. Many Asteroids-inspired games, such as Geometry Wars, also utilize this mechanicism.
  • Super Mario Bros. series (1985-present): Many entries in the Super Mario Bros. franchise utilize wraparound, particularly in platforming levels.
  • Manifold Garden (2019): A first-person puzzle game that transposes wraparound to a 3D space, resulting in infinitely repeating environments.


  • Continuous movement: Wraparound allows players to traverse game worlds without encountering boundaries or limitations, providing a seamless experience.
  • Strategic opportunities: Wraparound mechanics can be strategically leveraged by players to outmaneuver opponents, surprise enemies, or gain advantages in certain situations.
  • Exploration and freedom: Wraparound environments promote exploration and the discovery of hidden areas, as players can move in any direction without restrictions.
  • Enhanced immersion: The seamless transition from one edge of the screen to the other enhances immersion, making players feel more connected to the game world.
  • Nostalgia and retro appeal: Many classic games utilized wraparound mechanics, contributing to the nostalgic appeal of these titles for players familiar with older gaming experiences.


1962's Spacewar! has a wraparound playfield,[3] as does the first commercial arcade video game, Computer Space (1971). Wraparound was common in games throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, including Space Race (1973), Combat (1977), Asteroids (1979), and Star Castle (1980).[1] Surround (1977) for the Atari 2600 has a gameplay option called "wraparound" in the manual.[4]

The concept of wraparound originated in the early days of video games when hardware limitations imposed constraints on the size of game worlds. Instead of creating expansive environments that required significant memory or processing power, developers utilized wraparound to simulate continuous gameplay on limited hardware.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b The medium of the video game, Mark J. P. Wolf, University of Texas Press, 2001, 203 pp, p. 56, ISBN 978-0-292-79150-3 at Google Books
  2. ^ Salen, Katie (2004). Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. MIT Press. p. 394. ISBN 0262240459. Retrieved 2014-11-20.
  3. ^ Totten, Christopher (2014). An Architectural Approach to Level Design. CRC Press. p. 31. ISBN 9781466585416.
  4. ^ "Surround Atari 2600 Manual". Atari Age.

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