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PICO-8 logo

PICO-8 is a fantasy console created by Lexaloffle Games. The first to describe itself as a "fantasy console", PICO-8's success led to many other fantasy consoles being created in the years since. The harsh limitations of PICO-8 were specifically chosen, according to its website, to be "fun to work with, [...] encourage small but expressive designs, and to give cartridges made with PICO-8 their own particular look and feel."[1]

PICO-8 is one of the few fantasy consoles that is not free for the basic version, however, a free-to-use educational version also exists without some of the game browsing features.


PICO-8 games are limited to a 128-by-128 pixel display with 16 colors available to be used out of a total of 32. In addition, games can take advantage of a 4-channel synth for music and sound effects, a 128x32 map with built-in functions for drawing and manipulation, and 256 8x8 sprites.[1]


PICO-8 games are programmed in a special flavor of the Lua programming language. It does not include the Lua standard libraries, but it does provide functions that serve similar purposes.[2]

PICO-8 programs are limited to 8192 "tokens". Tokens are:

  • Literal values, such as nil, booleans, strings, or numbers
  • Variables
  • Operators
  • Opening brackets (closing brackets are not counted as tokens)
  • Keywords except local and end

In addition, programs cannot be larger than 64 KB, and must compress to 15 KB or smaller.[2]


PICO-8 games can be published on the Lexaloffle BBS, which can be accessed within PICO-8 using the "SPLORE" cart explorer. Additionally, PICO-8 games can be exported to HTML or to binaries for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Education Edition[edit]

In April 2022, Zep released a free-to-use educational version of PICO-8 that supports creating games, as well as saving and loading standard PICO-8 cartridges.[3] It also supports loading carts directly from an encoded URL of 2040 characters or less, and can export URLs for sharing.

It is missing the "SPLORE" functionality, so games cannot be freely browsed and must be manually loaded.

External Links[edit]