Free 2D graphics engine with raster effects for retro/classic style game development
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Tilengine - The 2D retro graphics engine

License: MPL 2.0 Build Status

Tilengine is an open source, cross-platform 2D graphics engine for creating classic/retro games with tile maps, sprites and palettes. Its unique scanline-based rendering algorithm makes raster effects a core feature, a technique used by many games running on real 2D graphics chips.




  • Written in portable C (C99)
  • MPL 2.0 license: free for any project, including commercial ones, allows console development
  • Cross platform: available builds for Windows (32/64), Linux PC(32/64), MacOS and Raspberry Pi
  • High performance: all samples run at 60 fps with CRT emulation enabled on a Raspberry Pi 3
  • Streamlined, easy to learn API that requires very little lines of code
  • Built-in SDL-based windowing for quick tests
  • Integrate inside any existing framework as a slave renderer
  • Loads assets from open standard standard file formats
  • Create or modify graphic assets procedurally at run time
  • True raster effects: modify render parameters between scanlines
  • Background layer scaling and rotation
  • Sprite scaling
  • Several blending modes for layers and sprites
  • Pixel accurate sprite vs sprite and sprite vs layer collision detection
  • Special effects: per-column offset, mosaic, per-pixel displacement, CRT emulation...
  • Supports packaged assets with optional AES-128 encryption

Getting binaries

Download from itch.io

The recommended way to get prebuilt binaries ready to install, run and test samples is grabbing them from official itch.io download. Just download the package for your platform, they contain required dependencies to run.

Build from source

You can also build the library from source. Tilengine requires SDL2 and libpng to build, you must provide these libraries yourself depending on your target platform.


You must provide development libraries:

Put the following files inside the src directory: Path | Files -----|--------------------------------------- src\libpng | libpng headers src\libpng\$(Platform) | libpng.lib import library src\sdl\SDL2 | SDL2 headers src\sdl\lib\$(Platform)| SDL2.lib import library

NOTE: If you're having problems setting up these dependencies, you can download them already pre-packaged from itch.io downloads, file is windows_libs.zip. It contains headers and libraries for both 32 and 64 bit platforms.

Debian-based linux

Just install standard packages libpng-dev and libsdl2-dev


Tilengine depends on having SDL2 in Framework format installed on your system. Homebrew port won't work. Download the latest dmg here: https://github.com/libsdl-org/SDL/releases.

Running the samples

C samples are located in Tilengine/samples folder. To build them you need the gcc compiler suite, and/or Visual C++ in windows.

Once installed, open a console window in the C samples folder and type the suitable command depending on your platform:


> mingw32-make


> make

The tilengine window

The following actions can be done in the created window:

  • Press Esc to close the window
  • Press Alt + Enter to toggle full-screen/windowed
  • Press Backspace to toggle built-in CRT effect (enabled by default)

Creating your first program

The following section shows how to create from scratch and execute a simple tilengine application that does the following:

  1. Reference the inclusion of Tilengine module
  2. Initialize the engine with a resolution of 400x240, one layer, no sprites and no palette animations
  3. Load a tilemap, the asset that contains background layer data
  4. Attach the loaded tilemap to the allocated background layer
  5. Create a display window with default parameters: windowed, auto scale and CRT effect enabled
  6. Run the window loop, updating the display at each iteration until the window is closed
  7. Release allocated resources


Create a file called test.c in Tilengine/samples folder, and type the following code:

#include "Tilengine.h"

void main(void) {
    TLN_Tilemap foreground;

    TLN_Init (400, 240, 1, 0, 0);
    foreground = TLN_LoadTilemap ("assets/sonic/Sonic_md_fg1.tmx", NULL);
    TLN_SetLayerTilemap (0, foreground);

    TLN_CreateWindow (NULL, 0);
    while (TLN_ProcessWindow()) {
        TLN_DrawFrame (0);

    TLN_DeleteTilemap (foreground);
    TLN_Deinit ();

Now the program must be built to produce an executable. Open a console window in the C samples folder and type the suitable command for your platform:


> gcc test.c -o test.exe -I"../include" ../lib/Win32/Tilengine.dll
> test.exe


> gcc test.c -o test -lTilengine -lm
> ./test


> gcc test.c -o test "/usr/local/lib/Tilengine.dylib" -lm
> ./test


Doxygen-based documentation and API reference can be found in the following link: http://www.tilengine.org/doc

Editing assets

Tilengine is just a programming library that doesn't come with any editor, but the files it loads are made with standard open-source tools. Samples come bundled with several ready-to-use assets, but these are the tools you'll need to edit or create new ones:

Creating packages

To create a package with all the assets, the add-on tool ResourcePacker must be used. It's a Windows command-line tool that creates packages with files keeping the same directory structure. Tilengine has built-in support for loading assets from these packages just as if they still were stand-alone files.


There are bindings to use Tilengine from several programming languages:

Language Binding
C/C++ Native support, no binding required
Python PyTilengine
C# CsTilengine
C# CsTilenginePure
Pascal PascalTileEngine
FreeBasic FBTilengine
Java JTilengine
Rust tilengine-sys
LuaJIT tilengine_libretro (libretro core)
Ring RingTilengine
Nim nim-tilengine
V V-Tilengine
Go gotilengine
Zig zigtilengine
D dtilengine


These kind users contributed to tilengine:

@turric4an - the Pascal wrapper
@davideGiovannini - help with the Linux-x86_64 port
@shayneoneill - help with the OS X port
@adtennant - provided cmake and pkg-config support
@tvasenin - improved C# binding
@tyoungjr - LUA/FFI binding
@vonhoff - provided CsTilenginePure binding
@system64MC - provided bindings for Nim an V

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