Multicolor Graphics Adapter

Hardware entity

A low cost competitor for VGA that supported 256 paletted display at 320×200 resolution, introduced in 1987 by IBM.


The first video game about Multicolor Graphics Adapter was released on May 10, 1984.

Sierra On-Line, Electronic Arts and Accolade has published most of these games

The MCGA chipset was included on motherboards of the PS/2 Model 25 and Model 30 from 1987 to 1992 (when the PS/2 line was discontinued). The Epson Equity Ie had a clone of the chipset on its motherboard. And that was the extent of the MCGA userbase. No one else cloned MCGA and IBM never produced MCGA expansion cards. Just those 3 models. Developers not directly partnered with IBM would have ignored MCGA if it weren't for the fact that those 3 models could not use replacement video cards (no EGA, no VGA). To sell to those customers, developers had to choose CGA or MCGA.

MCGA was very similar to VGA. A game could be designed to use a subset of VGA graphics that would run at 256 colors on either card without the game knowing what kind of card it was running on. But one tiny mistake or unexpected value in the display code would drop the system into 2-bit color mid-game, so this was a rarely used hack.

VGA cards could 'emulate' MCGA just fine with no graphics differences since VGA had all of MCGA's features plus its own. A game can not address MCGA features that do not exist on a VGA card. The VGA card has no way of knowing the game is in MCGA mode.