Published on June 3, 2022    Updated on June 3, 2022

NTSC vs PAL Differences - Which Video Standard is Better for Gaming

Retro console games had different versions for NTSC and PAL regions, so we're explaining their differences and what's best for gaming!

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Resolving the NTSC vs PAL debate is not an easy task to undertake, since both analog TV video standards were used in multiple variants throughout different territories, and offered different kinds of positives and negatives depending on the use case (broadcasting, film & video games). In most cases, NTSC games run better than PAL, but that’s sadly because American & Japanese developers failed to port their games properly in the PAL format, not taking advantage of PAL’s superior properties, resulting in frame rate and video rendering issues.

NTSC stands for National Television Standards Committee (or Never The Same Color for experts 😏), it was originally developed in the USA in 1954, and used in most 60Hz territories, along with the slightly different NTSC-J variant used in Japan. NTSC video signal usually carries 525 lines per frame (where 486 are visible – later standardized to 480 – and the rest are used to carry other data), and a refresh rate of 59.94 interlaced frames (29.97 full frames).

PAL stands for Phase Alternating Line (or Perfection At Last in engineer circles), it was originally developed in Germany in 1962, accepted by the EBU (European Broadcasting Union) as a superior alternative to NTSC, and used in most 50Hz territories, most notably Europe and Australia. PAL video signal usually carries 625 lines per frame (where 576 are visible, and 49 are used to carry sync data and other information), and a refresh rate of 50 interlaced frames (25 full frames).

There is also a third major television standard, SECAM, developed in France and used in various of its territories, but these regions still used the PAL version of games. It’s also worth noting that UK experimented with NTSC, but ultimately chose PAL as their broadcasting standard.

Main Pros & Cons of NTSC vs PAL

  • PAL offers a 20% higher resolution compared to NTSC (576p vs 480p), however, some NTSC to PAL game conversions, cover the extra space with black borders instead of offering more detail.
  • NTSC offers a 20% higher frame rate compared to PAL (60 fps vs 50 fps), however, that’s at the expense of color accuracy.
  • Games developed for NTSC systems and haven’t been properly ported to PAL, may run slower in their PAL versions, making it a bigger problem with platformers and fighting games.

If you are a collector, it makes sense to collect based on your region, since importing shipping fees can get very high. If you have a modded system or emulating on your PC, it’s worth searching online for known differences between the two versions of the games.

Console-Specific Information on NTSC vs PAL

The older a game is, and if it was developed in USA or Japan, it’s highly possible that its PAL conversion may have issues.

Most games for 6th generation systems (Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, GameCube & Xbox) offer better PAL ports, PAL60 modes and / or take advantage of the extra resolution real estate.

Below we’ve started collecting any console-specific information that applies to NTSC vs PAL, so please let us know any other information you know in the comments!

NTSC vs PAL for Xbox Games

The OG Xbox is a great example where NTSC games are superior, and that’s mostly due to the fact that PAL Xbox consoles only support a 480p signal through composite or component, while NTSC Xbox consoles also support 720p & 1080i (for applicable games, which aren’t too many). Changing from PAL to NTSC is very easy to do on a modded Xbox though, so there’s no real downside for PAL users.

NTSC vs PAL for Xbox 360 Games

Fortunately there’s no debate about the Xbox 360, since all revisions (Arcade, Elite, Slim & E) offer an HDMI output, therefore both NTSC and PAL games will have an identical performance / visual quality. If you own the original Xbox 360 (or the Core revision), there are no known differences between NTSC and PAL versions of games.

Babalon, Mother of Abominations

16-hours / day in front of the screen entrepreneur, of which 6+ are spent on gaming. MMOs, CCGs, RPGs and many more, Steam-addict & achievement-w***e. Currently wasting life on BDO & Gacha Games.

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