TS-PICO-8 – TypeScript for PICO-8

Create PICO-8 games in TypeScript!

TS-PICO-8 contains all the function declarations (.d.ts) for the PICO-8 API and will compile your TypeScript code to Lua and inject it into your PICO-8 cart.

Compression and mangling options are configurable to optimize for token usage, and an external spritesheet allows you to easily manipulate sprites using the image editor of your choice (i.e., aseprite).

PICO-8 is restarted automatically whenever new changes are detected to provide you with a seamless workflow.

I believe this is the first project to provide an entry point into using a typed language with PICO-8.

Installation and usage


  1. Install a recent version of PICO-8
  2. Install a recent version of NodeJS
  3. Clone this repository to your local machine
  4. Install dependencies npm install
  5. Make sure “$PWD/node_modules/.bin/” is in your $PATH.

Create a PICO-8 project

  1. Run bin/tspico8 init to generate the default workspace p8workspace.
  2. Optionally configure p8workspace/tspico8.json to specify compression, mangling, and pico-8 location. Note: tspico8 will attempt to detect the pico-8 location automatically.
  3. Run bin/tspico8 run to watch for changes inside of p8workspace and recompile/relaunch when detected.

Configuration (tspico8.json)

  // Set this if tspico8 can't find your pico-8 install automatically
  "pico8": {
    "executable": "path/to/pico8/executable/file"
  "compression": { 
    "compressedFile": "build/compressed.js",
    "indentLevel": 1,
    "compress": false, // enable compression
    "mangle": false // enable mangling (shortens variable names)
  // Configure mangling
  // See: https://github.com/mishoo/UglifyJS#mangle-options
  "mangleOptions": {
    "toplevel": true,
    "reserved": ["_init", "_update", "_draw"]
  // Configure compression
  // See: https://github.com/mishoo/UglifyJS#compress-options
  "compressOptions": {
    "dead_code": true,
    "conditionals": false,
    "comparisons": true,
    "evaluate": true,
    "booleans": true,
    "loops": true,
    "unused": true,
    "join_vars": true

Notes on compilation, compression and mangling

This project is basically a Rube Goldberg machine, and the build process is very brittle. Getting from TypeScript to Lua is accomplished as follows.

  1. A file watcher (chokidar) watches p8workspace for any changes to *.ts or spritesheet.png.
  2. When a change is detected, tsc is invoked and the resulting JavaScript dumps to p8workspace/build/compiled.js.
  3. The compiled.js is fed into uglify with the params provided in tspico8.json to produce a compressed JavaScript file p8workspace/build/compressed.js.
  4. The compressed JavaScript file is then fed to a PICO-8 specific JavaScript to Lua compiler (jspicl-cli) that does something very close to a one-to-one translation and assembles the final cart.

The PICO-8 Lua interpreter is somewhat limited compared to modern Lua, so there are a lot of scenarios where unexpected output from any stage of this process can break your cart.

You will achieve the most stable results by leaving compress and mangle set to false in the tspico8.json file, which is the default. That said, experimenting with compress and mangle can allow you to achieve a substantial savings in your cart size.


Workflow (after workspace init)

  1. Run bin/tspico8 run.
  2. Modify p8workspace/main.ts and PICO-8 will restart upon every file save.
  3. Modify p8workspace/spritesheet.png and PICO-8 will restart upon every file save.
  4. Spritesheet colors should be limited to the PICO-8 color palette.
  5. If you want to use the PICO-8 sprite editor, you’ll need to dump its sprite sheet after making changes (export spritesheet.png from inside of PICO-8).
  6. Any other changes made inside of PICO-8 should be saved back to the cart game.p8 before recompiling, or they will be overwritten.
  7. If you want to use multiple TypeScript files, read this first.


# builds bin/tspico8 from typescript
npm run build-bin
# creates project skeleton inside of p8build
bin/tspico8 init
# watches for changes and reloads PICO-8 on recompile
bin/tspico8 run

Spritesheet hack (requires seperate Imagemagick install)

# Use imagemagick to remap a 128x128 spritesheet to the PICO-8 color map (included in repo)
$ convert newsheet.png -dither none -remap pico-8-8x.png spritesheet.png


  1. Most of the code is adapted/borrowed from tic80-typescript.
  2. The jspicl JavaScript to PICO-8 Lua compiler does a lot of the heavy lifting behind the scenes.

Thanks to these projects!


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