ICON: Quest for the Ring (1984) and Seven Spirits of Ra (1987), both by Macrocom, used a tweaked CGA text mode that only displayed the top two pixels of every character. All the art was constructed out of these partial characters.

Here's an interview with the developers:

@mogwai_poet I just installed 7 Spirits on the strength of this toot, and it is absolutely beautiful. I have no idea how to play it. (I did read the help screen, I just don't understand why I can't punch these birds)

@jennatar Yeah I've never tried myself, just admired it from afar. It's from the era of game manuals so it might be worth trying to find one!

@mogwai_poet Ted actually peeked over my shoulder while I was noodling with the game. I asked him to note the graphics, and then I showed him your toot. He was ASTONISHED.

@mogwai_poet That's amazing! I've never heard of that idea before.

What a lesson for game developers.
Today, we have fast CPUs, massive amount of RAM and amazing GPUs, even in smartphones.

But they forgot what optimization really means.

@mogwaipoet 8088 MPH uses a variant of this trick to achieve 1024 colors on the old IBM 5150
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