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Reimplementation of portions of the pygame API using SDL2.


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Pygame_sdl2 is a reimplementation of the Pygame API using SDL2 and related libraries. While in the past it was meant to support multiple applications, it only saw adoption as technology underlying Ren'Py, and is currently being supported for that purpose.

The original pygame now runs on SDL2, and should be used for most applications.


New code written for pygame_sdl2 is licensed under the Zlib license. Some code - including compiled code - is taken wholesale from Pygame, and is licensed under the LGPL2. Please check each module to determine its licensing status.

See the COPYING.ZLIB and COPYING.LGPL21 files for details - you'll need to comply with both to distribute software containing pygame_sdl2.

Current Status

Pygame_sdl2 builds and runs on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, with a useful subset of the pygame API working. While not as well documented, it has also run on Android, iOS, and inside the Chrome browser. The following modules have at least some implementation:

  • pygame_sdl2.color
  • pygame_sdl2.display
  • pygame_sdl2.draw
  • pygame_sdl2.event
  • pygame_sdl2.font
  • pygame_sdl2.gfxdraw
  • pygame_sdl2.image
  • pygame_sdl2.joystick
  • pygame_sdl2.key
  • pygame_sdl2.locals
  • pygame_sdl2.mixer (including
  • pygame_sdl2.mouse
  • pygame_sdl2.scrap
  • pygame_sdl2.sprite
  • pygame_sdl2.surface
  • pygame_sdl2.sysfont
  • pygame_sdl2.time
  • pygame_sdl2.transform
  • pygame_sdl2.version

Experimental new modules include:

  • pygame_sdl2.render
  • pygame_sdl2.controller

Current omissions include:

  • Modules not listed above.
  • APIs that expose pygame data as buffers or arrays.
  • Support for non-32-bit surface depths. Our thinking is that 8, 16, and (to some extent) 24-bit surfaces are legacy formats, and not worth duplicating code four or more times to support. This only applies to in-memory formats - when an image of lesser color depth is loaded, it is converted to a 32-bit image.
  • Support for palette functions, which only apply to 8-bit surfaces.


Building pygame_sdl2 requires the ability to build python modules; the ability to link against the SDL2, SDL2_gfx, SDL2_image, SDL2_mixer, and SDL2_ttf libraries; and the ability to compile cython code.

To build pygame_sdl2, install the build dependencies:



sudo apt-get install build-essential python-dev libsdl2-dev \
    libsdl2-image-dev libsdl2-mixer-dev libsdl2-ttf-dev \
    libjpeg-dev libpng12-dev virtualenvwrapper


sudo dnf install SDL2 SDL2-devel SDL2_gfx-devel SDL2_image-devel \
    SDL2_sound-devel SDL2_ttf-devel SDL2_mixer-devel SDL2_net-devel \
    libjpeg-turbo-devel libjpeg-turbo python-devel


macOS (with brew):

brew install sdl2 sdl2_gfx sdl2_image sdl2_mixer sdl2_ttf
sudo pip install virtualenvwrapper

Open a new shell to ensure virtualenvwrapper is running, then run:

mkvirtualenv pygame_sdl2
pip install cython

Change into a clone of this project, and run the following command to modify the virtualenv so pygame_sdl2 header files can be installed in it:


Finally, build and install pygame_sdl2 by running:

python install


These instructions are likely out of date.

To build on windows, change into the pygame_sdl2 checkout, clone renpy/pygame_sdl2_windeps using a command like:

git clone

and then build and install using:

python install

This assumes you have installed a version of Visual Studio that is appropriate for the version of Python you are using.

If you also want to install the python headers in a standard fashion to make an IDE's autocomplete work then you should try creating a python wheel. First grab the wheel package:

pip install wheel

Then use this command to build your wheel:

python sdist bdist_wheel

Finally, you will need to install your wheel from the dist sub-directory with pip. What it is called will depend on your version of python, the current version of the library and your platform. For example, here is a command to install a python 3.6 wheel, on 32bit windows:

pip install dist\pygame_sdl2-2.1.0-cp36-cp36m-win32.whl

You will also need to delete any currently installed version of pygame_sdl2 from your Lib/site-packages directory to re-install this way.

C Headers

A small number of C headers can be installed using the command:

python install_headers

These headers export functions statically, and must be initialized by including "pygame_sdl2/pygame_sdl2.h" and calling the (C-language) import_pygame_sdl2() function from each C file in which a function will be called. The following functions are exposed:

  • PySurface_AsSurface - Returns the SDL_Surface underlying a pygame_sdl2.Surface.
  • PySurface_New - Wraps an SDL_Surface in a new pygame_sdl2.Surface.

Pygame incompatibility

Pygame_sdl2 is designed as a complete replacement for pygame.

If you try to use both the pygame_sdl2 and pygame libraries in the same program you may encounter errors; such as library import failures in frozen programs.


Pygame_sdl2 was written by:

It includes some code from Pygame, and is inspired by the hundreds of contributors to the Pygame, Python, and SDL2 projects.