How to Program Games on a Calculator

By Dan Chruscinski

Updated September 22, 2017

Items you will need

  • Programmable calculator (TI-83 or higher)

  • Command cheat sheet

The introduction many aspiring programmers get to their eventual profession, is when they purchase their first graphing calculator. These devices are meant to be used to create graphical representations of algebraic equations, but users quickly discover they can use these calculators as simple gaming devices. This guide will allow users to begin their foray into this type of programming. Also provided are links to online guides featuring pertinent command codes.

Decide what sort of game you wish to create. Calculators are best suited for text-based games, rather than graphics-heavy adventures.

Map out the game from start to finish. Write down every event that will take place, any art that needs to be created, and any text that needs to be displayed. Use a chart to create the flow of game play.

Write out all code before entering it into the calculator. This will save time later and alleviate mistakes made in the coding. Splitting the game into multiple smaller programs will also create a more manageable working environment.

Draw any picture or graphics you wish to display in the game. Do this by accessing the "Draw" feature on the calculator. Press [2ND] [DRAW] to access the drawing menu. You are given the option to draw shapes or use the pen to free-draw. Use the arrow keys to create pictures using the pen.

Save your picture files (up to 10 of them) after completion by pressing [DRAW] then selecting StorePic. You'll be taken to the home screen where you will enter a number with which to label the picture. Select between zero and nine.

Create a new game by pressing [PRGM] and moving two screens to the right with the arrow keys. This will take you to the New Program menu. Choose option 1:Create New. You will be asked to name your program. If you're using multiple programs for the game, name each one with a descriptive title.

Add the code into your game by pressing [PRGM], then pressing the right arrow once. You will be at the Edit Menu. Select the program you wish to edit and press [ENTER]. The next screen will feature a cursor you can move around and enter code.

When you have entered all the code into your game, you can test it by pressing [PRGM], then moving two screens to the right. Select the Exec option from the menu and then select the program. Your game will run, and if all code was entered correctly, you won't get an error.

Fix any errors in your program. While running the game, you will be taken to the location in the code where an error has occurred. Repair the code if there was a typo, or make a note of the erroneous code and investigate the matter online.

Run your game after fixing all the errors. Share the game with friends by linking your calculator to theirs.


Some computer programs mimic the calculator's programming language. Use these to quickly type and test games before placing them on your calculator.

You can find the commands needed for programming a game on your calculator in the manual, and there are many advanced tricks and tutorials online.