Lean-burn technology is regarded as one effective way to increase the efficiency of internal combustion engines. However, stable ignition is difficult to ensure with a lean mixture. It is expected that this issue can be resolved by improving ignition performance as a result of increasing the amount of energy discharged into the gaseous mixture at the time of ignition. There are limits, however, to how high ignition energy can be increased from the standpoints of spark plug durability, energy consumption and other considerations. Therefore, the authors have focused on a multistage pulse discharge (MSPD) ignition system that performs low-energy ignition multiple times. In this study, a comparison was made of ignition performance between MSPD ignition and conventional spark ignition (SI). A high-speed camera was used to obtain visualized images of ignition in the cylinder and a pressure sensor was used to measure pressure histories in the combustion chamber. The results revealed that MSPD ignition formed a stronger flame kernel than conventional SI under conditions inconducive to flame kernel formation. This was found to be effective in promoting stable combustion.