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History of video games/Platforms/Super Nintendo Entertainment System

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Proceeded by the highly successful NES and Famicom, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Famicom were highly anticipated followup systems. Technical design of the system was lead by engineer Masayuki Uemura,[1] who began working on the system by 1988.[2]

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System and the Super Famicom both featured much improved hardware over their proceeding systems. Ken Kutaragi, a talented engineer at Sony, was responsable for the design of the SNES sound chip.[3]

Initially featuring radically different designs for both systems, the system design was greatly simplified to more conventional form factors as development progressed.[4] Lance Barr, the designer of the previous NES, was brought back to work on the SNES.[5] Designer Lance Barr added curved surfaces to the top of the SNES to stop gamers from placing drinks on top of the console, a relatively common risk people had taken with the original NES and a common reason for destroyed consoles when some drinks were inevitably spilled.[6]

The controller design was also significantly different from the NES. Shoulder buttons were added to the controller accommodate fighting games while keeping face buttons minimal for simplicity.[7] This allowed for improved control schemes for games to be developed.


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The Super Famicom was launched on November 21st, 1990 in Japan.[8] To prevent robberies before launch, Nintendo shipped the Super Famicom to Japanese retailers during the night.[7] The much anticipated of the Super Famicom was still chaotic enough for the Japanese Government to recommend console launches be restricted to weekends.[9][10] The SNES was released in North America almost a year later, in August 1991.[11]

System life

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A 1996 Mariners game in Seattle. Without the intervention of Nintendo President Hiroshi Yamauchi, the Mariners may have moved to Florida.

In 1992 Nintendo President Hiroshi Yamauchi purchased the Seattle Mariners, stopping them from moving to Florida as a sign of appreciation to the city of Seattle where Nintendo of America is based.[12] Nintendo would later use the Mariners for an easter egg in their game Ken Griffey Jr.'s Winning Run.[13]


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Production of the SNES ended in 1999 and production of the Super Famicom ended in 2003.[14] 49.1 million SNES consoles were sold.[15]

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System was directly succeeded by the Nintendo 64. Nintendo partnerships with Phillips and Sony to attempt to develop an CD ROM add on for the SNES would indirectly result in competing systems including the original PlayStation and Nintendo IP for the Phillips CD-i.[16]

Notably the designer of the SNES sound chip, Ken Kutaragi, was instrumental in the development of the Sony Playstation.[3] Despite developing a competing system, Ken Kutaragi would remain gregarious with his old partners.[3]

The ARC processor architecture got its start in the SuperFX enhancement chip used by some SNES games.[17].

In 2020 the prototype for the Nintendo PlayStation sold for $300,000 at auction.[16]


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A demo of the Mode 7 effect


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A 16 bit Rioch 5A22 CPU powers the SNES and is variably clocked from 1.79 megahertz to 3.58 megahertz depending on the operation being performed.[18][19] The CPU is capable of executing about 1.7 million instructions per second.[18]

The console has 128 kilobytes of RAM,[18] a fairly sizable amount for a console at the time of launch.

While compared to it's primary competitor in the Sega Genesis or MegaDrive, the SNES CPU is clocked significantly slower, but makes up for this in efficiency of what is accomplished in a clock cycle, being able to accomplish many more instructions per second.[18] Still, other factors could give still give the Genesis or Megadrive the edge over the SNES, and comparing the two competing consoles is not easy.[20][21]


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The SNES has two different Picture Processing Units with access to 64 kilobytes of dedicated video RAM.[18] This allowed the SNES to display up to 128 sprites and 256 simultaneous colors from 32,768 total colors.[22]

The SNES has an Sony S-SMP Audio CPU, DSP, and 64 kilobytes of dedicated audio RAM.[18][23][24] The SNES has eight audio channels.[22]


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SNES cartridges typically ranged from 0.23MB to 4.0MB, maxing out at 6.0MB.[25] This allowed the SNES to hold large amounts of 2D graphical content, and significant amounts of music instructions.

While most consoles this generation still used cartridges as the SNES and Super Famicom did, some emerging competitors used CD-ROM technology, which gave them vastly more storage, allowing orchestral soundtracks and full motion video to be used. Furthermore, an individual CD was much cheaper to press than it was to make a high capacity cartridge.

Nintendo would try and fail to bring a CD-ROM add on for the SNES and Super Famicom to market. However the inability of developers to really capitalize on the advantages of the CD-ROM format this generation allowed the SNES and Super Famicom to still perform well against CD-ROM equipped systems, while avoiding the slow access times and high upfront drive cost of the format at the time.


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A demo of 3D Wireframe rendering using a Cx4 chip, an enhancement co-processor used by Capcom games like Megaman X.

The SNES cold make use of co-processors included on game cartridges, and this was often used to add 3D effects.[26] Inspired by SuperFX chips, in December of 2020 an unofficial expansion cartridge containing a SuperRT system with three execution cores clocked at 50 megahertz was made to allow raytracing on the SNES.[27][28] This shows that the cartridge based co-processor model could be taken quite far, had it been needed.


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The Japanese Satellaview satellite download service allowed gamers to receive content over the air temporarily.[29][30]

The third party X-Band service allowed some games to be played online.[31]

The LifeCycle Exertainment Bike was an exercise bicycle for the SNES, a version of the LifeCycle exercise bicycle which received an endorsement from Arnold Schwarzenegger.[32][33]

Notable Games

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  • Platformers, especially mascot platformers, were quite popular for the system.
  • Major JRPGs released on the system, and so the system was quite notable for the development of the genre.
  • Many games incorporated elements to demonstrate the cutting technological capabilities of the system. In particular use of "Mode-7", enhancement chips, and pre-rendered CGI were highly regarded as a mark of technical superiority at the time.

Super Mario World

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Read more about Super Mario World on Wikipedia.


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The first game in a series of high speed futuristic racing games. This game used mode 7 pseudo 3D environments to great effect.

Read more about F-Zero on Wikipedia.

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Read more about The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on Wikipedia.

Final Fantasy IV

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Released as Final Fantasy II in America, as previous entries in the series had not been released there.

Read more about Final Fantasy IV on Wikipedia.

Super Mario Kart

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Early in development Super Mario Kart was originally intended to be a two player version of F-Zero.[34]


The first Mario Kart game. At the time of release Super Mario Kart was critically acclaimed for it's two player multiplayer and tight gameplay.[35] Decades later, the game continued to receive high marks by reviewers.[36][37]


Mario Kart would also have influences on individuals who would later join the industry. A major example of this is Shuntaro Furukawa, who's interaction with the game inspired him to get involved with the family company, and as a result would lead him to later become the 6th president of Nintendo.[38][39]

Read more about Super Mario Kart on Wikipedia.

Mario Paint

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Mario Paint would influence a number of creatives, including future game developers.[40]

Read more about Mario Paint on Wikipedia.

Dragon Quest V

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Widely considered to be among the best games in the Dragon Quest series, and highly ranked among Japanese role playing games in general.[41][42][43]

Read more about Dragon Quest V on Wikipedia.

Final Fantasy V

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Read more about Final Fantasy V on Wikipedia.

Romancing SaGa

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Read more about Romancing SaGa on Wikipedia.

Super Mario All-Stars

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An enhanced remake compilation of the NES Mario games. Among the first major series to receive such an enhanced remake compilation.

Read more about Super Mario All-Stars on Wikipedia.

Star Fox

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An on rails shooter, which leveraged the power of the SuperFX chip for polygonal 3D graphics.

Read more about Star Fox on Wikipedia.

Mega Man X

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A new Mega Man series that leveraged improved system capabilities over the NES to improve gameplay, graphics, and sound as well as a deeper story.

Read more about Mega Man X on Wikipedia.

Super Metroid

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Super Metroid influenced a number of gamers and developers with it's unique and complex gameplay, level design, and environmental storytelling.[44]

Read more about Super Metroid on Wikipedia.


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EarthBound influenced a number of creative works from different creators following it, such as the television series South Park and the video game Undertale.[45][46]

Read about EarthBound on Wikipedia.

Clock Tower

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A cult horror game about surviving the Scissorman in a mansion.[48]

Read more about Clock Tower on Wikipedia.


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Star Fox 2

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After being shelved for over two decades, Star Fox 2 was officially released in 2017 on the SNES classic.[49]

Socks the Cat Rocks the Hill

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The real life Socks the Cat sitting in the Oval Office in 1994.

The game featured a protagonist based on President Bill Clinton's real life cat.[50]

In fall 2016 a campaign was started to release the game fully after a prototype cartridge was discovered.[51][52][53] The game was released in early 2018.[54]

Read more about Socks the Cat Rocks the Hill on Wikipedia.

Special Editions

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Special editions and versions of the console.

  • Starlight Gaming Station - Super Nintendo Entertainment System kiosk for hospital use.[55]
  • Nintendo Gateway System - In flight entertainment version of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.[56]
  • Bandai HET - Unreleased portable SNES with additional functions demoed at E3 1993.[57]
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Console Models

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SNES controllers

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SNES Accessories

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There is a WikiBook on SNES programming.

External Resources

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Archived websites

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  1. "Masayuki Uemura, the pioneer behind the NES and SNES, passes away" (in en-CA). Destructoid. 9 December 2021. https://www.destructoid.com/masayuki-uemura-obituary-nes-snes-nintendo-legacy/. 
  2. Moore, Jared. "NES and SNES Engineer Masayuki Uemura Dies, Aged 78 - IGN" (in en). https://www.ign.com/articles/nes-snes-engineer-masayuki-uemura-dies-aged-78. 
  3. a b c Doolan, Liam (21 March 2021). "PlayStation's Ken Kutaragi "Never" Considered Nintendo To Be A Competitor". Nintendo Life. https://www.nintendolife.com/news/2021/03/playstations_ken_kutaragi_never_considered_nintendo_to_be_a_competitor. 
  4. "16-Bit Week: Super Nintendo Console Design". SideQuesting. 10 May 2011. https://www.sidequesting.com/2011/05/16-bit-week-super-nintendo-console-design/. 
  5. "Lance Barr Interview". nintendojo ~ a site to see. 13 February 2006. https://web.archive.org/web/20060213124455/http://www.nintendojo.com/interviews/view_item.php?1130801472. 
  6. "The Thought Behind Super Nintendo's Design". SNES HUB. 18 February 2012. https://playingwithsuperpower.com/the-thought-behind-super-nintendo-s-design/. 
  7. a b Reeves, Ben. "Super Powered: Charting The Lasting Legacy Of The Super NES". Game Informer. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  8. "Happy 20th Birthday, Super Famicom! - IGN". Retrieved 14 November 2020.
  9. Reeves, Ben. "Super Powered: Charting The Lasting Legacy Of The Super NES" (in en). Game Informer. https://www.gameinformer.com/classic/2019/10/25/super-powered-charting-the-lasting-legacy-of-the-super-nes. 
  10. "Why Super Nintendo Is the Reason You're Still Playing Video Games". Rolling Stone. 22 August 2016. https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/why-super-nintendo-is-the-reason-youre-still-playing-video-games-101649/. 
  11. "Parents Didn't Just Dislike Super Nintendo 25 Years Ago—They Thought It Was a Scam". Wired. Retrieved 14 November 2020.
  12. Good, Owen (22 August 2016). "Nintendo nets $661 million in sale of Seattle Mariners" (in en). Polygon. https://www.polygon.com/2016/8/22/12584458/nintendo-seattle-mariners-sale-661-million. Retrieved 27 October 2020. 
  13. O'Keefe, Colin (6 January 2016). "Reflecting on Griffey's Perfect SNES Game" (in en). Lookout Landing. https://www.lookoutlanding.com/2016/1/6/10723530/reflecting-on-ken-griffey-jr-presents-major-league-baseball-a-hall-of. 
  14. "Super nostalgia: Local gamers fondly remember Super Nintendo on its 20th anniversary". timesfreepress.com. Retrieved 14 November 2020.
  15. "Genesis vs. SNES: By the Numbers - IGN". Retrieved 13 November 2020.
  16. a b "Nintendo PlayStation: Ultra-rare prototype sells for £230,000". BBC News. 6 March 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-51628836. 
  17. Dahad, Nitin (September 21st, 2020). "ARC: from 3D Game Chips to Licensable RISC Processor". https://www.eetimes.com/arc-from-3d-game-chips-to-licensable-risc-processor/. 
  18. a b c d e f "Winning The Console Wars – An In-Depth Architectural Study". Hackaday. 6 November 2015. https://hackaday.com/2015/11/06/winning-the-console-wars-an-in-depth-architectural-study/. Retrieved 28 October 2020. 
  19. "Super Nintendo Architecture A Practical Analysis". Rodrigo's Stuff. 28 June 2019. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  20. "Making a SNES game in 2020" (in en). www.gamasutra.com. https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/DoctorLudos/20200609/363179/Making_a_SNES_game_in_2020.php. 
  21. Linneman, John (16 August 2020). "Sonic the Hedgehog running on Super NES - see the tech demo in action" (in en). Eurogamer. https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-2020-retro-sonic-the-hedghog-ported-to-super-nes. 
  22. a b "WAR! - Nintendo Vs. Sega". www.gamezero.com. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  23. "I'll Never Love a Console Like I Loved the Super Nintendo". www.vice.com. Retrieved 28 November 2020.
  24. "Creative Limitation And The Super Nintendo Sound Chips". Hackaday. 1 August 2019. https://hackaday.com/2019/07/31/creative-limitation-and-the-super-nintendo-sound-chips/. Retrieved 28 October 2020. 
  25. "A Brief and Abbreviated History of Gaming Storage – Techbytes". Retrieved 18 October 2020.
  26. "A Super FX FAQ". www.anthrofox.org. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  27. "Modified Cartridge Gets Ray Tracing Working On A Super Nintendo". Kotaku. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  28. Carter, Ben (13 December 2020). "SuperRT". www.shironekolabs.com. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  29. "Nintendo's Forgotten Console" (in en). www.vice.com. https://www.vice.com/en/article/xywnpw/satellaview-nintendos-forgotten-console. 
  30. "It’s time to get serious about game preservation – before it’s too late". VGC. 23 March 2021. https://www.videogameschronicle.com/features/opinion/its-time-to-get-serious-about-games-preservation-before-its-too-late/. 
  31. "X-BANDing". www.gamezero.com. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  32. "The fitness nut in me wishes I had this SNES exercise bike". Destructoid. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  33. "Schwarzenegger Makes His Pitch". Los Angeles Times. 18 August 2003. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2003-aug-18-me-pitch18-story.html. 
  34. "Super Mario Kart Developer Interview - SNES Classic Edition - Official Site". www.nintendo.com. https://www.nintendo.com/super-nes-classic/interview-super-mario-kart/. 
  35. "Super Mario Kart: Did Critics Love This Super NES Racer in 1992? - Defunct Games". www.defunctgames.com. http://www.defunctgames.com/reviewcrew/96/super-mario-kart-did-critics-love-this-super-nes-racer-in-1992. 
  36. "Review: Super Mario Kart (Wii Virtual Console / Super Nintendo)". Nintendo Life. 24 November 2009. https://www.nintendolife.com/reviews/snes/super_mario_kart. 
  37. Oxford, Nadia (27 July 2017). "Super NES Retro Review: Super Mario Kart" (in en). USgamer. https://www.usgamer.net/articles/super-nes-classic-game-by-game-7-super-mario-kart. 
  38. Damien, McFerran (21 February 2022). "Mario Kart Convinced Nintendo's President To Join The Company In The '90s". Nintendo Life. https://www.nintendolife.com/news/2022/02/mario-kart-convinced-nintendos-president-to-join-the-company-in-the-90s. 
  39. "任天堂社長 古川俊太郎氏(上)" (in ja). 日本経済新聞. 5 January 2022. https://www.nikkei.com/article/DGKKZO78938460U2A100C2TB2000/. 
  40. "The Story of Mario Paint | Gaming Historian". Retrieved 20 May 2021.
  41. Oxford, Nadia (16 January 2019). "The Top 25 RPGs of All Time #8: Dragon Quest 5" (in en). USgamer. https://www.usgamer.net/articles/the-top-25-rpgs-of-all-time-8-dragon-quest-5. 
  42. Fontes, Renan (17 October 2019). "‘Dragon Quest V’ is Everything an RPG Should Be". Goomba Stomp Magazine. https://goombastomp.com/dragon-quest-v-is-everything-an-rpg-should-be/. 
  43. "The RetroBeat: Dragon Quest V is a marriage made in retro-JRPG heaven". VentureBeat. 8 January 2021. https://venturebeat.com/2021/01/08/the-retrobeat-dragon-quest-v-is-a-marriage-made-in-retro-jrpg-heaven/. 
  44. Baker, Chris (29 August 2016). "How 'Super Metroid' Inspired a Generation of Game Makers". Rolling Stone. https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/how-super-metroid-defined-an-era-and-inspired-a-generation-of-game-makers-250630/. 
  45. "South Park Creators Cite Earthbound as a Major Inspiration for Their Own Game". Nintendo Life. 19 July 2013. https://www.nintendolife.com/news/2013/07/south_park_creators_cite_earthbound_as_a_major_inspiration_for_their_own_game. 
  46. "Undertale creator on the games that served as inspiration, changes during development, and more" (in en). Nintendo Everything. 27 October 2018. https://nintendoeverything.com/undertale-creator-on-inspiration-changes-during-development-and-more/. 
  47. "A closer look at the Earthbound/Beach Boys connection". GoNintendo. https://www.gonintendo.com/s/151068-a-closer-look-at-the-earthbound-beach-boys-connection. 
  48. "Clock Tower Is Creepy As Hell For A Super Nintendo Game" (in en-us). Kotaku. https://kotaku.com/clock-tower-is-creepy-as-hell-for-a-super-nintendo-game-1846734718. 
  49. Wright, Steven T. (24 October 2017). "Star Fox 2: By the numbers". Polygon. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  50. Waller, Allyson (29 November 2020). "A Cat Is Said to Be Joining the Bidens in the White House". The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/28/us/Biden-cat-dogs-German-shepherd.html. 
  51. Meslow, Scott. "Today, Let Us Remember the Bizarre-Ass Video Game About Hillary Clinton's Cat". GQ. https://www.gq.com/story/hillary-clinton-socks-the-cat-video-game. 
  52. "SNES game about Bill Clinton's cat may finally get released pending crowdfunding" (in english). Destructoid. https://www.destructoid.com/stories/snes-game-about-bill-clinton-s-cat-may-finally-get-released-pending-crowdfunding-351296.phtml. 
  53. Gurwin, Gabe. "There’s a Kickstarter campaign to resurrect a lost SNES game about Bill Clinton’s cat". Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/kickstarter-bill-clinton-socks-the-cat-2016-10. 
  54. "Shipping starts tomorrow!". Retrieved 30 April 2021.
  55. "Announcing the Starlight Nintendo Switch Gaming Station!". www.starlight.org. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  56. "Will the In-Flight Entertainment System Survive COVID-19?" (in en). Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.. https://tedium.co/2020/06/19/in-flight-entertainment-system-covid-19-impact-history/. 
  57. "Six of the best: unreleased games consoles" (in en). the Guardian. 9 November 2014. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/nov/09/six-of-the-best-unreleased-games-consoles.