The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (officially abbreviated the Super NES or SNES) is a 16-bit home video game console developed by Nintendo that was released in 1990 in Japan and South Korea, 1991 in North America, 1992 in Europe and Australasia (Oceania), and 1993 in South America. In Japan, the system is called the Super Famicom, or SFC for short. In South Korea, it is known as the Super Comboy and was distributed by Hyundai Electronics. Although each version is essentially the same, several forms of regional lockout prevent the different versions from being compatible with one another. It was released in Brazil on September 2, 1992, by Playtronic.
The SNES is Nintendo's second home console, following the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). The console introduced advanced graphics and sound capabilities compared with other systems at the time. The development of a variety of enhancement chips integrated in game cartridges helped to keep it competitive in the marketplace.
The SNES was a global success, becoming the best-selling console of the 16-bit era despite its relatively late start and the intense competition it faced in North America and Europe from Sega's Genesis/Mega Drive console. The SNES remained popular well into the 32-bit era. It continues to be popular among collectors and retro gamers, some of whom still make homebrew ROM images, and in Nintendo's emulated rereleases.
To compete with the popular Family Computer in Japan, NEC Home Electronics launched the PC Engine in 1987, and Sega Enterprises followed suit with the Mega Drive in 1988. The two platforms were later launched in North America in 1989 as the TurboGrafx-16 and the Genesis respectively. Both systems were built on 16-bit architectures and offered improved graphics and sound over the 8-bit NES. However, it took several years for Sega's system to become successful. Nintendo executives were in no rush to design a new system, but they reconsidered when they began to see their dominance in the market slipping.
The four color Super Famicom mark is part of the Super NES logo in the PAL region. The colors correspond to those of the ABXY buttons of the control pad in those regions. A different logo was used for the North American version, consisting of a striped background outlining four oval shapes.
Designed by Masayuki Uemura, the designer of the original Famicom, the Super Famicom was released in Japan on Wednesday, November 21st, 1990 for 25,000 yen ($210). It was an instant success; Nintendo's initial shipment of 300,000 units sold out within hours, and the resulting social disturbance led the Japanese government to ask video game manufacturers to schedule future console releases on weekends. The system's release also gained the attention of the Yakuza, leading to a decision to ship the devices at night to avoid robbery.
With the Super Famicom quickly outselling its chief rivals, Nintendo reasserted itself as the leader of the Japanese console market. Nintendo's success was partially due to its retention of most of its key third-party developers from its earlier system, including Capcom, Konami, Tecmo, Square, Koei, and Enix.
Nintendo released the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, a redesigned version of the Super Famicom, in North America for $199. It began shipping in limited quantities on August 23, 1991, with an official nationwide release date of September 9, 1991. The SNES was released in the United Kingdom and Ireland in April 1992 for £150, with a German release following a few weeks later.
The SNES and Super Famicom launched with few games, but these games were well received in the marketplace. In Japan, only two games were initially available: Super Mario World and F-Zero. In North America, Super Mario World launched as a bundle with the console, and other launch titles include F-Zero, Pilotwings (both of which demonstrated the console's "Mode 7" pseudo-3D rendering capability), SimCity, and Gradius III.
The rivalry between Nintendo and Sega resulted in what has been described as one of the most notable console wars in video game history, in which Sega positioned the Genesis as the "cool" console, with more mature titles aimed at older gamers, and edgy advertisements that occasionally attacked the competition. Nintendo, however, scored an early public relations advantage by securing the first console conversion of Capcom's arcade classic Street Fighter II for the SNES, which took over a year to make the transition to the Genesis. Despite the Genesis's head start, much larger library of games, and lower price point, the Genesis only represented an estimated 60% of the American 16-bit console market in June 1992, and neither console could maintain a definitive lead for several years. Donkey Kong Country is said to have helped establish the SNES's market prominence in the latter years of the 16-bit generation, and for a time, maintain against the PlayStation and Saturn. According to Nintendo, the company had sold more than 20 million SNES units in the U.S. According to a 2014 Wedbush Securities report based on NPD sales data, the SNES ultimately outsold the Genesis in the U.S. market.
As part of the overall plan for the SNES, rather than include an expensive CPU that would still become obsolete in a few years, the hardware designers made it easy to interface special coprocessor chips to the console, just like the MMC chips used for most NES games. This is most often characterized by 16 additional pins on the cartridge card edge.
The Super FX is a RISC CPU designed to perform functions that the main CPU can not feasibly do. The chip is primarily used to create 3D game worlds made with polygons, texture mapping and light source shading. The chip can also be used to enhance 2D games.
The Nintendo fixed-point digital signal processor (DSP) chip allowed for fast vector-based calculations, bitmap conversions, both 2D and 3D coordinate transformations, and other functions.
In Japan, games could be downloaded cheaper than standard cartridges, from Nintendo Power kiosks onto special cartridges containing flash memory and a MegaChips MX15001TFC chip. The chip managed communication with the kiosks to download ROM images, and provided an initial menu to select which of the downloaded games would be played. Some titles were available both in cartridge and download form, while others were download only. The service was closed on February 8th, 2007.
Many cartridges contain other enhancement chips, most of which were created for use by a single company in a few titles; the only limitations are the speed of the SNES itself to transfer data from the chip and the current limit of the console.
Like the NES before it, the SNES has retained a long-lived fan base. It has continued to thrive on the second-hand market, emulators, and remakes. The SNES has taken the same revival path as the NES.
Emulation projects began with the initial release of VSMC in 1994, and Super Pasofami became the first working SNES emulator in 1996. During that time, two competing emulation projects: Snes96 and Snes97, merged to form a new initiative titled Snes9x. In 1997, SNES enthusiasts began programming an emulator named ZSNES. In 2004, higan began development as bsnes, in an effort to emulate the system as closely as possible.
Nintendo of America took the same stance against the distribution of SNES ROM image files and the use of emulators as it did with the NES, insisting they represented flagrant software piracy. Proponents of SNES emulation cite discontinued production of the SNES constituting abandonware status, the right of the owner of the respective game to make a personal backup via devices such as the Retrode, space shifting for private use, the desire to develop homebrew games for the system, the frailty of SNES ROM cartridges and consoles, and the lack of certain foreign imports.
Emulation of the Super NES is also available on platforms such as Android, and iOS, the Nintendo DS line, the Gizmondo, the Dingoo, and the GP2X by GamePark Holdings, as well as PDAs. While individual games have been included with emulators on some GameCube discs, Nintendo's Virtual Console service for the Wii marks the introduction of officially sanctioned general SNES emulation.
A dedicated mini-console, the Super NES Classic Edition, was released in September 2017 after the NES Classic Edition. The emulation-based system, which is physically modeled after the North American and European versions of the SNES in their respective regions, is bundled with two SNES-style controllers and comes preloaded with 21 games, including the previously unreleased Star Fox 2.
Approximately 49.10 million SNES units were sold worldwide, with 23.35 million of those units sold in the Americas and 17.17 million in Japan. Although it could not quite repeat the success of the NES, which sold 61.91 million units worldwide, the SNES was the best-selling console of its era.
In 2007, GameTrailers named the SNES as the second-best console of all time in their list of top ten consoles that "left their mark on the history of gaming", citing its graphics, sound, and library of top-quality games. In 2015, they also named it the best Nintendo console of all time, saying: "The list of games we love from this console completely annihilates any other roster from the Big N." Technology columnist Don Reisinger proclaimed: "The SNES is the greatest console of all time" in January 2008, citing the quality of the games and the console's dramatic improvement over its predecessor; fellow technology columnist Will Greenwald replied with a more nuanced view, giving the SNES top marks with his heart, the NES with his head, and the PlayStation (for its controller) with his hands. GamingExcellence also gave the SNES first place in 2008, declaring it "simply the most timeless system ever created" with many games that stand the test of time and citing its innovation in controller design, graphics capabilities, and game storytelling. At the same time, GameDaily rated it fifth for its graphics, audio, controllers, and games. In 2009, IGN named the Super Nintendo Entertainment System the fourth best video game console, complimenting its audio and "concentration of AAA titles".
Castlevania games available on the system
- Super Castlevania IV (1991) — It was the first Castlevania game on the system and demonstrated the Super Nintendo's capabilities.
- Castlevania: Dracula X (1995) — It was the second game for the system, although it's generally considered less technically advanced than Super Castlevania IV and has little in common with it. Instead, it's considered a reimagining of the PC Engine game Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, which at the time had only been released in Japan.