There's a lot of misinformation about what SNES games are and are not rare. Some games, like the Final Fantasies or the two sequels to Mega Man X are thought by many to be rare, while many unspeakably bad games are actually quite rare. So, originally very loosely based on a similar list in Tips and Tricks magazine, along with help from the Retrogaming Roundtable ( and a review of old copies of Nintendo Power for game info, I give you an As-Comprehensive-As-Possible list of rare, non-prototype SNES games. (All of these refer to the American NTSC versions. A PAL rare list would be much longer, as many games were released in limited quantities in Europe.)

(The format is "Name - Publisher - Reason for rarity/interesting facts)

While the above list isn't exclusive, as there may very well be rare SNES games unlisted, here's a few games that, contrary to popular belief and confused eBay bidders, are not rare. Rather, these games are simply scarce. There are plenty of working copies, with and without accompanying manuals and packaging; these copies are mostly in collections, and out of distribution. As SNES consoles inevitably fail, these games should eventually become less and less valuable, as their value is inherant, rather than becase of their rarity. That said, before paying $50 or more for one of these games, bear in mind that you can always find another copy somewhere else.

  • Breath of Fire 2 - Capcom - Fan interest has driven up the value of this game, even though Capcom tended to release games in large numbers.
  • Chrono Trigger - Square - As this is one of the best-selling RPGs in the US ever (pre-PSX, anyway), it's by no means scarce.
  • Earthbound - Nintendo - Nintendo's hope for good sales on this game lead to a large number of copies being dumped in clearance. The game is valuable, however, with packaging intact.
  • Final Fantasy II - Square - The Playstation rerelease has driven down demand on this title somewhat.
  • Final Fantasy III - Square - This was the best-selling RPG in the US before the PSX and Final Fantasy VII.
  • Lufia and the Fortress of Doom - Taito
  • Mega Man 7 - Capcom - Between an active Mega Man fan community and actually rare Game Boy games, this is due to high demand and confusion.
  • Mega Man X2 and Mega Man X3 - Capcom - These games were expensive initially because of the C-4 chip, and this chip makes them both difficult to emulate. That said, it's high demand, not low supply.
  • Secret of Mana - Square
  • Super Mario RPG - Nintendo - Massive demand, not low supply. A convergence of three different fanbases all find this game desireable.
  • Super Metroid - Nintendo - This game was produced in massive quantities, and even got a rerelease as an SNES bestseller. That said, the PAL version of this game is geniunely rare, so European gamers are out of luck.

Standard disclaimer - This info is all dated as of November 5, 2002, although I doubt that any of this info will change in the near future.

Thanks to yerricde, Domin, disillusioned, and Servo5678 for updates and info.

Due to the number of totally unplayable games on this list, this is part of the node the worst games ever project.

Sure, it's dated system now, but at the time this thing was amazing. Graphics and sound wise, this thing was top notch. Let's go way back, pretend it is the early 90's, you flip open a magazine and read about this beast. Ready? Go.

CPU 16-Bit CPU

Work RAM for CPU: 128 Kb
Video RAM for CPU: 16Kb

16-Bit PPU (Picture Processing Unit)
APU (Audio Processing Unit): 8-Bit (main sound processor)
producing 16-Bit sound

COLOR Maximum colors on one screen: 256
Total colors available: 32,678

Maximum screen resolution: 512x448

Maximum Sprites per screen: 128
Maximum Sprites per line: 32
Maximum Sprite size: 64x64
Minimum Sprite size: 8x8

Horizontal, Vertical, Diagonal

16-Bit Pulse Code Modulator

Number of Sound Channels: 8

CLOCK SPEED 3.58, 2.68, and 1.79 Mhz

SOFTWARE RAM available

Although the SNES was quite technically advanced at the time of it's release (with built in features like Mode 7 wowing players), developers were continually pushing it further and further, and eventually what they desired could no longer be achieved on the basic hardware, no matter how much they tried. This lead to coprocessors and other exotic devices being built into cartridges, so that games could take advantage of them. This could lead to more expensive games for the end consumer, but it could also lead to graphically advanced games which were much more popular and sold more copies. Since so many different games were released with chips in, I think it's not taking too much of a leap to say that the chip games did more than break even.

Although special chips were available in the game paks from the start - for example in Pilotwings - ever more powerful ones turned up over time. The aim of this writeup is to provide basic information about each chip, how to detect it in a ROM using only a hex editor, and to provide links for further information. I could probably post the source to emulate each chip (or at least, as much as is currently known) but that information is likely to change at any time, and for so many of the chips the emulation isn't finished, and updating the source all the time would be a nightmare. If you want to see how the emulation works, check out the source to Snes9X, Zsnes, or SNEeSe.

NB: As with emulation in general, this is a work in progress. If you find a ROM that is definitely a special chip game but it doesn't fit in with the scheme below, that doesn't mean you're wrong. Research is currently going on, and the information I present here is (I hope) the latest findings of the researchers. Full credit goes to them for finding out all this, I'm just bringing it to E2.

A note on using a Hex Editor to detect ROMs... The $7FD5 / $FFD5 is the ROM speed and the $7FD6 / $FFD6 is the Memory Map. Which of those you check depends on whether you have a LoROM or a HiROM - you can find this out either by scanning your ROM with a tool such as Nach's SNES ROM Tools, or some emulators will tell you on ROM load. Come to think of it, a few emulators detect special chips on startup too, this information here just explains exactly what the emulator is checking for. And remember, if your ROM has a 512 byte header, you have to add $200 onto the values, or else you will be looking in the wrong place. Some of the chips have multiple values for ROM speed / Memory map - generally, reasons for this are unknown, although in some cases it distinguishes between games with SRAM for saves and games with no SRAM.


DSP - the first chip used on the SNES, and in fact it was planned to be built into the SNES hardware. When time or money constraints didn't allow this, the games which had already been developed to take advantage of it were released anyway, with a DSP chip inside the cartridge. There were in fact 6 variations of the DSP chip (although 3 of them are all but identical). All had the same hardware, but different software.

The DSP-1 had 3 variants (vanilla, DSP-1A, and DSP-1B), which were essentially bugfixes. Emulator authors realised that this meant if they could perfectly emulate the DSP-1B (the one with all the bugs fixed) then all DSP-1 games would work. This is roughly the state that DSP-1 emulation has got to now.. although it's not perfect, it's pretty much good enough to play most games. Pick up either the latest version of Snes9x or a Zsnes WIP to see this emulation in action.

To detect whether a ROM uses the DSP-1, then open it in a hex editor such as frhed. If it is a LoRom then check the location $7FD5 - a value of 0x20, 0x21, 0x30 or 0x31 indicates some kind of a DSP-1. If you need confirmation, also check location $7FD6: A value of 0x3 or 0x5 indicates a DSP-1 of some kind. If you are working with a HiRom, then do the same as above, except use the locations $FFD5 and $FFD6.

The following games used one of the DSP-1 chips:

Ace Wo Nerae
Armored Trooper Votoms
Ballz 3D
Battle Racers
Bike Daisuki! Hashiriya Kon
Final Stretch
Korean League
Lock On/Super Air Diver
Michael Andretti's Indy Car Challenge
Super 3D Baseball
Super Air Diver 2
Super Bases Loaded 2
Super F1 Circus Gaiden
Super Mario Kart
Suzuka 8 Hours
Syutoko Battle Racing 2
Syutoko Battle Racing 94

The DSP-2 was a chip only used in the SNES port of Dungeon Master... or at least that is the only one known. If a LoROM is a DSP-2 game, then it should have a value of 0x20 at $7FD5 and a value of 0x5 at $7FD6. The DSP-2 is emulated now in Snes9x.

The DSP-3 was only used in SD Gundam GX. To detect this chip accurately, you have to look in a third place. For a LoROM, $7FD5 should be 0x30, $7FD6 should be 0x5, and $7FDA should be 0xB2. For a HiROM, the locations you need to check are $FFD5, $FFD6, and $FFDA. The DSP-3 is not emulated.

The final chip in this range, the DSP-4, was only used in Top Gear 3000. You should find a value of 0x30 at $7FD5 / $FFD5 and a value of 0x3 at $7FD6 / $FFD6. If you've read this all, hopefully you should know which ROMs need you to look at $7F... and which need $FF... The DSP-4 is also not properly emulated yet.

The SA-1 is, according to TRAC, a "Custom CPU with a 65c816 execution core", just like the SNES main CPU, although it runs faster, and has a heap of added features. For one, Matthew Kendora tells me it has "bitmap to bitplane DMA", and while I don't know what that is, I'm sure someone out there will.

To detect an SA-1, look for a value of 0x23 in $XFD5 and a value of 0x34 or 0x35 in $XFD6.

The SA-1 was used in a large number of games, although some of the ones I list below are not confirmed. However, here is an almost complete list of SA-1 games...

Asahi Shinbun Rensai Kato Ichi-Ni-San Kudan Shogi Shingiru -Unverified
Daisen Ryaku Expert WW2 War in Europe -Unverified
Derby Jockey 2 -Unverified
Dragon Ball Z Hyper Dimension
Habu Meijin no Omoshiro Syouhi -Unverified
Harukanaru Augusta 3 Masters New -Unverified
Itoi Shigesato's Bass Turi No 1 -Unverified
J-League '96 Dream Stadium -Unverified
Jikkyou Oshaberi Parodius
Jumpin' Derby -Unverified
Kakinoki Shogi -Unverified
Kirby Super Star/Kirby's Fun Pak/Hoshi No Kirby Super Deluxe
Kirby's Dream Land 3/Hoshi No Kirby 3
Marvelous -Unverified
Masoukishin The Lord of Elemental -Unverified
Mini 4 Ku Shining Scorpion Let's & Go!! -Unverified
Pachi Slot Monogatari PAL Kogyo Special -Unverified
Pebble Beach No Hato 2 New Tournament Edition
PGA European Tour
PGA Tour '96
Power Rangers Zeo Battle Racers
Pro Kishi Simulation Kishi No Hanamichi -Unverified
Rin Kaihou 9 Dan No Igo Taidou -Unverified
SD F-1 Grand Prix -Unverified
SD Gundam G-NEXT -Unverified
SD Gundam G-NEXT w/Rom Pack Collection -Unverified
Shin Syogi Club -Unverified
Shogi Saikyou -Unverified
Shogi Saikyou 2 -Unverified
Shogi Mahjing -Unverified
Super Bomberman Panic Bomber World
Super Mario RPG
Super Shogi 3 Kitaihei -Unverified
Taikyoku-Igo Idaten -Unverified
Takemiya Masaki 9 Dan No Igo Taisyou -Unverified

The SDD-1 was, until very recently, one of the big problem chips for SNES emulation. Although a workaround (described in the Graphics Pack node) was developed, it was unwieldy, and technically it was cheating. Basically, the SDD-1 was a custom graphics decompressor which could decompress the data inside the ROM and feed it to the SNES when it was needed. This was used in games which required a lot of graphics (pushing the limit of a SNES as far as memory went) such as the frantic figher Street Fighter Alpha 2 and the graphically rich RPG Star Ocean. The chip algorithm was finally cracked about half way through 2003, and now the code is available freely for compression and decompression - in fact, as this node was being conceived and written, the SDD-1 code for on the fly accurate decompression was added to the source of Zsnes. Look out for it in a future Zsnes WIP.

The chip was only used in Street Fighter Alpha 2, (both US and Europe versions), the Japanese version, Street Fighter Zero 2, and the Japan only Star Ocean. To detect the chip, look for 0x32 in $XFD5 and either 0x43 or 0x45 in $XDF6 - in this case, the memory map can be two different values because Star Ocean has SRAM and Street Fighter Alpha 2 doesn't.

The SPC7110 is similar to the SDD-1, in that it is a custom graphics decompression chip. It was used in Far East of Eden Zero, Far East of Eden Zero Shounen no Jump, Super Power League 4, and Momotarou Dentetsu Happy. It has not yet been properly emulated, although graphics packs are available for the 4 games.. although some are almost unoptimised, meaning they are absolutely insane sizes. FEoEZSnJ is, I believe, over 100 megabytes.

To detect this chip, look for 0x3A in $XFD5 and either 0xF5 or 0xF9 in $XFD6 - FEoEz and the SnJ variation both have 0xF9 because they also have a Real Time Clock in the chip, as well as using it's graphics decompression functions. Another way to tell is that if the ROM is loaded, even if you don't have the graphics packs for the game, the game will carry out a memory check. You have to wait, press A, reset the machine, wait, press B, reset the machine, and then the game proper will start. This occurs, as far as I am aware, on all SPC7110 games.

The SuperFX (aka the "Mario chip" in Japan) was an advancement of Mode 7 in that it allowed for realtime 3D effects on things that weren't just flat surfaces. Credit to TheBooBooKitty for that last sentence, he put it better than I could.... Most variants of the SuperFX are emulated well enough to play games which use them.

The SuperFX was a RISC chip made by Nintendo, and like the DSP-1, there were three variants: one 10.5 MHz flavour, one at 21 MHz, and then a variation of the third with added trignometric functions. The following games used the SuperFX, or the SuperFX2 (the 21 MHz version):

Dirt Trax FX
FX Fighter (Beta)
Star Fox/Starwing
Star Fox 2 (Beta)
Star Fox: Competition Edition/Starwing: Competition Edition
Stunt Race FX/Wild Trax
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island
Winter Gold FX

To detect a SuperFX, look for 0x20 in $XFD5 and 0x13 in $XFD6 (for a SuperFX) or one of 0x14, 0x15, and 0x1A in $XFD6 (for a SuperFX2).

Capcom's C4 chip was used only in Mega Man X2 and Mega Man X3 (along with the Japanese versions of the same games, Rockman X2 and it's sequel) to do flashy things like have some simple wireframe models rendered in real time - this was used in some levels as mid bosses for Mega Man to fight. A rotating X head was also present at the start of one of the games. The chip is pretty close to perfectly emulated, and Nach of Zsnes has contributed to getting many of the ops Bit Perfect - indeed, some parts of the game looked better than on a real SNES when played on Zsnes.

To detect a C4 chip, look for 0x20 in $XFD5 and 0xF3 in $XFD6. Another note about this chip is that like the SPC7110, it has a start up memory check (which is now emulated). Hold down B on controller 2 while starting either MMX2 or 3 and you will see 8 checks that are carried out to see if the chip is in working order.

The OBC1 is only used in the game Metal Combat - Falcon's Revenge. It can be emulated in Zsnes 1.36 or later. To detect the chip, look for 0x30 in $XFD5 and 0x25 in $XFD6. BEWARE! There is a Metal Combat ROM floating around which was hacked to confuse emulators into thinking it was a Super FX game. This was done in the days when Metal Combat wasn't emulated, and someone managed to hex edit a few bytes so that the game ran a little better than it would otherwise, at first. However, this version of the ROM is wrong, doesn't play correctly, and should not be distributed (even though tools like GoodSNES list it as the correct dump, and then list the correct dump as a hack. Tut, tut). If you have it, you can fix it with a hex editor manually (see Nach's site at the bottom of this node for instructions) or you can go for the easy option of scanning it with Nach's SNES ROM Tools.

Seta made a few custom chips for their games - their DSP was used in F1ROC2 and Hayazashi 2 - Dan Morita Shogi while their RISC was used in Hayazashi Nidan Morita Shogi 2. To detect a Seta DSP, look for 0x30 in $XFD5 and 0xF6 in $XFD6. A Seta RISC should have 0x30 in $XFD5 and 0xF5 in $XFD6.

The final special chip (which I am aware of..) is the Real Time Clock used in Dai Kaiju Monogatari 2 (although both FEoEZ variants have RTCs, they are built into the SPC7110, and this is a separate chip). To detect this look for 0x35 in $XFD5 and 0x55 in $XFD6. The RTC does exactly what it sounds like: it's a clock that keeps your game synchronsied with the current time even when the cartridge isn't being played. This works until the battery inside the cartridge runs out, although with the emulation currently available (some emulators sync to your PC's clock; others let you select any time for the clock) you don't need to worry about anything.

Those are all the special chips that I have been able to gather data about. Of the above, some are emulated very well (DSP-1, C4), some not so well, and some not at all (SPC7110). However, everything is progressing, and each day more is figured out and emulated. SDD-1 was recently cracked, SPC7110 is being started on at some point in the near future, and the DSP-2 to 4 are being worked on (2 has been pretty much done). If you want to see the chip emulation progressing, grab a Zsnes WIP from

Credits / Thanks:

I wouldn't have been able to write any of this without these hard working people:

  • The Zsnes team, for coding a brilliant emulator which emulates a heap of chips: Zsknight, _Demo_, pagefault, and especially..
  • Nach, for putting a feature I requested in Zsnes, letting me hang in his IRC channel, providing answers to my questions, and letting me use data he has collected for his excellent tool. His web page was what most of this was cribbed from, I suggest you read that for a better set out and more in depth read.
  • MKendora and TRAC for programming Snes9x and SNEeSe respectively, and for answering my questions too.
  • Anyone and everyone who has contributed to the emulation of the above: not least Nach, MKendora, Dark Force, The Dumper, ZsKnight, Overload, Andreas Naive, pagefault, neviksti, anomie... Apologies if I missed you.

Links / Sources:

  • Nach's page: http://www.geocities/joecool22us/chipinfo.htm for the information and for NSRT.
  • Forum link to the SDD-1 comp / decomp pack:
  • Zsnes's official site:
  • WIP builds of Zsnes:
  • Snes9X official site:
  • SNEeSe official site:
  • Overload's DSP page with source for each emulated Op:

And remember... just as emulation is work in progress, this node is work in progress. I'll try to keep up with new developments and discoveries, but if you think there is something I have missed, or something I have typed incorrectly, please let me know.

Cheers to Servo5678 for a correction.

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) was Nintendo's second game console, released to replace the aging Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1991. Unlike its predecessor, the Super Nintendo had serious competition for most of its lifetime in the form of the Sega Genesis (or Sega Mega Drive). This situation became known as the 'console wars', polarizing gamers for its duration.


In 1987, Nintendo had most everything they wanted. The NES owned the North American video game market, and the Famicom similarly ruled the Japanese market. Technology, however, would not allow Nintendo to become complacent. The first credible challenger to their Japanese domination was NEC's PC Engine, released that year, sporting a greatly improved '16-bit' graphics chip and a fast (8-bit) 6502 processor. Though not a true 16-bit system, its vivid colour and improved resolution were a marked improvement over the aging NES. Despite its success in Japan, though, the PC Engine flopped in North America when released as the creatively-spelled TurboGrafx 16, and was barely released in Europe.

In 1988, Sega released the follow-up to their moderately successful Master System, the Mega Drive. Unlike the 8-bit, 6502 driven NES and PC Engine, the Mega Drive was based on the legendary Motorola 68000 processor, heart of the the earliest Sun workstations, of the original Macintosh, the Amiga, and the Atari ST. Coupled with a Z80 sound/IO coprocessor, this lent the Mega Drive the computational power for detailed and fast graphics. Despite this, the Mega Drive made few inroads against the Famicom and PC Engine, but the writing was on the wall for Nintendo's first generation hardware.

While Sega was introducing the Mega Drive (renamed as the Sega Genesis due to trademark issues) to the North American market to great success in 1989, Nintendo was developing their response, which would become the Super Famicom. Like Apple in their advancement of the Apple II line to the IIgs, Nintendo chose to follow the 6502-derived processor of the NES with a version of the 65816 processor, the 5A22. This 16-bit processor was augmented with a 16-bit video chip supporting 128 sprites up to 64x64 in size, three background layers for parallax scrolling, and the impressive pseudo-3D Mode 7. The new system also included a powerful custom sound chip, the SPC-700, which brought wavetable synthesis to game consoles to dramatic effect.


With the 1990 release of the Super Famicom, Nintendo turned to combat the rapidly growing Sega Genesis in North America. Nintendo Power magazine and other Nintendo outlets relentlessly hyped the new system in the year preceding its North American release. Sega, meanwhile, was steadily growing in market share, and in 1991 they pulled an ace out of their sleeve.

Unlike Nintendo, who had a recognizable flagship mascot, Mario, whose games sold like wildfire and were synonymous with Nintendo quality, Sega had no comparable series. The Alex Kidd games were Sega's unofficial mascot series, but they never really caught on. (The poor quality of the titles probably contributed...) With the 1991 release of Sonic the Hedgehog, this all changed. Suddenly Sega had their own star, and one that made Nintendo's star look staid and conventional. Powered by the fast Genesis hardware, Sonic brought a new style of gaming to the platform genre, one based on pure, blazing speed.

Finally, in August 1991, Nintendo unleashed their new system to the primed-and-ready North American market. Released along with the system were three games designed to show off the capabilities of the new hardware: Super Mario World, F-Zero, and Pilotwings. Super Mario World was bundled with the system; it refined the free-roaming, non-linear platform world of Super Mario Brothers 3, using the new controller's additional capbilities to add to Mario's moves, and introducing Yoshi the dinosaur. The smooth, colourful graphics clearly represented an advance from the NES, and the soundtrack showed off the dynamic synthesis capabilities of the system by including a drum track only when Mario is riding Yoshi.

Both F-Zero and Pilotwings showed off the capabilities of Mode 7; the former using it to produce a zippy arcade racer, and the latter faking 3D graphics in a flight simulator. Pilotwings also showed off a capability of the SNES that would be a great advantage to Nintendo later in its lifetime; the capability to put custom processing chips into cartridges. The DSP chip in the Pilotwings cartridge was originally intended to be integrated into the system, but cost considerations moved it out into cartridges. Also available on launch was Nintendo's delightful port of SimCity.

A criticism of the SNES on launch was its lack of backward compatibility. The hardware similarities between the two systems had led people to expect NES compatibility, and the Genesis had compatibility with Master System games through an adapter. Also, once again, the North American SNES was compatible with the Japanese Super Famicom outside of physical incompatibilities in cartridge shape. Unlike with the NES, though, the two systems were electrically compatible, giving pass-through accessories like the Game Genie the added capability of international compatibility.


The following two years were the core of the 16-bit console wars. This was not just a platform vs. platform competition, like the recent Playstation 2/Xbox/GameCube console wars, but also a number of franchise vs. franchise wars. In 1991, Super Mario World battled with Sonic the Hedgehog, and Final Fantasy II battled with Phantasy Star III. Many developers had exclusivity agreements with one company or the other, and of course first-party games were always exclusive. Nintendo and their collaborators mined the NES legacy with "Super" editions of the older games: Super Castlevania, Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts, and Super R-Type were the first.

The floodgates opened up in 1992. Sega's agressive and agressively anti-Nintendo marketing campaign, combined with the blockbuster release of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 led the Genesis to outsell the SNES and Sega to capture 55% of the market. Nintendo countered with a number of classic follow-ups to classic games, beginning with The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and included Super Mario Kart kicking off the mascot kart racing genre. Sega released the Sega CD that fall to considerable (though mostly hype-driven) sales, and it seemed that Sega could do no wrong by the North American market.

Sega marketed themselves to a more 'mature' audience than Nintendo did (although 'mature' here seems to refer to 14 year old boys...), with more arcade games and sports games, as well as relaxed content policies next to Nintendo's strict 'family-friendly' policies. This policy cut both ways, of course, but it became a flashpoint upon the release of Mortal Kombat in 1993. The Genesis version carried the bloody violence of the arcade original intact, whereas the SNES version was censored. The Genesis version accordingly outsold the SNES version four to one. This event significantly affected policy at both companies. The political controversy over the game caused Sega to found one of the first video game ratings bodies, while Nintendo relaxed their censorship policies somewhat, allowing, for example, the SNES version of Mortal Kombat 2 to be released uncensored.

Not that Nintendo and company were otherwise idle in 1993, however. The Mega Man series finally entered the 16-bit era with Mega Man X. Squaresoft's classic action RPG Secret of Mana was released that year, and Nintendo's own StarFox introduced the SuperFX chip allowing for (crude) 3D polygonal graphics. Nintendo's tradition of enhanced remakes began with the release of Super Mario All-Stars, which would later be bundled on a single cart with Super Mario World.


The Super Nintendo's final ascendance over the Genesis in 1994-5 was due in equal parts to Nintendo's successful leveraging of the SNES's strengths and to Sega's blunders concerning Genesis add-ons. While Sega released a number of quality games for the Sega CD, including Sonic CD and the two Lunar games, it remained that the Sega CD's catalogue was a morass of gimmicks and soporific 'FMV games' that caused the intial rash of sales to cool quickly and stay low. This would cause Nintendo to call off their own plans for a CD add-on, to be developed in conjunction with Sony.

Nintendo's 1994 releases continued to increase their use of the SNES's capabilities. The large cartridge capacities possible with the SNES led to the release of Donkey Kong Country, with its impressive, fluid pre-rendered 3D graphics, as well as the massive Super Metroid. The flagship RPG series would battle again, as Final Fantasy III and Sega's Phantasy Star IV were both released that year. Sega brought their platformers to a new level with the split game Sonic the Hedgehog 3/Sonic and Knuckles. Nevertheless, Sega would close out 1994 with their biggest blunder of the Genesis era: the 32X

The 32X was concieved as a half-step to a new generation console that would be cheaper than an all-out new system. Released in time for Christmas 1994, it quickly became apparent that the accessory was rushed to market, perhaps to take advantage of the rapidly closing window before the release of the Sega Saturn. (The Japanese 32X was actually released after the Japanese Saturn.) Not only was the system understocked at launch (there were several times as many preorders as launch 32Xs), but there were widespread reports of malfunctions and mechanical failures, and the game library was rushed and substandard.

The final nail on the Genesis's coffin was the mid-1995 release of the Sega Saturn, pushed ahead to compete with Sony's PlayStation launch. Sega tried to maintain both the Saturn and the 32X in an ill-concieved attempt at market segmentation, but to developers the Saturn was the future of Sega and they succeeded in killing the 32X. Meanwhile, Nintendo was releasing more and more advanced games for the vanilla SNES, including the SuperFX-powered Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, Square's gorgeous time-travel RPG Chrono Trigger, and an improved Donkey Kong Country 2.


Towards the end of 1995, though the SNES had succeeded in defeating the Genesis, the writing was once again on the wall. A new generation of systems had begun, with the newcomer Sony Playstation, based off of technology developed for the ill-fated SNES CD-ROM, enjoying ever-greater sales, and the Sega Saturn making inroads in Japan. Not to mention, of course, Nintendo's own "Project Reality", soon to become the "Ultra 64" and then the Nintendo 64. Nevertheless, a final generation of SNES games was released that used the capacities of the system to the limit was released. The SA-1 chip provided powerful processing support to Super Mario RPG and Kirby Super Star, while the S-DD1 chip allowed Street Fighter Alpha 2 and the Japan-only Star Ocean to push the capacity of SNES cartridges for high-resolution graphics.

The Nintendo 64 was released in North America in September 1996, and accordingly the SNES went into maintenance mode. A few new games were released in 1997, including the cult classic Harvest Moon, along with a redesigned version of the system that was smaller and cheaper, similar to the NES II. This version of the SNES would continue to be produced until 1999, but no new games would be released for it. The time of 2D home consoles was over.


The Super Nintendo has gathered one of the largest emulation communities in the console emulation world. Unlike most other consoles, which have seen a succession of different emulators since the beginning of practical console emulation in the mid-1990s, SNES emulation has been dominated by two programs: the portable, slower Snes9x, and the x86-only fast ZSNES. Both of these emulators are open source, which helps to ensure that they include the latest emulation features, rather than being supplanted by new programs incorporating these features.

The success of SNES emulation has led to a considerale interest in SNES game fan translation. Final Fantasy V was famously translated back in 1997, and Seiken Densetsu 3 not much later. A plethora of other games have been translated into English from their original Japanese, the translators spurred on by the lack of an official localized version. Most of these games are RPGs, from the aforementioned pair to games like Bahamut Lagoon and Star Ocean, but other games have been translated, such as the gorgeous 1998-released Mega Man game Rockman and Forte.

These activities are too large for Nintendo to ignore; for the first few years of SNES emulation they fought considerable legal battles against emulation, and although they received a ruling that the emulators themselves were legal, the distribution of copyrighted ROM files remains illegal. Perhaps inspired by the success of the iTunes Music Store, Nintendo announced that their upcoming next-generation console, Project Revolution, will not only feature backwards-compatibility with the GameCube but also with the NES, SNES, and Nintendo 64, something that can only be achieved through emulation. If gamers' hopes on this are true, then the little grey box may be reborn onto television sets around the world soon enough.

Sources include:
E2 writeups above by mkb, amib, MrWorld, and malcster, plus writeups at: Sega Genesis, 32X, Sega CD, Mode 7, Nintendo Entertainment System, and TurboGrafx 16.
Wikipedia articles: Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Genesis, Sega CD, 16-bit era, List of SNES Games, SPC700, Sega 32X, Sega Saturn, and Super Famicom.
Living through the 16-bit console wars (on the winning side!)

This writeup is copyright 2005 by me and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs-NonCommercial licence. Details can be found at .

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