Super Nintendo Entertainment System

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Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Super Famicom logo.svg  SNES logo.svg
Super Famicom logo.svg  Nintendo Super Famicom logo.svg
Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Manufacturer Nintendo
Type stationary game console
generation fourth generation of consoles
JapanJapan November 21, 1990
United StatesUnited States August 13, 1991
EuropeEurope April 11, 1992 August 15, 1992
Main processor 16-bit Ricoh 5A22 ( 65C816 core) 3.58 MHz
Graphics processor 2 PPU
Storage media Modules
Controller SNES controller
Online service Satellaview (only in Japan)
Units sold approx. 49.10 million

(As of June 30, 2016)

Most successful game Super Mario World (approx. 29.61 million units sold)
predecessor Nintendo Entertainment System
successor Nintendo 64

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (mostly abbreviated as Super Nintendo , Super NES , Super-NES or SNES ; orig. Japaneseス ー パ ー フ ァ ミ コ ンSūpā Famikon or Super Famicom , abbreviated SFC ) is a stationary 16-bit game console from the Japanese company Nintendo . It is the company's second stationary game console to be released worldwide, and its controller, the SNES controller , introduced the shoulder buttons, which henceforth became the standard on all subsequent gamepads . The Super Nintendo Entertainment System was first released on November 21, 1990 in Japan, then on August 13, 1991 in North America and finally on April 11, 1992 in Europe . The system was available in Germany from August 15, 1992. The Super Nintendo Entertainment System is the predecessor of the Nintendo 64 (N64) and the successor to the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).



The successor to the NES ( called Famicom in Japan ) appeared in Japan in November 1990 under the name Super Famicom ( Super Fami ly Com puter); in September 1991 in the USA and in April 1992 in Europe (in Germany only in August 1992). The American version was modified in its design. The introductory price in Germany was 329 DM (equivalent to around 257 € today), including the game Super Mario World ; About three months after the introduction, the price was reduced to 299 DM (equivalent to about 234 € today). Further SNES package offers followed later, mostly containing more up-to-date games and / or two controllers.

The comparatively weak 65C816 main processor, which worked with a maximum clock frequency of 3.58 MHz, was named as the biggest point of criticism when the SNES was introduced in Japan . The advantage of this slow processor was a planned downward compatibility with the NES , but this function was not implemented, although in the summer before the Japanese release a prototype was presented at a trade fair that supported NES games. The competitor console called Sega Mega Drive had a much more powerful main processor ( Motorola 68000 clocked at 7.67 MHz), which was revealed to the consumer in games like Super R-Type or Gradius III , as these sometimes demanded more from the SNES than what it could do was able to. However, the developers managed to come to terms with the weak processor of the SNES.

In the course of the marketing, games also appeared on whose modules additional processors - such as the DSP - or the SuperFX chip - were applied, with the help of which simple 3D graphics could be displayed. However, the focus back then was mainly on 2D games. Other chips offloaded the main processor or did certain calculations that would normally have slowed the system down. Often, the built-in modules additional chips were also many times more powerful than the actual SNES - Hardware .

Different module shapes: While the European and Japanese SNES modules (below) had a rounded housing, the modules for the North American SNES version (above) were angular and slightly wider (135 by 128 mm).

As with the predecessor, the SNES games were linked to the respective version of the console (USA, Europe, Japan) with the help of a country code . Nevertheless, there were various methods of circumventing this dependency, for example by technically modifying the console or by using an adapter (e.g. Action Replay ). Success was not guaranteed, and the manufacturers soon resisted by querying the TV standard ( NTSC / PAL ). Here, too, however, modernized adapters appeared which could also circumvent this method (such as the Fire adapter or the Super Key adapter ).

Towards the end of the SNES era, the layout of the mainboard was changed, while the SNES remained the same externally. The mainboard shrank by 20 percent and the CPU and the two PPUs were combined in one chip, the so-called CPUN-A.

The SNES was produced until 1998 and has been sold around 49 million times worldwide. The most recently built consoles, which were named SNES 2 and Super Famicom Junior and were sold exclusively in North America and Japan from 1997 for 99 dollars and 7800 yen, had a smaller housing and were no longer RGB capable, which was only possible reactivated by a renovation. In June 1996, the official successor, the Nintendo 64 , appeared in Japan . A few months later, Nintendo's 64-bit game consoles came out on the American and European markets.

Original Japanese SNES
Original US SNES
Original Europe SNES
Super Famicom Jr.
Super Famicom Jr.
Japanese Super Famicom
North American Super NES
PAL Super-NES (Europe / Australia)
Super Famicom Jr.
North American Super-NES in a new design

Start of marketing

SNES controller (European version): In addition to the control pad and two function buttons ( Start and Select ), the SNES gamepad had four action buttons and two shoulder buttons.

The SNES was Nintendo's necessary counterpart to Sega's Mega Drive . The predecessor NES was very successful around the world and had overall been able to prevail against the competing Sega Master system and the Atari 7800 . SEGA's 8-bit console was only able to beat Nintendo in Europe and South America . In the years that followed, SEGA released the 16-bit SEGA Mega Drive console , which was renamed Genesis in the USA for licensing reasons . Furthermore, NEC also developed into a competitor with its more powerful 8-bit console PC Engine . The NES was technically inferior to both rivals, but continued to sell well with the Game Boy , so the already developed SNES was not released immediately. When it was launched in the US, the Mega Drive initially strengthened due to strategic errors on the part of Nintendo. While Sega achieved 55% of hardware sales in North America in 1994, the SNES sold better from 1995 onwards. Overall, at the end of their term, both consoles were running almost equally in the USA. In the long term, the SNES was just able to beat the Mega Drive with around 18.5 million units with around 20 million units . SEGA's earlier switch to a new generation of consoles in the west in 1995 was beneficial, as Nintendo continued to support the platform until the release of its own successor console at the end of 1996. The situation in Europe was similarly balanced, with the Mega Drive as the market leader in Great Britain and the SNES as the leader in Germany. On the Japanese market, Nintendo was able to defend its dominant position and left the competition far behind. In terms of marketing in South America, SEGA was able to gain significantly higher market shares thanks to the Tec Toy licensee . This went down in history as the first balanced console war.


A few years after the release of the competitors Mega Drive and Super Nintendo , SEGA saw another defeat. SEGA tried to stop this trend with additional expansions such as the Mega-CD or the 32X . Mega-CD was a CD-ROM extension for the Mega Drive , which was unsuccessful due to its high price and lack of quality software. Nintendo's answer to the mega-CD was to be the Super-CD extension, which was to be developed and distributed together with Sony , as was the case with the SNES sound chip SPC700 before . However, since Sony this time insisted on obtaining exclusive manufacturing and distribution rights for a possible combination of SNES and Super CD console, as well as the Nintendo figures, Nintendo ended the cooperation and instead concluded a contract with Philips , which a few months later was also canceled again. Annoyed by Nintendo's behavior, Sony decided to use the knowledge it had acquired about the Super CD expansion to develop its own game console, the PlayStation .

End of marketing

At the end of 1994 the PlayStation and the SEGA Saturn appeared in Japan. Both were technically far superior to the SNES . In addition, the new consoles now used CD-ROMs as data carriers as standard, which were not only cheaper than modules, but also offered 150 to 1200 times the storage capacity. As a result, specialist magazines spoke of the end of the SNES era, as the architecture of the new consoles enabled the fluid display of detailed 3D graphics, something that until then could only be implemented on elite graphics workstations. The term next-gen console was coined during this time and is still used today.

Since the development of the in-house console Ultra 64 (later renamed Nintendo 64 ) was seriously delayed, Nintendo continued to try to keep the SNES competitive with high-quality graphics and games such as Donkey Kong Country or Yoshi's Island . Official game releases continued until 1998 (two years after the Nintendo 64 console was introduced). The last games released in Europe for the SNES include the Harvest Moon simulation , FIFA 98 and the Timon & Pumbaa's Jungle Games collection .

A total of around 1,350 licensed games were published for the SNES , but only a third of them were marketed internationally. Around 530 Super Nintendo titles have been published in Europe. Almost every tenth family in North America owned an SNES; in Japan it was around 40 percent of all households.

Technical characteristics


Motherboard of a North American Super Nintendo console
  • CPU : 16-bit processor Ricoh 5A22 compatible with 65816 , clocked with max. 3.579545 MHz (NTSC) or 3.546895 MHz (PAL). Contains a programmable DMA controller for 8 DMA channels and a selectable HDMA special mode for special graphic effects (similar to the Amiga Copper).
  • Graphics processors : 2 PPU chips (PPU = Picture Processing Unit), 15 bit color depth (32768 colors)
  • Memory : 128 KB RAM , 64 KB of graphics memory (32 KB per PPU), 2 to 32 Mbit Cartridge - ROM (by special address decoder extensible, eg 48 Mbps in. Star Ocean and Tales of Phantasia )
  • Bus system : 8-bit data bus, 24-bit address bus A (WRAM, plug-in module), 8-bit address bus B (WRAM, PPU1, PPU2, APU, plug-in module, expansion port)
  • Resolution : 224 (NTSC) or 239 (PAL) picture lines in progressive mode, 448 or 478 lines in interlaced mode. 256 pixels per line in standard mode, 512 in "high-res" mode.
  • Color depth : 15-bit color palette, theoretically all colors can be displayed at the same time (using the Color Add / Subtract mode). Otherwise up to 256 colors from 4096 (mode 7).
  • Backgrounds : Up to 4 independently scrollable tilemap graphic layers (playfields), color add / subtract mode (to combine the graphic layers for transparency effects between the individual layers and sprites), 8 graphic modes with different color depths and number of layers, mode 7 allows three-dimensional zooming , Rotating and distorting a graphic layer. Tilting the graphics was not possible from the start, but was made possible by helping DSP chips in some modules.
  • Sprites : 128 hardware sprites , 16 colors per sprite (one of them transparent), sprite sizes from 8 × 8 to 64 × 64 pixels, max. 32 sprites per line, max. 34 sprite tiles (8 × 8 pixels) per line.
  • Dimensions : 200 mm × 72 mm × 242 mm
  • Video signal : RF, composite, RGB, S-video
  • Sound chip : 8-bit Sony SPC700 CPU with connected sound DSP,
    • 64 KB RAM,
    • S-DSP: 8 × 16 bit stereo sound channels (up to 32 kHz sampling rate),
    • Sample decompression via BRR (bit rate reduction)
    • ADSR waveform for each voice, programmable FIR filter for reverb / echo effects.
  • Other properties : Hardware multiplication and division.


Partial yellowing of the plastic housing of a US SNES console, the gray plastic on the module insert is unaffected

The ABS plastic , which was used in older versions of the US SNES console, is particularly sensitive to oxidation caused by atmospheric oxygen, possibly due to a lack of plastic additives . Due to the particularly light gray tone of the SNES, this led to a rapid yellowing effect. If an SNES was assembled from plastic parts of different compositions, this could lead to a two-tone effect.


Almost all successful franchises of the NES era were also sold successfully at the SNES . The best-selling game was Super Mario World . Other extremely successful games were The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past , Donkey Kong Country , Street Fighter II , Super Metroid , Mega Man 7 , Secret of Mana and Super Mario Kart as well as the Final Fantasy Part IV, which was not released in Europe , V and VI and Chrono Trigger from Square . These titles still enjoy a high degree of popularity among aficionados today.

See also

Web links

Commons : Super Famicom / Super Nintendo Entertainment System  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Hardware and Software Sales Units. Nintendo, accessed August 14, 2015 .
  2. Evolution of the Game Pad ( Memento from December 13, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  3. Sock Master's Game Console Controller Family Tree ( Memento from October 23, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  4. Super Nintendo. Accessed April 24, 2020 (German).
  5. ^ Michael Pachter: Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc; Why the Next Generation Will Be as Big as Ever. In: Wedbush Equity Research. Wedbush, February 11, 2014, accessed November 12, 2016 .
  6. ^ Blake J. Harris: Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation . Dey Street Books, 2014, ISBN 0-06-227669-7 , pp. 576 .
  7. ^ Winnie Forster: Game consoles and home computers: 256 devices from 1972 - 2002 . Gameplan Verlag, Utting 2002, ISBN 978-3-00-010658-3 , p. 80 .
  8. Benj Edwards: Why Super Nintendos Lose Their Color: Plastic Discoloration in Classic Machines. Vintage Computing and Gaming, January 12, 2007, accessed April 12, 2017 .