Nintendo SNES / Super Famicom (1990)

Super Nintendo Entertainment System was a 16 bit video-game console system. Some success franchises that made his footsteps in this system includes “Mario”, “Legend of Zelda”, “Metroid”, “Donkey Kong” and “Final Fantasy” Was released officially in Brazil by Playtronic.


  • CPU: Custom 16-bit - 65C816 at 3.58 MHz (Variable memory access speeds of 3.58, 2.68, and 1.79 MHz)
  • Co-processor: None (DSP and SuperFX were inside the cartridge of selected games )
  • RAM: 128 KB
  • Video RAM: 64KB
  • Color Palette: 32,768; 256 entry palette, writable during h-blank. up to 11-bit direct color mode.
  • Maximum Screen Resolution: 512 x 448 pixels (has unused 512 x 478 mode)
  • Max # of sprites: 128, 32 per scanline, limited to 34 tiles per line
  • Max and Min Sprite Size: 64 x 64 pixels; 8 x 8 pixels
  • Scrolling: Horizontal, Vertical, Diagonal
  • Sound channels: 8 ADPCM with 64 Kb Ram
  • Sound Processor: Sony SPC700 (“wavetable-like” music, near 16-bit sound quality playback(CD) & Q-Sound surround sound.)
  • Cart Size: 2Mbit - 128 Megabit Max. Tales of Phantasia and Star Ocean, at 48 Mbit, are the largest. Tengai Makyo Zero and Dai Kaiju Monogatari are each 40 Mbit.


MESS two regional variations of the SNES

  • snes [Super Nintendo Entertainment System (NTSC)]
  • snespal [Super Nintendo Entertainment System (PAL)]

Both drivers require a cart dump (in one of the following formats: .smc, .sfc, .fig, .swc) in the “cartridge” (cart) device to run snes emulation. You can launch emulation using, at command line

mess snes -cart "C:\pathtogame\gamename.smc"

SNES controller features a 8-way directional pad, 4 front action buttons (A, B, X and Y), 2 shoulder button (L and R), a Start button and a Select button. The default mapping in MESS is the following (slightly different, compared to standard layout in other drivers):

       (L)->A                          (R)->Z
      Up                                  (X)->S

  Left  Right                        (Y)->X     (A)->D
                 (Select)  (Start)  
     Down           5         1           (B)->C

Known Issues

Most games that don't use special chips should do something (the DSP-1 is supported; other chips are not yet).

Many popular games such as Super Metroid and Super Mario World are fully playable with sound and music.

To do

From the source:

  • Fix additional sound bugs
  • Emulate extra chips - SuperFX, DSP-2, SA-1 etc.
  • Add horizontal mosaic, hi-res, interlaced etc to video emulation.
  • Improve mode 7 now that byuu and anomie know the real formula.
  • Handle interleaved roms (maybe even multi-part roms, but how?)
  • Add correct wait-state support (will require core changes by Aaron Giles).

History and Trivia

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System, also known as Super Nintendo, Super NES or SNES, was Nintendo's 16-bit follow-up system to their 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. It was released by Nintendo in North America, Brazil, Europe, and Australia. In Japan and South-East Asia, the equivalent to the SNES is known as the Super Famicom. In South Korea, it is known as the Super Comboy and was distributed by Hyundai Electronics. Although each system is essentially the same, due to the different designs, each system can only play the carts specifically made for its system.

The SNES was a tremendous improvement over the original NES. The SNES featured higher quality graphics, brighter colors, bigger characters with more detail, revolutionary capabilities in scaling and rotating graphics (famous Mode 7) and high quality stereo sound.

Masayuki Uemura, already responsible of the Famicom design, was put in charge of the design of the new console and the Super Famicom was released in Japan on November 21, 1990. It was an instant phenomenal blockbuster, with Nintendo's initial shipment of 300,000 units quickly sold out within hours. The system was so phenomenally popular that it was said to have attracted the attention of the Yakuza, leading to the decision to ship the devices at night in order to avoid robbery.

In August of 1991, the Super Famicom was released in North America with a newly redesigned case and a brand new name: Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The release was an exciting surprise for North American gamers, since Nintendo had been advertising a launch date of September 9. The original system came packaged with the console, two controllers and the game “Super Mario World” along with the necessary cables to connect the system to the television. The SNES was released in the United Kingdom and Ireland in April 1992, with a German release following a few weeks later. The PAL Region versions of the console looked identical to the Japanese Super Famicom, except for labeling and the length of the joypad leads.

SNES proved to be a global success for Nintendo, despite increased competition from Sega MegaDrive console (released in North America as the Genesis) and NEC PC Engine (known in North America as the TurboGrafx-16). Part of its success was probably due to the massive support from Capcom, Konami, Tecmo, Square Co. Ltd., Koei, and Enix, already partner of Nintendo in the production of many Famicom/NES titles.

By 1996, the 16-bit era of gaming had ended, and a new generation of consoles, including Nintendo's own Nintendo 64, caused the popularity of the SNES to wane. In October 1997, Nintendo released a redesigned SNES 2 in North America (which included the pack-in game “Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island”). Like the earlier NES 2, the new model was designed to be slimmer and lighter than its predecessor but lacked S-Video and RGB output, and would prove to be among the last major SNES-related releases in America. A similar redesigned Super Famicom Jr. was released in Japan around the same time.

Nintendo of America ceased production of the SNES in 1999, slightly over a year after releasing its last first party game, “Kirby's Dream Land 3”, in November 1997. The last SNES title to see release in the US was a version of “Frogger”, released in the summer of 1998. In Japan, the Super Famicom continued to be produced until September 2003 and new games were produced until the year 2000.


A number of peripherals were released to add functionalities to the SNES.

  • Super Scope: this was a light gun similar to the NES Zapper (though the Super Scope featured wireless capabilities) and the
  • Super Advantage: this was an arcade-style joystick with adjustable turbo settings akin to the NES Advantage.
  • SNES Mouse: released by Nintendo in conjunction with its “Mario Paint” title.
  • Super Multitap: multiplayer adapter released by Hudson Soft (licensed by Nintendo) for use with its popular series of Bomberman games. It allowed support for up to eight players, although probably the only game to support 8 players is “Dino Dini's Soccer”.
  • BatterUP: baseball bat controller, it provided another innovative means of game-playing for SNES gamers.
  • Super Game Boy: this was an adapter cartridge allowing games designed for Nintendo's portable Game Boy system to be played on the SNES. The Super Game Boy touted a number of feature enhancements over the Game Boy: color support (in reality, merely the ability to substitute a different color palette: the games themselves were still limited to four colors) and custom screen borders.
  • Game Genie / Pro Action Replay: third party cheat devices produced by Galoob and Datel repectively.
  • Satellaview: this was a modem which attached to the Super Famicom's expansion port and connected to the St. GIGA satellite radio station. Users of the Satellaview could download gaming news and specially designed games, which were frequently either remakes of or sequels to older Famicom titles, released in installments. Satellaview signals were broadcast from April 23, 1995 through June 30, 2000.
  • XBAND: relatively short-lived service in the United States, similar to Satellaview, it allowed users to connect to a network via a dial-up modem to compete against other players around the country.

During the SNES's life, Nintendo contracted with two different companies to develop a CD-ROM-based peripheral for the console to compete with Sega's CD-ROM based addon, Sega CD. Ultimately, negotiations with both Sony and Philips fell through, and the two companies went on to develop their own consoles based on their initial dealings with Nintendo (the PlayStation and the CD-i respectively), Philips also gaining the right to release a series of CD-i titles based on popular Nintendo franchises.

Enhancement chips

As part of the overall plan for the SNES/SFC, 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. Rather than require a complicated upgrade procedure found in the IBM PC Compatible world of computers, these certain enhancement chips were included inside the plug-in game cartridges themselves if needed for a specific game. This is most often characterized by an extra set of small leads under the cartridge.

  • Super FX: Developed by Argonaut Software, the Super FX chip is a supplemental RISC CPU that was included in certain game cartridges to perform functions that the main CPU could not feasibly do. The chip was primarily used to create 3D game worlds made with polygons, texture mapping and light source shading. Some 3D game carts that this chip can be found in are “Star Fox”, “Doom”, “Dirt Trax FX”, “Stunt Race FX”, “Vortex”, and “Winter Gold”. The chip however could also be used to enhance 2D games such as “Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island”. This chip went through three revisions, first starting out as a Chip-on-Board epoxy glob-top in the earliest “Star Fox” cartridges, labeled as Mario Chip-1. Within a year, the chip was given a more conventional surface-mount package and labeled as the Super FX GSU-1, which was used in various games. Finally, the design was tweaked to become the Super FX GSU-2 chip, which had a larger address bus and was manufactured with an improved semiconductor process to allow it to reach its target clock speed of 21 MHz. Although the pinouts and maximum clock speed differ, the instruction set for the Mario Chip-1, FX 1, and FX 2 chips are identical. “Star Fox 2”, “Comanche”, and “FX Fighter”, all games designed to take advantage of the increased power of the Super FX GSU-2, were developed but never released for the SNES/SFC, disappointing many followers of the technology at the time.
  • DSP-1: This fixed-point Digital Signal Processor chip was created to allow programmers to generate more enhanced Mode 7 rotation and scaling effects in their games, and to perform very fast vector-based calculations. The chip can be found most notably in “Pilotwings” and “Super Mario Kart”, as well as a few other games. Later revisions of the chip, the 1A and 1B, were functionally the same but included bugfixes in their internal math calculations.
  • DSP-2: A bitmap scaling and bitplane conversion chip used only in one game cartridge, Atari's port of “Dungeon Master” to the SNES console.
  • DSP-3: An assistant chip used only in one Japanese game for the Super Famicom titled “SD Gundam GX”. This turn-based strategy game was advertised at the time as being so vast it needed a coprocessor to calculate the computer opponent's next move.
  • DSP-4: A DSP used in only one game cartridge, “Top Gear 3000”. It primarily helped out with drawing the race track, especially during the times that the track branched into multiple paths, which was a unique feature for a game of this type on the SNES.
  • S-DD1 chip : Other than its normal processing and copy protection duties, this chip was primarily a graphics decompression chip. This allowed games to be bigger than normal by compressing the graphics data. Games that used this chip were “Street Fighter Alpha 2” and “Star Ocean”. The game developers found it to be cheaper to add a specialized decompression chip rather than to add extra ROM space.
  • Cx4 chip: A chip created by Capcom. This chip was used to handle the wireframe effects, perform more general trigonometric calculations, and to help out with sprite positioning and rotation. The chip was used in “Mega Man X2” and “Mega Man X3”.
  • SA-1 chip: This is an ASIC chipset with a 65c816 8/16-bit processor core, clocked at 10 MHz, containing some extra circuitry specified by Nintendo, including some fast RAM, a memory mapper, DMA, several programmable timers, and the region lockout chip. The SA-1 was a multipurpose chip that allowed games such as “Kirby Super Star”, “Kirby's Dream Land 3”, and “Super Mario RPG” to stay competitive in the changing marketplace during the aging SNES/SFC's final years.
  • SPC7110 chip: A data decompression chip used solely by Hudson in a few games.
  • OBC1: An object/sprite manipulation chip used exclusively in the title “Metal Combat: Falcon's Revenge”, AKA “Battleclash 2”.
  • ST010: A chip created by Seta for general functions and handling computer cars' AI in their “F1 ROC II: Race of Champions” title. Generally thought to have been a single microcontroller unit with different mask ROMs on it for several Seta chips, two of which were used on SNES carts and at least one used on arcade systems.
  • ST011: A chip created by Seta for mostly AI functions in their “Hayazashi Nidan Morita Shougi” title. Likely uses the same microcontroller core as the ST010.
  • ST018: A chip created by Seta for as-of-yet unknown (but probably AI related) functions in their “Hayazashi Nidan Morita Shougi 2” title. Likely does NOT use the same core as the other two Seta chips due to a changed pin count.
  • S-RTC: A real-time clock chip used in one title, “Dai Kaiju Monogatari 2”.
  • X-RTC?: A slightly different real-time clock chip used only in Hudson's “Far East of Eden Zero” cart, which also used an SPC7110 chip.
  • SGB CPU chip: This chip was used only inside the Super Game Boy peripheral and possessed a core identical to the CPU in a regular handheld Game Boy. Because the Super Nintendo was not powerful enough to use software emulation to simulate the Game Boy, circuitry equivalent to an entire Game Boy had to sit inside of the cartridge. The SGB CPU ran the main program from the inserted Game Boy cartridge, but relied upon the host Super Nintendo system to write to memory mapped registers the state of the gamepad buttons and to copy out the video frame buffer. Audio from the SGB CPU was passed along two pins on the SNES cartridge connector to be mixed with the SNES audio output.
  • MegaChips MX15001TFC: A chip made exclusively for Nintendo Power cartridges. The cartridges were equipped with flash ROMs instead of mask ROMs. They were designed to be able to be inserted into specialised kiosks where the user was able to copy games to their cartridge for a fee. The chip managed communication from the kiosks which included downloading the game data from the kiosk, and writing to the flash chips in the appropriate area. The chip also allowed the cartridge to contain several games which could be selected from an initial menu and function as if it were running from its normal cartridge.

(info from Wikipedia, FAQs, etc.)

Other Emulators

(in roughly decreasing order of accuracy)