The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (also known as Super Nintendo, Super NES, or SNES) is a 16-bit video game console that was released between 1990 and 1993 by Nintendo as a follow-up to their extremely successful Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) of the 1980s. First released on 21 November 1990 in Japan under the name Super Famicom (スーパーファミコン), or SFC (スーファミ) for short,[1] the system introduced advanced graphics and sound capabilities to the gaming industry and was able to successfully outperform other consoles of the time. Additionally, development of a variety of enhancement chips (which were integrated on game circuit boards) helped it to maintain a competitive market-share for quite a number of years. The Super Nintendo was a global success, becoming the best-selling console of the 16-bit era despite its relatively late start and the fierce competition it faced in North America from Sega's Genesis console.

Technical specifications Edit

The Super Nintendo's technical design incorporates comparatively powerful graphics and sound co-processors that in the early 1990s allowed impressive tiling and "Mode 7" texture-mapping effects, many times more colors, and audio quality that would represent a massive advance over that of the competition.[2] To add to this, individual game cartridges could supply further custom enhancement chips as required by the games.


Main article: Satellaview


Main article: Satellaview emulation

Like the NES before it, the SNES has retained interest among its fans even following its decline in the marketplace. It has continued to thrive on the second-hand market and its games remain accessible to players even without the physical system via console emulation. Just as the NES has enjoyed a renaissance with newer generations of gamers resorting to virtual versions of the classic systems to experience classic games due to the unavailability of the physical systems on the market, the SNES has seen parallel or perhaps slightly delayed emulation support. The level of fan involvement with SNES emulations has led to the creation of a small handful of widely respected and broadly utilized emulators and ultimately to the innovations of ROM hackers seeking to expand games through translations from one language to another, the addition of functions not included in the original, the restoration of games existing only in unplayable software form (e.g. Satellaview ROMs on 8M Memory Packs), and the even the creation of entirely new 16-bit games. Emulation and particularly the distribution of ROM images is generally regarded by Nintendo as an illegal infringement of its copyrights to the games as works of corporate authorship. This has in turn led to a lively debate in gaming circles about the public policy behind copyright protection, and whether or not the innovation-stifling enforcement of copyrights by copyright holders that are not exercising their rights to profit financially from the copyrighted material is justifiable under basic rationales for the existence of copyrights in the first place.


Super Nintendo emulation projects first began with the release of VSMC in 1994. By 1996, the Super Pasofami overtook VSMC in popularity to became the SNES emulator with the broadest capacity to reproduce the internal workings of the SNES on modern personal computers when paired with a ROM image (a bit-for-bit copy of an SNES cartridge's program code).[3] During that time, two less popular competing emulation projects—Snes96 and Snes97—merged to form a new initiative entitled Snes9x.[4]

As the illegal trade of SNES ROM images began to blossom in late 1996 alongside similar trade in NES ROMS, developments in online culture such as the widespread use of bulletin board systems (BBSes) around the country and the hacktivist notions of "Freedom of Information" allowed increased accessibility to the games for enthusiasts. Despite this, ROM images (particularly those of lesser well-known or more unpopular games) were frequently hard to come by. This led to the avid collection of ROMs by some gamers in a manner comparable to commercial collectors on the secondary markets.

In 1997, Bloodlust Software released its revolutionary NES emulator, Nesticle to much critical acclaim. Nesticle's primary advantage over contemporary NES emulators was its compactness, stability (as compared to the early emulators known for frequent beplaguement by computer bugs), and its breadth of compatibility with ROM images (as compared to early emulators some of which had been designed to play only one specific game). In response to this,[5] in the same year SNES enthusiasts began programming an emulator named ZSNES.[6] On release, the ZSNES came with a variety of built-in functions such as "save states" which allow the player to save his or her progress at an exact spot in the game and resume later at that exact spot. These functions fundamentally changed the gaming experience for players, and enabled gamers who had been incapable of making progress in old games to see new areas and to finally "beat" games that they had previously come to regard as "impossible." Apart from drawing new players, the successes of Nesticle, Snes9X, and ZSNES had the additional effect of encouraging new programmers to the emulation scene. Consequently, both Snes9X and ZSNES remain among the best-known SNES emulators today, with their most recent versions having been compiled in 2007.[7]

The SNES "revival" has quieted to a degree since the year 2000, as the secondhand market has begun to dry up or charge collector's prices and, with some notable exceptions, finding ROM images no longer represents the challenge it has in the past. There is also a strong independent community of developers dedicated to producing new demos and games for the SNES emulators and on occasion for the SNES hardware itself.

Most recently there has been a push for "exact emulation"[8] begun in 2003 by members of both the Snes9x and ZSNES teams and others,[9] and currently led by the development of the bsnes emulator.[10]

Emulation of the SNES is now available on handheld units, such as the iPhone, Sony's PlayStation Portable (PSP),[11] the Nintendo DS,[12] Game Boy Advance,[13] the Gizmondo,[14] and the GP2X by GamePark Holdings,[15] as well as a number of PDAs.[16] Nintendo's Virtual Console service for the Wii marks the introduction of officially sanctioned SNES emulation.


The response to emulation by Nintendo has been markedly negative, with Nintendo becoming one of the most vocal opponents of ROM image trading. Nintendo and its legal staff have claimed that ROM trading represents flagrant copyright infringement of their software (termed "software piracy").[17] This has led to a vigorous debate online where libertarian-minded proponents of ROM image trading argue that the discontinuance of SNES system and cartridge production means that emulation provides the only concrete method of future preservation for many classic games (outside of their more-fragile cartridge formats)[18] Further support for innovative ROM alterations draw from the lack of translocation of foreign imports.[18] Indeed, it was as a direct result of emulation capabilities that the SNES became one of the first systems to attract the attention of amateur not-for-profit fan translators: Final Fantasy V was the first major work of fan translation, and was completed in 1997.[3][19]

Arguments relating to the 1st Amendment Freedom of Speech rights of the original authors of the game and of players are largely unsuccessful as the copyright of a game (as a "work for hire") is considered under the Copyright Act of 1976 to be in the possession of the corporate employer[20] (this is known as the Doctrine of Corporate Authorship). More successful arguments have been made, however, relating to the right of the owner of the respective game to make a personal backup for reasons of space shifting, and by public policy appeals to innovation attending simple fan translations and the development of homebrew games for the system[21] In any case, despite Nintendo's attempts to stop the proliferation of such projects, emulators and ROM files continue to be widely available on the Internet.


The Super Nintendo has been considered as the embodiment of the "Golden Age of video games", with fans emphasizing its many groundbreaking games and the apparent focus on gameplay over graphics and technical gimmicks.[22] Critics of the system, however, characterize such claims as merely nostalgic romanticism, and instead suggest that the system was nothing more than another inevitable step in the evolution of video game technology.[23]

Whatever the case, market data demonstrate that the Super Nintendo remained popular well into the 32-bit era, and although Nintendo's last licensed game for the system (Frogger) was released as long ago as 1998, the system continues to this day to be popular among fans, collectors, retro gamers, and emulation enthusiasts, some of whom are still making "homebrew" ROMs.

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. The name "Super Famicom" in turn represented Nintendo's official adoption of the abbreviated name of its predecessor console, the Nintendo Family Computer (known simply as the Famicom).
  2. Parish, Jeremy. PS1 10th Anniversary retrospective. 6 September 2005. Retrieved 2007-05-27.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Pettus, Sam. The History of Emulation. 24 October 1999. Retrieved 2007-07-18.
  4. (2007-05-01) Snes9x readme.txt v1.51. Snes9x. Snes9x. Retrieved on 2007-07-03.
  5. Official Bloodlust Software NESticle Page. Bloodlust Software. Retrieved 2006-02-12.
  6. ZSNES v1.51 Documentation. ZSNES. Retrieved 2007-07-16.
  7. 30 April 2007 for Snex9X v1.51; 24 January 2007 for ZSNES v1.51
  8. As opposed to emulation "good enough" for most purposes, exact emulation facilitates the use of the emulator for homebrew game development and documents the operation of the hardware against such time as all existing consoles cease functioning.
  9. Snes9x Development Forum. Snes9x forums 2002-02-28 – 2004-05-24. Archived 2007-05-14. Retrieved 2007-06-13.
  10. bsnes Dev Talk. ZSNES Forums. Retrieved 2008-05-27.
  11. Emulators for PSP – Snes. PSP News. DCEmu. Retrieved 2007-09-09. --- Emulators listed include Ruka's Unofficial Snes9xTYL, Snes9x PSP, Snes9x Optimised, SnesPSP_TYL, UoSnesPSP_TYL, UoSnes9x PSP, and UoSnes9x PD.
  12. Emulators for DS – Snes. DS News. DCEmu. Retrieved 2007-09-09. --- Emulators listed include SnesDS, SNEmulDS, and SnezziDS.
  13. Emulators 4 GBA – Snes. GBA News. DCEmu. Retrieved 2007-09-09. --- Emulators listed include Snes Advance, Snes Advance Hacks, Snes Advance SnesPad Version, and Snezziboy.
  14. Gizmondo Section – Snes. Alternative Handheld Emulation. DCEmu. Retrieved 2007-09-09. --- Emulators listed include GizSnes.
  15. Emulators for GP2x – Super Nintendo. GP2x News. DCEmu. Retrieved 2007-09-09. --- Emulators listed include PocketSnes, SnesGP2X, SquidgeSnes, and SquidgeSnes Hack.
  16. Ruotsalainen, Werner. The definitive guide to playing SNES games on Windows Mobile (and Symbian). Expert Blogs. Smartphone & Pocket PC Magazine. 10 May 2007. Retrieved 2009-02-12. --- Emulators listed include MorphGear, Snes9xJ4u, Snes9xPPC, and numerous forks of PocketSNES.
  17. Legal Information (Copyrights, Emulators, ROMs, etc.). Nintendo. Retrieved 2006-02-12.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Pettus, Sam. Emulation: Right or Wrong? version 1.033. EmulationHQ. Retrieved 12 February 2006.
  19. Spinner 8. Final Fantasy V. Retrieved 2007-05-12.
  20. 17 U.S.C. §101.
  21. Cochems, Chuck. The Question of ROMs. EmuFAQ Addendum (Sam Pettus). 11 March 2000. Retreived 2007-06-14.
  22. Liedholm, Mattias. The Golden Era. Nintendo Land. Archived 2007-03-08. Retrieved 2005-02-01.
  23. Silent Axis. The Golden era — Just for the nostalgics? Nintendo Land. Archived 2007-08-07. Retrieved 2005-09-09.
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