Super Nintendo Entertainment System

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Super Nintendo Entertainment SystemSuper Famicom
Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Manufacturer Nintendo
Type Home Console
Generation Fourth
Lifespan 1990 - 2000
CPU 16-bit 65c816 Ricoh 5A22
Media Cartridge
Controllers Two
Online Service Satellaview (Japan only)
Release Date JP November 21, 1990
US August 13, 1991
EU April 11, 1992
Units Sold 49.10 million
Top Game Super Mario World
Predecessor Nintendo Entertainment System
Successor Nintendo 64

The Super Nintendo is Nintendo's second home console. Known as Super Famicom in Japan and Super Comboy in South Korea, the Super Nintendo has been more of an international success than the Nintendo Entertainment System. Though it didn't sell as well as the NES in Japan and America, it is the best-selling console of the 16-Bit era.




As the original NES was at the height of it's popularity, companies were launching competing consoles. Notably, NEC released the PC Engine(TurboGrafx-16 in America) in 1987 and SEGA released the Mega Drive (Genesis in America) the following year. Initially, Nintendo's executives showed little interest in a new system, but as they began losing part of the market, they reconsidered. Masayuki Uemura was once again in charge of developing a new system.

The Super Famicom was released on November 21, 1990 for 25,000 yen(US$210). It was incredibly popular and Nintendo's initial 300,000 units were sold out in hours. It is said that the system was so popular that Nintendo had to ship the units at night to stop the Yakuza from stealing them. In Japan, Nintendo easily outsold the competition, gaining 85% of the market, thanks, in part, to key third-party developers.

The Super Famicom lasted longer in Japan than in any other regions. Around 1997, a redesigned version called the Super Famicom Jr. was released. New games were produced until 2000 and the console itself continued production until September 2003.


In August of 1991, the Super Nintendo was released in America. It sold for US$199.99 and came with Super Mario World packed in.

Unlike in Japan, the Super Nintendo was not an instant success in America. Many people had already bought a SEGA Genesis and didn't necessarily want two 16-bit consoles. Further hurting the Super Nintendo was the lack of backward compatibility as was found in the SEGA Genesis and the Atari 7800.

Further hurting the Super Nintendo was the blue collar anti-Japan sentiment that was growing in America. Nintendo was accused of trying to promote the sale of Japanese televisions because the Super Nintendo didn't work correctly with several brands of American television. Nintendo fixed all units for free, but the theory stood for years.

By 1996, the Super Nintendo's popularity began to wane as the 32-bit era of video games began and the Nintendo 64 was released. In October 1997, the redesigned SNES 2 was released. It sold for US$99 and came with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island. Near the end of the Super Nintendo's life cycle, the game was changed to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Nintendo of America continued production of the Super Nintendo until 1999, shortly after the release of the Super Nintendo's last game, Kirby's Dream Land 3.


The Super Nintendo was first released in the United Kingdom and Ireland in April of 1992 for 150 pounds. A German release followed a few weeks later. The European Super Nintendo looked almost identical to Japan's Super Famicom.

Like in America, the Super Nintendo wasn't an overnight hit in Europe. The SEGA Mega Drive was popular in Europe. Further complicating the problem is that the SEGA Master System was very popular in and the Mega Drive could play Mega Drive games.

In the end, Nintendo never managed to outsell the Mega Drive in Europe, though they sold more Super Nintendo's than they did NESs.

Later Years

Like the NES, the Super Nintendo has found a revival among retro gamers, collectors, and modders. Many of the Super Nintendo's games are being enjoyed again by a younger generation via ports to the Gameboy Advance, Nintendo DS, and the Wii's Virtual Console.

Enhancement Chips

An interesting feature of the Super Nintendo was the enhancement chips. Instead of using an expensive CPU in the console itself, the Super Nintendo supported enhancement chips that could be added to games as needed. The most famous of these chips is the Super FX which was used with Star Fox.

Regional Lockout

Nintendo used several different types of regional lockout. First, the cartridges were shaped differently. It's impossible to insert a Japanese game in an American console or vice versa without modifying the console or cartridge.

Secondly, a regional lockout chip was placed in the system. It prevented PAL games from being played on American/Japanese consoles and vice versa. However, if the incompatible game shapes can be overcome, Japanese and American games and consoles are compatible.

The simplest solution to getting around regional lockout is to use a Game Genie, which works around both forms of regional lockout.

See Also


List of Super Nintendo Games

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