Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) / Super Famicom
21 Nov 1990 (Japan), 23 Aug 1991 (USA), 11 Apr 1992 (UK/Ireland), 6 Jun 1992 (RoW)
What's it like today?
Following the huge success of its first console, the Famicom (branded Nintendo Entertainment System outside of Japan), toward the end of the 1980s Nintendo had drawn several competitors in the console market, including NEC's TurboGrafx-16 and Sega's Genesis/Mega Drive, both of which were technically superior offering 16-bit performance.
To counter this, in 1990 Nintendo released its successor, the Super Famicom, or "Super" Nintendo Entertainment System. The new 16-bit console introduced advanced graphics and sound capabilities compared to its rivals, and was an instant success selling over 300,000 units within hours of launch. In Japan, only two titles were available at launch: Super Mario World and F-Zero, but both were good quality. In USA, Super Mario World shipped with the console, with other titles now available including F-Zero, Pilotwings (both of which demonstrated the console's "Mode 7" pseudo-3D rendering capability), SimCity, and Gradius III.
Sega's Genesis was the Super Famicom's closest rival after NEC dropped the TurboGrafx-16 after a gradual but persistent downturn in sales. Whilst Sega positioned its Genesis as the more serious console for older gamers, Nintendo took to focussing its games on the younger audience. Whilst Sega dominated the North American market (up to 60%), Nintendo in addition to 40% of North America had most of Japan. One of the strategies Nintendo had to relent on was its control of titles being released by third party developers. During the Famicom/NES era, Nintendo had to approve every game and actually restricted third parties from releasing their games on other consoles for up to 2 years. After 1991, third parties began selling titles on both consoles.
As the 32-bit era dawned, Nintendo kept with the Super Famicom/Super NES, launching titles such as Donkey Kong Country, a platform game featuring 3D models and textures pre-rendered on SGI workstations. With its detailed graphics, fluid animation and high-quality music, Donkey Kong Country rivaled the aesthetic quality of games that were being released on newer 32-bit CD-based consoles. In the last 45 days of 1994, the game sold 6.1 million units, making it the fastest-selling video game in history to that date. This game sent a message that early 32-bit systems had little to offer over the Super NES, and helped make way for the more advanced consoles on the horizon.
Additionally, development of a variety of enhancement chips (which were integrated on game circuit boards) helped to keep it competitive in the marketplace. Via the Super FX chip, the SNES was able to run the first three-dimensional video games on consoles, beginning with Star Fox.
The SNES 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 and Europe from Sega's Genesis/Mega Drive console. The SNES remained popular well into the 32-bit era, and continues to be popular among fans, collectors, retro gamers, and emulation enthusiasts, some of whom are still making homebrew ROM images.
In October 1997, Nintendo released the SNS-101, a remodelled version of the Super Famicom/Super NES. with an MSRP of just $99 in North America. The console came bundled with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island. The new model was slimmer and lighter than earlier models, but it lacked S-Video and RGB output. Around the same time, Nintendo also launched a similar facelift model in Japan called the Super Famicom Jr.
Finally in 1991 Nintendo ceased production of the Super NES for the North American market, two years after the last first-party game Kirby's Dream Land 3 was released. In Japan, production continued for a further four years.
A total of 725 titles were released throughout the console's lifetime, and many popular Super NES titles have since been ported to the Game Boy Advance which has similar video capabilities, and in 2005 Nintendo announced that Super NES titles would be available for download via the Wii Virtual Console service.
Original Launch Titles
F-Zero - Japan, 21st November 1990
Super Mario World - Japan, 21st November 1990
F-Zero - USA, 23rd August 1991
Gradius III- USA, 23rd August 1991
Pilotwings- USA, 23rd August 1991
Sim City- USA, 23rd August 1991
Super Mario World- USA, 23rd August 1991