Nintendo Super Famicom

Nintendo Super Famicom / Super Nintendo Entertainment System

4th Generation Competitors
Neo Geo CD Megadrive PC Engine Neo Geo AES CDTV Philips CDI NEC SuperGrafx
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan 21st Nov 1990 2003  17.17M
North America 23rd Aug 1991 1999  23.35M
Europe 11th April 1992 1999  8.58M

Nintendo didn’t rush their second console, despite their main competitor, Sega, releasing the first of the 16 bit consoles, they continued development for another two years.

The result was a sleek and powerful console with a great set of launch games.  Nintendo didn’t have the luxury of exclusivity this time around but it didn’t matter.  Publishers wanted to release games on the undisputed winner of the previous generations new machine.

The Super Famicom was a console that had been designed by games developers and players.  Nintendo had talked to it’s in-house teams and specially chosen external companies, like Rare, to find out what they expected in the next generation platform.

The Super Famicom released in Japan to pretty much instant success.  The console sold so well that Nintendo were forced to ship them at night to stop organised groups from stealing them.  Whilst they quickly caught up with Sega in their home territory they didn’t have the same lead they’d had before.

The battle was even closer in North America and Europe when the console was released as the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (shortened to Super Nintendo or Snes).   However, although it was popular in South America, most of it remained a Sega stronghold, especially Brazil.

Although most of the world had a console that looked like the Japanese Famicom, the North American model was more boxy and had a curious bulge around the cartridge.  The rumoured reason is that a lot of the failed NES consoles were damaged by things being spilt inside when they were balanced on top, so the console was given less space at the top for this to happen.

The resultant polarity amongst owners saw the first Fanboy wars of the console world.  In the previous generation Nintendo had been so dominant that they were largely the only console anyone talked about, but now the playgrounds were split between Nintendo and Sega.

The Super Nintendo was, on paper, a far more sophisticated machine than the Megadrive.  The Megadrive managed to compete because the Motorola 68000 was still a very powerful chip, and generally faster at most tasks.

The Super Famicom did win the generation, but it was a hard battle.  Sega had shown that Nintendo were vulnerable and they were still two years ahead in console development.  But Nintendo had proven that they did not get intimidated by competition and had produced a genuinely classic console.


Processor Ricoh 5A22 @ 3.58MHz (based on the MOS 6502)
RAM 128K
Custom Chips
Video 256 Colours from a Palette of 16.7M
Audio 8 x ADPCM Channels
Removable storage

Super Nintendo / Famicom
Super Nintendo (North America)