The Super Nintendo Entertainment System, more popularly known as the SNES, was released in 1990. It quickly became one of the most popular gaming devices of its time, partly defining the fourth generation of video game consoles. The consoles shipped with a number of games, including the major hits Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country. To this day, their characters remain among the most well-known icons of video gaming. More than two decades later, many of the classic games of the Super Nintendo are still popular largely thanks to emulator software for Windows as well as many other operating systems, including mobile ones.
The SNES was the successor to the Nintendo Entertainment System, the popular 8-bit console launched in the mid-eighties around the world. It introduced greatly improved graphics and a number of other features and hardware upgrades which revolutionized the world of console gaming at the time.
Ultimately, the SNES itself came with quite low hardware specifications, even compared to other consoles and computers of the time. It sported a 16-bit processor running a 21 MHz core, 128 kB of RAM, 64 kB of video memory and 54 kB of audio memory. The console was designed to run at typical television screen resolutions at the time such as 512x478 with interlaced scanning and 256x224 with progressive scanning. The SNES also introduced parallax scrolling, allowing for platform games to have multiple layers moving at different speeds from the foreground. Supporting transparency effects and 15-bit colour, the SNES also introduced the Mode 7 graphics mode allowing for a wide range of 3D special effects.
One of the most versatile and greatest advantages of the SNES for game developers was the fact that individual game cartridges were also able to contain additional hardware and custom chips. Some of the later games, which sported then cutting-edge graphics, such as the Donkey Kong series, had system requirements which were too high for the SNES's built-in hardware. In order to make them run, their cartridges came with additional RAM and other hardware features to compensate.
Many accessories were also available for the SNES, including the Super Game Boy cartridge, which made it possible to play games designed for the handheld Game Boy on the system. Other accessories included a variety of different control pads, the Super Scope light gun, and in Japan, the Satellaview modem for the addition of various news, multiplayer and social features.
The Super Nintendo was succeeded by the Nintendo 64 in 1996 in Japan, and a year later in Europe.
Reviving the Super Nintendo through Emulation
Just like most other obsolete computers and gaming consoles, the Super Nintendo can be emulated on modern operating systems. Doing so will allow you to play all of the old classics on Windows or almost any other operating system. With platform gaming in particular now largely restricted to a few mobile titles, the genre has almost vanished entirely, but thanks to emulators, it is now possible to enjoy the once great hits such as Super Mario All-Stars and Donkey Kong among others.
For Windows, the most popular Super Nintendo emulators are Snes9x and ZSNES. Both emulators are available for free and are capable of running all of the old games. They are also compatible with many of the accessories which were available for the original console. Snes9x is also available for a huge range of other operating systems, such as Linux, OS X and MorphOS. Versions are also available for many mobile operating systems, including Windows Phone 8 (Snes8x), Android and iOS and modern game consoles, including PlayStation 3, GameCube, PlayStation Portable and Wii. The most popular emulator for Macintosh computers is OpenEmu, which also emulates the Game Boy, the original NES and various other video game consoles of the time.
Games for the Super Nintendo are available in the form of ROMs. These are complete images of the games which were originally stored on the cartridges for the console. Many of them are available for free, due to having long since been abandoned by their publishers. However, you will normally need to own the original cartridge in order to legally download a ROM.