The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (officially abbreviated the Super NES[b] or SNES[c], and commonly shortened to Super Nintendo[d]) is a 16-bit home video game console developed by Nintendo that was released in 1990 in Japan and South Korea, 1991 in North America, 1992 in Europe and Australasia (Oceania), and 1993 in South America. In Japan, the system is called the Super Famicom (Japanese: スーパーファミコン Hepburn: Sūpā Famikon?, officially adopting the abbreviated name of its predecessor, the Family Computer), or SFC for short. In South Korea, it is known as the Super Comboy (슈퍼 컴보이 Syupeo Keomboi) and was distributed by Hyundai Electronics. Although each version is essentially the same, several forms of regional lockout prevent the different versions from being compatible with one another. It was released in Brazil on September 2, 1992, by Playtronic.
The SNES is Nintendo’s second home console, following the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). The console introduced advanced graphics and sound capabilities compared with other consoles at the time. Additionally, development of a variety of enhancement chips (which were integrated on game circuit boards) helped to keep it competitive in the marketplace.
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 Mega Drive/Genesis 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.
To compete with the popular Family Computer in Japan, NEC Home Electronics launched the PC Engine in 1987, and Sega Enterprises followed suit with the Mega Drive in 1988. The two platforms were later launched in North America in 1989 as the TurboGrafx-16 and the Genesis respectively. Both systems were built on 16-bit architectures and offered improved graphics and sound over the 8-bit NES. However, it took several years for Sega’s system to become successful. Nintendo executives were in no rush to design a new system, but they reconsidered when they began to see their dominance in the market slipping.
Designed by Masayuki Uemura, the designer of the original Famicom, the Super Famicom was released in Japan on Wednesday, November 21, 1990 for ¥25,000 (US$210). It was an instant success; Nintendo’s initial shipment of 300,000 units sold out within hours, and the resulting social disturbance led the Japanese government to ask video game manufacturers to schedule future console releases on weekends. The system’s release also gained the attention of the Yakuza, leading to a decision to ship the devices at night to avoid robbery.
With the Super Famicom quickly outselling its chief rivals, Nintendo reasserted itself as the leader of the Japanese console market. Nintendo’s success was partially due to its retention of most of its key third-party developers from its earlier system, including Capcom, Konami, Tecmo, Square, Koei, and Enix.
On August 23, 1991,[a] Nintendo released the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, a redesigned version of the Super Famicom, in North America for US$199. The SNES was released in the United Kingdom and Ireland in April 1992 for GB£150, with a German release following a few weeks later. Most of the PAL region versions of the console use the Japanese Super Famicom design, except for labeling and the length of the joypad leads. The Playtronic Super NES in Brazil, although PAL, uses the North American design. Both the NES and SNES were released in Brazil in 1993 by Playtronic, a joint venture between the toy company Estrela and consumer electronics company Gradiente.
The SNES and Super Famicom launched with few games, but these games were well received in the marketplace. In Japan, only two games were initially available: Super Mario World and F-Zero. In North America, Super Mario World launched as a bundle with the console, and other launch titles include F-Zero, Pilotwings (both of which demonstrated the console’s “Mode 7” pseudo-3D rendering capability), SimCity, and Gradius III.