Super FX

Last updated
Super FX-rendered 3D polygon graphics in the SNES game Star Fox SNES Star Fox.png
Super FX-rendered 3D polygon graphics in the SNES game Star Fox
MARIO CHIP 1 (Super FX) chip on UK PAL Starwing cartridge MARIO CHIP 1 Starwing.jpg
MARIO CHIP 1 (Super FX) chip on UK PAL Starwing cartridge
Super FX 2 chip on Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island SuperFX GSU-2-SP1 chip.jpg
Super FX 2 chip on Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island

The Super FX is a coprocessor on the Graphics Support Unit (GSU) added to select Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) video game cartridges, primarily to provide advanced 2D and 3D techniques. The Super FX chip was designed by Argonaut Games, who also co-developed the 3D space rail shooter video game Star Fox with Nintendo to demonstrate the additional polygon rendering capabilities that the chip had introduced to the SNES. [1]


A coprocessor is a computer processor used to supplement the functions of the primary processor. Operations performed by the coprocessor may be floating point arithmetic, graphics, signal processing, string processing, cryptography or I/O interfacing with peripheral devices. By offloading processor-intensive tasks from the main processor, coprocessors can accelerate system performance. Coprocessors allow a line of computers to be customized, so that customers who do not need the extra performance do not need to pay for it.

Super Nintendo Entertainment System home video game console developed by Nintendo

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), also known as the Super NES or Super Nintendo, 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 (SFC). In South Korea, it is known as the Super Comboy and was distributed by Hyundai Electronics. The system was released in Brazil on August 30, 1993, by Playtronic. Although each version is essentially the same, several forms of regional lockout prevent the different versions from being compatible with one another.

Video game electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device such as a TV screen or computer monitor

A video game is an electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a two- or three-dimensional video display device such as a TV screen, virtual reality headset or computer monitor. Since the 1980s, video games have become an increasingly important part of the entertainment industry, and whether they are also a form of art is a matter of dispute.



The Super FX chip design team included engineers Ben Cheese, Rob Macaulay, and James Hakewill. [2] While in development, the Super FX chip was codenamed "Super Mario FX" [3] and "MARIO". "MARIO", a backronym for "Mathematical, Argonaut, Rotation, & Input/Output", is printed on the face of the final production chip. [4] With the release of Star Fox in 1993, the Super FX became the best selling RISC-based processor at that time. [4]

Mario fictional character from Nintendos Mario franchise,

Mario is a fictional character in the Mario video game franchise, owned by Nintendo and created by Japanese video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto. Serving as the company's mascot and the eponymous protagonist of the series, Mario has appeared in over 200 video games since his creation. Depicted as a short, pudgy, Italian plumber who resides in the Mushroom Kingdom, his adventures generally center upon rescuing Princess Peach from the Koopa villain Bowser. His younger fraternal twin brother and sidekick is Luigi.

A backronym, or bacronym, is a constructed phrase that purports to be the source of a word that is an acronym. Backronyms may be invented with either serious or humorous intent, or they may be a type of false etymology or folk etymology.

Because of higher manufacturing costs and increased development time, few Super FX based games were made compared to the rest of the SNES library. Due to these increased costs, Super FX games often retailed at a higher MSRP compared to other SNES games. [5]

According to Argonaut Games founder Jez San, Argonaut had initially intended to develop the Super FX chip for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The team programmed an NES version of the first-person combat flight simulator Starglider , which Argonaut had developed for PC systems a few years earlier, and showed it to Nintendo in 1990. The prototype impressed the company, but they suggested that they develop games for the then-unreleased Super Famicom due to the NES's hardware which was becoming outdated in light of newer systems such as the Sega Mega Drive and the PC Engine. Shortly after the 1990 Consumer Electronics Show held in Chicago, Illinois, Argonaut ported the NES version of Starglider to the Super Famicom, a process which took roughly one week according to San. [6]

Argonaut Games British video game developer, founded in 1982 and liquidated in late 2004, with the company ceasing to exist in early 2007

Argonaut Games was a British video game developer, founded in 1982 and liquidated in late 2004, with the company ceasing to exist in early 2007. It was most notable for the development of the Super NES video game Star Fox and its supporting Super FX hardware.

Jeremy Elliott "Jez" San OBE is an English game programmer and entrepreneur who founded Argonaut Software as a teenager in the 1980s. He is best known for the 1986 Atari ST game Starglider and helping to design the Super FX chip used in Star Fox for the Super NES.

Nintendo Entertainment System 8-bit home video game console released by Nintendo in 1983

The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) is an 8-bit home video game console developed and manufactured by Nintendo. It is a remodeled export version of the company's Family Computer (FC) platform in Japan, commonly known as the Famicom, which was launched on July 15, 1983. The NES was launched in the test markets of New York City and Los Angeles in 1985, with a full launch in the rest of North America and parts of Europe in 1986, followed by Australia and other European countries in 1987. Brazil saw only unlicensed clones until the official local release in 1993. In South Korea, it was packaged as the Hyundai Comboy and distributed by Hyundai Electronics which is now SK Hynix; the Comboy was released in 1989.


The Super FX chip is used to render 3D polygons and to assist the SNES in rendering advanced 2D effects. This custom-made RISC processor is typically programmed to act like a graphics accelerator chip that draws polygons to a frame buffer in the RAM that sits adjacent to it. The data in this frame buffer is periodically transferred to the main video memory inside of the console using DMA in order to show up on the television display.

Graphics processing unit specialized electronic circuit; graphics accelerator

A graphics processing unit (GPU) is a specialized electronic circuit designed to rapidly manipulate and alter memory to accelerate the creation of images in a frame buffer intended for output to a display device. GPUs are used in embedded systems, mobile phones, personal computers, workstations, and game consoles. Modern GPUs are very efficient at manipulating computer graphics and image processing. Their highly parallel structure makes them more efficient than general-purpose central processing units (CPUs) for algorithms that process large blocks of data in parallel. In a personal computer, a GPU can be present on a video card or embedded on the motherboard. In certain CPUs, they are embedded on the CPU die.

Direct memory access (DMA) is a feature of computer systems that allows certain hardware subsystems to access main system memory, independent of the central processing unit (CPU).

The first version of the chip, commonly referred to as simply "Super FX", is clocked with a 21.4  MHz signal, but an internal clock speed divider halves it to 10.7 MHz. [7] Later on, the design was revised to become the Super FX GSU (Graphics Support Unit); this, unlike the first Super FX chip revision, is able to reach 21 MHz.

All versions of the Super FX chip are functionally compatible in terms of their instruction set. The differences arise in how they are packaged, their pinout, and their internal clock speed. As a result of changing the package when creating the GSU-2, more external pins were available and assigned for addressing. As a result, a larger amount of external ROM or RAM can be accessed.


Star Fox uses the chip for the rendering of hundreds of simultaneous 3D polygons. It uses scaled 2D bitmaps for lasers, asteroids, and other obstacles, but other objects such as ships are rendered with 3D polygons. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island uses the chip for 2D graphics effects like sprite scaling and stretching.

Game cartridges that contain a Super FX chip have additional contacts at the bottom of the cartridge that connect to the extra slots in the cartridge port that are not otherwise typically used. Therefore, Super FX games cannot be plugged into cartridge adapters which predate the release of Super FX games. This includes cheat devices, such as the Game Genie.

List of games

Super FX games

Super FX 2 games

Unreleased games

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Super Mario World</i> 1990 video game by Nintendo

Super Mario World is a 1990 side-scrolling platform game developed and published by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). The story follows Mario's quest to save Princess Toadstool and Dinosaur Land from the series antagonist Bowser and his minions, the Koopalings. The gameplay is similar to that of earlier Super Mario games: Players control Mario or his brother Luigi through a series of levels in which the goal is to reach the flagpole at the end. Super Mario World introduced Yoshi, a dinosaur who can eat enemies and gain abilities by eating the shells of Koopa Troopas.

<i>Yoshis Island</i> 1995 platformer by Nintendo

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island is a 1995 platform game developed and published by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. To reunite baby brothers Mario and Luigi, who has been kidnapped by Kamek, the player controls Yoshi, a friendly dinosaur, through 48 levels while carrying Baby Mario. As a Super Mario series platformer, Yoshi runs and jumps to reach the end of the level while solving puzzles and collecting items. In a style new to the series, the game has a hand-drawn aesthetic and is the first to have Yoshi as its main character. The game introduces his signature abilities to flutter jump and produce eggs from swallowed enemies.

<i>Star Fox</i> (1993 video game) 1993 video game

Star Fox, released as Starwing in Europe, is a 1993 rail shooter video game co-developed by Nintendo EAD and Argonaut Software and published by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). The first game in the Star Fox series, Star Fox follows Fox McCloud and the rest of the Star Fox team defending their homeworld of Corneria against the attacking forces of Andross. It ultimately sold over 4 million copies.

<i>Star Fox 2</i> Canceled Super NES video game released in 2017

Star Fox 2 is a third-person shooter game developed for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System by Nintendo EAD and Argonaut Software and published by Nintendo. It is the 7th installment of the Star Fox series. Cancelled shortly before its planned release in 1995, it was to be the sequel to Star Fox (1993).

Mode 7

Mode 7 is a graphics mode on the Super NES video game console that allows a background layer to be rotated and scaled on a scanline-by-scanline basis to create many different effects. The most famous of these effects is the application of a perspective effect on a background layer by scaling and rotating the background layer in this manner. This transforms the background layer into a two-dimensional horizontal texture-mapped plane that trades height for depth. Thus, an impression of three-dimensional graphics is achieved.

1991 has seen many sequels and prequels in video games and several new titles such as Mega Man 4, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Sonic the Hedgehog.

<i>Stunt Race FX</i> 1994 video game

Stunt Race FX, known in Japan as Wild Trax, is a cartoon-style, 3D-racing video game developed by Nintendo EAD with the assistance of Argonaut Software and published by Nintendo for the Super NES. It was the second game to use the 3D-centric Super FX powered GSU-1.

<i>Croc: Legend of the Gobbos</i> 1997 video game

Croc: Legend of the Gobbos is a platform video game developed by Argonaut Games and published by Fox Interactive. The game is known for being one of the earliest examples of a 3D platform game, being released in North America in September 1997 for the Sony PlayStation, and later on that year for the Sega Saturn and Microsoft Windows. Taking place in the fictional setting of the Gobbo Valley, Croc: Legend of the Gobbos follows a young crocodile named Croc, who sets out to rescue a group of furry creatures known as Gobbos from the Baron Dante.

FX Fighter is a series of video games developed by Argonaut Games and published by GTE Entertainment. The two games in the series are FX Fighter (1995) for MS-DOS CD-ROM with a cancelled version for Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and FX Fighter Turbo (1996) for Windows 95.

<i>Dirt Trax FX</i> 1995 video game

Dirt Trax FX is a racing video game developed by Sculptured Software and released by Acclaim Entertainment for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1995. The 3D graphics of the game were made possible by the Super FX powered GSU-1, which was built into the cartridge.

<i>Vortex</i> (video game) 1994 video game

Vortex is a 3D shooter game developed by Argonaut Software and released by Electro Brain for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in September 1994. Titled Citadel during development, it is one of a few titles designed to use the enhanced graphics of the Super FX powered GSU-1.

Retro Duo

The Retro Duo is a video-game clone console developed by Retro-Bit and distributed by Innex, Inc. It plays game cartridges for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It plays American, European, and Japanese games and has the highest compatibility of any other clone system. S-video is compatible when playing SNES games. The console is not licensed by Nintendo and is not fully compatible with every game released for the two game systems; however, the majority of games function properly. While it has only been released in Canada and the United States, it can still be used in Europe and Japan with a power plug adapter. The console is compatible with official and third party SNES controllers.

<i>Dirt Racer</i> 1995 racing video game

Dirt Racer is a Europe-exclusive video game for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System developed by British studio MotiveTime and released in 1995. This game uses the Super FX powered GSU-1 to provide enhanced graphics.

Super Nintendo Entertainment System Game Pak

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System Game Pak is the system's default ROM cartridge medium. It is called Game Pak in most Western regions, and Cassette in Japan and parts of Latin America. While the Super NES can address 128 Megabits, only 117.75 Megabits are actually available for cartridge use. A fairly normal mapping can easily address up to 95 Megabit of ROM data with 8 Megabits of battery-backed RAM. However, most available memory access controllers only support mappings of up to 32 Megabits. The largest games released contain 48 Megabits of ROM data, while the smallest games contain 2 Megabits.

Super NES Classic Edition video game console

Super Nintendo Entertainment System: Super NES Classic Edition, known as Nintendo Classic Mini: Super Nintendo Entertainment System in Europe and Australia and the Nintendo Classic Mini: Super Famicom in Japan, and also colloquially as the SNES Mini or SNES Classic, is a dedicated home video game console released by Nintendo, which emulates the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The console, a successor to the NES Classic Edition, comes with twenty-one Super NES titles pre-installed, including the first official release of Star Fox 2. It was released in North America and Europe on September 29, 2017.


  1. "Of argonauts, vectors, and flying foxes: The rise of 3D on Nintendo consoles". Archived from the original on June 13, 2008. Retrieved January 4, 2015.
  2. Retrobates (April 3, 2014). "Blood". Retro Gamer . We did most of the technology back in England with a relatively large engineering/tech team, which comprised of Carl Graham and Pete Warnes on the software-based 3D technology and Ben Cheese, Rob Macaulay and James Hakewill working on the hardware side of things
  3. "Dylan Cuthbert". Twitter. Archived from the original on May 25, 2014. Retrieved May 25, 2014. SNES Central: @dylancuthbert I'm researching unreleased SNES games, was a game called "Super Mario FX" ever in development?
    Dylan Cuthbert: @snescentral no, that was the internal code name for the FX chip"
  4. 1 2 McFerran, Damien (July 4, 2013). "Born slippy: the making of Star Fox". Eurogamer . Gamer Network. Retrieved July 4, 2013.
  5. "Cart Queries". GamePro (59). IDG. June 1994. p. 12.
  6. Brookes, Jason; Bielby, Matt (May 1993). "Superplay interview: Jez San, Argonaut". Super Play . United Kingdom: Future Publishing.
  7. Electric Brain #34. May 1993.
  8. "Dirt Racer". SNES Central. Retrieved July 20, 2014.
  9. "Dirt Trax FX". SNES Central. Retrieved July 20, 2014.
  10. Strauss, Bob (April 2, 1993). "Star Fox". Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  11. "Stunt Race FX". SNES Central. Retrieved July 20, 2014.
  12. "Vortex". SNES Central. Retrieved July 20, 2014.
  13. "Doom". SNES Central. Retrieved July 20, 2014.
  14. Harris, Craig (May 24, 2002). "E3 2002: Hands-on Impressions: Yoshi's Island". IGN . Ziff Davis. Archived from the original on August 20, 2016. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  15. 1 2 MegaSilverX1 (July 4, 2013). "Super FX Series: Cancelled Super FX Games". Archived from the original on August 30, 2013.
  16. Lee (October 28, 2009). "Powerslide FX [SNES / 3DO - Unreleased] - Unseen64". Unseen64.
  17. "The Making of: Vortex". Retro Gamer (147): 38–41. October 2015.
  18. Sao, Akinori. "Developer Interview: Star Fox & Star Fox 2 - Super Nintendo Entertainment System: Super NES Classic Edition - Official Site". Nintendo of America. Retrieved January 18, 2018.