Make your own SNES games with developer cartridge

Have you always wished that you could develop games for the Super Nintendo but couldn’t because you were only 4 years old when it was released in 1990? Here’s a second chance. [Max] and his team have created a SNES developer’s cartridge that allows you to load your own code, run it on the SNES, and debug as needed. At its core is an Atmel AVR ATmega644 that is running a boot loader, allowing for firmware updates via USB. Once the system is powered on, ROM code is sent over USB to the 16 megabits of onboard SRAM. A debug terminal can be connected with an RS232 converter, providing status information and allowing some register manipulation.

We can believe there are a few hardcore SNES fans out there who will take the time to write custom code. We could also see this being used for the purposes of SNES sythesized music. But is there a wide demand for this type of hardware? If you’ve ever looked into developing for the SNES, let us know in the comments.

70 thoughts on “Make your own SNES games with developer cartridge

  1. I had done some development for the NES and not the SNES. But it gets a bit boring at the end and the rewards (fame, money etc) are almost non-existent.

    I’d rather direct my hacking talents elsewhere…

  2. Looks good. You can get flash based carts already but SRAM should make testing cycles a lot quicker.
    Would have been nice to have an SD slot and a small bootrom to load code from the SD card to ram.

  3. Programming my own SNES game sounded like a fun project, until I realized that they were all written in assembly. No thanks! :)

  4. @sardaukar:
    When you are around 30 years old, awesomeness is less of a motive anymore (at least for me). Money, though is another thing :)

  5. Didn’t the NES require a nintendo logo to be present in a specific place on the cart before it would run a game? IIRC this was a way for Nintendo to enforce licensing, if your game was not licensed you could not put the nintendo logo in your code or you would violate copyright.

  6. This would have been extremely cool 15 years ago. It seems like a waste of time considering much better toys available now.

  7. You shouldn’t underestimate the SNES. Sure it doesn’t feature W-LAN and HD resolution but when it comes to the pure gaming experience, you can probably still use the SNES as well as almost every other platform.
    While I don’t know how difficult it is to write games for the SNES it seems to me like a perfect experimenting box for the aspiring game developer to show off…

  8. >>shibathedog

    If you can load arbitrary code into SRAM to be executed, why couldn’t some of those instructions get at the GFX chip? Unless you’re talking about add on chips like SuperFX, C4 etc.

  9. shit… I do more stuff for awesomeness and geek cred than money since I’ve gotten to around 30.
    @shibathedog… It’s really amazing how nintendo enabled developers to create software and extra hardware to run on their system.
    I’m not sure if it was just cheaper that way or what, but I do know that an SNES cart has way more hardware in it than a PSX CD

  10. I was less than a year old! Born in 90. Lol. But I grew up thinking about how much fun it would be to make games for the SNES, and I just happened to come across a SNES that was only used once! It still had all the original packaging.

  11. Considering that even tototek is no larger making their flash carts, probably good to have new options. Ideally open schematics for people to diy though. There have been game copiers predating these things for ages and homebrew development was done while these consoles were current (typically with floppy or parallel loading ram based game copiers). I would suggest a direction to go these days is to have the carts accept uSD cards like contemporary gameboy DS flash cart systems. That way design can focus on memory access and be expandable.

    Still handy for some, though it’s certainly not impossible to buy old SNES copier systems for dev work (some like an swcdx2 64 might be a bit rare/in demand though).

    But an open schematic project would make for a good group effort that could continue to thrive long after initial development interest wore off.

  12. I am also doing a little research into a SNES flash cart. I am very much at the initial design stage, but I am aiming not to have a whole load of SRAM chips, and completely map the whole I/O bus to a uC, and load the ROMs directly from SD.

    I looked through the site to see if I could get some info and the best you get is a Schematic that looks like it was drawn on a napkin.

    However, their site says they are looking at a SD card addon, which is ok.

    The harder thing is the peripheral chips (SFX, etc) which need to be emulated for a fair number of games, and from what I can see, this setup doesn’t allow for such a thing.

    Looks promising.

  13. I’ve programmed for a few game consoles – I toyed with SNES briefly but since I wouldn’t be seeing my code on the real hardware I wasn’t very interested. Seems the console homebrew’ing community is fairly small these days. Wii homebrew is doing okay right now(lib’s are sketchy), and XNA I’ve never tried($ to make 360 games).

  14. It’d be interesting to see this used as a game collection on a cartridge. That would let you use the original SNES hardware… I could see programming a “game” that acted like a GUI rom loader and then have a catalog of SNES games on a flash card.

    most of the benefits of an emulator with the ideal reproduction of the original hardware.

  15. @Grey Tototek wasn’t making their SNES flash carts for a while due to a problem getting the snes cart connector. they have them in stock again now.

  16. I think this is sweet! I would love to see some snes sequencer programs for use with other input devices… perhaps full blown 16 bit sampling and reproducing goodness. or an snes live effects processor or sampler with a gui that uses standard av outs from the snes.

  17. i have a windows rom for sega genisis architecture, keeps blue screening on me
    and ouch, $120 for pre-made
    why isnt hong kong selling carts for all classic systems that have a usb plug integrated and hold 8 gigs? memory chips are dirt cheap now
    oh crap…just read a comment, hackaday is predicting our ages accurately now…
    i bet they are using google provided stats on every user and dynamically inserting how old we were in 1990
    hehe, i still got my snes with the same cart thats been in it for the past uh…10? years, super bomberman 1!
    i never actually did finish earthbound on the real cart…beat it on my phone though

  18. 4 years old in 1990?

    My wife and I were dating! We beat Super Mario World together!

    Man, I have to find kids my own age to play with.

  19. @VV
    It would be cheaper to just buy the old cartridges. You can get snes carts for less than $3-4 if you look in the right places.

    @Frogz
    Cool story, bro.

  20. looks nice but i agree with cantido, an sd slot would be nice. @Anodyne I agree, i thought about writing snes games but im not very fond of assembly myself

  21. I was ten. Got a snes for xmas when I was 13 and I still play it to this day. My best mario kart lap time on mario circuit1 is 59’49”. This dev-cart is something i’m very excited about. I’m one of the hardcore snes fans that was mentioned.

  22. That’s pretty damn cool, I’ll grant you… But tell me when they make a NEO-GEO dev cart. :O At least they were still making NEO-GEO games this millennium, despite it being a contemporary of the Super Famicom.

  23. @Bakamoichigei

    There were guys selling blank PCBs that you could populate with your roms, I don’t think it had any banking stuff so you would be limited to the 330meg or whatever the neogeo can address itself.
    You can also get a cheap cart, like I got two tecmo soccer carts for $4 shipped, and depopulate it. It’s all through hole for the ROMs. You could also easily do this with an FPGA but you’re going to need a ton of level translators.

  24. @cantido

    Yeah, I have some spare carts (Including three copies of PUZZLE BOBBLE that turned out to be boots) that I can convert like that. (And I have an EPROM burner on the way from HK so I can burn new BIOS ROMs) But a USB-based easily-loaded board would be nice, too :P

  25. How did they figure out that I was four years old in 1990? The internet is getting more and more freaky as we speak. Or maybe they assume that the younger audience who had a Super NES was born in 1986, and you know what happens when you assume, right? If not, I’ll explain later.

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