Cartridges aren’t used in consoles anymore because discs are a lot cheaper and simpler to manufacture. However, cartridges do have their benefits- especially when it comes to security. Nintendo used differently shaped cartridges to prevent users from playing games released in other regions.
Why do some SNES cartridges look different? First-generation SNES cartridges in the US had a mechanical lock connected to the power switch that prevented users from pulling out cartridges while the console was turned on. Later cartridge designs switched the notch for a gradual ramp that made it easier to remove cartridges, as users were complaining about these getting stuck in their consoles.
Nintendo made a simple design change so fewer people would break their game cartridges or console. Many would forcibly pull out the old cartridges while the console was powered on (engaging the mechanical lock that was designed to prevent this). So Nintendo made it easier for people to remove games without damaging them.
Why Do Some SNES Cartridges Look Different?
The American SNES uses a different outer shell compared to the Japanese Super Famicom. Nintendo of America wanted it to look more mature, like a home computer instead of a toy. So they redesigned the console to be squarish, with hard edges and a raised cartridge slot.
When SNES launched in the United States, it had a grey eject button between the purple-colored “Power” and “Reset” switches. However, later models removed this feature. I can’t say for sure how much cash Nintendo saved by removing this feature, but it was probably less than a couple of dollars per system.
However, a couple of dollars goes a long way if you’re selling millions of these consoles. The “Eject” button was designed to help users safely remove their game cartridges after powering off the SNES. And cartridges had a notch in the middle of the front plate that would lock into a tab connected with the power switch.
If the power switch was depressed, it would prevent you from pulling out the cartridge. Still, some users would forcibly pull out the cartridge to save those precious few seconds. Nintendo was tired of receiving complaints and warranty claims from such cases of misuse, so they revised the next SNES version.
SNS-101 models removed the eject button and redesigned cartridges so they would become easier to remove. Instead of the deep rectangular notch, a ramp was cut into the face of the cartridge. This prevented users from damaging their SNES/ game cartridge.
Cartridges can also look different if they are from different regions. For example, American SNES cartridges have a flat face and two notches at the bottom. They are also physically wider than Japanese Super Famicom cartridges.
If you try to insert a Japanese cartridge into an American SNES, it won’t fit inside the cartridge slot. You have to cut out the tabs inside the cartridge slot to make a Japanese game fit in there. American and Japanese SNES consoles have the same internals, and the lockout chip doesn’t prevent you from playing Japanese games on American consoles.
However, playing Japanese games on PAL Super Famicom consoles requires a bit of modding. You’ll have to bypass the security chip and enable 50/ 60Hz switching (PAL games run at 50Hz). Check out this video for more details on how to do this mod (it requires soldering skills).
How Can You Tell If A Nintendo Cartridge Is Real?
The only sure way is to open up your Nintendo cartridge because fake ones replace multiple ROM chips with a single one. They also don’t have the correct markings on the circuit board. From the outside, you can spot fake cartridges by their labels.
Usually, the fake ones have slightly different colors and miss brandings/ logos that would be there on the original cartridges. Fake SNES cartridges might also use plastic screws, which Nintendo never had in their original cartridges.
What Is The Lifespan Of A SNES Cartridge?
SNES cartridges are very tough, and can easily shrug off falls from heights of 4 or 5 feet. Dust is also not an issue since you can clean the metal contacts with a Q-tip and some rubbing alcohol. Game code is stored in Mask ROM chips, and these don’t fade away like modern flash chips.
However, the coin cell inside a SNES cartridge that powers the SRAM chip will die out eventually. Depending on the conditions in which you store your SNES games, this process can take anywhere from 15 to 30 years.
SRAM chips sip very little power, and the coin cells are replaceable. So even if the battery dies, you can swap it for a new one.
SNES uses the CR2032 cell in its cartridges. Always purchase batteries that come with soldered tabs, you don’t want to solder the tabs yourself. Because the heat from soldering might cause the lithium-ion battery to explode.
Which SNES Games Have Colored Cartridges?
Most SNES games, like 99% of them, come in grey cartridges to match the console’s theme. However, three games were released with colored cartridges.
These were Killer Instinct (1995), Doom (1995), and Spiderman-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage (1994). Killer Instinct had a black cartridge, while both Doom and Spider-Man used red cartridges.
Can SNES Classic Play SNES Cartridges?
No, the cartridge slot on top of the SNES Classic is just there for cosmetic reasons and it doesn’t have any hardware underneath to read SNES cartridges. The SNES Classic is just an ARM-powered plastic box that comes with 21 preloaded games, and you can’t add any new ones from your collection. Unless you hack the console, which lets you load whichever game you want.
Yes, the mod isn’t Nintendo-approved but they probably should have done a better job of designing their throwback retro console. Having just 21 games is quite disappointing, especially when you’re missing classics like Chrono Trigger, Harvest Moon, Mortal Kombat II, and Dragon Quest III. Nintendo didn’t even release digital copies of SNES games that users could purchase and download into their SNES classic (it can’t even go online).
To play more games on your SNES Classic, you can jailbreak it and load ROMs via USB. You can also purchase an accessory called Classic2Magic (C2M) that lets you play SNES cartridges on your SNES Classic.
What Year Did They Stop Making SNES Games?
Nintendo discontinued SNES production in 1999, a year after releasing the final licensed game in North America- Frogger. In Japan, Nintendo continued selling the Super Famicom until 2003. New games like Metal Slader Glory were made until 2000, for the Japanese market.
I hope this article helped you understand why some SNES cartridges look different. In North America, Nintendo updated the SNES design and removed the Eject button. The cartridges were also redesigned so they would be easier to remove without damaging the game or console.
Early SNES games have a notch on the front plate, while later SNES games have a ramp. The notch prevented users from removing the cartridge while the power button was in its “On” position. SNES model SNS-101 removed this feature and is designed for the newer cartridges (it can still play the older ones).