Developed during one of the most creative periods in gaming history, it should come as no surprise to hear that the Super Nintendo was constantly pushing itself with new hardware, modifications, and peripheral. Unfortunately, the advent of time perpetually pushes the SNES outside the mainstream’s knowledge.
It can be easy to overlook the console as a result, with many simply assuming the SNES saw a static run. This is far from the truth. One of the earliest attempts at actively improving a console post-launch came through the Super FX chip, a cartridge modification that allowed games to run and play better. Only used by 10 (officially documented) games, some of which were canceled, the Super FX chip is an interesting piece of Nintendo history.
10 Yoshi’s Island
Given just how impressive Yoshi’s Island is visually, it’s only natural that it used the Super FX chip. Specifically, the game uses the Super FX 2, a modified version of the Super FX chip that was ultimately only ever used for three games. Of the three, Yoshi’s Island is the clear best of the lot.
The game’s sprite scaling and stretching are direct results of the Super FX 2 in action, pushing the visuals of the SNES far beyond their normal limits. It may not seem much in retrospect, but it goes to show how simplistic the SNES was without modifications. More importantly, it shows how revolutionary something as basic as sprite scaling was in 1995.
9 Star Fox
This is the de facto poster-boy of the Super FX chip if only because Star Fox was co-developed by the chip’s manufacturer, Argonaut Games. As a result, the original Star Fox uses the original Super FX chip better than just about any other compatible game. It’s in many respects a tech demo of what the Super FX chip was capable of.
In turn, the game can actually look incredibly dated, but it’s still very impressive when given the benefit of the doubt. Full 3D effects and models in action on the Super Nintendo are nothing to scoff at. More importantly, since Star Fox and the Super FX chip share such an intimate background, the game’s overall design caters to the chip’s capabilities.
8 Dirt Racer
Not very many games utilized the Super FX chip for whatever reason, and the few that did honestly raise some eyebrows. Seemingly low-quality titles made great use of a chip that the majority of Nintendo’s first-party titles lacked. Games like the PAL exclusive Dirt Racer.
Dirt Racer isn’t particularly noteworthy in any sense outside of being one of the only PAL exclusive games on the SNES, along with being one of the only games to use the Super FX chip. In that regard, it’s actually a very unique title. Unfortunately, the game itself isn’t all that great and its development history is poorly documented.
Doom’s SNES port is one of the most interesting ports of the classic first-person shooter. Not only does it feature the Super FX 2, but the game was also released at the end of the console’s life cycle with its own custom cartridge and custom engine. It’s a port of Doom, but it’s also startlingly close to being its own game.
Sadly, Doom on the SNES isn’t exactly top-notch, even with the Super FX 2 carrying the title. When it comes down to it, Doom was far too strong a game for the Super Nintendo to properly handle. Had the developers waited a single year, they would have been able to use the far stronger S-DD1 to port Doom.
6 Dirt Trax FX
Much like Dirt Racer, Dirt Trax FX likely would not be remembered or discussed were it not for the fact that it was one of the only games to make use of the Super FX chip. Like many other games, its main reason for using the chip was to utilize 3D graphics. That said, Dirt Trax FX is rather interesting when it comes to game speed.
Super Mario Kart could only push its speed to 150cc, but with the Super FX chip, Dirt Trax FX is able to go as high as 500cc. Of course, it isn’t nearly as well designed as Super Mario Kart, so that’s almost a moot point, but it’s interesting to note how a prospective Super Mario Kart 2 could have been if Nintendo didn’t move the sequel to the Nintendo 64.
One of the few canceled Super FX chip games that can actually be verified to have actually existed at some point, Novalogic were working on a port of the original Comanche shortly after the Super FX chip entered production. The chip would have allowed the series’ flight simulator nuances to translate to the SNES.
Or so Novalogic likely thought. While the Super FX chip was certainly strong, the title struggled with both its graphics and speed. Taking into account Novalogic’s ambitious desire to include network multiplayer, Comanche’s SNES development crashed and burned, even with the Super FX chip there to pick up the wreckage.
4 FX Fighter
FX Fighter is something of a notorious canceled Super Nintendo game. Not only did it use the Super FX chip (a fact its marketing played up considerably), Nintendo showed the game off in GamePro and Nintendo Power and specifically stepped in to publish the game on Argonaut Games’ behalf.
Unfortunately, Nintendo betrayed their promise after releasing Killer Instinct on the SNES. Fearing that FX Fighter would just end up competing with Killer Instinct, they chose to kill the prospective Super FX chip fighter, leaving it in the dirt. This was an especially cruel decision considering Nintendo's otherwise pleasant business relationship with Argonaut Games.
3 Stunt Race FX
With the assistance of Argonaut Games, Nintendo EAD worked on the second title to actively use the Super FX chip: Stunt Racer FX. Although the game might not seem particularly special today, even for the Super Nintendo, it’s an impressive little piece of gaming history that arguably used the Super FX chip better than even the first Star Fox.
It was Stunt Race FX in particular that spawned all the sub-par racing games that ultimately used the Super FX chip. Without Stunt Racer FX’s incredibly competent (and colorful) usage of the chip, everyone would have thought that the chip was only good for producing Star Fox-esque gameplay and graphics, an important notion to squash.
Although Stunt Race FX was the second documented game to use the Super FX chip, it is actually possible that this honor belongs to Vortex, a game developed by Argonaut Games at the exact same time but with no officially documented release date. As a result, it’s hard to pinpoint when it exactly it was in development.
Either way, Vortex is one of the better Super FX chip games. A first-person shooter, the game is a bit on the slow side, but it does a better job functioning as a game than Doom did with the Super FX 2.
1 Star Fox 2
Far and away the best game to use the Super FX chip, Nintendo canceled a complete Star Fox 2 at the last minute so audiences wouldn’t feel “misinterpreted” about 3D gaming with the Nintendo 64 on the horizon. Easily one of the Nintendo’s worst moves, it turns out Star Fox 2 uses better 3D than arguably most of the Nintendo 64.With the Super FX chip, Argonaut Games took their original Star Fox and made it infinitely better, breaking that tech demo into a cohesive, incredible, video game. It’s since been released on the SNES Classic, but it’s a shame it took so long for such a great game to (legally) see the light of day.