Ray tracing is all the rage in games right now, with NVIDIA pushing it hard on the PC while the PS5 and Xbox Series X boast about it in the console world. But if you have the right gear, you can get ray traced lighting running on almost anything … including a console released way back in 1990: the Super NES.
At least you can if you’re Ben Carter, an engineer and modder who created his own custom add-on graphics processing chip for the original Super Famicom (the name for the Super Nintendo in its home territory of Japan). Basing his design on the add-on Super FX chip seen in early 3D games like Starfox, Carter’s “SuperRT” version adds on a De10-Nano FPGA development board to boost the console’s own diminutive graphical power.
The result is a custom video demo with polygonal graphics and eye-popping ray tracing light effects, running at a blistering 20 frames per second and a resolution of 200 x 160. It’s the kind of thing that even the original PlayStation wouldn’t be very proud of, but technically, it’s ray tracing on the Super Nintendo. If nothing else, it’s an amazing technical achievement, especially when you see the custom wiring job it took to actually get the new board to interact with the hardware.