Are NES Games Compatible with SNES? Well, no but…

Are NES Games Compatible with SNES? No, they aren’t. But there’s always a way…

If you’re new to collecting old games, or are just curious about the old hardware, the world of “retro gaming” can be intimidating! But don’t worry, there’s no judgment here. First, let’s answer the question.

Are NES games compatible with SNES?

No. They aren’t. But both NES and SNES games are compatible with some newer console hardware that is easy to find and relatively inexpensive. And the cross-compatibility goes far beyond NES and SNES.

If you really want to make it work, there are a few common hardware solutions that can get all your games running on the same TV with minimal hardware, wires, and all that stuff. It can be a perfect solution for someone that wants to dip their toe into retro gaming, but doesn’t want to go all in.

There are several choices of modern, third-party gaming consoles—like the Hyperkin Retron series—allow you to use actual old-school game cartridges in a modern console. Even more awesome, there are several versions of the console that can take multiple cartridge generations. 

With the Retron 2, you can run NES and SNES games. The Retron 3 allows for NES, SNES and Sega Genesis games. And the epic Retron 5 can run NES, SNES, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, Sega Genesis and Sega Master System.

So yeah! While NES games aren’t strictly compatible with SNES, you can still fake it and enjoy both on the same console, on the same TV screen. My wife loves this because it means there’s only one set of wires uglying up her living room. Unless you’re like me and you need your SNES, NES, PS2, PS3 and Wii all hooked up at once. (Don’t scoff. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ll get here soon enough.)

There are at least a few other manufacturers that make retro-compatible consoles, including a few questionable ones. But Hyperkin has been doing this for a while and seems to have it figured out.

A lot of new retro gamers prefer to play ROMs on emulators. That’s extremely convenient, of course, as you don’t have to track down and purchase potentially pricey vintage equipment, or even the modern equivalents. But many hardcore collectors will scoff at the idea of playing classic games as ROMs. It doesn’t have the same feel, no matter what they tell you.

Besides that, downloading ROMs is illegal. Not that the police are going to bust down your door for it or anything, but for those who are concerned about that kind of stuff, it is certainly a consideration.

There is also a variety of retro mini-consoles like the SNES Classic Mini, the Sega Genesis Mini and even a Turbo Grafx-16 Mini console. These new/old consoles are 100% new and created by their original companies. They come pre-loaded with some of the best games of each system. There’s no tracking down discs or cartridges, no struggling to mesh old and new technology. You just plug and play.

It’s worth noting that some of these mini consoles are harder to find than others. Per their usual dumbness, Nintendo made their mini consoles available in a strictly limited supply, feeding scalpers as usual, and making the systems very difficult for casual fans to get. 

Eventually Nintendo did make enough. But they didn’t run very long and now their consoles fetch quite a bit on eBay. Too much, imo. Luckily I got them when they came out.

The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and the Super NES (SNES) dominated the gaming industry in the 1980s and 1990s respectively. Yes, Sega held the torch for a hot moment, but overall, Nintendo had the superior sales and put a much larger footprint in our childhood memories.

As 80s babies get older and start to enjoy more stable home lives (and disposable income), and as many of us watch our kids go through the same phases we did, it’s natural to want to re-experience some of the greatness.

For me personally, I felt it was very important to get my kid started on the same games I played at his age. Rather than letting him start with Fortnite or Minecraft (both of which are fine games), let him experience gaming from the beginning and develop a deeper appreciation for games and for pop culture in general.

Also, getting kids involved in old-school gaming is a great experience for nerdy dads to spend some money on the hobby and really get started enjoying and spreading the love of retro gaming.

Anyway, don’t feel silly for wondering whether NES games can be played on the SNES. These days, it’s common—even expected—that new consoles will support games from the previous generation. “Backwards compatibility” is sort of a litmus test for whether a console manufacturer loves their fans, or wants to force them to shell out money to buy the same games again.

Nintendo has been pretty spotty about supporting older formats on newer consoles. But they’ve usually tried to find a way to cross-support their handheld systems. The first evidence of this was probably the Super Game Boy, a cartridge for the SNES that would actually fit a Game Boy cartridge in the top, allowing players to re-experience their favorite Game Boy and Game Boy Color games.

Besides simply making it possible, they added a whole suite of features and options to optimize the games and make them more fun.

Their Game Boy Advance SP was not the original iteration of the GBA, but an upgraded, foldable version with a lit screen that was compatible with original Game Boy and Game Boy Color games.Seems like Nintendo spent a lot of years trying to squeeze more and more money out of the Game Boy.

Even the Nintendo DS Lite was able to play Game Boy Advance Games, and the 3DS could play regular DS games. 

The backward compatibility of NIntendo’s consoles extended into their home consoles as well, but not to as great of an extent. This was probably due in large part to the fact that they changed mediums so often. From cartridges to tiny discs to large discs and back to cartridges.

I was pleased and surprised when I learned that I could play Gamecube games on my Wii, despite the difference in disc sizes. 

I’ve probably shared far more than you needed to know. But for me, it’s important to make retro gaming accessible for anybody that wants to get started. Like I said earlier, it really can be intimidating for new collectors. Gaming fandoms can be notoriously harsh with “n00bs”.

But hopefully I’ve answered a few of the more basic questions, and offered some interesting insight for new or aspiring retro collectors. Or those who are just interested to rediscover the past’s gaming greatness and even share it with a new generation of gamers.

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