This might be hard to believe, but someone has figured out how to get real-time ray tracing running on a Super Nintendo. Game developer and software engineer Ben Carter has published a blog article on how he pulled the feat off, which was accomplished by a custom chip akin to the Super FX coprocessors used in hit titles such as Star Fox, Stunt Race FX, and Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island.
“The SuperRT chip constructs the scene using a specialised command language which is executed by one of three parallel execution units on the chip – essentially specialised CISC processors – to perform ray intersection tests,” Carter explained.
“[…] The renderer casts up to four rays per screen pixel, calculating direct shadows from a directional light source and a single reflection bounce. Surfaces each have a diffuse colour and reflectivity property, and it’s possible to apply modifiers to these based on CSG results or specialised functions – this is used to generate the checkerboard pattern on the floor.”
A demonstration video, which you can check out below, notes that this is 100 percent, legitimate ray tracing with no rasterization. While the 200 x 160 resolution leaves a lot to be desired, this is some pretty cool stuff for an ancient, 16-bit console that utilizes a processor with an effective speed of just 3.58 MHz.