Image: Ben Carter

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.

Join the Conversation

8 Comments

  1. I watched this last night as was super impressed by this. The mixture of hyper realistic lighting and retro graphics just makes me want a game that looks like this.
  2. I watched this last night as was super impressed by this. The mixture of hyper realistic lighting and retro graphics just makes me want a game that looks like this.

    Not exactly retro, but it has the aesthetic.

    People have turned NES games into 3D, so I won’t be surprised if someone out there is already working on it. It would be interesting to see original PlayStation games with ray tracing. There is a new PlayStation emulator out that would be perfect for it.

    https://github.com/stenzek/duckstation

  3. Not exactly retro, but it has the aesthetic.

    People have turned NES games into 3D, so I won’t be surprised if someone out there is already working on it. It would be interesting to see original PlayStation games with ray tracing. There is a new PlayStation emulator out that would be perfect for it.

    https://github.com/stenzek/duckstation

    Yeah Mine Craft RTX was a fun little show case imo. Recently been seeing a few Retro FPS shooters on Steam, although I have yet to try any.

  4. I watched this last night as was super impressed by this. The mixture of hyper realistic lighting and retro graphics just makes me want a game that looks like this.

    Quake II RTX is a thing and looks pretty sweet.
    I got a constant 55fps with everything maxed out on my 3090, it was very smooth.
    For some reason it doesnt quite max the clock speed out despite running at cooler than normal temps.

  5. Quake II RTX is a thing and looks pretty sweet.
    I got a constant 55fps with everything maxed out on my 3090, it was very smooth.
    For some reason it doesnt quite max the clock speed out despite running at cooler than normal temps.

    Oh I shoulda mentioned, I got that too.

Leave a comment