It might have been when Control released on PC in 2019 that “ray tracing” really started to see a lot of use in the video game lexicon. To put it simply, it refers to technology that allows for much more realistic lighting and reflections, and it can take an already pretty game and turn it into to a mesmerizing game. PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X have made it possible to achieve ray tracing on consoles, but it turns out — if you’re a tech genius — you don’t need a console that powerful to achieve ray tracing. Game developer and software engineer Ben Carter has created a cartridge expansion chip, the SuperRT, that makes ray tracing possible on the SNES.
Of course, it comes with obvious and extreme significations. The SuperRT SNES ray tracing demo illustrated below only has a resolution of 200 x 160 pixels, which is below the typical 256 x 224 SNES resolution. (The console was capable of 512 x 448 but rarely used it.) The chip itself includes three execution cores at 50 MHz, delivering “single-bounce reflections, directional light shadows, and constructive solid geometry support.” In a post at his website, Carter goes into the nitty-gritty details of the chip, for the technologically inclined.
The SNES was designed to enable the video game cartridges themselves to contain additional tech to run more powerful games. Argonaut Games’ SuperFX chip is famously what made the polygonal Star Fox possible, and Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island contained the SuperFX 2 chip. Ben Carter’s SuperRT chip is understandably a bit more complex than those, as the image below demonstrates.
This amazing video of SNES ray tracing released in the middle of December, so we’re admittedly a bit behind the curve on this story thanks to the madness of the holidays. But this was still too cool not to share. Let us know what you think of it.