Let's take a trip back in time to the early 16-bit era - a time when 3D gaming on home consoles was but a glimmer into what the future might hold someday. 3D polygonal games were starting to take off in the arcades and on computers, but seemed out of reach for home consoles of the day. Sure, we had some polygonal flight simulation games on the Sega Genesis, Hard Drivin' had ports on both Sega and Nintendo's 16-bit systems, and the SNES already had plenty of pseudo-3D games via the system's Mode 7 scaling capabilities like Super Mario Kart, F-Zero, and Pilotwings - but true 3D polygonal games with high production values that actually managed to run well seemed well off into the future. Until 1993 that is, when the Super FX chip made its grand debut (Sega would later follow with their SVP chip, which sadly was only used in one game, Virtua Racing). Developed by Argonaut Software, this little chip gave game developers the ability to create immersive and visually stunning (for the time) 3D experiences on Nintendo's 16-bit powerhouse. While there weren't a ton of games that took advantage of the chip, the few games that did provided some gameplay experiences that gave us a glimpse into what the future of gaming might hold. So without further ado, we're going to take a look at all of the Super FX chip games released on the Super Nintendo!
Star Fox (Starwing)
Released in 1993, Star Fox (known as Starwing in Europe) was the first game to utilize the Super FX chip. Developed by Nintendo and Argonaut Software, this rail shooter introduced the world to the thrilling intergalactic adventures of Fox McCloud and the Star Fox team. It was a space epic like no other at the time, with groundbreaking 3D graphics and fast-paced gameplay that showcased the capabilities of the Super FX chip, setting a new standard for presentation in a video game and pushing the boundaries of what was possible on the SNES. Sure, the graphics may have been a little blocky, but hey, it was the '90s, and at the time it looked awesome! Star Fox is a true shooter classic with a ton of character, one of the best games on the console, and has an absolutely banging soundtrack as well. 10 out of 10!
Stunt Race FX (Wild Trax)
Arriving in 1994, Stunt Race FX (Wild Trax in Japan) brought arcade-style racing to the Super Nintendo. Developed by Nintendo EAD and Argonaut, this title showcased the Super FX chip's ability to deliver reasonably smooth racing in a fully 3D environment, and it featured some very impressive physics for the time as well. If you had a need for speed, Stunt Race FX was the game for you back in the day! With a nice variety of tracks, adorable anthropomorphic vehicles, very impressive-for-their-time visuals, and personality to spare, Stunt Race FX offered a very unique racing experience, and it's still pretty fun and charming today. It was a wild ride filled with bumps, jumps, and hairpin turns - just like life, but with less insurance claims...
While not as well-known as the previous two titles, Vortex made its way to the SNES in 1994. Developed by Argonaut Software, this space combat game employed the Super FX chip to create a visually impressive and unique gameplay experience for the time. The game has you piloting a transforming spacecraft through 3D environments, engaging in battles with enemy forces. It's definitely not a great game, to be sure - it's overly complicated while also managing to be really, really boring - but it's at least interesting as an early attempt at a 3D action game on a home console.
Dirt Racer, developed by MotiveTime Ltd. and released only in Europe in 1995, showcased the Super FX chip's potential in a different genre - off-road racing. With its impressive-for-the-time scaling and rotation effects, Dirt Racer offered players a peak at what a next-generation dirt track racing game might be like. It's extremely jank and kind of sucks, to be honest, but yeah - it's a Super FX chip racing game with graphics that are somewhat impressive for the system. It's sort of worth checking out just on that basis alone. If you're looking for a good Super FX racing game though, just stick with Stunt Race FX.
Yoshi's Island (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island)
Yoshi's Island, released in 1995, marked the culmination of the Super FX chip's journey on the Super Nintendo. Developed by Nintendo, this iconic platformer presented a vibrant and whimsical world filled with imaginative level design and charming characters with a watercolor-esque visual style. The next generation Super FX 2 chip enabled the game to showcase some impressive visual effects, including sprite scaling and rotation effects, as well as some polygon-based 3D effects. Oh yeah, and it's just a great game from a gameplay perspective as well. Yoshi's Island is a beloved Nintendo classic, demonstrating the Super FX chip's ability to enhance both gameplay and artistic presentation, even in a 2D platformer. One of the best games on the system for sure - if you haven't played it yet, you should definitely check it out ASAP.
Doom, the iconic first-person shooter developed by id Software, made its way to the Super Nintendo with the assistance of the more powerful Super FX 2 chip. Released in 1995, Doom on the SNES offered a shockingly faithful adaptation of the groundbreaking PC original. While the Super FX 2 chip wasn't as powerful as most of the competing platforms that Doom appeared on at the time, it still enabled the developers of the port to deliver on the intense horror action the game was known for, albeit with some major compromises in terms of visual fidelity and frame rate. Still, in some ways it was actually the most faithful console port of Doom that was released in the 1990's, besting even the PlayStation version in terms of having more complex level design that mirrored the PC original, rather than the simplified levels the other console versions offered. An impressive port of an all-time classic game, Doom on the Super Nintendo was a great addition to the console's library and really showed off what was possible with the Super FX chip.
Dirt Trax FX
Developed by Sculptured Software and released in 1995, Dirt Trax FX was another racing game that utilized the Super FX 2 chip. This off-road racing title aimed to provide a more immersive racing experience with its dynamic track conditions and realistic physics. The Super FX 2 chip allowed the developers to enhance the game's engine and graphics with smooth scaling and rotation effects in addition to the impressive 3D polygon track. And as a racing game it's actually not too bad - sure, it's a bit repetitive and has some annoying quirks (like the weird horn honking that plays every single time you go from 2nd to 1st place and vice versa), but it actually runs and plays quite well and it's kind of fun. All in all, Dirt Trax FX is worth a look if you're curious.
Winter Gold, also known as FX Skiing in Japan, was a sports game developed by Funcom and released in 1996. It featured a variety of winter sports events, including skiing, bobsledding, snowboarding, and figure skating. With the awesome power of the Super FX 2 chip, Winter Gold showcased some pretty impressive graphics, including some great stylized cutscenes that looked like something you only would have seen on CD-based consoles. While it's technically more of an FMV game than it is a 3D one, it nevertheless boasts some really cool visuals for Nintendo's 16-bit console, with a level of presentation that managed to rival early 32-bit titles for the PlayStation and Sega Saturn. The game itself offers some pretty simplistic extreme sports gameplay, but there's some fun to be had here if you don't require your games to have a ton of depth.