Saturday, July 23, 2011

Video Game Cart Design: God do I Hate Super Famicom Carts

As I've said before on here, I think Famicom carts are the most attractive video game carts ever made.

Carts on post-Famicom consoles, however, have been kind of hit and miss. I thought I'd use this post to look at a few post-Famicom cart designs.

Lets start off with the Famicom's successor here:
The Super Famicom cartridge has to be the worst designed video game cart ever made. My theory is that in the middle of the night in late 1989 a group of vandals broke into Nintendo headquarters and, in a fit of drunken mischief, designed the Super Famicom cartridge.

They then left the plans on someone's desk, quietly slipped out and were never seen again. Nintendo, unaware of these shenanigans, went with that design.

This is the only theory that can account for the awfulness of the Super Famicom cart, both from a functional and an artistic point of view.

On the functional side, these things are huge and impossible to store. The top of the cart is curved which makes it impossible to stack them on top of each other.

On the artistic side, the carts are ugly. Their greyness is overwhelming. Why is the label so small? Why did they put that grooved recess in the front of the cart? Just to give them an excuse not to make the label bigger?

Damn you, mischievous vandals from 1989!!

Anyway. I hate Super Famicom carts.

Nintendo followed that up with these:
The Nintendo 64 carts at least resolved the disastrous functional problems with the Super Famicom carts - these can be stacked and are about the same size as the original Famicom carts. It is possible that these were designed by a different group of vandals than those who designed the Super Famicom cart.

Artistically, the fact that the label takes up more of the front of the cart is a plus, but these aren't really that different from the Super Famicom carts other than that. The grey is still overwhelming and the label is still too small for my taste.

Meanwhile, away from Nintendo Headquarters, the folks over at NEC (who employ a night guard to keep the vandals out) got things right:
I love PC Engine HuCards. These things are awesome. They are far and away the smallest Video Game carts or cards in my collection, at least for non-handheld consoles. All the HuCards in my collection (I have nine) take up less space than a single Super Famicom cart.

Also: these aren't grey. Points, NEC, points!

Sega, not to be outdone, also got things right:
I really like Mega Drive carts. They are very similar in design to the Konami carts on Famicom games like Gradius. They have colorful labels that take up almost the entire cart, which is great. And they wrap them over the top edge so you can see which game is which when they are stacked up. Perfect.

Related Posts:
-The Aesthetics of the Famicom Cart


  1. I love the Mega Drive carts. They just feel nice too. Better than the American version IMO.

  2. I can't say that I hate Super Fami or N64 carts, but I definitely agree that they pale in comparison to Famicom, Mega Drive and PC Engine carts/cards. Nintendo really should have gone with a MegaDrive-esque cart if they had wanted to move away from the colorful, overly toy-like Famicom carts, in my opinion, as, like you said, they have colorful labels that cover most of the cart in a very attractive manner.

  3. Then what are your thoughts on the Western SNES carts? Yes, still very grey over all, but they did have end Labels and weren't rounded like the SFC carts.

    I love the Labels on Master system carts, but I always felt they looked kind of cheep because of it.

    Spot on on the HUE cards.

  4. Michael - yeah, the Mega Drive ones got it all right. When I look at my stack of Mega Drive carts they just make me want to play them.

    Bryan - if you had a lot of Super Famicom carts that you had absolutely no way of stacking in an apartment as small as mine, trust me, you would hate them too:)

    I share your opinion though, I think they should have gone with something similar to the Mega Drive cart design. I really don't understand why they made them so big.

    Ecto-Glow - The SNES carts are a vast improvement on the SF carts. Obviously the American branch of Nintendo was not subject to break in by cart-designing vandals.

    I really like Master System carts too (at least the Japanese ones, I can't remember what the American ones look like). I would have included them in this post, but unfortunately I don't have any!

  5. I Like the Genesis (MD US) Carts a Bit more then the Mega Drive carts (at least the japanese ones), When I was little they looked "cool". They had the small label issue like everything else in the US that came after NES but before CDs.

    However they were tough. An angry neighbor once threw his copy of "Toejam & Earl" out of a 6th story window and it even survived the NYC traffic below for long enough for me to retrieve it (despite not owning a genesis).

    Wow, that was kind of a tangent.

    1. wow, that's quite impressive!!

  6. A six story fall AND NY traffic? Man, those things are tough. I'll have to put one of my Famicom carts to a similar test:)

  7. Sean-

    If you do test the durability, just make sure it's one of the billion mahjong, Go or pachinko carts. ;)

  8. LOL - good point, Zach! I think I now have an idea for my next post!!

  9. Splendid post sir!

    I too dislike the Super Famicom / SNES cart design, particularly the fact that they're curved and have no label on the top. The groove it because when you turn the machine on, a piece of plastic slides into the groove, preventing the cart's removal while the game is running.

    I too am a big fan of HuCard's. A fantastic design. I also agree with you regarding the MD carts, but only the Japanese ones. The PAL ones were worse and had awful label art :(

  10. Thanks, Simon. I didn't know that about the purpose of the groove, interesting!

    Too bad about the PAL Mega Drive carts, the Japanese ones are really great:)

  11. man, dis you japs ever get RIPPED off with you post famicom Nintendo cart designs, the American SNES carts are LEAGUES ahead of the Japanese equivalent in design!!