How to Play Super Famicom Games on an American Super Nintendo




Attention: These instructions are only for the original Super Nintendo and not the smaller “slim” model, if you do not know which one you have, the older SNES has a large rectangular purple slider for the reset function and the slim model has a small purple button.

Today with websites like eBay it is easier than ever to obtain import Japanese games, however, it is still fairly expensive and hard to get a hold of the import game consoles. Fortunately it is quite easy to be able to play import Super Famicom games on your console. The Super Famicom is the Japanese only version of the Super Nintendo, it has the exact same controller and the same internals as the North American SNES. The only difference is in the shape of the cartridges. The North American carts are a little bigger and have two indentations on the bottom of them that are absent on the Japanese carts. If you look into the cartridge port on your Super Nintendo you will see that there are two plastic protrusions or "tabs", which match the indentations on the cartridge. These tabs are the only thing that prevents the Super Famicom games from being played on the Super Nintendo.

There are two options for you at this point, you can buy a cartridge adapter, which is basically a pass through spacer which allows you to play the games, or you can manually remove the tabs in the cartridge port. Removing the tabs is definitely the cheapest and most elegant solution in my opinion, and you could be playing the Japanese games in less than an hour. Modifying the Super Nintendo in this way is fairly simple and does not require any soldering or any modification of the electronics.

Note: The games will still have Japanese text no matter what way you choose to play them, however some games may have an English text option. If you want to play an English version of a Super Famicom game there may be fan translated ROMs available online, assuming you already own the game.

Also: This will only allow you to play Japanese Super Famicom games in a North Amercian Super Nintendo, not vice versa. Super Nintendo cartridges are bigger and will not fit in the Super Famicom console, and even though European Super Nintendo games are the same size as Japanese cartridges, they WILL NOT WORK in the American or Japanese consoles. The European games run on the PAL video standard and the American and Japanese game use NTSC, they are not compatable.

What You Will Need:
  • 4.5 mm security bit. (The Super Nintendo’s outside casing screws use this special bit. You can find it online for a couple of dollars, it is also common in bit sets.)
  • Screwdriverhandle.
  • Phillipsscrewdriver or bit.
  • Pliers or wire-cutters.
  • Small metal file.
  • Small tweezers or needle.
  • Old toothbrush.
  • Cleaning solution or water.
  • Drying cloth.

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Step 1: Remove Outer Casing Screws

Turn the Super Nintendo on its top and remove the security bitscrews on the bottom of the console. There is one in each corner and two near the edges. Set these screws aside in a safe place, in a bowl or lid, as it would be bad to lose them. Set the console right side up again.

Step 2: Lift the Top

With the console right side up, remove the top of the console and set it upside down. The bottom half of the console contains all of the electronics and will not be needed for what we are doing. Set it aside being careful not to touch any of the boards or components.

CAUTION. Touching the electronics may short them out due to static electricity. Better to avoid them all together.

Step 3: Get to the Cartridge Port

One the inside of the console lid is the cartridge portassembly, this is what we need to get to and it is held in place with seven Phillipsheadscrews.
  1. Remove the Phillipsscrews and set them aside in a safe place. A couple of these screws attach to face plates on the console around the cartridge door, which may come off, just remember how they go together so you can reattach them later.
  2. Next we need to remove is a small spring on the reset switch. Use a pair of small tweezers or a needle to unhook the spring, be careful through the spring can go flying and can be hard to find if it lands on the floor. Once you have the spring set it aside with the screws because it will need to be reattached.

Depending on which original Super Nintendo you have, (there are two different versions), you may have another piece on the cartridge portassembly. The first run of consoles has a plastic slider attached to the power switch that locks cartridges into place when the system is on. The newer consoles do not have this as it was removed to save money. If this feature is present there shouldn’t be any need to remove it, it will not get in the way.

Step 4: Cut Out the Tabs

Now that you have the cartridge port assembly detached there is much better access to the tabs we want to remove.

Note: If you want to take a minute to clean the area inside the cartridge port now is a good time. Take an old toothbrush and some cleaner or soap and water a brush out any gunk that has collected inside over the last 20 years. Make sure you dry it thoroughly so it does not drip any water on to the electronics when you put it back together.
  1. The easiest way that I have found to remove the tabs is to get some small wire-cutters and pinch the point at which the tab meets the wall of the cartridge port.
  2. Then grab a hold and move the cutters side to side, stressing the plastic, eventually the plastic will break and come apart in pieces.
  3. Continue to stress the plastic until a majority of the tab is gone. Don’t worry about the left over rough base for now.
  4. Repeat the process on the other tab and you are almost done.

Step 5: Smooth Down the Tabs

When most of the plastic is gone from the tabs, use a small metal file or sandpaper to grind away and smooth out the rough remnants of the tabs.

Make sure when you are done smoothing that you clean away any plastic dust or grains that may be left over, you don’t want these getting in the cartridge contacts or on the electronics.

Step 6: Put It Back Together

Putting the console back together will be the exact opposite of taking it apart.

1. Make sure the faceplates are reattached on the outside of the console.
2. Set the cartridge port assembly back into place.
3. Put the seven Phillipsscrews back into place.
4. Reattach the reset switch spring.
5. If all is secure and held in place, set the top of the console back onto the base.
6. Turn the console over and put the securitybitscrews back in.
7. Turn the console right side up and you are done.

Grab a Super Famicom cartridge and try it out! The cartridge should fit in nicely and when you turn on the system you will see a game made to play on the Super Famicom. Congratulations you are cheating the system!

Note: The Super Famicom cartridges are smaller and therefore wont fit a snuggly into the cartridge port. Make sure you do not to touch or bump them while the game is in operation.

If you feel like completing the experience of playing a Japanese game, try getting a Super Famicom controller. They are functionally exactly the same as the Super Nintendo controller but only look a little different. You don't have to modify anything to use it, the controller just plugs right in.

Hopefully these instructions were helpful for you and introduced you to a whole new world of importing foreign games. Enjoy!

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    10 Discussions


    3 years ago


    The SNES had a lockout chip that had to match between cartridge and console. The chip for America and Japan is the same because these markets were 'protected' by the physical difference in the cartridges, but the European version had a different chip because it shares the same cartridge shape with the Japanese version. This is why you have to deal with lockout chips if you have want to use other cartridges with a European SNES, but only need a knife/wire cutters if you want to use Japanese cartridges in an American console and vice versa.

    Edit: Posting this here because I can apparently not reply to five year old comments...


    3 years ago

    I recently took apart and refurbished/inspected/cleaned a friend's SNES and he performed the above mod using snips and a file. It worked, but now every time we put any game in (SNES or Famicom) the cartridges have to be lifted up a couple millimeters (before turning the console on of course) in order for the them to register on the TV/be playable. I don't recall having to do this before the mod. I took a look at his sanding job and it looks like he did a good job of sanding the tabs flush/flat (I'm happy to take a picture if it would help). Does anyone have any idea what could be going on, and more importantly have a suggested a fix? =)

    Much thanks,

    My question was if you needed an additional software or hardware mod...but now seeing this...this means that both Super Famicom and SNES are entirely compatible?
    The only limitation was the "plastic design" that does not fit the carts?

    2 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    even the NES and famicom were compatible. you just need a pin converter and it plays perfectly


    7 years ago on Introduction

    woh woh woh i thought the snes had a lock out chip similar to that of the nes's except it delt with the problem with the coc lock in chips.......but apparently not so

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    That's what I thought too, but it's so easy to mod it. The Super Nintendo never ceases to amaze!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    you can cut the tabs without unassemble the console. I did this way 20 year ago, eheheh.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I suppose if you don't have the security bit that would be the best option. I attempted to do it once without opening the console, but I ended up scratching the case a bit.