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Ray tracing arrives on the SNES, thanks to this unbelievable hack

If you were planning to buy a PS5 or Xbox Series X for the ray tracing effect, that money can now stay in your pocket because apparently you can do the same thing on an old SNES.

Ray tracing is one of the signature graphical effects that the new generation of consoles brings with it, enhancing the realism of your surroundings with far greater lighting contrasts and reflections. You’d think that only the most capable of consoles would be able to run something so ground-breaking and demanding, but a clever clogs has got it working on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System – the flagship console of the early nineties.

The eye-popping effect was achieved thanks to a new graphics co-processing chip designed by Ben Carter, which was plugged into the machine to achieve ray tracing at 20fps with a resolution of 200×160. This process was inspired by the Super FX chip which Nintendo created to render polygons on the SNES, and thereby keep it competitive with SEGA.

The modified console is seen above, with all the hardware visible to show how Carter pulled off this impressive trick. It’s unlikely that everyone will have the technical knowhow to pull off this – Carter describes the process in depth on his blog – but it’s an impressive trick to achieve with such an ancient piece of tech, and it would surely be a rewarding challenge to try it out.

In our reviews of the PS5 and Xbox Series X, ray tracing was seen as a defining highlight of both consoles, giving an added layer of realism that heightened our immersion in different game environments – and it goes without saying that it the feature is a tad better at a 4K resolution running at up to 120fps. 

 

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