Setting up a Super Nintendo can get tricky if you can’t find all of the cables. Cables from some other Nintendo consoles will work, but not always. Plus, TV sets have changed a lot since the 1990s, and that makes it much more difficult. HDTVs don’t necessarily have the same options as vintage TVs. So here’s how to hook up a Super Nintendo.
The Super Nintendo was really designed to use composite video or S-Video, like a VCR. It shares the same square connector with many other Nintendo consoles, but a cable to use the Wii with HDMI, for example, doesn’t work on an SNES. The SNES requires a different, more expensive converter for HDMI.
How to hook up the Super Nintendo power supply and controllers
Let’s get the more straightforward part out of the way first. If you already know this stuff and just need to connect the TV, feel free to scroll down about five paragraphs.
The power supply brick plugs into the round connector on the back of the unit. The connector is specific to Nintendo, but you can get a semi-universal adapter that works with the SNES, original NES, and Sega Genesis if you lost yours. The cost on these adapters has really come down in recent years due to the resurgence in popularity of retro consoles, so it’s easy to get one for under $10 now.
The connector on the back of the SNES is fragile and can break. If all you see is two wires and no plastic, the AC adapter may still work, but won’t be as reliable.
Cartridges plug into the slot in the top of the unit. Never plug or unplug a cartridge with the unit powered on. Power off the unit first.
Controllers plug into the front of the unit. If you’ve lost your controllers, replacements are also available.
Beyond this point, hooking up a Super Nintendo isn’t quite like an NES, but it’s closer to that than the newest Nintendo consoles. There are several options, and if you want to connect multiple consoles, you might want to choose one that isn’t an option for one of the others to make it easier to switch between them.
How to hook up a Super Nintendo to HDMI
Some newer TVs don’t have composite inputs. That makes connecting an SNES more difficult, and the HDMI mods for some consoles cost more than the console is worth. But there is one HDMI solution for the SNES that isn’t crazy expensive.
My favorite all-around HDMI option for the SNES is the Hyperkin HDMI adapter, which costs around $30. The quality isn’t as high as the HDMI options for some other consoles, but unlike those, this one doesn’t require modifications and also works with the N64 and Gamecube, so it can do double or triple duty if you also own one of those consoles. Some people have reported audio issues with this cable. If that happens, using a different TV set usually clears it up.
One other option at this point is to simply use an SNES Classic with HDMI. The Classic has an HDMI connector in the back that plugs straight into an HDMI connector on a TV with a standard HDMI cable. If you already have a vintage SNES, a $30 HDMI adapter is cheaper. But an SNES Classic is more affordable than a vintage SNES plus an adapter plus some games. This will probably be either your favorite or least favorite option, but it’s an option.
Can you use a Wii component cable on a Super Nintendo?
Some recent TVs have component outputs, which provide better quality than composite. While a component video cable for a Wii fits the SNES video connector, they aren’t compatible. It’s possible to modify an SNES to use component video, but HDMI is a better option since more TVs have HDMI than component, and you can now get HDMI options that just plug into the back, without requiring internal mods.
Connecting a Super Nintendo to S-Video
For years, the highest quality connection you could use with an SNES without modifications was S-Video. Since many DVD players used S-Video, many recent-ish televisions, including LCD televisions, have an S-video connection. And many higher-end TVs in the 90s had these connections, so this still gives a true-to-the-90s experience.
All you need to get is an SNES-to-S-video cable (the same cable also works with an N64, Gamecube or Wii), then plug the cable into the video output of your SNES, and plug the S-Video lead into the S-Video port on your TV and select S-Video on your TV using the remote.
On a flat panel TV, the output won’t be as sharp as a modern console that uses HDMI natively. But it also costs considerably less and works with multiple consoles, so it’s a good value for the money.
Connecting an Super Nintendo to composite video
Composite was what a lot of us used in the 1990s with an SNES, and millions of TVs have composite outputs, so this is an option likely to be available to many people. For this type of connection, all you need is an SNES composite video cable. One of these cables probably came with your SNES in the first place, or with another Nintendo console if you have one of those. These cables are also compatible with multiple Nintendo consoles, from the Super Nintendo all the way up to the Wii.
Simply plug this cable into the square video output in the back of the SNES, then plug the yellow video lead into the yellow RCA jack in the back of your TV, and the red and white audio leads into the red and white jacks in the back of the TV. If your TV doesn’t have two audio inputs, just use whichever one it has and leave the second one disconnected.
On some televisions, the set of component inputs does double duty as composite as well. On a TV like that, one of the jacks will probably be green and yellow. Try using that jack.
Just like S-Video, after connecting to composite inputs, select the composite input with your TV remote and turn on your SNES to play.
How to hook up a Super Nintendo to RF
Last and least, you can hook up a SNES to RF if you don’t have any other options. Most TVs can still accept the broadcast analog signal that the SNES RF connection used. The options vary depending on whether you have the original model or the later 1997 cost-reduced model. The original SNES can use an original NES RF video cable, exactly the same way as the original NES. It can also use an N64 RF adapter, which is the only RF option for the later model SNES.
If you’re using the original NES RF cable, connect RCA plug on the cable to the RCA jack on the back of the SNES, then connect the round end to the antenna connector on your TV. Connect your antenna or other video lead into the round antenna connector on the SNES’ RF cable.
If you’re using an N64 RF adapter, plug the rectangular end into the back of the SNES, then connect the round end to the antenna connector on your TV. Connect your antenna or other video lead into the round antenna connector on the SNES’ RF cable.
Next, insert a cartridge and turn on your SNES, then perform a channel search on your TV using its remote. Your TV hasn’t seen an analog signal on channel 3 or channel 4 since 2009, if it ever did, so you have to instruct it to look. After the channel search finishes, you’ll see your SNES output on either channel 3 or channel 4.
If you can’t get your SNES to work over RF, you probably missed the channel search step, or didn’t have your console powered on when you performed the search.
With analog television becoming increasingly rare, this isn’t an option that we can count on forever. But on a TV that doesn’t have any other connections besides HDMI, this option is the one most likely to work.