Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Only These Three SNES Games Got The Color Cartridge Treatment

In the heyday of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, game developers were always looking for a way to one-up the competition. These developers were constantly creating groundbreaking, innovative game mechanics, which is why SNES titles like "Chrono Trigger" and "Donkey Kong Country" are still considered among the greatest games of all time. But it wasn't just when programming the games themselves that developers tried to one-up competitors. 

In the '90s, the world of advertising was also a battleground for SNES games. With Nintendo's stranglehold on the industry being challenged for the first time by Sega and its impressive Genesis console, Nintendo had to step up its game in a major way. For proof of this huge marketing push, one need only look at the many zany television commercials for SNES games that were produced during that time. Of course, TV and print ads weren't the only ways in which Nintendo let its freak flag fly. Nintendo continually looked for any way it could make its games stand apart. One such way was through the release of special edition colored cartridges. While the standard SNES cartridge was a gray tone, a select few SNES cartridges were a touch more colorful. Here's the story behind Nintendo's variant-colored SNES games.

Only three SNES games had colored cartridges

As it turns out, the SNES only featured a few colored cartridges. In 2018, Old School Gamer Magazine produced a detailed rundown of the history of colored cartridges across multiple generations of consoles. According to this rundown — and what fans may not realize — is that only three games on the SNES featured such cartridges: "Killer Instinct" got a black cartridge, while "Doom" and "Spider-Man & Venom: Maximum Carnage" were red. It's also interesting to note that "Maximum Carnage" was the only red variant cartridge on the Sega Genesis, as well. Something about that particular game really seemed to capture the imagination of cartridge manufacturers. 

This trend first began in the 1980s with the Atari 2600 and the NES. For decades, gamers would only see a few colored cartridges here and there — until the Nintendo 64 came out. That's when colored cartridges hit their peak. At this time, the magazine claims, all publishers were given a choice of 13 different cartridge colors. As a result, gamers were blessed with a variety of beautiful colored cartridges, such as the golden "Zelda: Ocarina of Time" and the yellow "Donkey Kong 64," among others. Nintendo has also occasionally created alternate colors for its consoles, including multiple Game Boy variants, a gold-plated Wii, and rare, MTV-branded GameCubes. But even with all of those special editions out there in the world, these SNES variants continue to draw attention. While some fans feel like the presence of just a few differently-colored games throws off the consistency of their game displays, others are quite taken with them.

The SNES' colored cartridges still fascinate fans

As for why these particular games were chosen to have colored cartridges, well, that continues to be a question among fans. It's true that each of these games were considerably edgier than some of the system's other family friendly fare, which may have contributed in some way to Nintendo's decision to set their carts apart. 

"Doom" follows a space marine blasting his way through the armies of hell, "Killer Instinct" is essentially a "Mortal Kombat" clone with gnarly character designs and bone-crunching sound effects, and even the Spider-Man game saw him going up against a gang of super-powered serial killers. Maybe the color schemes were meant to denote that these games were a bit more hardcore than fans might expect. Maybe "Maximum Carnage" — a game that is notoriously super difficult — was put on a red cartridge because frustrated players would be seeing red anyway (joking, of course). Then again, maybe they were just chosen for the simple fact that they looked cooler with a coat of paint.

Whatever the case, the fact that there were only three of these titles made them feel particularly special. They were all released within a year of each other, and subsequent runs of "Maximum Carnage" were then put on gray cartridges, making the colored editions feel like even more of a collector's piece. There was just something that felt special about owning a game with a unique colored cartridge, especially when they were rare in the 16-bit era. In the years since their release, SNES fans and collectors have made a point of hunting down these specific games, which no doubt look great on a shelf.