Putting aside legal considerations, gaming console emulators do a wonderful job of making old games accessible and playable on modern computers. Unfortunately, the game themselves weren’t designed with the future in mind and there’s only so much emulators can do to make their pixelated graphics work well with hi-res screens. That’s why this new mod for the bsnes SNES emulator is almost magical in its ability to almost make these games almost HD-compatible.
When displaying old 8 or 16-bit games on modern screens, there’s no going around the fact that you will have to blow up pixels. Emulators try to soften the harsh blow of reality by applying math and filters to make the resulting images look less jarring. Some still end up a mess of pixels.
The HD Mode 7 mode for bsnes exploits a graphics trick SNES games used for a completely different purpose. Called Mode 7, it practically allowed backgrounds to be rotated and scaled, creating the illusion of a 2D “ground” where there really is none. According to developer DerKoun, his HD mod applies those transformations up to four times to create this almost miraculous effect.
Many SNES games utilize Mode 7 to varying degrees so the end result might differ from title to title. More importantly, it only applies to the part of the game that uses Mode 7 to rotate and scale the layer, so background clouds and trees and even the player character itself won’t benefit from the mod.
The bsnes HD Mode 7 mod is also a work in progress and games are continually added to the list of confirmed supported titles. Aside from Super Mario Kart, Pilotwings, and F-Zero “launch titles”, the mod has also added fixes to support Contra III, HyperZone, and Terranigma.