Symbiotic SNES

Inside a clear acrylic box resides two SNES controller circuit boards (no plastic buttons or enclosures), an Arduino MEGA and eight LED’s. The Arduino intercepts buttons presses from the two input controllers and performs a logic operation on the control messages before passing the data to a unmodified host SNES console. This SNES/Arduino project seeks to create new and engaging ways to experience single player games with multiple people on the SNES video game console.

Symbiotic SNES was shown at the 2016 Bay Area Makers Fair, the 2016 Las Vegas Mini Makers Faire as well as the 2016 IM Showcase @ CalArts.


The hardware for the Symbiotic SNES is very simple.  Two SNES controllers have their connection jacks cut off. The contained wires are connected to an Arduino Mega microcontroller. The Arduino reads the SNES controllers just as the SNES would. The Arduino processes the input data depending on its current operating mode before digitally pressing buttons on two additional controllers that are connected to the SNES.


Different multiplayer modes are created depending on what software algorithm is being run on the Arduino.
  • Players Both Agree: With this mode the Arduino only outputs button presses if both players are pressing a button at the same time. For instance, Mario will not jump if only one player pressed the jump button and will only leap into the air if both players press the button at the same time (the attacks do not have to be at the exact same time).
  • Players Differ: This mode only passes presses to the output controller if it is being pressed on a single controller. If both players press the same button, nothing will happen. If one player presses jump, Mario will jump: if both players press jump, Mario will do nothing.
  • Players Alternate (time): This mode alternates control between the two players after a random interval of time. By default, this mode selects a time between 500 and 3000 ms.
  • Players Alternate (presses): This mode alternates control between the two players according to the number of button presses.  By default, this mode gives each player 40 presses per turn.
  • Players Both Play: This mode passes all buttons presses by both players with no filtering logic applied. It gives both players full control over the in game character.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

OneToFour is an installation that leverages a specialized version of the Symbiotic SNES hardware. The specialized control box features eight output controller jacks in two sets of four instead of the total of two output jacks provided by the regular system. One controller output from each pair is sent to four different SNES consoles allowing for each input controller to control a character in up to four different SNES consoles at the same time. All of the software is the same as in other versions and the Symbiotic SNES controllers still only output data for two players.

The host SNES’s, while appearing the same on the outside, actually consist of four different revisions of the SNES hardware platform. The SNES, in its production cycle of over five years, saw several major internal hardware revisions. With each new revision there were new video processors, sound cards and overall system performance.

OneToFour uses the ‘vanilla’ version of Street Fighter 2 as the game in all of the SNES’s. When gallery goers pick up a controller they are actually controlling four separate instances of the game that is being interpreted through four different set of microchips. The systems quickly diverge and different outcomes occur of each of the systems. You might win the fight in one game but loose in the other three.

Street Fighter 2 is the game of choice for good reason. having to do with some interesting historical tidbits and lore surrounding the game. I wont go into all the gory detail, but some of the bullet points are…

  • The fighting game combo system as we know it was born out of a glitch in the code that developers choose to leave in the game.
  • The game is infamous for slowing down once the fighting begins
  • The game was basically flawed and performed poorly for the SNES (which is how we get Street Fighter 2 Turbo and Street Fighter 2 Alpha).
OneToFour has yet to be shown in a Gallery. If you would like to host this project feel free to contact me.