Expandability was one of the best promised features when Analogue first announced its Pocket handheld back in late 2019, with an extra FPGA that developers could use to transform the handheld into other consoles, which now includes the Super Nintendo, through some very easy updates.
The Analogue Pocket’s other clever trick is its ability to accommodate original game cartridges from classic hardware like the Game Boy and Game Boy Advance (or others like the Sega Game Gear through the use of cartridge adapters). That approach appeals to gamers who want access to older save data, but carrying around a handful of game carts feels so antiquated at this point, and there’s really no way cartridges from consoles like the SNES will ever be able to comfortably slot into the Analogue Pocket. The handheld’s new unofficial SNES core solves that, too.
Russ Crandall, who runs the Retro Game Corps YouTube channel and website (and who also happens to be a New York Times bestselling cookbook author), recently shared a video of the Analogue Pocket playing SNES games, and while all of the handheld’s features aren’t available while playing these classic 16-bit titles, the gameplay looks nearly flawless, and there are no physical cartridges needed.
You’ll want to head over to Crandall’s Retro Game Corps website where there’s a page dedicated to adding support for other consoles to the Analogue Pocket using its openFPGA platform. The first step is to make sure your Pocket is updated to firmware v1.1 or newer, which will give your unit openFPGA capabilities. From there, it’s as easy as downloading the MiSTer Super Nintendo core (MiSTer is an open source project that strives to accurately replicate retro console gameplay through FPGAs), which has been ported to the Pocket by developer agg23, and then copying a bunch of files to the handheld’s microSD card.
The Retro Game Corps’ tutorial will walk you through all of the steps in detail, including instructions on where you’ll need to copy ROM game files onto the microSD card. These are not provided by Analogue, nor by this developer—sourcing those are up to you. By default, games run slightly stretched in the SNES’ native 8:7 aspect ratio, but switching to the 4:3 aspect ratio you most likely used as a kid is as easy as text editing a single file. From our own testing, gameplay is incredibly solid and SNES games look beautiful on the Pocket’s screen, but you don’t have access to the handheld’s fancy screen filters that can simulate the appearance of retro hardware, nor can you take advantage of instantaneous save states (saving in-game works just fine). The Pocket also can’t be temporarily put to sleep while playing SNES titles.
The Retro Game Corps’ Analogue Pocket guide also includes step-by-step tutorials for installing other openFPGA cores, such as Sega consoles, the Neo Geo, as well as alternatives to the native support for the Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and GBA, for those who don’t want to carry cartridges everywhere and don’t mind the trade-off of missing out on some of the Analogue Pocket’s more advanced and convenient features.