Jens Mahnke
Image: Jens Mahnke

The fabled SNES emulator known as SNESticle, which for much of the past two decades was considered to be nothing more than a rumour, has finally been unearthed and excavated by a Swedish programmer using, of all things, a National Security Agency-designed open source tool.

SNESticle, the follow-up to Icer Addis' legendary NESticle emulator - a follow-up the ex-EA employee long denied even existed - was found buried in code for the GameCube version of 2005's Fight Night Round 2, where it was being used to enable gamers to unlock a playable version of Super Punch-Out!!

As reported by Vice, in an article that also links to a fascinating history of the original NESticle, Swedish programmer Johannes Holmberg spent months working tirelessly using Ghidra - an NSA open source tool that was also involved in Super Mario 64 releasing on PC and PS2 back in 2020 - to carefully liberate the legendary emulator, reverse-engineering code in order to isolate and extract it.


Holmberg says on reflection that he really didn't want to be the person who had to put in all the work to dig out SNESticle, telling Vice the following:

“I initially decided I wouldn't be the one to do it because I lacked the free time as well as the know-how”

However, when push came to shove, he put aside his evenings and weekends in order to ensure the job was done. In the wake of his work he set up a website, The SNESticle Liberation Project, which sets out the steps required for interested parties to isolate and run the emulator for themselves.

Of course, at this stage in the game, SNESticle is of more worth in terms of its sheer historical value than it is an actual working SNES emulator, with the likes of SNES9X and ZSNES now far superior - and much easier to actually attain and use - in that regard. However, Holmberg was surprised to find that even though it was only being used to run Super Punch-Out!!! in Fight Night Round 2, it was in fact capable of running most SNES games he threw at it and could even handle fancy Mode 7 graphical effects like those found in the likes of Pilotwings, Super Mario Kart and F-Zero.

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Nevertheless, discovering and finally liberating this most elusive of emulators, especially after tales of its existence had been doing the rounds on niche forums for so many long years, must more than make up for any technical shortcomings the program now has some twenty years after it was first hidden inside EA's 2005 slugfest. As Holmberg himself says;

"it's just a good feeling, perhaps even a sense of closure, to finally get our hands on this emulator that we so desperately wanted all those years ago."

Will you be eagerly jumping onto The SNESticle Liberation Project in an attempt to isolate this legendary emulator for yourself, or are you happy enough with the ease and convenience of the plethora of modern alternatives we now have access to? Let us know in the comments!