Jailbreaking an SNES Cartridge Lets You Give Mario Psychic Powers

Retro game hackers have outdone themselves.

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May 30 2017, 2:00pm

Screengrab: YouTube/SethBling

Video game enthusiasts and hackers are joining forces to break down, chop up, and reconfigure retro games and consoles in previously undreamt-of ways.

The latest marvel comes from YouTuber "SethBling," who, in a video posted to his channel on Monday, outlines how he hacked an original SNES cartridge for Super Mario World so that it runs any code you want. He calls it "jailbreaking," similar to how you might remove Apple's software restrictions from your iPhone so that you can run unapproved apps. The end result allows SethBling to hack the game in all sorts of ways, even giving Mario telekinetic powers that allow him to remotely manipulate enemies.

The best part is that the cartridge runs on the original SNES console without modifications, and you can edit the game's code on the fly. Editing a couple digits lets you instantly beat the level you're playing, for example. Watching it all go down on film is pretty amazing.

SethBling notes in the video that the hack was a collaborative effort between him and several others, who all go by online pseudonyms. Mr. Bling and his collaborators wrote what's known as a "hex editor"—basically, it lets you view and edit the game's hexadecimal code—that runs in the game.

This gives you access to pretty much everything, from the code governing Mario's current power-up state to the colour of his plumber's cap. According to SethBling, you navigate the code simply by using the SNES controller.

The process for doing all of this, quite simply, broke my peanut brain. You can check out a better explanation in SethBling's video, but it basically involved installing the editor and breaking a save file by writing code into unused memory on the cartridge. He did this by exploiting glitches and writing bytes with Mario's jumps.

SethBling calls the hack a "holy grail" in the video. I don't know about all that, but for a nerd like me, it's some kind of nirvana.

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