Were there any enhancement chips in officially-released games that were CPUs themselves and which ran the game code itself, relegating the role of the main CPU to that of a thin client?

To elaborate, I'm only asking about enhancement chips that themselves were microprocessors and which executed game code on their own. This excludes many popular chips like MMC and SuperFX which were slaved to the CPU in the console and did not fetch and run code independently.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Apr 4, 2022 at 10:00
  • The super gameboy basically had a gameboy inside, so that had its own cpu and relegated the snes' cpu to a thin client like what you're asking after. It's not quite a game on its own though because it needs a gameboy game still to play, so I'm not sure if it's what you're looking for or not
    – Jojo
    Commented Apr 4, 2022 at 14:30
  • 1
    I can't find details on this right now, which is why this is a comment, but there was a Go game sold on cartridge for a console (SNES? GBA?) that used a significantly more powerful ARM chip for the AI.
    – prosfilaes
    Commented Apr 4, 2022 at 15:10
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    Hayazashi Nidan: Morita Shougi 2 allegedly has a 21.47 MHz, 32-bit ARMv3 chip in it, according to Wikipedia, from an now-dead site; another website says it was never sold.
    – prosfilaes
    Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 2:29

2 Answers 2


I think the SA-1 chip in various late-era Super Nintendo cartridges (eg. Kirby Super Star, Kirby's Dream Land 3, Super Mario RPG) would qualify.

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about it (emphasis mine):

Similar to the 5A22 CPU in the Super NES hardware, the SA1 contains a processor core based on the 65C816 with several programmable timers.[2] The SA1 does not function as a slave CPU for the 5A22; both can interrupt each other independently.

The SA1 also features a range of enhancements over the standard 65C816:

  • 10.74 MHz clock speed, compared to the 5A22's maximum of 3.58 MHz
  • Faster RAM, including 2 KB of internal RAM
  • Memory mapping capabilities
  • Limited data storage and compression
  • New DMA modes such as bitmap to bit plane transfer
  • Arithmetic functions (multiplication, division, and cumulative)
  • Hardware timer (either as a linear 18-bit timer, or synchronised with the PPU to generate an IRQ at a specific H/V scanline location)
  • Built-in CIC lockout, for copy protection and regional marketing control

So every cartridge with an SA-1 chip essentially has an independent SoC in it, clocked at three times the speed of the SNES's main CPU.


Not quite what you're looking for, but if you bought a first generation Mac and a LaserWriter printer to go with it, your printer had more horsepower than your computer.

  • 1
    Printers are also where you can train writing malar in FORTH ... Commented Apr 4, 2022 at 21:41
  • 2
    Because the LaserWriter had a 12 MHz 68000, versus the 8 MHz 68000 in the Macintosh? Maybe you could add some more details/specifics of this type to your answer? Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 9:11
  • Going back a little further, our RML380Z had a 4MHz Z80A while the 9-pin dot matrix printer boasted a 6MHz Z80B
    – Frog
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 21:28

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