Many Super Nintendo games, such as "Chrono Trigger," are not able to be completed in one sitting due to their length. For these games, you can save your data, such as your location, characters, all items acquired and your progress in the story, directly to the cartridge. However, it is not uncommon to find that your SNES cartridge keeps deleting your saves when the game is turned off.
Unlike modern systems, where your saved data is stored to a hard drive, your saved game data for Super Nintendo cartridges is stored on the actual cartridge itself and not the system. Inside of the cartridge is a CR2032 lithium battery whose sole responsibility it is to hold your game's save data. When this battery dies, your progress cannot be saved, making some games impossible to finish unless you can play through in one sitting. The CR2032 was not designed to last for an excessive amount of time and many companies of the SNES era never expected their games to still be played in the current day, hence the reliance on the lithium battery.
Types of Games to Use Batteries
Not all Super Nintendo games featured batteries inside of the cartridge; this can be due to some games not being long enough to necessitate it or companies not willing to spend the extra money for the battery and going with a password system instead. However, there are some genres where, due to the length of the game, a battery was nearly always included. These include the role-playing game genre, with games like "Chrono Trigger" or "Final Fantasy III," as most RPGs are 20 to 30 hours long with many variables to keep track of. Some of the longer games in the platforming genre, such as "Super Metroid" and "Super Mario World," also use batteries. If you must create a save file at the beginning of the game, that's a good indication that the game uses a lithium battery to save your progress.
Testing the Cartridge
Testing a cartridge to see if the battery is non-functioning is very simple. Play through the game until you reach the first point you can save and turn the system off after saving. Power the system on and load the game. If your save is deleted, the lithium battery is depleted. Always make sure to test a cartridge if possible when you are purchasing Super Nintendo games.
Fixing the Battery
There are a few possible methods to fix your battery. One solution is to open the cartridge, remove the old CR2032 battery and solder a new battery onto the cartridge. However, even the slightest error can make your cartridge permanently unplayable. You can also use electric tape to hold the battery in place instead of soldering it in. However, the tape will eventually come unstuck, which means it is not a permanent solution. Finally, contact a repair shop if you have one in your area. Many independent, locally-owned video game stores offer repair services for a fee.
Alternatives to Super Nintendo Cartridges
While some prefer to play Super Nintendo games on the original system with the original cartridges, alternatives do exist. Nintendo, along with other third parties such as SquareEnix and Capcom, make many of their Super Nintendo games available as digital downloads for the Wii. These games can be downloaded, played and saved directly to the Wii without the hassle of worrying about a lithium battery. Additionally, some companies make their back catalog available on other systems. Game Boy Advance users can play "Final Fantasy III," while PlayStation 3 users can play "Chrono Trigger."