As a hardware and software engineer, I'm mystified by the claims that both the SNES and Genesis are 16-bit consoles. As best I remember the stats:


  • 16-bit registers and arithmetic
  • 8-bit data bus
  • 8x8-bit multiplier
  • 16/8-bit divider


  • 32-bit registers and arithmetic
  • 16-bit data bus
  • 16x16-bit multiplier
  • 32/16-bit divider

I don't see any reason the Genesis would not be considered wider than the SNES. If we use the fairly common definition that the bit width is determined by the narrowest part of the system, the SNES would clearly be 8-bit and the Genesis 16-bit. If we define the bit width as the (equally common) size of arithmetic operations, the SNES is 16-bit and the Genesis is 32-bit.

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    @Wrigglenite Both were marketed as 16-bit and continue to be classified as 16-bit by most sources including Wikipedia. I'm honestly confused by why you would even ask that. Oct 16 '18 at 8:27
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    "Marketing" is the answer. People like big numbers.
    – ave
    Oct 16 '18 at 8:32
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    I think it's just a simplification for the non-technical masses. Sort of like how we use the metric system for measuring bytes (KB/MB/GB.) By the general metric system, 1KB should be 1000 bytes, but technically, 1KB = 1024 bytes, because computers. The masses saw the Genesis primarily as a competitor to the SNES, which made them "the same" to most people. FTR I do recall some of my friends in the mid-90s talking about how the Genesis is "technically 32 bit," but that discussion never made it to the level of "national awareness." What can I say? We didn't have Reddit or SE back then.
    – Steve-O
    Oct 16 '18 at 13:57
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    The Wikipedia article on 16-bit even talks about the Motorola 68000 explicitly, which is the main processor that Sega Genesis uses.
    – Powerlord
    Oct 16 '18 at 20:20
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    ...but yes, marketing was a big part of it. It's the very reason that Nintendo's next console has "64" in its name and Sony tried to claim that the PS2 was 128-bit (hint: its main CPU wasn't).
    – Powerlord
    Oct 16 '18 at 20:22