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Company Nintendo, others
Games 300 in NesCartDB
Complexity ASIC
Boards TSROM, others
PRG ROM capacity 512K
PRG ROM window 8K + 8K + 16K fixed
PRG RAM capacity 8K
PRG RAM window 8K
CHR capacity 256K
CHR window 2Kx2 + 1Kx4
Nametable mirroring H or V, switchable, or 4 fixed
Bus conflicts No
Audio No
iNES mappers 004, 118, 119
iNES 004

The Nintendo MMC3 is a mapper ASIC used in Nintendo's TxROM Game Pak boards. Most common TxROM boards, along with the NES-HKROM board (which uses the Nintendo MMC6) are assigned to iNES Mapper 004.

Some less common MMC3 boards required alternative iNES mapper implementations:

This chip first appeared in the fourth quarter of 1988.


  • CPU $6000-$7FFF: 8 KB PRG RAM bank
  • CPU $8000-$9FFF (or $C000-$DFFF): 8 KB switchable PRG ROM bank
  • CPU $A000-$BFFF: 8 KB switchable PRG ROM bank
  • CPU $C000-$DFFF (or $8000-$9FFF): 8 KB PRG ROM bank, fixed to the second-last bank
  • CPU $E000-$FFFF: 8 KB PRG ROM bank, fixed to the last bank
  • PPU $0000-$07FF (or $1000-$17FF): 2 KB switchable CHR bank
  • PPU $0800-$0FFF (or $1800-$1FFF): 2 KB switchable CHR bank
  • PPU $1000-$13FF (or $0000-$03FF): 1 KB switchable CHR bank
  • PPU $1400-$17FF (or $0400-$07FF): 1 KB switchable CHR bank
  • PPU $1800-$1BFF (or $0800-$0BFF): 1 KB switchable CHR bank
  • PPU $1C00-$1FFF (or $0C00-$0FFF): 1 KB switchable CHR bank


The MMC3 has 4 pairs of registers at $8000-$9FFF, $A000-$BFFF, $C000-$DFFF, and $E000-$FFFF - even addresses ($8000, $8002, etc.) select the low register and odd addresses ($8001, $8003, etc.) select the high register in each pair. These can be broken into two independent functional units: memory mapping ($8000, $8001, $A000, $A001) and scanline counting ($C000, $C001, $E000, $E001).

Bank select ($8000-$9FFE, even)

7  bit  0
---- ----
|||   |||
|||   +++- Specify which bank register to update on next write to Bank Data register
|||        0: Select 2 KB CHR bank at PPU $0000-$07FF (or $1000-$17FF);
|||        1: Select 2 KB CHR bank at PPU $0800-$0FFF (or $1800-$1FFF);
|||        2: Select 1 KB CHR bank at PPU $1000-$13FF (or $0000-$03FF);
|||        3: Select 1 KB CHR bank at PPU $1400-$17FF (or $0400-$07FF);
|||        4: Select 1 KB CHR bank at PPU $1800-$1BFF (or $0800-$0BFF);
|||        5: Select 1 KB CHR bank at PPU $1C00-$1FFF (or $0C00-$0FFF);
|||        6: Select 8 KB PRG ROM bank at $8000-$9FFF (or $C000-$DFFF);
|||        7: Select 8 KB PRG ROM bank at $A000-$BFFF
||+------- Nothing on the MMC3, see MMC6
|+-------- PRG ROM bank mode (0: $8000-$9FFF swappable,
|                                $C000-$DFFF fixed to second-last bank;
|                             1: $C000-$DFFF swappable,
|                                $8000-$9FFF fixed to second-last bank)
+--------- CHR A12 inversion (0: two 2 KB banks at $0000-$0FFF,
                                 four 1 KB banks at $1000-$1FFF;
                              1: two 2 KB banks at $1000-$1FFF,
                                 four 1 KB banks at $0000-$0FFF)

CHR Banks

When $8000 & #$80 is 0 is #$80
PPU Bank Value of MMC3 register
$0000-$03FF R0 AND $FE R2
$0400-$07FF R0 OR 1 R3
$0800-$0BFF R1 AND $FE R4
$0C00-$0FFF R1 OR 1 R5
$1000-$13FF R2 R0 AND $FE
$1400-$17FF R3 R0 OR 1
$1800-$1BFF R4 R1 AND $FE
$1C00-$1FFF R5 R1 OR 1

PRG Banks

Because the values in R6, R7, and $8000 are unspecified at power on, the reset vector must point into $E000-$FFFF, and code must initialize these before jumping out of $E000-$FFFF.

When $8000 & #$40 is 0 is #$40
CPU Bank Value of MMC3 register
$8000-$9FFF R6 (-2)
$A000-$BFFF R7 R7
$C000-$DFFF (-2) R6
$E000-$FFFF (-1) (-1)
  • (-1) : the last bank, in a proper MMC3, the 63rd
  • (-2) : the penultimate bank; properly the 62nd

Bank data ($8001-$9FFF, odd)

7  bit  0
---- ----
|||| ||||
++++-++++- New bank value, based on last value written to Bank select register (mentioned above)

The PRG banks are 8192 bytes in size, half the size of an iNES PRG bank. If your emulator or copier handles PRG data in 16384 byte chunks, you can think of the lower bit as selecting the first or second half of the bank:[1]

7  bit  0  When $8000 AND #$06 == #$06
---- ----
  || ||||
  || |||+- 0: Select first half of this bank;
  || |||   1: Select second half of this bank
  ++-+++-- Select 16 KB PRG bank at $8000-$9FFF, $A000-$BFFF, or $C000-$DFFF

Writes to registers 6 and 7 always ignore bits 6 and 7, as the MMC3 has only 6 PRG ROM address output lines.

Writes to registers 0 and 1 always ignore bit 0, loading the value AND #$FE into the first half and the value OR #$01 into the second half of the 2 KiB bank.

Some romhacks rely on an 8-bit extension of registers 6 and 7 for oversized PRG-ROM, but this is deliberately not supported by many emulators. See iNES Mapper 004 below.

Mirroring ($A000-$BFFE, even)

7  bit  0
---- ----
xxxx xxxM
        +- Nametable mirroring (0: vertical; 1: horizontal)

This bit has no effect on Rad Racer II, which uses the TVROM board, because TVROM is hardwired to 4-screen VRAM. In the iNES and NES 2.0 formats, TVROM can be identified through bit 3 of byte $06 of the header.

PRG RAM protect ($A001-$BFFF, odd)

7  bit  0
---- ----
RWXX xxxx
||++------ Nothing on the MMC3, see MMC6
|+-------- Write protection (0: allow writes; 1: deny writes)
+--------- PRG RAM chip enable (0: disable; 1: enable)

Disabling PRG RAM through bit 7 causes reads from the PRG RAM region to return open bus.

Though these bits are functional on the MMC3, their main purpose is to write-protect save RAM during power-off. Many emulators choose not to implement them as part of iNES Mapper 4 to avoid an incompatibility with the MMC6.

See iNES Mapper 004 and MMC6 below.

IRQ latch ($C000-$DFFE, even)

7  bit  0
---- ----
|||| ||||
++++-++++- IRQ latch value

This register specifies the IRQ counter reload value. When the IRQ counter is zero (or a reload is requested through $C001), this value will be copied to the IRQ counter at the NEXT rising edge of the PPU address, presumably at PPU cycle 260 of the current scanline.

IRQ reload ($C001-$DFFF, odd)

7  bit  0
---- ----
xxxx xxxx

Writing any value to this register reloads the MMC3 IRQ counter at the NEXT rising edge of the PPU address, presumably at PPU cycle 260 of the current scanline.

IRQ disable ($E000-$FFFE, even)

7  bit  0
---- ----
xxxx xxxx

Writing any value to this register will disable MMC3 interrupts AND acknowledge any pending interrupts.

IRQ enable ($E001-$FFFF, odd)

7  bit  0
---- ----
xxxx xxxx

Writing any value to this register will enable MMC3 interrupts.


The MMC3 most commonly exists in a 44-pin TQFP package. Three revisions are known to exist - MMC3A, MMC3B, and MMC3C. No major behavioral differences are known, except for the IRQ counter.

The MMC3 scanline counter is based entirely on PPU A12, triggered on rising edges (after the line remains low for two rising edges of M2).

The counter is based on the following trick: whenever rendering is turned on in the PPU, it fetches nametable and BG pattern tiles from dots 0-255 and 320-340 of a scanline and fetches sprite patterns from dots 256-319, even if no sprites are visible. Because of this, if BG uses the left pattern table ($0000), and if sprites always use the right pattern table ($1000), A12 will remain low during all nametable and BG pattern fetches, and high during all sprite pattern fetches, causing it to oscillate exactly one time per scanline and 241 times per frame. It may oscillate more if the program uses registers $2006 and $2007 to access PPU $1000-$1FFF during vblank, but this is rare because very few games have MMC3 and CHR RAM (two on TQROM and three on TGROM among NES games, and a couple more Famicom-only games). The scanline counter will also work when the BG uses the right pattern table ($1000) and the sprites use the left pattern table ($0000), but this is less common.

The MMC3 IRQ has two revisions that work slightly different [2].

  • When the IRQ is clocked, the counter is firstly checked. If it's zero or the reload flag is true, it's reloaded with the IRQ latched value at $C000; otherwise, it decrements. If the IRQ counter is zero and IRQs are enabled ($E001), an IRQ is triggered. Note that the "alternate version" checks if the IRQ counter came from 1->0, whether from decrementing or reloading.

Regarding PPU A12 rises:

  • If the BG uses $0000, and the sprites use $1000, the IRQ counter should decrement on PPU cycle 260,268,276... or 315 (as in, a little after the visible part of the target scanline has ended).
  • If the BG uses $1000, and the sprites use $0000, the IRQ counter should decrement on PPU cycle 324 or 332 of the previous scanline (as in, right before the target scanline is about to be drawn).
  • For 8x16 sprites: if there are less than 8 sprites on a scanline, the PPU makes a dummy fetch to tile $FF (right pattern table $1000) for each leftover sprite.

Important points:

  • The scanline counter cannot be stopped. It will continue to decrement and reload as long as PPU A12 on the PPU bus toggles.
  • There is no direct access to the counter! The best you can do is update the reload value and immediately request a reload.
  • Writing to $E000 will only prevent the MMC3 from generating IRQs - the counter will continue to run.
  • Writing to $E001 will simply allow the MMC3 to generate IRQs - the counter remains unaffected.
  • Writing to $C001 will cause the counter to be cleared, and set reload flag to true. It will be reloaded on the NEXT rising edge of the PPU A12.
  • Writing to $C000 does not immediately affect the value within the counter - this value is only used when the counter is reloaded, whether from reaching 0 or from writing to $C001.
  • The exact number of scanlines between IRQs is N+1, where N is the value written to $C000. 1 (Sharp MMC3B, MMC3C) or 2 (MMC3A, Non-Sharp MMC3B) to 256 scanlines are supported.
  • The counter will not work properly unless you use different pattern tables for background and sprite data. The standard configuration is to use PPU $0000-$0FFF for background tiles and $1000-$1FFF for sprite tiles, whether 8x8 or 8x16.
  • The counter is clocked on each rising edge of PPU A12, no matter what caused it, so it is possible to (intentionally or not) clock the counter by writing to $2006, regardless of whether PPU is/is not rendering.

There's a slight discrepancy with what happens when you set $C000 to $00, and so far, two behaviors are known to exist:

  • All MMC3A's and non-Sharp MMC3B's will generate only a single IRQ when $C000 is $00. This is because this version of the MMC3 generates IRQs when the scanline counter is decremented to 0. In addition, writing to $C001 with $C000 still at $00 will result in another single IRQ being generated. In the community, this is known as the "alternate" or "old" behavior.
  • All MMC3C's and Sharp MMC3B's will generate an IRQ on each scanline while $C000 is $00. This is because this version of the MMC3 generates IRQs when the scanline counter is equal to 0. In the community, this is known as the "normal" or "new" behavior.

Acclaim's MC-ACC chip is their own variant of the MMC3, that they used for their own boards (for industrial money-saving purposes). It comes in a standard 600 mil 40-pin DIP package. It is not known if it has SRAM support. The only known difference is that the scanline counter triggers on falling edges instead of rising edges.

iNES Mapper 004 and MMC6

The unfortunate conflation of MMC3 and MMC6 into the same iNES mapper can be resolved by the use of an NES 2.0 header, but since the new header is not yet well adopted among emulators or ROM sets, an approach that supports both MMC3 and MMC6 may be desired when an NES 2.0 header is not used.

The MMC6 has a smaller PRG-RAM, and a different register scheme for write protecting it.

Because write protection is generally only used to guard against corruption during power off, many implementations of iNES Mapper 004 simply omit the write protection. Leaving PRG-RAM always write-enabled removes most of the incompatibility between MMC3 and MMC6, and is sufficient to support the popular MMC6 games StarTropics and StarTropics II. These games do not rely on the smaller PRG-RAM size of the MMC6, so the larger 8k RAM addressed by the MMC3 is not a problem.

The less well known game Low G Man is problematic. It used an MMC3 board with no PRG-RAM. Because of a bug in its music code, it relies on open-bus behaviour in the RAM's address range to function correctly. The game does use the MMC3 mechanism to disable RAM, so it may function on an MMC3 board with PRG-RAM, but implementing the MMC3 RAM disable may conflict with the effort to support MMC6 games. Alternatively, NES 2.0 could be used to specify a PRG-RAM size of 0, or the problem can be resolved by patching the Low G Man ROM to work around the conflict: patch.

Some romhacks attempt to increase the available PRG-ROM size beyond the MMC3's hard 512k limit (e.g. Translation of Final Fantasy III). Full 8-bit banking registers could theoretically support up to 2048K PRG-ROM, but very few emulators implement this extension.


The TKSROM and TLSROM boards, assigned to INES Mapper 118, connect the upper bank select line directly to VRAM A10, allowing more flexible control over nametable mirroring.

The TQROM board, assigned to INES Mapper 119, uses both CHR ROM and CHR RAM simultaneously, using the 2nd-highest CHR bank select line to choose between them (on a per-bank basis).

The DxROM board, assigned to iNES Mapper 206 has a custom mapper developed by Namco before the MMC3 existed. It has no IRQ or mirroring control. Tengen used it for some of their games under the name MIMIC-1. It exists both in a 400 mil 28-pin Shrink-DIP (found in licensed DxROM boards) and in a larger 600 mil 28-pin DIP (found in unlicensed Tengen cartridges).

The Namco 108/MIMIC-1 does the basic ROM banking exactly like the MMC3, but it only implements the low 3 bits of $8000 and the low 6 bits of $8001. Compared to the MMC3, it lacks mirroring control, SRAM support and an IRQ counter. The TEROM and TFROM boards have been developed with backward compability with DxROM in mind, featuring solder pads to have hardwired H/V mirroring instead of MMC3 controlled mirroring, and allow the hardware to disable IRQs.

IRQ behavior when reload is set to 0 differs among different MMC3 chips. MMC3 chips with the "new behavior" generate an IRQ every scanline. (These include at least MMC3B chips bearing a bold S before the date code.) MMC3 chips with the "old behavior" cease to generate IRQs. (These include MMC3B chips lacking the S and having a date code of the form nnnnPKnnn, and an MMC3A 8940EP chip.) Some games have been manufactured with both versions, and during the transition, relying on old or new behavior might at first have been one of the things that caused Nintendo lot check to reject a program. A few later games developed after Nintendo had run out of the old chips, such as Star Trek: 25th Anniversary, are reported to rely on the new behavior (source: Nestopia 1.30 changelog). There's an anecdotal report that Felix the Cat needs MMC3A, but it could also have been a rewiring mistake.

Nintendo made at least two MMC3-based multicart mappers: mappers 37 and 47.

Pirate variants

  • Mapper 245 increases PRG to 1024K by losing CHR ROM.
  • Mappers 205, 52, 49, 45, and 44 force unmodified games together in a multicart.
  • Mapper 182's registers are only in a different order.
  • Mapper 115 increases CHR to 512K by losing PRG RAM and contains an UxROM emulation mode.
  • Mappers 194, 192, 191, and 74, are like TQROM in that they combine CHR ROM and CHR RAM by replacing some CHR pages with CHR RAM.

See also