Although the N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor is known to play a crucial role in activity-dependent remodeling of synaptic connections in the fetal superior colliculus (SC), its contribution to the electrical activity of fetal SC neurons has not been determined. Furthermore, whether γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-mediated inhibition occurs either as early as prenatal periods or only after eye opening has been controversial. We therefore performed optical recordings using voltage-, Ca2+- and Cl–-sensitive fluorescent dyes to analyse synaptic transmission and changes in intracellular Ca2+ and Cl– in the SC of fetal rats that were still connected with the dams by the umbilical cord. Excitatory and inhibitory responses were evoked by focal SC stimulation. The excitatory synaptic responses are composed of early and late components. The early component was mediated by both non-NMDA and NMDA receptors, whereas the late component occurred mainly via NMDA receptors. Train pulse stimulation at higher currents was required for induction of the inhibition, which was antagonized by bicuculline, and blocking of the GABA-mediated inhibition by bicuculline uncovered masked excitatory synaptic responses. Focal SC stimulation induced increases in [Cl–]i and [Ca2+]i that were mediated by GABA-A receptors and mainly by NMDA receptors, respectively. GABA antagonists augmented SC-induced increases in [Ca2+]i. These results indicate that, in the fetal SC, excitatory and inhibitory synaptic transmissions occur before birth, that the NMDA receptor is a major contributor to excitatory synaptic transmission and increased [Ca2+]i, and that the GABA-A receptor is already functioning to inhibit excitatory neurotransmission.