Part 1 – Retro Gaming Portable using Raspberry Pi

Anyone gaming during 80′s and early 90′s has loved the 8 Bit games. And would love to play them again and relive the memories. Although you can still get retro consoles on ebay, but more fun is to build one. :).

I wanted to build a retro console for very long. And finally, I did it. In a series of articles, I will explain in detail the whole process of building the console.

Objective: To build a battery charged handheld gaming console, that can run the emulators to play retro games. It should be easy to hold and play with Real PushButtons.

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Here is what you need

1. Raspberry PI. A & B Model, both will work. I had Model B. INR ~2900 (Link)
2. USB Game Controller. I got it from ebay India. INR 200 (Link)
3. Box enclosure. I got one from local hardware store for INR 40
4. LCD Screen. Got from Ebay for $15 (Link)
5. Hot Glue Gun. (Link)
6. Some extras like plug, Female USB socket, Wires, Capacitor, Micro USB cable, Proto board etc.
7. Basic soldering skills and Some time to spare to enjoy the build!!!

what you need

Also, you may need to refer to several other blog articles for the entire process of setting up the Pi. I am only focusing on the overall build. Detail build information could be found in linked pages of this article.

Linked pages for detailed build information

MOST DIFFICULT PART: While the build took me a week (I used to work at night, after my office hours are over), the most time consuming part was configuring the Controller. There was not enough information about the controller that I bought from ebay. I will be providing the config file details.

Step 0. Setup Raspberry Pi: Put everything together and make sure it works. you can use this link. it will help setup the Raspberry Pi. The controller was tricky part. See the Videos from MrVestek ( Video link, Link2 ).

Before you start build, please read this. It has some useful tips that may save your time.

Step 1. Build Planning : The build was inspired by Ben Heck show. Ben builds a retro console. He has a laser cutter and a 3D printer. But I don’t :(. Still you can easily build something similar. Not as cool looking but well… doing what its supposed to do.. Play Retro GAMES!!!

The Idea is to load RetroPie on Raspberry Pi, use the AV out to power a small LCD Display used for backup camera in cars. Connect and configure a USB game controller. And install battery ( which I haven’t done yet). Strip the lcd monitor and the game controller so that it can nicely fit in the small handheld box. I also had to Desolder the AV jack, Audio jack and the GPIO pins so that it can fit in the case easily.

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I laid out everything over the  plastic enclosure to see if everything will fit well. And traced the buttons positions. I tried to hold the enclosure to find the best positioning for buttons. I realized that to top area worked better than placing the buttons at the bottom. Well, you can change it suit yourself.

Step 2. Enclosure build: I collected all I needed for the build. Choosing the enclosure was easy. I had some white 6 x 4 inch cases lying around (that I use for other stuff I build). First thing was to plan where all parts will fit in. The pictures speak larger than words. So check out.

Tools used: 

  • Paper cutter knife.
  • Various flat & round files.
  • Old Soldering Iron. for melting holes in Plastic.
  • Pair of side cutters.

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Also note that I had to decrease the thickness of the case. So I cut it off.

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Then, I started assembling the Buttons on Proto-boards. You can buy them from ebay. I had some lying around in my bin.

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I assembled the buttons. Hot Glue… sorry that looks ugly.. :)

Its very important to keep checking everything again and again. I mean, assemble your Raspberry Pi setup, and make sure it works. Its much difficult to find the problem after you have done assembling lot of stuff.

Assembly Continued…

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Step 3. Wiring  : As you can see, the wiring job is not neat. But it still works :). I am sure you can do it better if you have patience; unlike me.

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And the final build… Here are some pics of final build.

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Things to do:

1. I plan to add batteries to the console. I measured and found that system is consuming about 1.25 A @ 5V ( = 6.25 Watts ). Thus a 10,000+ Li Ion Battery should last about 5-6 hours of playing. I hope three UltraFire cells will fit properly in the empty room in the enclosure.

2. Design and install a better faceplate.

3. Add Speakers to the build. Currently audio runs off headphone jack

I hope you enjoyed the post. here are some Videos links…

Cheers!!!

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