A lot of gamers out there can’t get enough of the classics. It’s why so many of us will still dig up an old GameBoy or Sega from a cluttered closet from time to time, and why we love it when modern consoles makes older games available for download from time to time. It’s why we love to see retro arcade titles remade for mobile app play — and most of all, why we highlighted the ‘5 Best SNES Emulators available for android’ a couple years ago. As much as we enjoy opportunities to find classic games wherever we can though, it’s usually not quite the same as playing on an actual console.
The only trouble is that classic consoles can be almost surprisingly hard to find. Supply is short, and when you find used consoles available for resale they’re often quite pricey. That’s not to say it’s impossible to find, say, an old Nintendo, PlayStation, or Sega console. But it is why some people ultimately opt to try to build their own.
That may sound like a fairly dramatic step, but believe it or not it’s easier than you’d think. Gizmodo outlined the basics in what may be the most helpful, straightforward guide to creating a classic console you can find. However, there are a few things about that process we’d change, which is why we’re presenting something of an altered, step-by-step summary here. Follow these steps, and you can have a classic console up and running in a matter of days.
Obtain a Raspberry Pi 3
Known as a popular product among engineers and other creative computer types, a Raspberry Pi 3 is what’s known as a “Single Board Computer” (SPB). It is essentially a highly capable circuit board, roughly the size of a playing card that will support the functions of the console you’re creating. If you really want to dive into the creative process you can look to replicate the Raspberry Pi3 with your own SPB design. But you can usually purchase one for less than $50, and it’s the most essential piece of the process.
Print A Console Casing
The aforementioned Gizmodo piece recommends putting the Raspberry Pi 3 in its case, with attached heat sinks (because the product can overheat during gameplay). That’s a good step to take, but we’d add that true gamers should consider 3D printing more elaborate casings as well. This will take a little bit of trial and error on the design side of things, but obtaining the product should be fairly straightforward. Fictiv’s information about 3D printing and other agile manufacturing options clearly conveys that projects of this nature can be completed quickly — sometimes in just 24 hours. That essentially means that 3D printing of prototypes and products is easier than it’s been in the past, which means you might actually be able to have your own console casing printed, from your own design. It may take a few days to learn your way around the design software, but in the end you can have a close replica of, say, a SNES console, to surround your Raspberry Pi 3 with.
Get Your Cords
This is a simple matter of placing a few orders. But don’t forget that you’ll need both a power adapter and an HDMI cord in order to power your console and hook it up to your television (or computer monitor). Just be sure that what you’re ordering is compatible with the casing you’re using or designing.
Load A microSD Card With Software
You’ll also have to purchase a microSD card, and it’s wise to get one with substantial storage, because this is essentially where your games are going to live. Once you have the microSD card, you’ll need to load it up with a retro gaming software. The Gizmodo piece pitches RetroPie as the best option, and this is indeed a very popular choice for classic game emulators. The main perk is that it facilitates games from a variety of consoles and companies (SNES, Nintendo 64, and Sega Genesis, for example). We would add, however, that RetroPie isn’t the only option. Lakka, LaunchBox, RetroArch, and Recalbox are among a number of alternatives you might also want to consider for your software.
Find & Install Game ROMs
Installing your emulator software basically makes the games playable. However, you’ll also need to find the games themselves, one by one. This can be done with a USB flash drive and any number of game ROM download websites. Basically, you’ll need to configure the flash drive to the software you’ve chosen (by creating a folder to match said software). Then, you can download the game ROMs of your choice (being careful not to violate copyrights in the process), plug your USB into the console you’re building, and copy those games over to the microSD card. The process may vary a little bit depending on the software you choose, but all in all it’s fairly straightforward.
Also Read – Best Nintendo DS ROMs for Free Download
Configure Your Favorite Controller
Here, too, we’ll stray from the excellent Gizmodo write-up a little bit. That write-up points to a specific, SNES-like USB game pad to go with the console. Now, to be clear, these are excellent, classic game pads that a lot of people have always loved. However, there are also more modern (and often sturdier) options. For instance, High Ground Gaming’s list of controllers for PC gaming, which was written just this year, was some excellent choices to look through — some of which will be more comfortable to people who are used to PlayStation or Xbox gaming. Whichever controller you pick though, you’ll need to configure it (a one-time thing) when you start up your Raspberry Pi 3. This should be straightforward, but you’ll want to take care that you arrange button functions exactly as you want.
Set Up Some Speakers
The steps above amount to a full console creation. Really, the Raspberry Pi 3 is doing the work, an everything else is piecing together the extras and loading up the software and games. Once that’s all done, you can hook the console up and start playing all of the compatible classic games you downloaded. However, we’d add one final twist, which is to go ahead and invest in some nice speakers to attach to the monitor or TV. Most of us remember classic games from childhood — when we played them with older (and worse) speakers, but grew to love their theme music and sound effects all the same. Bringing those sounds to life (from Mario collecting a coin to a given game’s theme) with strong, modern speakers will make your console all the more enjoyable.