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How to Build a Gameboy from a Raspberry Pi

How to Build a Gameboy from a Raspberry Pi
  • On September 20, 2019

Anyone who remembers the 90s remembers the Gameboy. The Gameboy was a revolutionary device, both for handheld gaming and gaming more broadly. It was on the Gameboy that Pokémon was first launched before taking over the world.

You can get your hands on a Gameboy relatively easily. In fact, they are built so well that chances are the one you had as a kid still works today if it’s been left in a draw.

A Gameboy from a Raspberry Pi

Whether you have access to a Gameboy or not, the Raspberry Pi Gameboy is a fantastic project to undertake, regardless of your previous experience with the Pi. One thing that should be noted – we’re writing this in 2019. Right now, Gameboy ROMs are reasonably easy to obtain and generally accepted as perfectly legal if you own a copy of the game. Also, as the linked article notes, the emulation of consoles is certainly legal.

The legality of ROMs is a kind of gray area. If you download something that you have also paid for, it would be virtually impossible to build a compelling case against you. After all, if you have paid for the product then it will be very difficult for a copyright holder to show any damage to their income.

That said, Nintendo is notoriously litigious when it comes to this sort of stuff, although they are going after the people who are sharing ROMs, not downloading them. Downloading them is perfectly safe.

What You Need

You will obviously need a Raspberry Pi board. Specifically, you need an A/B/B+/Zero model. You will also need the PiGRRL 2 PCB. This is a PCB that you can add buttons to for controlling the device. Finally, you will need to either source the buttons, or be prepared to take apart an existing Gameboy.

You also need to buy the PiTFT Display. This is a small screen with a 320X240 pixel resolution, which is perfect for Gameboy games.

Building the Pi

You can take apart an existing Gameboy and replace the insides with your Raspberry Pi. This is perhaps the simplest way of making a Raspberry Pi Gameboy. Alternatively, you can use the EZ-GBY DIY Kit.

If you have access to a 3D printer, you can easily find blueprints online for a Gameboy case, buttons etc. This gives you more control over how the final Gameboy looks.

Finally, there is the Zero Boy, currently available on Etsy. This is a pre-built Raspberry Pi Gameboy that comes ready to go. You just need to add an SD card loaded with the emulator and ROMs.

Putting together the Raspberry Pi Gameboy is an excellent first project and will give you an idea of how to approach Raspberry Pi projects. Replacing the innards of your existing Gameboy with your Raspberry Pi board and components is a great way of putting an old and broken Gameboy to good use. If the device is physically fine but won’t start, it’s easy to make the switch. If some of your Gameboy is damaged, you can get replacement parts easily.