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The 5 Best Retro Gaming Projects for DIY Beginners
DIY Gaming Projects

Forget PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, maker gamers build their own gaming consoles. If you love retro games as much as we do, these projects are definitely worth checking out.  In the following pages, we present and review 5 of the best tutorials to help you evaluate your next DIY project.


Taking It Back To The Old School

Like many Arduino and Raspberry Pi hobby projects, these are all relatively affordable, not that hard to make, and are a lot of fun to build. But, more importantly, the end result is a treat! Get one of these babies up and running and you get to take a trip down memory lane, with your favorite games from old-school systems like Atari, Neo Geo, Game Boy and many more. Anyone up for a round of Donkey Kong or The Legend of Zelda?

Raspberry Pi Powered Retro Gaming Machine

Raspberry-Pi-Emulator--1024x682The Raspberry Pi Emulator, created by Pi My Life Up, teaches you how to build a dedicated retro gaming console with a Raspberry Pi. We think this is a great place to start because it’s a pretty easy build. The guys at PiMyLifeUp — whose moniker, we’re guessing, may be a thinly veiled reference to Prodigy (true, guys?) — have done a great job with the tutorial, including a solid step by step guide and video. If you’re new to the whole DIY gadget creation, this will help get you started.

The Raspberry Pi Emulator is powered by the RetroPie Project, which comes loaded with more than 30 game emulators.

All you need for this project is a Raspberry Pi, 4GB SD card, HDMI cable and a USB keyboard and mouse. You can also get a separate controller or a joystick for full enjoyment, but that’s optional. Once you’ve secured all this equipment, follow the step-by-step guide to do the build. After you’ve finished, invite over some old friends, plug into your TV and enjoy playing retro games on your new gaming console.

This machine is powered by the RetroPie Project, which comes loaded with more than 30 game emulators. Deploying the Raspbian OS, RetroPie boots you directly to the emulators so you can enjoy virtually any game from your childhood days. Check out the vid below for all the details:

PortaBerry Pi

PortaBerry Pi is a Raspberry Pi powered handheld gaming console. This project is a little bit more complex and requires some technical knowledge, including 3D printing skills. But, wow, is it pretty or what! When you’re done building this gaming console, no one will be able to tell if you actually built it or bought it off the shelves.

Made by Thingiverse user 3Derp, PortaBerry Pi combines the power of a Raspberry Pi B with a sweet 3D-printed casing, a 9.6v NiMh battery pack, and a TFT display to make the ultimate handheld retro-gaming console.

When you’re done building this gaming console, no one will be able to tell if you actually built it or bought it off the shelves.

The console also includes 2 speakers and a headphone jack to enjoy gaming on-the-go. Harvest some organs from a used game controller to get the joystick and the buttons for the controllers and you’re set.

PortaBerry Pi also runs on RetroPie. The whole project will cost you less than $180. You can find the list of required materials with links here. Check out the Imgur gallery for the full walkthrough and grab the ready-to-print 3D Thing files here. It is recommended you use a 3D printed case, but if you put your brain to work, maybe you could craft your own case with wood or something else? Let us know if you have any creative ideas in the comments below and be sure to check out 3Derp’s Thingiverse page for many other cool inventions. His BMO gaming console is one of our favorites.

Mini Arcade Cabinet with Raspberry Pi

mini-arcade-2So, you’ve got an extra 1,000 square feet in your basement waiting to be outfitted with the ultimate collection of arcade games from the 1980s? Yeah, neither do we. But, if you don’t have the space, not to mention the cash for a vintage machine or two, you can build your own arcade cabinet at home.

Despite the looks of the finished project, it’s actually surprisingly easy to make.

Instructables user rbates4 has designed this awesome portable arcade cabinet with nothing but a Raspberry Pi, some plywood, a pair of speakers and a 5v 2A power supply. This is the one thing missing from your mancave/gameroom bedroom.

Despite the looks of the finished project, it’s actually surprisingly easy to make. Find step-by-step instructions over at the Instructables page and check out the video below.

DIY Arduino Gamer Kit

This DIY Arduino Gamer Kit is available for $95. It was designed to be put together like a LEGO set to make a retro gaming handheld console. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can try and build the kit by yourself.

This is a great project to get your kids interested in retro gaming and building Arduino projects.

Start by downloading the manual or watch the video to see how it’s made. The manual includes the full list of components you need for the project with step-by-step instructions.  Major upside on this one is that it is a great project to get your kids interested in retro gaming and building Arduino projects — the project page says it’s suitable for all kids from age 10 to 110.

DIY Neo Geo – DIY MAME Cabinet

diy-arcade-cabinet-neo-geoOkay MAME cabbers, this one takes the cake, in our humble opinion.  If you’re ready to go big, check out this full-size Neo Geo Arcade Cabinet project put together by this dude Matthew.  This guy found the perfect way to put his old, broken up game cabinet to good use by powering it up with a Raspberry Pi. You can check out instructions here.

If you’re ready to go big, check out this full-size Neo Geo Arcade Cabinet!

Granted, you’re going to need to find a beat up old cabinet — or find/figure out your own full scale DIY cabinet design — and you’re going to need to hone your code skills to write a driver, but this project is going to earn the most ‘ooohs and ahhhhs’ from your friends and family, and it’s probably going to deliver the most fun.   So if you’ve got the time and the resources, we say go for it!  And be sure to come back and let us know how it goes.

More Great DIY Retro Gaming Projects

If you’re looking for something simpler and easier, try the guide at Lifehacker, which details building a simple retro gaming console that you can hook up to your TV. Also check out GAMBY, a Nintendo Gameboy style handheld gaming device built with Arduino. Or you can hack your old GameBoy to run more great games with Raspberry Pi.

If all else fails, you can always go buy a Gamebuino. This tiny Arduino-based gaming console has already been put together for you. It’s not as sophisticated as the rest of the projects by any measure, but it lets you easily create your own games.  The crowdfunding fans out there will be happy to know that the Gamebuino project was launched off of a successful Indiegogo campaign.

The powerful specs of the latest Raspberry Pi 2 has even enabled the device to run high-end emulators like PlayStation and Nintendo 64, bringing sweet games with 3D graphics to Raspberry Pi powered gaming machines. These are some of the latest creations made by various developers.

Start with these basic projects and try mixing your own ideas to building your own unique inventions with Arduino and Raspberry Pi.  If you come up with some thing new, or just want to show off your latest projects, come back and let us know how it’s going, post some links and send us your feedback in the comments below.


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