Introduction: DIY Game & Watch

Picture of DIY Game & Watch

Back in the 80s when I was a kid, My parents bought me a Game and Watch game called Vermin. It was actually a TimeOut Exterminator. It was a really simple game with just left and right controls and the idea was to hit moles that were emerging from the ground. The screen consisted of pre drawn monochrome lcd images that were turned on and off when they were needed to be displayed. I loved that game and played it for many years. My parents still had it many years later and I ended up selling it on eBay and got quite a lot for it.
A few months back I was listening to one of my favourite podcasts "Retro Gaming Roundup" which featured the Top 10 Game & Watch games. This re-ignited my interest for the Game & Watch series and so I decided to build one of my own only mine would feature a graphic LCD and allow me to emulate multiple Game & Watch games and even write new ones. Source code and Schematics can be found in the final step.

Step 1: Parts

Picture of Parts

PIC18F4550 USB demo board (eBay)
This is a useful little board that allows you to upload HEX files via the USB interface and basic front end software running on windows or Linux.

Nokia 5110 LCD display (eBay)

Small Lion battery (eBay)

Lion battery charger (eBay)

Old handheld game (eBay)

Step 2: Initial Testing

Picture of Initial Testing

Link up the lcd to the board and write simple test code. Start with characters display followed by large graphics.
Code was written in C using MPLAB and uploaded using the HID bootloader software.
The 18F4550 on the board came preloaded with the microchip bootloader code so no special debugging or programming kit was needed, just a mini USB cable.

Step 3: Handheld Case

Picture of Handheld Case

Hack up a case ready to fit the electronics.

Step 4: Fit Electronics

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Fit all the electronics.

Step 5: Re Spray Case

Picture of Re Spray Case

Re spray case.
Use transfers for the lettering.
Use clear lacquer to protect transfers.

Step 6: Complete and Test

Picture of Complete and Test

My Game and Watch also had a backlight feature.
I hope to add more games in the future. I fancy doing a Game & Watch version of a modern game. A quick way would be to keep the game play the same by using exactly the same code and just change the graphics.

Step 7: Schematics and Source Code

Picture of Schematics and Source Code

Slightly dodgy Schematics I'm afraid.

Source Code

My ultimate aim with the software was to select a game at startup by pressing the left and right buttons and scrolling through the game reset screens until the desired game is found and then pressing Game A or Game B to start the game. It would be great to build up a collection of games if someone else could contribute.


Andrew Hannay (author)2016-05-28

if you were going mass market, then you would be better off building a custom circuit board and case. I would checkout arduboy as its kind of already done for you and it's open source.

wsxdr (author)2016-05-27

So I have thought that I make this sort of handheld game and sell it like Game & Watch. So you recommend using arduino? Is it adequate for mass production? I think to make 10~30 pieces for test market.

wsxdr (author)2016-05-26

and how to use source code? how to input to board?

Andrew Hannay (author)wsxdr2016-05-27

Thanks for you interest. The demo board I used does not seem to be available any more, but it was just an 18f4550 on a pcb ready built. A similar part you can use is based on the 18f2550 have a search on ebay for "pic18f2550 proto" or "startusb" and compile the code using Microchips MPLAB software which is free to download. You might have to re-program parts of it to work with the new hardware. You do have to know what you are doing to get this to work, don't expect to be able to just copy everything and it will just work. I'm hoping you have some sort of electronic engineering experience.

You could also do this on an Arduino and "Arduino nanos" are plentiful on ebay, but you will have to re-write the code for the hardware which shouldn't be a problem if you know what you are doing. The Arduino compiler seems to have all the hard stuff taken care of so you might find this easier. My background is PIC and so I haven't done any Arduino projects, but I have been using one more lately and development hardware does seem to be more plentiful. Maybe its time for me to make the switch.

I drew the graphics in MS paint, saved as bitmaps and converted to data using lcd-image-converter. Google it.

The case is just something you have to wait for to turn up. I have an old Mikey Mouse Game & Watch with a smashed screen I bought from ebay, but paid almost £20 for it. I have a colour screen to put into this one and was thinking of using a PIC32 board for that, but maybe I should switch to arduino - If I ever get round to it.




wsxdr (author)2016-05-26

and <old handheld game>? I can't find adequate case.

wsxdr (author)2016-05-26

hi, I am interested. But I want to more for get parts.

First, < PIC18F4550 USB demo board > I can't find it same with yours at ebay. Can you give specific ebay or other's link to buy?

And how it is possible to display graphic like game & watch? how to draw? are there tool for this work? (include coding, it seems it require graphic drawing too)


drj113 (author)2015-06-15

Awesome project - Well done :-)

Jake Maverick (author)2015-03-22

very cool- love it!

I am curious though as to what paint you used to spray the case to give it that metallic look.....i see with the texture of it, prob spray painted silver and rubbed black in or something? I'm looking to produce a similar effect on a different project, if i ever get to it....

I experimented with 2 different cans of silver paint, Hammerite smooth silver and plasti-kote brilliant metalic silver. Both of which didn't really give the result I wanted, so I used a pcb cleaning tool (tiny fibreglass brush) to brush the surface in an attempt to give it a better look. I wasn't what I wanted, but I needed to finish the project. The lettreset I used was also rather larger than what I wanted at 3mm but it's all i could get.

many thanks! will try and experiment a bit anyway....

as for decals, if you got an inkjet printer it is possible to make your own, sure they available for lasers to.....not too expensive, but you will also need a can of spray to fix them b4 you water slide them....

Istarian (author)2015-03-26

Nice little compact project, but you might want to explore making a custom case from scratch ( wood, plastic/resin//? Mold, 3d print?) or a nicer paint finish. It feels a bit rough as is. You could have masked off the edges and just done the center part/screen frame in silver.

Andrew Hannay (author)Istarian2015-03-26

Hi, I was trying to get the brushed metal effect finish like the original Game & Watch and buying an old game and re-spraying it would get me the quickest result. I don't have a 3D printer yet. I'm more into the electronics anyway. I might actually rub the paint off the frame bit so it is back to black, but leave the rest silver.

Istarian (author)Istarian2015-03-26

Art stencil to do prettier would be cool too.

lonesoulsurfer (author)2015-03-20

Oh and do you have a link to the battery and charger?

I used this battery charger (this one also comes with a battery)

ALXRBLXT (author)2015-03-20

I was wondering if I could use an old calculator for some of the parts. Is it possible? Anyway great project!

Andrew Hannay (author)ALXRBLXT2015-03-26

Hah Hah, very funny. :-)

Mad Fox (author)2015-03-21

so, can you give me the code?

Andrew Hannay (author)Mad Fox2015-03-26

Yes, I might as well give it away, but it's not very well written. How's best to release the code then people can improve on it. I will also release the schematics.

Raphango (author)2015-03-23

Great! =DDD

Any possibility you could make it using arduino? =]~

Andrew Hannay (author)Raphango2015-03-26

I need to get into the Arduino and I have bought some boards to play with, but so far all my microcontroller projects are for the PIC family.

avayan (author)2015-03-22

Man, you just teleported me back to the 80's. Awesome job!

Ro-mico (author)avayan2015-03-22

He's gonna take you back to the... oh wait.

jerry.ericsson2 (author)2015-03-22

Way back then I had the pacman watch, I just loved it, in fact I plain wore the poor thing out playing it while I sat watching traffic at midnight while working for the PD. Sure wish I had one of those again, but they are collectors items now and fetch way more then my poor pocket book will allow. Reminds me of that game sort of. Might be a fun project, I will keep it in mind.

Thanks for posting and building this neat device.

TXcat22 (author)2015-03-20

Nice Instructable. I still have two of those games...The Juggler and the Bouncing Babies. They've been kept safe for about thirty-three years.

MoTinkerGNome (author)2015-03-20

That is absolutely brilliant.

lonesoulsurfer (author)2015-03-20

Wow man - great job. Do you have a wiring diagram and code? Can't wait to see what other games you create.

My wiring diagram is a bit rubbish as it's just a modified drawing, but I will post pictures of it. And, Yes, I extended the mini USB connections to the battery charger input, so when the USB is plugged in for uploading the code it is also charging the lithium battery.

pkenneth (author)2015-03-18

this is the coolest basic emulator I have seen. could you use an Arduino for the microcontroller? if I could use an arduino even with some major tweaking I could use it for my final exam. thanks and keep up the good work.

Andrew Hannay (author)pkenneth2015-03-19

You can use any microcontroller you want as the graphic LCD is just a standard SPI connection, there is loads of info on the internet about driving the display including code for Arduino. Infact I used Arduino code and re-wrote it for my PIC. My background is PIC not Arduino, but I am trying to get into Arduino, it's just I know what I am doing with the PIC, so it's always my first choice when I want something working quickly plus I had the board laying around.

JavaProgrammer (author)2015-03-18


icsnerdics (author)2015-03-18

sweet job!

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