The GameBoy DS - Play Any Nintendo Handheld Game (Part 1)


Introduction: The GameBoy DS - Play Any Nintendo Handheld Game (Part 1)

About: I consider myself an average guy. I have a bachelors in graphic design and an associates in web design. I like tv, movies, music, video games, and anime. I do some video editing and animation as a hobby, ...

My project works on this equation, Nintendo DS + GameBoy Color + GameBoy Advanced SP parts = GameBoy DS

When the Nintendo DS first came out, I was pretty excited. I was especially happy to hear about the GameBoy Advance slot. When I got my DS, I was sad to find out that the Advance slot could not play original GameBoy games.

After a few years, I decided that it would be really cool to put my DS inside an original GameBoy shell. After a little bit of time working on that project, I remembered my wishes that the DS would play old GameBoy games. In order for my GameBoy DS to play any Nintendo handheld game ever made, I decided that a GameBoy Color would be the best option. It was also a lot smaller to save space.

My original idea with only the DS inside would have turned out to be only a little larger than a normal GameBoy. However, after adding the GameBoy Color it is almost the size of two GameBoys stacked up.

This turned out to be a little harder than I expected, but I have pretty much pulled it off at this point.

The total cost of this project was roughly $130-$150. It was probably about two months of work overall. I normally only had an hour or two a day, so it would have gone faster if I did not have to worry about work and all that.

Here are the needed supplies for this project:
- Original GameBoy
- GameBoy Color
- GameBoy Advance SP
- Soldering Iron
- Hot Glue Gun
- Basic Electronics Knowledge
- Patience
- A Steady Hand

Step 1: Start by Getting Your Outer Case Ready

In the beginning of the project, I only wanted my Nintendo DS inside the shell of an old GameBoy.  What I did in the beginning was take apart my GameBoy and save the outer case to use for my project.  The internal parts of the GameBoy I used still worked, so I saved them to try and repair my old GameBoy that no longer worked.  Once I had the outer shell, I marked the places where I would need to grind away with my Dremel to make the DS connectors still be exposed. 

I took apart most of my DS and ground the edges down to make it fit inside the GameBoy better.  This helped me mark the spots of the old GameBoy more accurately.

Luckily the DS is roughly the same size of an original GameBoy.  Also a few of the existing holes in the case lined up with a couple connectors on the DS.  Another great thing is that the battery compartment for the GameBoy just happened to be in a location that lined up with the battery of the DS.

It was after grinding my GameBoy case up that I decided to add in a GameBoy Color.  So I knew I had to fill in some gaps when I had finished this up.  I detail the GameBoy Color portions in the next few steps.

Step 2: Blend in Some Color

I bought a used GameBoy Color on Ebay with the purpose of taking it apart and adding it in.  Once I had it all taken apart, I knew this would be quite the project.  There was a few problems with the GameBoy Color.  The main problem was the game cartridge connector mounted on the back of the circuit board.  The second main issue was the fact that the buttons did not line up correctly with the front holes of the original GameBoy.  Due to these issues, I decided it was time for me to learn how to solder.

I began by removing the battery springs and used the existing solder on the circuit board to attach some wires I found to run a positive and negative current to my power supply. I wasn't sure what that would be, so I tried using the battery from the Nintendo DS. It worked, so I had an easy power supply that would work on my DS and GameBoy Color!

The next step was heating up and removing the key components of the board that I needed to relocate.  That seemed pretty easy at first.  I removed the link cable connector and the game cartridge connector.  All the other parts did not hinder the circuit board laying flat, so I left them.  I took some old floppy disk cable that I had laying around and separated the wires.  To reconnect the parts that I removed, I wired each connector pin to the hole it used to go into. 

I messed up the first time and burned out a few of the holes on the circuit board.  I also tried to bend the connector pins flat to make the soldering easier, but unfortunately I accidentally broke a few off.  So I called up a local video game store and luckily they had a GameBoy Color in stock.  So I took it apart and removed the parts again.  This time my rewiring job worked.  I plugged in a game and tested it out to make sure it worked correctly.  Since it was working, I used some hot glue to fix the wires in place.  This way I could prevent any wires from coming loose during future steps of the project.

After the soldering, I lined up the circuit board with the GameBoy case.  The directional buttons and start/select buttons all seemed to line up well, but the A and B buttons did not.  Also the red LED power light was a little off, so I removed it and wired it up like I did the other components.  The last thing was to rig up something to get the A and B buttons working.  That is in the next step.

Step 3: Button, Button. Who's Got the Button?

To fix my button situation, I asked a question on this site.  Thanks to the user bradsprojects , I got the answer I needed to continue.  I soldered a wire to one contact and then placed a wire onto another to make sure it would work.  When the two wires met, it counted as the button being pushed.  After that I wired up both buttons and started working on a way to make the wires meet together when the button was pressed. 

My initial idea was to use the old button pad with the wires pushed into the top.  I put this on top of the other wires with the heads of nails attached and it did count as the button being pushed.  I used some hot glue to hold the wires and button pads in place.  I glued them onto a thin piece of cardboard, but that made it too thick.  Also the buttons did not move up and down correctly due to the thickness added by the wires.

The way I got that to work was by attaching a tiny screw with one of the wires wrapped around it to the bottom of the button.  To make the button go up and down, I used two of the springs that were originally used to connect to the batteries.  I used the wired screw to attach the spring to the bottom of the button.

To make it register as being pressed, I curled up a wire underneath the button spring.  When the spring moved down, the screw head met the other wire and it counted as the button being pressed.  So I put a piece of card stock under them and used hot glue to hold the bottom wire in place.  I also used a small amount of hot glue to hold the springs centered above the bottom wire.

Step 4: Light It Up

I came across a guide on adding a front light to a GameBoy Color .  At first I bought the wrong kind of GameBoy Advance SP.  So I bought another one that was the correct model number.  Like the person recommended, the second SP I bought had a broken screen, but I asked the Ebay seller to check that the light still worked.

After wiring that up, I began attaching the GameBoy Color parts inside the front of the old GameBoy case.  I started with the screen.  I made sure to carefully clean all screen components because I accidentally got a lot of fingerprints on them.  Once the screen was glued in place, I realized I had forgotten to extend the power switch to reach the outside of the old GameBoy case. 

I tried to use a tiny hollow pipe and that seemed to work, but then it broke the power switch off.  To fix that I used an extra wire to test different connection points until I found the two that counted as the power switch turning on.  I soldered wires to those points and rigged up a setup with small sections of the tiny pipe.  I built a cardboard enclosure around my new switch and it worked great!

Step 5: Put It All Together

After the power switch issue, I wanted to get all of the GameBoy Color parts in place before I accidentally broke it again.  I installed all of the parts and arranged them to fit into the new case.  Once it was in place, I used some hot glue to get it all to stay still.  I noticed the start and select buttons were not pushed up enough to be easily pushed, so I put a few layers of cardboard to push against the back of the circuit board a little.  That pushed the buttons up enough to work.

I then glued the game connector to the back of the case and ground out an area for it from the bottom of the DS with my dremel.  I laid everything on top of each other and made one last check to make sure everything lined up correctly.  I placed a a piece of cardstock between the GameBoy Color and the top screen of the DS.  I figured that would prevent any shorts from occurring.

I noticed one spot below the R button on the DS that I ground down a little too much.  I placed some cardboard behind it for extra support.  After testing my setup again before permanently attaching everything with hot glue.  The cardboard I added was blocking the wire bunch from the game connector, so I gently cut off a section of it.  I used needle nose pliers to pull it off due to the hot glue.  Unfortunately I damaged the flex cable that controls the top screen.  This has effectively put my project on hold.

I went ahead and added in some cardboard to fill in the open gaps.  Since the project is on hold until I can replace the ripped cable, I did not seal up the GameBoy DS.  Because of this fact, I will leave the last step blank and fill it in later.

Step 6: Finishing Touches

**Update - 4/5/11 - I have ordered a new flex cable, but it will be about 2 weeks for shipping.**

Once I get a replacement flex cable for my DS top screen, I will apply my finishing touches.  I will be applying some epoxy clay that dries in a light gray color to fill in the gaps left on the sides and make this into a complete unit.  Once I finish it up, I will update this final step.

While it is a little bit taller than an original GameBoy, most people will probably still assume it is one.  Once they notice the hinge, open it up and they will be amazed to find a DS inside.

I think this project would look a little bit better is I had used a DS Lite.  This would have made the DS portion smaller and probably easier to work with due to the smaller size.



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    47 Discussions

    Hey, is it possible to do it for a 3ds or 2ds. Since they could already play ds games?

    1 reply

    I don't see why not. The 2DS may be a little tricky since it doesn't fold up like a 3DS.


    2 years ago

    Hey do you think it would be possible to put a raspberry pi into a flash cart or its own custom cart with wireless internet and BlueTooth and have it work/run on a normal Gameboy advance/color?
    or maybe instead of having Bluetooth and WiFi in the cartridge I could have a USB port and a USB out
    I am mainly wondering if this is possible because I want to run android/Linux/windows on my GameBoy advance it would fun to play Minecraft on it (Probably with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse or maybe even using input mapper and playing with my ds4 controller)
    I'd also if possible put a micro-sd card slot in the cartridge so I can use a 64gb sd and maybe even emulate n64 games on a GameBoy

    4 replies

    not really no. But you could use a pi as an emulator inside if you take out all the guts and run it on a new tft screen. with a lipo battery you can make it portable and rechargeable. That's the project I'm slowly working on, and writing up. this allows you to play lots of different consoles on an original dmg case XD

    once I get my Pi zero it'll be done, supprisingly easy!

    Yeah, that all sounds pretty awesome! (A little beyond my current skill level though)

    I'd say try it out, and post it on the site if you get it working!

    can you see it could play the ds

    Great tutorial! I have a kind of irrelevant question though.
    I am trying to fix my gameboy color (it has a broken power switch). I do not want to desolder the old switch as it is a tough job for me, all i want is to "bypass" it by soldering a new custom switch and sticking it on the outside of the console. My question is, which of the four pads of the switch (1, c, 2 and 3 ) should be wired to the new switch and how should they be wired? I mean i can't figure out how the switch works and i am afraid that wiring the wrong combination will destroy my device. I asked because i saw on the tutorial that you have already tested how the switch works. thanks in advance!!

    4 replies

    Thank you! I am glad you liked my instructable.

    As to the question you asked, I am not exactly sure how to answer it. Really I just figured my switch problem out through trial and error.

    I would assume that bypassing the power switch would not be too difficult. Maybe try attaching some wire to the parts of the switch that connect to the main board. Then you might be able to simply attach the wires to the same spots on the new switch.

    Not sure if any of that helped or not, but it could be worth a shot.

    thanks for the reply!! There is no danger of harming the device with trial end error though? I mean if you connect two pads that you werent supposed to connect? And if theres no danger, should i check the pads (1, c, 2 and three ) in pairs?

    Thanks again!!

    I won't make any promises about the danger, because I may have just gotten lucky. (On another project I did short out a fuse on a SNES, and that was no fun). However, considering the amount of modifications that I made to my GameBoy Color, those things seem pretty well built.

    I think I tested one area/button at a time, but testing in pairs might work too.

    thanks again for the quick response. I clicked on the picture that shows how the switch is wired and i see you have written: "This is the broken power switch with the wires running into it. I figured out that the top pin and the third one down were what made the switch work." . So, you mean it is pins one and three? The pins from left to right are 1, c, 2 and 3. I am close to the solution due to your precious and helping tutorial :)

    Just an idea, but have you thought for a less permanent project to modify an existing case and integrating the gameboy and gameboy advanced sp onto the outside of a case for say, a 3DS to get the same effect but not permanent?

    oh okay. thats good to hear, i'll keep looking for your next part of this project, Excellent work. Greetings.

    Hello, first i'd like to say that this is a really great idea, i know this is from 2 years ago, but, you still in the project? or it's done?

    1 reply


    Sadly I ran into a major technical issue and the project has been sitting unfinished for a few years now. I do plan to try and finish it up though. I think I have figured out a solution.

    excuse me, not trying to be rude, but wouldn't it just be easier to buy a gameboy advanced, and a 3/DS and play original/color/advanced gameboy games on the GBA, and the DS games on the 3DS?

    1 reply

    Yes, that would be A LOT easier.

    But I was trying for something that is useful and cool instead. (Plus I had never seen anyone do anything like this before.)

    Trust me, the method you suggested would be easier to manage and would work just as well.