Make a Retro Games Console Inside an NES Cartridge!

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About: I like chicken and computers

Have you ever wanted to relive your retro gaming past? Do you have wonderful memories of playing Super Mario Bros., Contra, or another game in front of a good old CRT TV? Well, now you can make that happen, and for a relatively low price!

I recommend reading the entire Instructable before starting.


Side note: no links provided here are affiliate links, so I am not making money if you buy something from a link.

Supplies:

1x NES cartridge. (Free-$20)
It can be any game, but I recommend using one that’s grey, not a special edition gold one or anything. Make sure it’s one you don’t care about, or just get one from eBay or something. GameStop also sells them online. The actual game doesn’t need to even work, we only need the plastic shell.

1x Raspberry Pi 0 OR Raspberry Pi 0 W. ($5-$10 + shipping)
You can get find what stores(or online stores) are in your country here: https://www.raspberrypi.org/products/
Pick the Raspberry Pi 0 for the version without WiFi, which will make it slightly more difficult to load games on, or the Raspberry Pi 0 W for WiFi included, so we can load games onto it over WiFi.


1x 8gb, 16gb, or 32gb CLASS 10 microSD card. ($1-$5 + possible shipping)
This will hold the OS and games.

1x USB hub ($6.99 + possible shipping)

You wont be able to play games without ports for your controllers, and this hub has been known to work with Raspberry Pi Zeros & Zero Ws, while most other hubs either don't fit in the case or don't work with the Pi.

1xUSB OTG to USB adapter ($4.31 for 5 + possible shipping)

The usb hub won't plug into the Pi without an adapter, and adapters don't get any more compact than this: https://tinyurl.com/microusbtousbadapter


1x Mini HDMI to HDMI adapter. ($6.19 for 2, + possible shipping)

You won’t be able to plug the device into a monitor without one. I highly recommend this one: https://tinyurl.com/minihdmitohdmiadapteramazon

You need it so you can plug it in. I recommend this one (and any other might not work if it isn’t at this angle and direction, but feel free to try something else): https://tinyurl.com/microusbextension

3x or 5x Screws - Optional (Free-Super Cheap)

Some people decide that they don't want to go through the hassle of getting past Nintendo's Security Screws every time they want to make a quick change, so you can just use a standard screwdriver to get in there faster. Cartridges can have either three or five screws, so be sure to check before you grab some.


==================================================================
TOOLS. You won't need these again after the project is finished.
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Set of Files - Optional

This way we can get as much unnecessary plastic off as possible

An Internet Connection - Only if you don't have the Zero W

We need the internet so we can transfer Roms.

Windows Computer

Linux & Mac should work too, but it will be easier to follow my instructions of you use Windows.

SD to USB adapter - (See Below)

You will only need this if your chosen computer does not have an SD or MicroSD card slot. If it has an SD card slot but not a MicroSD card slot, then you will need a MicroSD card slot to SD card adapter, which should be significantly cheaper. If you have an unopened MicroSD card, it probably comes with an adapter for free.

USB Keyboard

You'll need it for setup of you do it over WiFi.

Hot Glue Gun w/ Hot Glue

To secure everything down.

X-ACTO Knife, Box Cutter, Pliers, or Similar

You'll need to cut some plastic off, see step 2.

Pick One: Toothbrush w/ lighter, U-shaped screwdriver, or Nintendo Security Screwdriver

You need to get inside the cartridge somehow, but if you want, you can try to invent another way to get in there.



IMPORTANT: You will need to own all of the Roms you intend to use. Using roms from the internet is a legal grey area, meaning the laws aren’t very clear. It’s a good idea to stay on the safe side by owning a physical copy of every rom you will use, so you ‘own’ that rom and therefore are not using someone else’s intellectual property without them receiving payment. You probably paid for any physical copy you own, so the authors got paid. Use roms from the internet at your own risk.

Teacher Notes

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Step 1: Take Apart the Cartridge

This will probably be one of the most difficult steps. You'll need to take apart the cartridge, so we can take the old electronics out and put new electronics in. There are several ways to do this: you can find a handy little "security screw" screwdriver, you can use a "U" screwdriver thingy as you can see I did in the photos, or, you can make one yourself. If you want to make one (which I don't really recommend), you just snip off the end of a plastic toothbrush, whittle the end so it fits all the way into the screw hole, take a lighter and melt the tip, shove the tip as hard a you can into the hole, and wait a little for it to solidify onto the shape of the perfect screwdriver. If you want to see this method in a video, feel free to check this guy out. If you plan on making many of these cartridge devices, it's probably a good idea to just buy a Nintendo security screw screwdriver. It's a little cheaper to get just the bits, so if you want, you can do that instead. Now that you've (hopefully) gotten inside, just take the inner electronic component(s) out. They should pop right out.

Note: Some cartridges have 5 screws instead of the shown 3. If yours has 5, don't worry, the project should still work.

Step 2: Get Rid of Any Unnecessary Plastic

Due to the fact that the cartridge was made to have a thin strip of metal contacts exposed, so the NES can read the game, instead of some bulky ports for a human to use, there is some plastic in our way. It's pretty thin though, so it should be easy to remove. I've added an important picture above that will tell you what needs to be removed. The raised plastics inside the red shapes need to go: four plastic pegs, and two lines of plastic. They should come off fairly easily with a pair of pliers, box cutters, really you can use a lot of different tools. Try to get as much of the plastic off as possible, and if you want to go the extra mile, you can file it down to make it nearly perfect, like I am doing in the photos.

Step 3: Prepare the USB Hub

The USB hub won't fit unless we take off what we don't need. Pry off the casing at the seam with a thin screwdriver, or anything you can find. Be creative. It's okay if you damage the plastic; we won't need it later. Now you'll need to take off the LED; it's the white object sticking up off the circuit board. It should come off fairly easily, you can take it off with a pair of pliers, or even your hand should do just fine. You can see this in action in the photos. If your microHDMI to HDMI cord has dust covers on the ports, you'll need to take them off. Plug all of the cables into the Raspberry Pi 0 (or 0w), and set them aside. Now you'll need to set up the microSD card.

Step 4: Download All the Necessary Programs

You'll need two programs to use the microSD card: SD Card Formatter, Etcher, and 7-Zip You can download them with the following links:

7-zip.org

sdcard.org/downloads/formatter/eula_wi...

balena.io/etcher/

Then you can just open the files, follow all of the prompts for each one, and you're good to go.

Step 5: Format Your MicroSD Card and Prepare Retropie

Plug the microSD card into the adapter, and plug that into your computer. Fire up SD Card Formatter, and then hit Format. You can close that window now. Now go to the Retropie downloads page, and select the Raspberry Pi 0/1 button to download the correct version. Once it's finished downloading, select the up arrow next to the file name at the bottom of the window. A menu should appear. Select Show in folder, and right click on the file in the File Explorer window that appears. Hover over 7-Zip, and select Extract Here from the secondary menu that appears. The file is now unzipped.

Step 6: Etch the Image to the MicroSD Card

Open Etcher, and select the file in the folder we just unzipped. Select the correct drive; in this case, the microSD card. Press Flash!, and once it's finished, take the microSD card out, and place it in the microSD card slot in the Raspberry Pi 0/w. Plug all of the necessary cables in (micro USB cable, and an HDMI cord [plug the other end into a monitor or TV]), and wait. If text pops up on the screen, everything is going well. If it stays blank (or says No Signal), check that you've done everything right. If it's working, it's time to transfer ROMs.

Step 7: Transfer ROMs

Unfortunately, this is a long process, and I think someone else could explain it better, so you can google it, or go to the official guide here.

Step 8: Stick All of the Electronics Into the Casing and Close It.

Press everything in a way that nothing is in danger of breaking, but it will all fit in there. It might take a few tries, but it should work. Hot glue the ports in place, so they don't move around when you plug something in, and screw it closed. Now you're done! Have fun playing some games!

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    4 Discussions

    1
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    BrettG15

    4 days ago on Step 8

    There's a kit you can buy that has everything even the original cover to conceal it plus a fan to keep everything inside cool

    0
    None
    frostman48

    10 days ago

    Very nice Jack. Great instructions.
    Love to see more!

    frostman48

    0
    None
    jdk0248bcarpenter1

    Reply 16 days ago

    Yes, any controller should work just fine. Due to the fact that you configure the controller yourself, the controller compatibility is very flexible.