Maker Gloriously Homebrews A Raspberry Pi Zero-Powered Super Nintendo In An SNES Controller

finished snes rpi finished

Whether it's a Nintendo Christmas ornament or an original Game Boy, we love seeing Raspberry Pi-based retro consoles stuffed into into nostalgic spaces. The ingenuity and effort required to make these contraptions that were not originally designed to do this sort of thing work is pretty astounding. The Game Boy in particular was pretty wild because it was a fully functional, playable machine. However, the mod we'll look at today takes the cake.

Reddit user Josh0O0 showed off a retro console stuffed into the shell of Super Nintendo controller with not only a Raspberry Pi Zero running an SNES emulator, but also all the inner workings required for controlling games and displaying them on a tiny LCD screen. Like many DIY projects, it all started with a dream and a Dremel. Josh0O0 documented the build process in a pair of extremely detailed YouTube videos on the Restore Technique channel, the first of which is seen below.

After a thorough cleaning, most of the innards of the SNES controller had to be hollowed out to fit the LCD while still holding the controls in place. Josh0O0 used the LCD from a Waveshare Tiny GamePi15, which measures just 1.54" diagonally and has a perfect 4:3 aspect ratio, to display games. The LCD happened to fit right where the Start and Select buttons on the SNES controller normally reside. That meant moving those buttons to the bottom of the controller to retain functionality, but just about everything else from the controller appears to be standard.

To get the Raspberry Pi Zero to fit, almost all of the surface-mounted ports had to be removed. Josh0O0 retained the micro USB port, though, because it's necessary to charge the built-in 600 mAh battery, which lasts between one and two hours. While the first video doesn't show the completed device, it appears that the LCD and battery attach to the Tiny GamePi15. Josh0O0 cut down the GPIO pins on the Waveshare device and pushed them through the emptied GPIO on the Pi Zero. Part one wraps up with cutting the hole in the controller for the LCD. 

insides snes rpi zero

In the second build video, Josh0O0 completes the final assembly. The SNES controller shell winds up housing all the original buttons, the Waveshare Tiny GamePi15 and its display, the Raspberry Pi Zero, the controller's PCB, an SD card, and that 600 mAh battery. There's a ton of soldering required to re-attach the Tiny GamePi15 to the Pi Zero, since Waveshare designed it to be a plug-and-play solution using the Pi's built-in GPIO header. Since Josh0O0 had to desolder the GPIO pins and just use the pads and trim the Tiny GamePi15's pins, much work was required to put it back together.

The finished project reminds me of the Game Boy Micro, which was a very small Game Boy Advance released near the end of the system's retail life. For software, Josh0O0 used Pinky Pi X for and its bundled SNES emulator, and the appropriate driver from Waveshare for the display. It's an incredible mod, so be sure to watch both parts. Josh0O0 also posted some nice photos in his Reddit thread, and they really show off how intricate the design and implementation are.