5 Retro Gaming Projects with the Raspberry Pi Zero

Christian Cawley 04-02-2016

The Raspberry Pi Zero, like its original forebear, has taken the DIY and homebrew world by storm, making it possible to revise old projects and inspiring newcomers and Pi veterans with a whole host of new ideas.


Somewhat surprisingly, the lack of things like an Ethernet connector and GPIO pins has not proved a barrier – if anything, these omissions have made the Pi Zero even more suitable for projects, especially in the fevered minds of retro gaming fans. Always desperate for an 8-bit fix, these gamers, with their Olympian competitiveness and, indeed, detachment, have been working to squeeze the Raspberry Pi Zero Raspberry Pi Launches $5 Model Zero: Here's How It Compares The Raspberry Pi foundation just announced the Raspberry Pi Zero: it's essentially a cut-down Raspberry Pi, with a price tag to match: each one costs $5. That isn’t a typo. Read More into all manner of projects, from TV sets to existing games consoles and controllers…

Turn an Old TV into a Retro Games Console

We love this, and reckon you will too. It packages all of the high tech, compact engineering of the Raspberry Pi Zero into the spacious interior of a CRT television set, in order to turn it into a retro games console.

This project is a perfect example of the ease with which the comparative lack of USB ports and absent GPIO pins has been effortlessly overcome. With the addition of a USB hub also added into the TV’s interior space and the soldering of an RCA cable to the TV out connector on the Pi Zero board, a Pi Zero previously configured to run RetroPie How to Install Game Emulators on the Raspberry Pi Desktop computer, media center, an integral part of a budget space program - is there no end to the versatility of the Raspberry Pi? Seemingly not – because it also does games. Read More can deliver a truly retro gaming experience.

Mobile Gaming with the PiGRRL

A Nintendo Gameboy Color clone with Raspberry Pi interior, the PiGRRL project – so developed, it is available in kit form from Adafruit – comes with a Raspberry Pi A+ What Can You Do With The New Raspberry Pi A+? Curiously, this new Raspberry Pi doesn't feature any additional hardware. In fact, it has fewer ports. Just what are the Raspberry Pi Foundation up to? Read More along with display, controllers, cables, breadboard and battery, among others. However, you’ll have to find your own case, or have one 3D printed 9 Effortless 3D Printing Solutions to Annoying Life Problems Not all of us are clever lifehackers. But the ease and universal availability of low-cost 3D printing now allows us to solve life's annoying little problems with just a 3D design idea. Read More .

Now, while there’s no Raspberry Pi Zero in that video, it’s quite clear that you would be able to substitute the old Model A+ for its replacement and enjoy a device that is just as compact, playing the same Gameboy titles.


Convert an Xbox Gamepad into a Games Console

Taking the idea of squeezing a Raspberry Pi Zero into an existing games console one step further, why not slot the device into a game controller? That what Terence Eden did, and with a bit of penknife action on the controller’s innards, he soon had the Pi Zero up and running with a game controller acting as controller and case.

Check Eden’s full blog for instructions, which ended up with him playing Doom quite soon after finishing. While he is realistic about the long-term possibilities of the build:

“Not exactly sustainable from a long term POV! Nor is the BluTak used to hold everything into place.”

…there’s no reason why it shouldn’t work long-term with a slightly different approach. After all, this NES controller is also hiding a Raspberry Pi Zero (although it does require a 3D printed underside).


Stick Quake 3 in a Gaming Mouse

This idea came from the brain of the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s very own Eben Upton (who we chatted to Raspberry Pi's Father Speaks: Eben Upton On The Future of Technology And More Enthusiasm radiates from Eben Upton. He's the driving force behind the Raspberry Pi, that small computer that has been revolutionising hobbyist computing since its launch in 2012. Tall, and dressed casually, the founder of the... Read More back in 2013), so while surprising, you shouldn’t dismiss it.

Indeed, thanks to this script for building Quake 3 in Raspbian, the job is half done for you. All you should be worrying about is finding a suitable gaming mouse, one with enough interior space to fit the Raspberry Pi Zero and any cabling (USB connector from the mouse, TV out/HDMI, etc.) but with enough buttons to enable you to play without a keyboard. Don’t think it’s possible? It is.

You don’t have to use the official script for installing Quake 3 on the Pi Zero, however. This YouTube video provides an alternative method.

Imagine the Quake 3 LAN parties you could have, lugging not a laptop or an entire PC around someone’s house, but just a mouse!


Raspberry Pi Zero in a Handheld Megadrive

Finally, the cute length, width and height of the Pi Zero means that it can – in theory, at least – be placed inside an existing portable, handheld games console. YouTube user Has Beard, Plays Games certainly thinks so, and since before the launch of the Pi Zero, he’s been trying to squeeze a Raspberry Pi into a Sega Mega Drive Portable Ultimate.

As you can see in this video, the Pi Zero is the first Raspberry Pi that makes the project viable. But will it be possible to see through to the end?

Unfortunately, this project is a bit of a way off completion. We urge you to take a look at part 2 and part 3 and if possible give it a go yourself and help Mr Has Beard, Plays Games out with some suggestions.

And if you have any ideas for further Raspberry Pi Zero retro gaming projects (we reckon a Pi Zero squeezed into a keyboard would be a good start for fans of text adventures) or know of any that should be added to this list, tell us about them in the comments.


Related topics: Electronics, Raspberry Pi, Retro Gaming.

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  1. TonyD
    March 15, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    I'd like to share my RPi Zero project:

    R-Kade Zero + Raspberry Pi Zero = Tiny Video Gaming System