Digitized Retro LCD Games Played Using An Arduino As A Controller

This one’s a bit abstract. Remember those LCD games that became quite popular sometime in the 1990’s? You know, the ones that had only one game, usually a character that could be moved back and forth to catch, hit, or block objects falling from the sky or being thrown by some villain? [Tobie Nortje] sure remembers them and has built an Arduino controller to play virtual versions of the games.

He started off by finding a website that is digitizing the old games. That is to say, they’ve taken images of each state of the LCD, then implemented the game play using those images and an approximation of the original physics. Unlike NES or Sega Master System games the ROMs of these devices can’t just be dumped because of the specialized screen. Instead, a virtual version of the hardware has been built into a web interface.

[Tobie’s] part of the hack is to use an Arduino and a few buttons as the controller. It’s easy to set up and we think the breadboarded controller approximates the size and weight of an LCD game pretty well. Check out the video after the break and let us know what you think in the comments.


12 thoughts on “Digitized Retro LCD Games Played Using An Arduino As A Controller

  1. Yeah I was gonna say, 1990s? That’s when cartridge based handheld games turned up, it was the 1980s when LCD gaming took off.

    The hack here seems a little OTT and isn’t configurable for games other than those with just left/right controls, but it’s a good start. There are however programs that can make a gamepad ‘press’ keyboard buttons so that you can play flash games with a gamepad instead of keyboard.

    Good to see more people creating simulators for the old-school games, I have original versions of 8 of the games on that site, and there’s also this guy whos been creating simulations of handheld games which are standalone Windows programs rather than web embedded flash: http://www.madrigaldesign.it/sim/news.php
    Still waiting for someone to do a Tomytronic 3D simulator, but in the meantime I already have the entire set of 7 plus the Tandy clone to play :)

  2. I have to say, if it were me, I don’t think I’d even bother to release this on the internets.
    I mean, it must have taken all of about 30 seconds to put together.
    And an Arduino mega? For that? Really?
    We really are scraping the bottom of the barrel here!

  3. So let me get this straight – what we have here is an Arduino-based _gamepad_ for a PC (and not even a USB HID, but a serial->Python version at that)…?

    What can I say? Mad props for the achievement or something I suppose…

  4. HI,

    I must say I was surprised when I saw this little hack I did shown here. The hack serves no purpose at all! Its overkill, overcomplicated but dead simple.
    But what the hell right?
    Some responses to the (well deserved) critics.
    @ The Cageybee – you are right. IT actually took me 45 seconds, since I am a bit slow :). About using the mega…I mention on the GIT page that was the only board I had free. A yes, it is scraping the very bottom of the barrel. But man was it fun to play a bit of the games I used to play as a small child. I must be slow i realized now, since you mention the internets? Are there two of those now? Here in Africa we only have one! We’ll catch up one day! :)

    @Haku – you are right. The dudes I did this for as a proof of concept, only wanted left and right and yes it is OTT (odd?)

    @Mad Max – “Mad props for the achievement or something I suppose?” Exactly! Just because I can man!

  5. Are these games really worth saving? They are universally terrible. The moment you got a gray brick dot matrix gameboy, you abandoned this crap forever.

    Also, these shitty LCD games existed well into the 90s. Tiger electronics was putting out gimmicky game after another. One that took “cartridges”, each “cartridge” being a different game screen that popped into what was essentially just a set of controls. My cousin had one of these, which was out when the game boy was big. Then they had this racing game that went over your eye, as if it was some virtual reality thing, when it was really just one 2d screen (in red, because the virtual boy was out, and even awful systems have imitators).

    And, I had all sorts of these when I was a young child, in the early 90s, before I had a game boy. I stopped playing them all, though, when I managed to save up that $60 for a gray brick gameboy and a copy of Kirby’s Dream Land, and I never played another crappy LCD game.

  6. although these kind of things were populars in the 80’s They were made By the thousands if not millions in the 90″s While most had a game gear or a Lame Boy tiger and a few others were producing a lot of tiny handhelds So it was 90’s to I remember it was weird to see them again since they were obsolete but I played them 2

  7. I played these games (and games like them) for hours on end when I was a kid. They were a blast at the time, tho they may seem shitty to the more snotty kids out there. They were pure entertainment in the eyes of a eight year old with fascination with gadgets.

    The king kong one was the best :) And one with some kind of bombs in a maze which I cant remember the name of.

  8. @BobSmith, part of why I have a collection of retro LCD/VFD games, and still continue to collect 80s & 90s wristwatch games (17 of those so far), is not for their gameplay but their visual asthetics and their history.

    Another part of why I like the old games is that they’re not handheld consoles which are a universal design to play a multitude of games, instead a lot of units were designed specifically for one single game and those which used a universal case (like the game&watch series) still had uniquely designed LCD/VFD graphics & picture foregrounds/backgrounds to compliment the LCD/VFD graphics.

    Nowadays the only unique differences you get in handheld consoles is what stickers you decide to put on them….

  9. @Tobie Nortje – Hi dude. Glad you’re not taking these comments too much to heart.
    I guess we’ve all done simple projects from time to time just to waste a few minutes and , as you say, just because we can!

    @BobSmith – One word, nostalgia. I remember playing these games aeons before gameboys hit the scene.
    IMHO, the guy whose created these simulations has done the world a solid. Let’s face it, without doing it a whole gaming craze would be liable to be lost to history as most of the originals have probably been chucked in the bin.
    Personally I’m waiting for Donkey Kong 2 to be done. Man the hours I lost to that little gem.

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