Building A Better Game Boy With A Pi

The most collectible Game Boy, by far, would be the Game Boy Micro. This tiny Game Boy is small enough to lose in your pocket. It can only play Game Boy Advance games, the screen is tiny, but just look at the prices on eBay: it’s one of the few bits of consumer electronics that could be seen as an investment in retrospect.

The popularity of the Game Boy Micro, the ability for the Raspberry Pi to emulate old game consoles, and the introduction of the Raspberry Pi Zero could only mean one thing. It’s the PiGrrl Zero, a modern handheld to play all your retro games.

The design goals for the PiGRRL Zero were simple enough: a 2.2 inch 320×240 display, a d-pad, four buttons on the face and two shoulder buttons. There’s a big battery, audio output, and a 3D printed case. This would be somewhat unremarkable if it weren’t for the PCB designed for PiGRRL Zero. It’s designed to be soldered directly onto the Raspberry Pi Zero, taking advantage of the mostly component-free back side of this tiny single board computer.

With this PCB, the Pi Zero is turned into a tiny battery-powered computer running emulations of all the classics. NES, SNES, Sega, and of course Game Boy Advance games are readily playable on this devices, and for a price that’s a fair bit lower than what a mint condition Game Boy Micro goes for. Our judges thought it was cool enough to be one of the winners of the Pi Zero Contest. Check it out!


The Raspberry Pi Zero contest is presented by Hackaday and Adafruit. Prizes include Raspberry Pi Zeros from Adafruit and gift cards to The Hackaday Store!
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23 thoughts on “Building A Better Game Boy With A Pi

  1. I’m waiting for the final revision and then I’ll be making one. This is the whole reason I bought a Pi and such a great use case for the Pi Zero. There’s a few people that have had this idea, but I think this form factor is perfect

  2. The Game Boy Micro launched on Sept 19, 2005 with a launch price of $99.99 USD. It now sells for around $70 to $80 or so.

    Hyperbole aside, that’s still not exactly a quality investment. It’s done better than most gaming systems though, that’s for sure.

    What’s noteworthy is the specs. This was from over 10 years ago.

    Processor: 32-bit 16.8 MHz ARM processor (ARM7TDMI)

    The clock speed of a bare Arduino Uno (retail price now ~ $25) is 16 MHz.

    You could get basically a battery, screen and Arduino Uno processor for $100 back over 10 years ago.

    Chinese knockoffs aside, why are you still getting 10 year old technology for the same price?

    1. This statement says a lot more about the arduino than about the gameboy. Consider that your $100 today (worth a lot less than it was in 2005) will get you a quad core 800MHz 64-bit ARM with 8″ touch screen, integrated wifi/bluetooth, gigabytes of storage…

      1. I paid about $125 for my Ti-89. I like it much more than the 83, 84, silver edition basics the other kids bought. It has a lot more features and I’ll likely use it for the rest of my life. It’s like having a notepad and wolfram alpha in my pocket.

      2. Because its the “standard”. The good news is that theres now a much more modern NSpire graphing calc which only costs around 70-150 dollars depending on if you want color or not.

    2. The GBM *launched* at $99.99, but in 2006 you could occasionally find them at retail for as low as $50, which is the price I paid. So it actually was a real investment for me, surprisingly.

      Plus the $70-80 price you’re quoting are for used systems. For actually new-in-box GBMs, it’s more like $110-120. For 20th Anniversary editions, it’s all over the map, some going $200+.

    1. I’m wondering this, too. I’ve been on the waiting list for months – Don’t understand all the recent posts about Pi Zero stuff when absolutely no one can get a hold of one.

        1. They actually are available just not at $5. You can pay a scalper or buy one of the ones that come with $2 worth of cheap throw away accessories marked up 10x in price.

    2. 100% marketing stunt. The Zeros are produced at a loss, so they make very few of them and use them for advertising. It’s a truly appealing product, but no way they can mass produce them and survive.

      Just imagine a $5000 Porsche: it would gain coverage on all press and everyone and his cat would want one; Porsche could make and sell say a hundred of them and become the most talked about car brand in the world, recovering the losses through press coverage that would boost other models sales, or sell a hundred thousands of them and go belly up in a month.
      So don’t expect the Zero to be widely available anytime anywhere. I wish HAD would stop playing this game along the PI guys.

      As noted elsewhere, the Orange PI One is already available. It’s $10 but the 4 cores processor runs circles around the PI Zero any day.

    1. Can you explain what you mean by that? Is there some low power sleep state in Lakka? I was looking at the docs, but there doesn’t seem to be much for the Pi at this time.

      1. No, the Raspberry Pi doesn’t have any low power sleep state (even if you bring the system to halt).

        What I meant is that with Lakka you can cut the power at any time as the filesystem is read-only, instead of having to do the whole power-off process.

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