Use Your Game Boy As A Wireless Controller

Like many retro favourites, the Game Boy is in no way dead — development continues apace through its many fans.But what about the hardware side? This is a particularly interesting one: [Alex] wondered if a Game Boy could be readily used as a wireless controller. Set out to make it happen, the final product is a game cartridge that makes the classic handheld a wireless controller.

It’s achieved quite elegantly, with a custom cartridge used to turn the Game Boy into a controller while requiring no modification to the handheld. The cartridge contains a flash chip to store the ROM, along with an ATmega48PA microcontroller and an NRF24L01 to do the talking. Upon powerup, the Game Boy runs code from the ROM, and the microcontroller is in charge of reading button states and sending them to the NRF24L01 for transmission. The program stored on the ROM also allows configuration changes to be made from the Game Boy itself, such as choosing the appropriate wireless channel.

The cartridge transmitter can be used with a variety of receivers. [Andy] has developed a USB HID joystick emulator to allow the Game Boy to be used with PCs, as well as a receiver for the GameCube, too. Yes, that’s right — you can now play Super Smash Bros. with a weirder controller than all your friends. A Super Nintendo version is also in the works. Perhaps the coolest feature, however, is that the cart can use its radio link to communicate with another Game Boy running the same cartridge. [Andy] demonstrates this with a basic game of Pong being played between two Game Boy Advances.

Working on retro hardware can be great fun — things are well documented, parts are cheap, and there’ll be plenty of fans cheering you on, too. [Andy] has even made the hardware available for purchase on Tindie and his website if you’re not quite comfortable rolling your own.

The Game Boy platform remains ripe for hacking – you can even take screenshots with a logic analyzer these days. Video after the break.

10 thoughts on “Use Your Game Boy As A Wireless Controller

    1. It seems that the cartridge used in this hack is a “classic Game Boy” one: it is thus compatible with a Game Boy Advance or a classic Game Boy, as shown in the demo video.

  1. Nice idea!! The concept could become a general recipe for reusing/repurposing old hardware! C64 becomes wireless keyboard, old 5310 becomes clumsy interface to chat app of your choice, etc.

  2. OMFG DO NOT USE 3V PARTS IN YOUR 5V GAMEBOY WITHOUT VOLTAGE TRANSLATION
    This includes the GBA when it’s in gameboy color mode.

    At the very least, it drastically reduces your battery life because every time the game boy tries to drive 5V on a line it’s instead driving a diode to 3.3V.
    At worst, it’s dissipating a ton more heat in both the gameboy’s address and data bus drivers and the 3V parts’ overvoltage protection diodes which will eventually lead to failure of either the 3V part (sad but whatever) or the non-replaceable gameboy hardware.

      1. … ok, I definitely overreacted.

        The board used for the prototype, elsewhere, is using NOS TSSOP 5V flash, and it’s a Altera MAX3000 (5V tolerant) CPLD for the mapper.

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