Arduino Provides No Fuss SNES-To-USB Conversion

Even for those of us who are fans of retrocomputing, it’s fair to say that not everyone plays their old-school games on real old-school hardware. The originals are now fragile and expensive, and emulators are good enough that if the gaming experience is all you’re after there’s little point in spending all that cash.

There’s one place in which the originals sometimes have the edge though, the classic controllers are the personal interface with the game. So when [Dome] found a SNES controller in an Akibahara shop, of course he picked it up. How to make it talk to a PC? Tuck an Arduino Pro Micro inside it, of course!

What we like about this project is that instead of ripping out the original electronics it instead hooks the Arduino board onto the original serial interface. We might have made a Nintendo socket to USB box to keep the original cable, but either way, the SNES (technically Super Famicom, because it’s a Japanese market unit) original stays true to its roots. The Arduino polls the clock line at the speed of the console, reads the result, and translates it to a USB interface for the computer. There’s a full run-down of the code and how it was made, should you wish to try.

Of course, if you don’t always have a PC handy, you could also put the whole computer in the controller.

SNES Portable Leverages Flash Cart For More Games

Handheld consoles have to make a lot of design choices that their TV connected brethren don’t have to worry about. Battery life is important, as is screen visibility, and the games can’t be too bulky or unwieldy if you’re going to be carrying them around all day. [Chris] is no stranger to building handheld versions of home consoles, and took a few of these lessons on board in his latest portable SNES build.

The motherboard was provided by a SNES Jr., a lightweight, compact model released towards the end of the console’s reign. This was small enough that it required no trimming, however [Chris] elected to replace the inefficient 7805 with a more modern switching regulator. The case was 3D printed on a typical FDM setup, while the buttons were produced on a Form 2 for better dimensional accuracy and surface finish.

The flash cart PCB is permanently wired to the motherboard.

The real party piece, however, is the use of an SD2SNES flash cart. This allows a huge variety of ROMs to be loaded onto a single SD card, and played on the original console hardware. This is particularly useful in a portable build, as it becomes possible to carry all the games you could want, rather than having to juggle several full-sized SNES cartridges. The SD2SNES is wired in place permanently inside the console, with an impressive number of patch wires between the motherboard and the cartridge PCB. Despite the long lead length, [Chris] reports no issues with the connection.

There are some limitations – the flash cart doesn’t work properly for games using extra chips on the cartridge, like the SuperFX in Star Fox, for example. Despite this, it’s an excellent, high quality build that we’re sure is a lot of fun to play out and about.

We’ve seen [Chris]’s work before – this portable N64 is a particularly nice example. Video after the break.

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