Later this year Nintendo is launching the NES Classic Mini, a smaller version of its venerable NES console.
While you could buy one for $60 (R851) and be stuck with the pre-loaded games and no way to get more, you could also make your own version running off of a Raspberry Pi that uses NFC cartridges.
What’s on offer here is a 3D printed NES case that measures around 40% of the original machine (even smaller than the Classic Mini). Inside you’ll find a Raspberry Pi running the RetroPie emulation software.
While this is really well done and has some great work behind it (for example: the creator modelled the case on their own, opting out of using a less than ideal version from Thingiverse), the most impressive feature is how it plays games.
This modern machine uses cartridges with a twist. Instead of plastic housings for electronics, it uses 3D printed carts with near field communication (NFC) tags inside of them. When the cart is slid into the machine an NFC reader picks it up and will select that specific game from the internal library.
The only problem we see with this project is the tiny controller, which is also 3D printed at the 40%. While it does snuggly fit a knock-off of an Arduino Pro Micro, it’s too small for human hands. While it is mentioned in the video below that this is “just a bit of novelty”, we can’t help but feel that a full size controller would make the whole project better.
There’s also the difficult internal conversation we always have to have about the ethics of using emulation software, but that’s a conversation for another day.
In this story we’ve only scratched the surface of this great project. If you want to get all the nitty gritty you’ll need to check out this blog post that documents everything and may provide you with enough information to make your own if you have the skill.