Hack a Raspberry Pi Zero inside an original Nintendo NES Classic controller.
GamePad Zero is a new project that hacks a Raspberry Pi Zero inside an original Nintendo NES Classic controller. This can then play emulated retro games right from the controller.
With the sad news that Nintendo is discontinuing its NES Classic, now is a good time to remember that hacking a Raspberry Pi inside Nintendo hardware enables you to build your own retro gaming station.
See also: The MagPi 55 – Retro Gaming Bliss
The GamePad Zero is built by Zach, a web developer from Tampa, Florida. He explains on his blog:
I decided to install a Raspberry Pi Zero W (wireless) into an original Nintendo controller, solder the original controller’s circuit board to the Pi’s GPIO (general-purpose input/output) pins, and 3D print a new bottom half of the controller housing to store it all neatly. This allows us to play games using the original controller. Pretty neat. 🙂
You can use either a normal Raspberry Pi Zero or the Raspberry Pi Zero W for this project. The Pi Zero W adds WiFi and bluetooth into the mix. However, since you don’t technically need wireless connectivity to run RetroPie or play any games, a Raspberry Pi Zero will do just fine.
The GamePad Zero project is a 3D printed case that forms the lower half of the NES Controller. The Pi Zero fits inside the 3D printed case.
You then remove the lower half of the original NES Controller and solder the wires from the NES to the GPIO of the Pi Zero W. The Raspberry Pi is mounted onto the 3D printed lower half, which screws into the upper half.
There are a few other option steps, such as adding a heatsink to the CPU and wiring up a power LED.
You load up RetroPie and reassemble the housing to get a professional looking NES game controller.
Zach’s post provides detailed instructions. He even shows how to wire up a second controller using Bluetooth (on the new Pi Zero W) so you can play two-player games.