Retro Gaming

Old Things Become New

It’s a never-ending cycle. Things that were introduced to the world decades ago get a ‘refresh’ in hopes that nostalgic feels will attract the masses.

Sometimes this works! Who woulda thought that denim and fanny packs would be back in style so soon?

Other times, it’s Tomagatchis.

In gaming, the retro craze really kicked off with the launch of the NES Classic. I must have stopped by Best Buy at least a dozen times just to get a chance at snagging one of these.

Photo Credit: WCPO

Spoiler alert: they never had them in stock…which led to people reselling the system for LITERALLY THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS. Madness.

For those interested, the system will return to stores on June 29th. Good luck getting your hands on one! 

I was sad for a little, but then I remembered that the NES Classic wasn’t doing anything that I couldn’t do! I had been running emulators on computers for about a dozen years before Nintendo decided to put 30 games into a smaller version of their iconic gray box.

Admittedly, my small brain had fallen prey to the marketing geniuses who understand the power of nostalgia.

Creating my own Retro Console

After my historic realization, I began researching to figure out how to build my own retro console.

While it was convenient to download roms to my PC and play games in front of a monitor, it lacked the cool factor that came with gaming on a big screen while lounging on the couch. A couple of my friends had bragged about the cool projects you can build using a Raspberry Pi. The internet had instructions for building everything from smart mirrors to mining bitcoin.

I also found several videos and articles explaining how to run all of my favorite video game consoles on the tiny device. I went with the guide on Lifehacker and it was surprisingly easy to set up.

There were some early issues with timezone and default language, but the interwebz helped me troubleshoot these fairly quickly.

Depending on which Pi board you use, the emulation is fairly smooth up until Playstation and N64 roms. The newer boards offer WiFi and a more powerful processor so it’s worth it to spend the extra cash if you plan on playing later-gen games.

Better than Off-the-Shelf Options

For me, it was very satisfying to have assembled a device which has all the functionality of the branded products, with a significantly higher ceiling for customization.

Some of my first accessories included a clear case for the Pi and some Gamecube controllers (you’ll need an adapter if you want to use these. I used this one).


Photo Credit: Amazon

Photo Credit: Amazon

Aside from being able to tell your friends that you built a retro console, there are loads of customization options that you can add to the system. After loading roms onto my memory card, I used the included ‘scrapper’ to grab cover images and descriptions for all my games. This is especially helpful when you download the entire library of games for GBA but don’t recognize more than 10% of the titles.

You can turn the retro console into a media streaming device using programs like Kodi. No more watching re-runs of The Office on your 13″ laptop!

With a strong enough internet connection and a computer that was manufactured within the last 5 years, you can even stream games from your Steam library directly to your console.

I’ll admit, this took a good amount of work for me to get it to function properly. But, once everything was correctly configured, I did successfully have Overcooked streaming from my desktop to the Raspberry Pi.

What’s most crazy to me is that I can play games from tens of systems spanning multiple eras on a device that fits inside the palm of my hand! Technology is pretty cool.

What Comes Next

There will be other companies that hop on the retro console band wagon. Sega already introduced their version of a mini Genesis and Atari released a ‘flashback’ model of their popular console. It’s rumored that the N64 Classic is on the way, but this hasn’t been confirmed by Nintendo.

You can also pick up an off-brand system from sites like Indiegogo. Yes, I picked up the retro engine sigma. No, I can’t get it to work correctly. Yes, I’m a little salty.

The good news is, you can build your own machine (typically for less than the cost of one branded retro console) to get your recommended dose of nostalgia.

What retro games have you played lately? What retro console do you want to see released next?

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