How to Build your own Retro Gaming Console
With games we always look towards the latest and the greatest. Sure, you have your PlayStation Pro, Xbox One X or high powered Gaming rig to crunch those polygons giving you some of the best graphics game developers can put. For those who have grown up gaming there is that call of the past.Be it little blips like paddles that hit a square blip or controlling a pixellated sprite of a hero across an epic storyline told through text.
Be it at the local arcade, playing classic Street Fighter, Contra and Samurai Shodown, or if you owned gaming console. A Nintendo Entertainment System(NES), Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo (SNES) on to the Neo Geo or Nintendo 64. Those were the glory days of superb games, the golden age of gaming. What if we told you if there is a way to experience those days by building your very own retro gaming console. It’s so easy you can do this along with your children so that they can experience that gaming joy you experienced at their age. Sure you can go out and buy a SNES or NES Classic, recently re-released by Nintendo, or you could build one of your own.
What you need:
A DIY Board
Do it Yourself boards have exploded into the market as a means of allowing enthusiasts and hobbyists in building their own mini PC’s, IoT innovations and lots more. The most poplar of these Raspberry Pi3’s are not officially available in India, so we went with the ASUS Tinkerboard, which launched here in 2017. It’s based on the same form factor and it’s a tad bit more powerful than the Pi 3. You get a 1.8GHz Rockchip RK3288 SoC quad-core processor, 2 GB LPDDR3 RAM, ARM® Mali™-T764 GPU which supports 4K, MicroSD Card, LAN and Wireless built in as well as Bluetooth.
Essentially you can use anything you want, either Tinkerboard or the Pi or anything in between. The choice is yours. Just make sure it’s the latest iteration. Both boards are structured exactly the same.
MicroSD- Atleast 16-32 GB
The OS needs about 8GB to function. The rest of the space you can use for your gaming ROM’s.
Retro Controllers (Optional)
What’s a retro gaming rig without retro controllers. You can get a variety of controller types, from the square NES ones to the curved SNES ones, in their original colors. However, these controllers were never known to be ergonomic. So you can always use your trusty Xbox 360 Wired controller or any bluetooth controller of choice.
Retro NES Case (Optional)
GearBest and AliExpress have a pretty cool RetroFlag NESPI case that looks exactly like the NES. In case you want that true to the original sort of look to your console. Though if you don’t want to spend money on a case, you could leave this open and probably camouflage it by sticking it to the back of your HDTV or you can build a case of your own from any spare LEGO you have. If dust is a problem in your house, there are also very affordable cases available.
Lets get Started:
Set up the Tinker Board
Setting up the Tinker Board is a piece of cake. All you need to do is put it into your selected case making sure to align all the port openings with the corresponding case cutouts. Just connect the power supply, insert in your MicroSD card and you’re good to do. Fun!
Now let’s get down to the more serious part. The OS.
Step 1: Flashing the OS:
Instead of the Tinker OS we went with the Lakka OS because it looks a lot like the PlayStation 4’s interface. Also it’s an out of the box Retro Gaming Console solution. All you need is to download the iOS that’s supported by the Rockchip ARM if you’re using the TinkerBox. Otherwise you can check out and select your processor from a list of supported boards.
Then you need to flash the OS on a pen drive, using this free tool called Etcher. Also available on Lakka’s website in the step by step instructions. Once you flash the OS onto the pendrive let’s move to step 2.
Step 2: Installing
Just boot up from the pendrive and install the OS just like you would any operating system. If you get any errors, just go back to the Lakka site and find the correct build for your board. Once installed you’re setup and ready to go.
Step 3: Setting up
Lakka is a superb, fuss free OS, that is based on RetroArch, this emulator frontend. Lukka comes with NES, SNES and a few other emulatiors already built in, at the time of writing this article. To get other emulators to work, is where things get a bit tricky. In order to start emulation, you need to install the specific BIOS’s of the consoles you want to emulate. The good news is you can find these easily available online. There’s an entire list at http://www.lakka.tv/doc/BIOSes/.
Step 4: Read the docs
Now that you’re gotten Lakka setup, it’s best that you go through the extensive FAQ and Documentation on how you can add more and more to your mini retro console. These are DIY boards after all and you should go ahead and dabble with settings, add new emulator cores and more. Most importantly get into the spirit of retro DIY.
Getting the games
Retro gaming ROMs have been around for a while, you can get original ROM’s, executables, of most popular games all over the net. We condemn piracy in all it’s forms, so make sure you get the ROM’s of games you already own.
Setting up controller
So there you have it, a fantastic custom console DIY that you and your kids can be proud of. Best of all, once you’re tired of the whole console thing, you can flash your Tinker board with the Tinker OS and make it into anything you want. From a mini HTPC that supports 4k 30fps to a pocket computer you can carry around with you wherever you go.