The Raspberry Pi is a great little mini-computer for playing classic video games from your childhood. But, thanks to its small size, it’s also possible to turn it into a portable handheld game console that plays your favorite titles, from NES to N64. I call it “The eNcade”.
The eNcade is a Kickstarter project up for pre-order, but with a little engineering and soldering skills it’s not crucially difficult to make one yourself.
What You’ll Need
As is always the case with DIY, you can adjust these instructions to make…well, whatever you want! But here’s what we’ll be using in the guide:
- A Raspberry Pi (obviously). I used the model B, but you can use whichever you want—the B+ is a bit more powerful, and the new model A+ is slimmer.
- A 3.7v lithium polymer battery (at least 2000mah preferably), like this one from Adafruit
- A Screen. A simple composite TFT monitor like this will work. You could also use a touch screen, though that requires some extra work.
- A Charging/Voltage Boosting Circuit such as the PowerBoost 500
- A case to put it all in (see below)
- A USB gamepad of your choice—I used the logitech F310
- A single pole, single throw Switch, like one of these from RadioShack
- Some multi-stranded wire
- Soldering iron
Step Zero (Optional): Slim Down Your Pi
I used the model B Pi, but modified it to be slimmer so I could get a slim device in the end. You can do this same adjustment with the B+, or just use the already-slimmer A+. This guide here will help you with that. In this case most of the ports (USB, ethernet, audio jack, RCA jack) were completely removed to make pins easier to solder to and to save the most space possible.
Step One: Connect Your Power Supply
Your power supply is the most fundamental part of the handheld, as well as the easiest to wire, so we’ll do that first. The Raspberry Pi takes 5 volts to run, and you can connect it directly to the GPIO (general purpose input/output)—the 26 pins next to the yellow video out socket (shown above).
Your battery is going to power more than just the Pi, though—you’ll also need to power your other components (like screen) from the same battery. We’re using a 3.7v Li-Po battery, which, with the help of the PowerBoost 500, converts that output to 5v. With this circuit you can plug in your battery though the connector and solder two wires: one from the 5v output pin on the PowerBoost to the Pi’s 5v input (labeled on the GPIO diagram above), and one wire from the pin labeled “gnd” on the PowerBoost to the pin labeled Ground on the GPIO:
Although it is not conventionally recommended to solder directly to the GPIO, it could save space in your design. Normally, you would use a GPIO header to connect your wires. The PowerBoost 500 also has pins where you can connect your switch, as described on the PowerBoost 500 page. Here’s what it should look like at this point:
FO more detail: How to Build a Handheld, Raspberry Pi-Powered Game Console