Though graphics have evolved in leaps in bounds in the past few decades, many of us still have that fascination with retro games because that’s our introduction to the world of video games. Many then dream of playing those classics on newer systems. Thanks to emulation, that’s no longer just fantasy. An emulator is basically a piece of software or hardware that imitates the behavior of another system.
If you’ve ever seen a console that can run retro games from various platforms, chances are that device was a handheld emulator. It’s designed in a way to let it emulate multiple systems. Other than handhelds, emulators also come in home versions. They look like regular home consoles, complete with a set of gamepads to control in-game actions.
There are quite a lot of emulators sold in the market today. But if you’re curious about what’s going on behind the scene before a finished product is ready to be rolled out to the market, we’ll go over the making process and provide sources you can use for future DIY projects.
How to Make a Raspberry Pi Handheld Emulator
This is the first that we’d recommend because it’s from Instructables. If you’re looking for tutorials about anything that can guide you till finish, this site should be on your wish list. What we like about this tutorial is because it doesn’t cost a fortune. With only $20, you can have your own emulator.
That said, don’t get your hopes up for premium materials. Since you have to limit the budget, you should also be okay to resort to Chinese parts and circuitry. This should be great if you’re at the beginning stage of learning emulation. Once you’ve understood how it works, you can carry out the subsequent project more easily.
For those wondering about the structure of this device, we’ll break it down for you. The first one is a Raspberry Pi Zero which costs $5. Compared to others, this is considerably smaller, but it’s still useful. Another essential component is a 2.4-inch TFT display, which costs around $5.88.
This one has good compatibility with the Pi. Performance-wise, it’s also not disappointing. And of course, to make a device run, a battery would be a necessity. The one we need for this circuitry is affordable comes at a price of $0.99. There are more needed to build it, go check out the link to discover all.
Normally a tutorial is focused on one project, but this offers you 2 builds at the same time. With these, you can choose which one works best for you in terms of preference or budget. They use 2 different types of Pi computers and cases. One is noticeably larger with more buttons, while the other is slightly smaller.
The Raspberry Pi Zero version is encased with the Retroflag GPI Case. The front houses 8 buttons along with a digital pad. As for the screen, it measures 2.8 inches with a resolution of 320×240 pixels. The Piboy DMG version costs a bit more, though expected from its extra size. If you’re aiming for a larger console to play retro classics, this can be an option.
The 3.5-inch makes a clear difference. The resolution is also higher, which amounts to 640×480 pixels. Apart from the chunky appearance, the unit also has more buttons. There are ten which consist of action buttons, a d-pad, and others for Select and Start.
This tutorial is also posted on Instructables but by a different author. From the form factor, this handheld is different from the previous one. It’s longer in height than in width. In other words, it sports a vertical design unlike the first comes in a horizontal orientation. Links to products are included in this tutorial, which makes it easy to collect them if you’re serious about making one yourself. Each link takes you to a product listing on an eCommerce site.
By the way, this tutorial puts emphasis on the importance of batteries. The interesting part is it doesn’t suggest Lipo batteries that we’re familiar with, but Nimh batteries. The author says they’re typically easier to handle, but doesn’t mean free of caveats. You can overcome all of those, though, thanks to the detailed explanation. There are even diagrams to help you figure out the different components of the over-discharge protection circuit.
Another plus is the accompanying videos. While text and images greatly help, videos can capture the steps on how to do things clearly. They do wonders in explaining complex systems, as depicted by this tutorial.
We got you another tutorial from a trustworthy source. Just like the previous articles, here you’ll also be provided with components you need to assemble a functioning handheld console. You’d notice similarities in components among all these builds.
As usual, a Raspberry Pi is required. The article suggests the B+ model although it’s not limited to this only. A battery, a screen, and a case are other essential components. The battery is preferably a 3.7v lithium, while the screen is a TFT, but if you want a touch screen, that’s also a possibility. For more details, you can visit the source.
Apart from tools and materials, pay attention to the step-by-step instructions. It’s important to do it correctly from connecting the power supply to installing software and games. A small mistake could undermine all the hard work you’ve put into the project, so please read carefully.
There are two main elements of the handheld explained in this tutorial. The first one is a Raspberry Pi Zero, and the second one is a Retroflag GPI Case. Put together, they’ll form a working handheld. The author loved to call it a powerhouse.
Well, that could be the case with this pairing. It includes an image that illustrates the outcome of this build. The tutorial only outlines the most important steps, so if you’re looking for tips on how to get Retropie on a Raspberry Pi, you should better check out the post history of the author because he has addressed it before.
To summarize, what you can learn from this article is how to install patch files for the case and install the safe shutdown scripts.
Handheld emulators are easy to find today. But despite that, there’s a sense of fulfillment when you can make one yourself.
It doesn’t take an expert to design one. With a comprehensive tutorial and the right materials, you can do it as well.
If you want to know how to make a Raspberry Pi handheld emulator, all the aforementioned tutorials/projects should help.