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This Upgraded NES Gamepad Doesn't Actually Need an NES Console to Play Games

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One-upping Nintendo’s efforts to shrink the original NES console, Taylor Burley sacrificed a tiny arcade cabinet to upgrade an old-school NES gamepad with not only a screen, but a small collection of retro titles that don’t need cartridges or even a console to play.

If you want to make an omelet you need to crack some eggs, and if you want to try your hand at a hack like this you’ll need to track down and hack open one of Super Impulse’s Tiny Arcade handhelds, which look like miniaturized arcade cabinets designed to decorate a dollhouse, but are fully functional and include working screens and even controls. It turns out that while the Tiny Arcade machines are each themed around one specific game, to reduce manufacturing costs they all feature the same motherboard inside pre-installed with several retro titles, but hard-wired to play just one. With a little bit of soldering work, accessing the other games is relatively easy.

The hack required Burley to go at an NES gamepad with a cutting tool, slicing out an opening to accommodate the Tiny Arcade’s screen which meant saying goodbye to the controller’s start and select buttons in the process. They weren’t needed, however, and Burley managed to save the gamepad’s other buttons and rewire them to interface with the Tiny Arcade’s motherboard.


To give access to all four games included with the Tiny Arcade, Burley also transplanted four buttons from an LED bulb remote onto the top edge of the NES gamepad, and specific games, including Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, and Space Invaders, can be selected by holding down one of those buttons while the handheld is powered up. Burley somehow also found room for a rechargeable battery inside the controller, replacing the chunky AAs that the Tiny Arcade normally runs on, but the best feature might be the tiny stub of wire left hanging out of the top of the gamepad, reminding players of a time when wires were just a part of life.