When the original Game Boy arrived, so did hundreds of accessories designed to improve its gameplay experience, including oversized lenses to help magnify its small screen. For the Arduboy Nano, however, you’ll have a better chance at getting the next high score if you stick it under a microscope.
Way back in 2014, Kevin Bates floored us with a credit card-thin electronic business card that put a fully playable game of Tetris in your wallet. That creation eventually went on to become an officially licensed handheld system and inspired the creation of Bates’ Arduboy: an open-source Arduino-based Game Boy clone with a loyal following of developers who’ve created hundreds of free games for it.
The Arduboy—which is roughly the same size as a business card and no thicker than three or four credit cards—is one of the smallest handheld gaming systems you can buy. But since many of us don’t even carry plastic cards for making purchases anymore, Bates figured the Arduboy was due for another round of miniaturization.
The Arduboy Nano not only pushes the boundaries of how small you can make a handheld gaming system, it’s also gone several miles past that boundary into uncharted territory. As Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm wisely pointed out in Jurassic Park, “...your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
Less than an inch tall, the Arduboy Nano can stand on a quarter without completely covering the coin. Inside the case, which is made from three 3D-printed parts that all slide together, is a 0.49-inch, 2,048-pixel OLED display, a 25 mAh rechargeable battery good for about an hour of gameplay, and an incredibly quiet 15-millimeter speaker, all of which are powered by the same ATmega 32u4 microcontroller you’ll find inside the larger Arduboy. The Arduboy Nano is fully playable, assuming your fingers are tiny enough to hit the individual action buttons and your eyes have the focusing capabilities of an electron microscope.
Bates currently has no plans to put the Arduboy Nano into production, but if there’s enough interest online for a Game Boy clone that’s so small it could be accidentally sucked up with a vacuum, he’ll entertain the idea of turning it into a follow-up to the Arduboy.