A couple of years ago my original Nintendo Entertainment System stopped working – the pins in the machine had worn out and wouldn’t recognize the games. I found a used game store in my neighborhood that had a new head of pins, so I replaced the part, which worked for a while but ultimately this set of pins also wore out.
Lucky for me, this was around the time I was getting into Raspberry Pi projects, and doubly lucky for me, emulating old console games is one of the most popular uses of Raspberry Pi. With a software package called RetroPie, you can emulate games from dozens of systems, including NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, Gameboy, arcade games, and more. Frankly, installing the RetroPie software on a Raspberry Pi is so easy to do, it’s worth the $50-ish cost of getting all the parts. You probably can’t find an actual functioning NES for that price anymore.
Using the following resources, I built my own Pitendo console:
- How to Build a Raspberry Pi Retro Game Console for $35
- Playing Old Skool Games on a Raspberry Pi
- RetroPie Website
My Pitendo uses a Raspberry B+, and some of the more graphically intensive games like Starfox and Yoshi’s Island don’t function. But the B+ is already a few Pi models behind, and others have had good results with those (and even Nintendo 64 and Playstation games) on the Raspberry Pi 3 and the latest version of RetroPie.
I wouldn’t consider myself a “gamer” by any means. The most recent system I own is the Gamecube, which came out 13 years ago. I just wanted a way to play those old games without having to buy a new console every few years. With the Pitendo and an 8MB SD card, not only can I play the old NES games I had, but I can find and store thousands of classic and undiscovered games from all kinds of systems.
Here are my top ten favorite games I’ve been able to emulate on Raspberry Pi. Some are old favorites, some are new discoveries, but all have successfully prevented me from writing numerous blog entries:
10. Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (NES)
I used to play this all the time in my grandma’s basement. I’ve never completed the game, and I probably never will. But I get the music stuck in my head for days, and I get to walk around Transylvania whipping zombies and werewolves. What’s not to like?
9. Bubble Bobble (NES)
A simple arcade game, this one is easy, mindless and fun. You control a cute little dragon sprite that burps bubbles and traps bad guys who turn into tomatos and banana splits. Plus, it’s two player!
8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV – Turtles in Time (SNES)
I remember playing this classic at Skateland for what felt like hours. Lost a lot of quarters to that machine. Well, now I play for free in my basement. Turtles is another great two-player option, and it’s mostly a button masher, so not a whole lot of cognitive resources are involved.
7. WWF WrestleMania (NES) / WWF RAW (SNES)
Honestly, both these games are completely dumb. The controls and combinations are difficult to grasp, and the wrestlers on screen just sort of lumber around punching and kicking into the air. Which also makes it hilarious. One time in RAW, Taylor and I somehow set our characters stop, drop and rolling across the mat for an entire match, which had us also rolling around on the floor in tears.
6. Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker (Genesis)
Another ridiculous and laughable game thanks to the sheer novelty of it all. In Moonwalker, smooth criminal Michael Jackson moonwalks around a seedy nightclub making weird noises, tossing his hat at 30s gangsters, and rescuing children who are hiding in closets. I’m really not exaggerating this at all.
5. Bart’s Nightmare (SNES)
Ok, here’s one that legitimately fun. Bart Simpson falls asleep doing his homework and has to walk around his dream world chasing down the lost pages of his book report. Each page represents a mini game where Bart is either a superhero, Godzilla-like monster, cartoon character, microscopic blood cell, or Indiana Jones lookalike. I find this game both casually entertaining and endlessly replayable – a great combo.
4. Jackal (NES)
Another game from grandma’s house. As a lone tank drive in a hostile war zone, you have to drive around and rescue your captured soldiers from the enemy compounds. The simple graphics of the top-scroller aren’t much to look at, but the game is exciting for a casual arcade game. Plus, it’s two player!
3. Yoshi Cookie / Yoshi (NES)
I love simple puzzle games, especially ones that you can play competitively. Yoshi Cookie / Yoshi are go-tos for Taylor and me. Both of these games are fast-paced and best when played with a friend. I especially like the subtle ways to screw over your opponent each game includes. It makes a simple game so much more interesting.
2. Dr. Mario (NES)
For the longest time, Dr. Mario was my favorite retro game. The game has 20 levels, and I’ve made it as high as Level 25, often lucking out at times when I though all hope was lost. There’s something zen about Dr. Mario. I can space out playing this game, get lost in thought, listen to an entire audiobook, or loop through a full playlist, and I will never get tired of it. I’ve lost hours to Dr. Mario, playing with an opponent or on my own. Nearly nothing beats Dr. Mario.
1. Trog! (NES)
Of course, then I discovered Trog!, an arcade-style game in which you play a dinosaur trying to collect all his eggs and escape getting captured and eaten by a horde of cyclops cavemen. Yet somehow it also includes magic mushrooms, teleportation, trampolines, T-Rexes, and cheese wheels. This game is… addicting. And hilarious. And competitive. And fun. Trog! has a competitive multiplayer mode, too, which makes it nearly the perfect game. Taylor and I have played a ton of Trog!, so much that “Bloop, Top Dino!” is firmly established in our cultural lexicon.
And I would never have discovered it without the Pitendo.