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This 8-Bit Life | September 29, 2016

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Progress Report 1: PiBoy Advance - This 8-Bit Life

Leland Flynn

I’ve begun work on a new project that I am tentatively referring to as the PiBoy Advance. This will be a portable multi-emulator machine built into the modified case of an original DMG-01 GameBoy. I’ve seen plenty of similar mods like this but I’ve never run across one built around a Raspberry Pi. So, what all will this build include?


  • 2.5 inch Color LCD (possibly upgraded to 3.5 at some point)
  • Raspberry Pi Model B (512MB RAM)
  • 4 Face buttons, 2 Shoulder buttons
  • 32GB of storage
  • 8400 mAh Battery pack (providing about 9 Hours of continuous play)
  • Many thousands of games across platforms such as: SNES, NES, Sega Genesis, GameBoy, GameBoy Advance, GameGear, MAME, Neo-Geo, and PS1)
  • USB Rechargable

I will be posting a fully detailed build log once the project is completed but for now I will be making updates as I rech milestones in the process.



Here you can see an example of me testing out the LCD hooked up to to Pi via the composite out. The LCD can accept 6v or 12v, but of course the battery pack that I gutted for this project outputs a steady 5v as is the standard for USB devices. I have a compact USB step-up converter on order but for now (as seen below) I spent some time tuning a variable step-up converter I had on-hand to produce a solid 6v.



Once I had the LCD powered it was time to start mocking up placement and figuring out what might need to be removed from the Pi and/or other devices to make everything fit. Below you can see me getting a rough idea for the space I have to work with. In future versions I intend to mount everything with custom plastic standoffs  but for this iteration I foresee a lot of hot glue in my future.



After getting a feel for where the major components would likely go it became clear that I would have to remove the USB headers, GPIO pins, RCA jack, headphone jack, network port, and possibly the HDMI port as well. I intend to extend the network and USB ports to another location once I have them desoldered. I am hoping this will give me enough room to ‘Tetris’ everything in. It will be tight.

I moved on to getting Raspbian (Linux Distro), RetroPie (emulator cores), and EmulationStation (emulator frontend) working correctly on the Pi. My first order of business was dealing with the overscan issues on the 2.5″ LCD. This was handled by tweaking the config file located at /boot/config.txt used by Raspbian.

From there it was time to install RetroPie, compile all of its emulators, and setup EmulationStation how I wanted. I have so far managed to get the GameBoy, SNES, NES, and MAME emulators working normally. I have been having considerable troubles (along with the rest of the community) with the Genesis, Game Gear, and Atari 2600 emulators. I hope to get these working well before I finish the build so that I can produce an image I can share with the community. If not I will keep plugging away until I’ve got it fixed.



My next task has been to figure out how to handle the controls. I have cut my button holes on the face and will soon do they same for the shoulders. Upon opening up the SNES style USB controller I bought online though, I found that it had so many traces on the board that it would have been very frustrating to cut the contact pads off and relocate then resolder them. I have opted to keep the USB in tact and simply cut up a busted genuine SNES controller, solder these to the USB controller’s board and then cram all that into the case. No big deal right?



And there you have my progress so far. Stay tuned for updates and a full build log once I’ve completed the project. More info to come in a few days!


  1. Amazing work! I’d be impressed if you crammed everything into the gameboy as well, then I’d ask when can I buy one?

  2. John

    This is getting great! Amazing!
    Give a look here:
    its also a great project.

    I will be waiting for the full log with hardware specs. This time i will be building my own gamestation!

  3. Why not get the 5V from the GPIO and save a USB port? Regardless, this is pretty awesome.

    • Leland Flynn

      I suppose I can actually. Just hadn’t thought of it. Thanks!

  4. Waz

    Cool project ! I’m also running a similar one :) Regarding Genesis emulation, have you tried this :

    • Leland Flynn

      I have tried that fix and sadly no love. I’m actually looking into other front-ends at this point as emulationstation is just so very buggy, especially with composite video.

  5. Alex B

    I’ve been working on an almost uncannily similar project. I found a 3.5″ automotive backup monitor on ebay for $20. It has a resolution of 640*480 and just barely fits in the case. I’ve been struggling with how to use the original pcb for the buttons and I appreciate your solution. I as well came to the conclusion of desoldering most of the connectors. I intend to leave the HDMI and attempt to integrate it into the case so I can connect to a larger screen. What are you using to charge the batteries reliably?

    • Leland Flynn

      Awesome! Link me to your build log here and I’ll post it! I love seeing/writing about other people’s projects.

  6. KnightFire

    Would you please divulge your LCD source… I can only find 12V units.

    • Leland Flynn

      Sure thing! I got mine from adafruit here:

      This one will handle 6v or 12v though it will consume more amps at 6v than at 12v. Let me know if you have any other questions!

  7. Awesome project – I’m going to blog about it!

    • Leland Flynn

      Thanks! Link me when you post! I’d love to read it.

  8. That looks really cool. I can’t wait to see it when it’s finished.

  9. Colin

    If you ever run into performance issues, you might want to look into Wayland, an X Windowing replacement:

    • Leland Flynn

      I dig Wayland but as you can see in the video none of this uses a windowing system. Thanks for the comment though!

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