Tag Archives: 8-bit Gaming

Turning an NES into the ultimate 8-bit game console

This system transforms 8-bit side-scrolling console video games into totally immersive multiplayer experiences.

There’s no denying the nostalgic appeal of blowing into a Super Mario Bros cartridge, slipping it into your Nintendo Entertainment System and immersing yourself in an 8-bit world of blocky graphics and chiptunes. The side-scrolling game that we all grew up playing in our family rooms is pretty limited, though. You constantly move forwards, jumping over obstacles and hitting blocks, until you get to the end of a level — that’s about it. There’s no going back, you can’t zoom out and you can only have a maximum of two players.


What if there was a way to transform the beloved game into a collective, totally immersive experience? That’s exactly what a group from ETH Zurich and Disney Research set out to accomplish by developing the world’s first cooperative 8-player, 8-bit NES capable of continuous, panoramic side-scrolling.

For this endeavor, the team employed a real NES with real cartridges, giving it a true old-school effect. And it should be pointed out that there was no hacking of the actual console; instead, its creators enhanced the game using DIY hardware and software that multiplexes eight gmepad inputs to automatically handoff control from one pad to the next.


To connect eight controllers to the NES, they used an Arduino (ATmega328)-based multiplexer. Video from the NES is fed through an upscaler to get the output up to a solid 576p at 50Hz, whereas audio output goes directly from the NES to the room’s sound system.

Meanwhile, the NES output video signal is first captured and sent for analysis. A “tracking PC” running custom software processes the video stream, tracks the background and creates a wide, panoramic image. This image is then sent to a media server, which outputs the stream via eight projectors — two for each wall. Ars Technica notes that the tracking PC also has a real-time GPU algorithm to correct any distortion, enabling it to display clear graphics.


The Arduino multiplexer has two modes of operation: it can either cycle through each gamepad after a fixed amount of time, or the tracking PC can let the Arduino know to change to a specific gamepad, depending on where the players are in a level.

Once complete, the researchers tested the impressive system at a gathering with over 400 guests inside a Swiss night club. As you can imagine, it was a hit! The hope is that it will bring an entirely new level of social interaction to traditional game play. Think about it: Partygoers can swap in and out as they attempt to go from level to level, all while adding a unique ambiance to the environment. (Not for anything else, it can surely make for one heck of a drinking game!)


For those who don’t happen to have several projectors or giant walls, not to worry. The platform supports a virtual reality version as well, which reproduces a similar environment using an Oculus Rift headset.

Intrigued? Head over to the researcher’s official page to see how they’re ‘unfolding the 8-bit era.’ You can also head over to Ars Technica’s writeup or simply watch it in action below.

[h/t Ars Technica via ETH Zurich]

Pico Cassettes are like NES cartridges for your smartphone

One startup has introduced a small cartridge that plugs directly into your phone’s headphone jack to unlock games.

Who could forget the days of whipping out their Nintendo system, blowing into the base of their Super Mario Bros. cartridge and then slipping it into the console for some 8-bit gaming goodness? Well, one Tokyo startup has come up with a similar platform for the smartphone era called Pico Cassettes. 


The team at Beatrobo have developed a tiny game cassette that plugs into a phone’s audio jack, acting as a physical key for unlocking old-school games. These cartridges are actually an extension of the startup’s PlugAir technology, which has been used to sell physical music and video content throughout Japan. (In fact, it was on display inside the Atmel CES booth back in 2014.) While the dongles themselves don’t actually store any software, each one serves as as an authentication key for unlocking content by sending out an inaudible sound to the device.

What’s nice is that, since each Pico Cassette has a unique identifier and can securely communicate with Beatrobo’s servers, players will have the ability to save their games and play each one on a number of gadgets.


“We’ve been thinking about gaming since we designed PlugAir,” Beatrobo founder and CEO Hiroshi Asaeda recently told Tech in Asia. “We thought it could be cool to plug a character-themed dongle into your phone and then unlock a special character in a game like Puzzles and Dragons. We had the idea before Nintendo announced its Amiibo figures, and we still think there’s an opportunity to make that kind of device for mobile.”

For now, Beatrobo’s first goal is to relaunch some classic NES titles like Super Mario Bros. and Pac-Man. In the process, the team is hoping that Pico Cassette can one day do the same for vintage gaming as Spotify has done for the music industry. While still merely at the demo stage, you can follow along with the project on Beatrobo’s website here.

[Image: The Verge]

Paying homage to the “Father of Video Games” Maker style

Sadly, the “Father of Video Games” has passed away at the age of 92. Ralph Baer was a prolific inventor who earned more than 150 patents in his lifetime, in addition to having created the precursor to both Pong and the electronic memory game Simon. The true pioneer went on to develop the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972. Credited as the the first home gaming console, the Odyssey was battery powered, and featured a controller with two knobs to move horizontally and vertically.


A Maker in every sense of the word, the Father of Video Games’ legacy has surely inspired countless others to pursue their ideas. In fact, we have decided to pay tribute to Baer by compiling some of our favorite video game-inspired DIY projects…

Turning a storefront into a arcade game


Competing in the world’s largest online Mastermind game


Saying goodbye to thumb cramps on 3DS


Playing Tetris on your t-shirt


Modding a speech-controlled Game Boy Advance


Retro gaming with the Magpi


Configuring an 8x8x8 LED cube as a Space Invaders game


Recreating the retro game of Pong


Playing Tekken on a piano


Devising a dead-icated Splatterhouse arcade game


Gaming it up on Gameduino 2


Drawing actual blood every time your character bleeds


Hacking 8-bit chiptunes with this DIY instrument


Playing Doom on a hacked printer


Turning your Moto 360 into a classic 007 smartwatch


Reliving the days of 8-bit gaming with Uzebox


Wearing Tetris on your wrist


Making your own credit-card sized gaming console


Ralph, you will certainly be missed!