The whole point of the original Game Boy was to make portable gaming possible, but today that big chunk of plastic seems far from the ultramobile device it was intended to be. To check off that box in 2016, you need to get really small — like the entirely functioning Game Boy key ring for instance.
Created by software engineering manager and bedroom hacker Jeroen Domburg, the supermicro Game Boy is about the size of your top thumb knuckle and can play a variety of titles in full color, with the original control schemes. It’s the love child of Domburg’s mad genius, a 3D printer, an ESP-32 micro-controller, and a full-color OLED display that measures less than an inch diagonally.
The ESP-32 is a reasonably powerful little chip, with dual cores operating at 240Hz apiece, twinned with 512KB of onboard RAM. It also natively supports Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, so connectivity isn’t a problem for this small device.
Of course, a console of this size is unable to play classic cartridges, so you do need to download them onto the onboard storage. While you can’t store many at once, there is enough space to store a few, and you can pick the game you want to play, as well as adjust volume and brightness, using on-screen controls.
The software it runs is an old Game Boy emulator known as GNUboy, but it required some modification to reduce the RAM requirements and make it usable on such a micro device.
One problem encountered during development was that the on-board driver chip for the 1cm speaker used for sound was causing massive overheating — sometimes hitting 195 degrees Fahrenheit. Fortunately, the problem was swiftly solved and the end result was a fully functioning Game Boy.
Domburg discussed a number of the issues he faced during development at the recent Hackaday conference, where he let a number of attendees try it out.
There are a few missing pixels on the screen, and the text on such a screen is unreadable, but for the most part, it functions very well and shows how far we’ve come in the 25 years-plus since the Game Boy’s initial release.