In brief: A YouTuber and modder named Rodrigo Alfonso used his impressive modding and hacking skills to make a Game Boy Advance run Mega Drive, PlayStation, and SNES games. To do it, he used custom cartridges featuring a Raspberry Pi 3 running an emulator.
Nintendo's Game Boy Advance has always been one of the most moddable consoles out there. From speakers and displays to the casing and the board, there are a lot of custom components to choose from if you wish to upgrade the portable console. However, none of these upgrades is on par with what modder Rodrigo Alfonso did.
In a video posted to his YouTube channel, Alfonso gives us a quick walkthrough of how he modded a cartridge and its GBA to run non-Game Boy games. He also published a demo showing some games running on the modded console, including PlayStation's Crash Bandicoot: Warped and Spyro: Year of the Dragon; Battletoads, and Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars for the SNES; and Megadrive's Snow Bros.
In short, Alfonso upgraded the 20-year-old 16-bit GBA to a 32-bit console via super-charged cartridges. For the most part, the GBA was stock, so to achieve this, the modder made heavily customized 3D-printed cartridges and installed them with a Raspberry Pi 3 with RetroPie.
The games render at a maximum resolution of 240x160, but users can dial it down to 120x80 to increase the framerate. To fill the GBA screen while displaying games at half resolution, users can use a 2x mosaic technique or play with the black borders around. Alfonso also states that those who like the aspect of old CRT monitors can use scanlines to create artificial black lines between each row of the frames. The video stream is sent through the Game Boy Advance’s link port.
For those interested in the technical details, Alfonso explains his impressive feat in-depth on GitHub.
Masthead credit: Josa Vicente