Raspberry Pi Pico Emulates Nintendo Console

Raspberry Pi Pico Emulating an NES
(Image credit: Ben Stragnell)

The Raspberry Pi Pico, a $4 microcontroller with a custom Raspberry Pi SoC has only been with us for a short time but eager hackers are already pushing this board to do much more than flash an LED. Ben Stragnell has used his Raspberry Pi Pico to emulate a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) including audio and VGA.

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The Raspberry Pi Pico has an Arm Cortex M0+ CPU running at upto 133 MHz, and Stragnell has chosen it to be the base for his remarkable emulation project.

"This is a $4 microprocessor board simulating a 6502 plus all the NES hardware (PPU, APU) while bit-banging VGA signals and PWM audio. And it works when clocked at less than half the default speed!" Ben Stragnell via Twitter

The Raspberry Pi Pico may only be a microcontroller, but the RP2040 SoC at the heart of the Pico has many tricks up its sleeve including a Programmable IO which can be programmed to support interfaces such as VGA and DVI. Stragnell's emulation project is not the first time the Pico has emulated a classic machine. Within a week of the Pico being released we saw a BBC Micro emulator, a UK computer which heavily influenced the Raspberry Pi creator Eben Upton, which was able to play full-screen video, audio playback and play games.

Right now Stragnell has just announced the project, but we hope that this will be made available for others to try out.

We have lots of Raspberry Pi Pico coverage for you. Our Everything You Need to Know about Raspberry Pi Pico page has all of our tutorials, reviews and more information on this excellent board.

Les Pounder

Les Pounder is an associate editor at Tom's Hardware. He is a creative technologist and for seven years has created projects to educate and inspire minds both young and old. He has worked with the Raspberry Pi Foundation to write and deliver their teacher training program "Picademy".

  • jeremyj_83
    Considering how old the NES is, I sure would hope that the Pico could emulate that.
  • Findecanor
    With the limited amount of SRAM in the RP2040, I'd think that number of games it could play must be limited to those carts that don't do any bank switching.
  • Ropgar77
    Really nice project. Pico consumes a lot less power and Pi Zero.

    I've put together code for a NES emulator for Raspberry Pi Pico as well.
    In my project it can run several ROMs using Mappers 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 7 (90% of the games).

    It can do 60 frames per second on VGA and emulates APU and PPP perfectly well.
    It uses a PS/2 Keyboard as controller (I have no NES controller here with me).
    Sound is very impressive and there no glitches on video and backgound game music.

    It's very impressive for such a small ARM Cortex M0+ microcontroller.
    Video of Castlevania demonstration can be foud at
    _iFT6jDa9UgView: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_iFT6jDa9Ug