PALPi Retro Game Console

Raspberry Pi Zero Based Handheld Gaming Console. Display works on composite PAL hence the name PALPi

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Hey everyone what's up!

So this is my RecalBox based handheld gaming console aka the PALPi, its name is PALPi because it uses a composite PAL Display.

When I was little I love playing games like Pokemon, contra, super Mario, Final Fantasy, and other games mostly on Gameboy advance and that game console that we hooked up with our CRT TVs to run great old stuff.

Well, nowadays we can just download the retro game ROM and open it up in an emulator and play that game on our laptop and mobile devices,
But as a maker, I wanted to do something different, so I prepared this handheld retro gaming console setup which is powered by a Raspberry pi zero, the OS that I'm using here is the Recalbox os.
This whole setup is powered by an IP5306 IC which is a 5V 2A Constant Boost IC. It's used in a power bank circuit which is ideal for powering a Raspberry Pi zero.

Hi, so this project is divided into two versions. 

Version 1 is the breadboard version and Version 2 is the Proper Gameboy with custom PCB and 3D Printed Body. 

In the Build Instructions, I have included the built guide for both versions so you can make the breadboard version of this project or build the PCB Edition.  



Basic Setup

I'm using a 4.3-inch display in this setup which is pretty huge if compared with a regular Gameboy screen so this setup size will be around 135mm x 140mm. 

On the front side, there's a display and buttons and on the bottom side, raspberry pi zero along with a boost converter circuit and a Li-Ion Cell will be placed. This Setup is a combination of PCB and 3D Printed Body which will be connected together via screws through the given mounting holes in the PCB


Gerber data for PCBs

RAR Archive - 15.84 kB - 06/10/2021 at 06:00



Schematic for this project

Adobe Portable Document Format - 247.10 kB - 06/10/2021 at 05:58



Back Lid of Main Body

Standard Tesselated Geometry - 15.51 kB - 06/10/2021 at 05:58



Main Body of this project

Standard Tesselated Geometry - 86.31 kB - 06/10/2021 at 05:58


  • 1 × raspberry pi zero W
  • 1 × Generic Car Display which have PAL Port
  • 1 × Custom PCB
  • 1 × 3D Printed Body
  • 1 × IP5306 IC

View all 6 components

  • Log Zero One

    Arnov Sharma06/10/2021 at 06:17 0 comments

    Right now, this project is working OK and I'm pretty happy with its performance. 

    RPi Zero is not a powerhouse so yes, this game console isn't exactly powerful enough to run SNES Games without lags for 3-4 Hours. 

    the Next Version will Feature a more slim and better version of the Overall PCB with a Display mounted on PCB or something similar and it will be powered by a Raspberry Pi Compute Module, 

    I haven't decided between Compute Module 3 and 4. Using 4 will be overkill in such a normal project but maybe the Compute module 3 might not be able to run this setup perfectly so I'm not entirely sure which module to choose. (I will choose Compute Module 4)

View project log

  • 1
    Setting UP the RecalBox

    If Raspberry Pi is the Brain of this Project, then the RecalBox is the Heart.

    I'm just making Hardware for this setup, there are already a bunch of other similar Gameboy stations based around Recalbox OS. The reason for that is simple, setting up RecalBox is a pretty easy thing to do and we only have to tweak few things in the OS to make certain things run. Here's how you can install the Recalbox for your raspberry pi!

    • Download the Raspberry Pi imager.
    • Select the right OS for your device, which would be RecalBox
    • select your system which is Rpi0
    • Raspberry pi imager will do your work of downloading and installing the RecalBox on the memory card.

    After installing the RecalBox os, you need to plug your Raspberry pi setup with a TV and a Keyboard.
    After booting the whole setup, our RecalBox works like a normal emulator.

  • 2
    Schematic for Basic GPIO Wiring

    This is the schematic that we have to use for GPIO Buttons. The buttons work when we pull down any GPIO Pin to GND.

  • 3
    Display and GPIO Controls

    Let's talk about external display now, because this project apparently has 2 hearts, the second heart is the display.

    when it comes to displays, we can find a bunch of them, both for HDMI ports and the ribbon cable one. they all work perfectly well but for this project, a 30$ display is not ideal so I bought a cheap car monitor which has a composite PAL Port.

    Yes, I'm using a composite PAL Port here, I'm making a retro gaming console and the FPS is not really an issue here so composite is now my best friend, friendship ended with HDMI Port.

    Before Hooking up the Car Monitor with Rpi, there was a small problem.

    Car Monitor works with 12V and we require a 5V or 3.3V Display.

    So I open the monitor up and search about its ICs and found out that the display IC works with 3.3V and there's Buck Converter IC in this setup for stepping down the 12V to 3.3V for display. So I removed that IC and added VCC and GND on the Vout Capacitor and supplied 5V to this Display.

    The display worked and now we can operate it with 5V.

    For running the Display with PAL composite, we need to edit few things in the config file.

    We will be needing a keyboard for entering the SSID and Password in the network setting.. for connecting this with the win SCP.

    Usually, we just connect the HDMI Display onto our Raspberry pi and it outputs its video signal but in our case, we need to set the SDTV output as default.

    This is what you need to edit!

    • SDTV

    go to boot>config.txt and change the default setting with this.

    We Remove # from sdtv_mode and add sdtv_aspect=1, also, we add # in front of HDMI lines.

    • GPIO Control

    go to recalbox>share>system>recalbox.conf

    For Enabling GPIO Buttons, we only need to change two things in the above section.

    set controller.gpio.enabled = 1 (It was 0 before) and change, 2 to (2 is second player controlls)

    Just change your default setting according to mine, then reboot the whole setup, and BANG, our Recalpi setup works with composite PAL and custom buttons!

View all 9 instructions

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