Like its more fully-formed sibling, the Raspberry Pi Pico has proved adept at handling retro gaming projects.
The latest example of the Pico’s versatility is as the controller on a custom Nintendo 64 cartridge, where it can be used to host ROM files. While the examples on Twitter (see below) demonstrate the Pico connected to the cartridge PCB, developer Konrad Beckmann is already planning a version that eschews the Pico’s pins and mounts the RP2040 processor directly to the PCB.
The Raspberry Pi Pico emulates a game cartridge by responding to bus requests, providing data which is fetched from the external flash. The IO handling is implemented using the Pico’s unique PIO.
And yes, you can boot Super Mario 64 from the Pico.
While it may take some time for optimization and improvements to bing the necessary stability to the project, it represents an particularly important opportunity for indie game developers working to a tight or non-existent budget. If N64 carts can be built with an affordable Raspberry Pi Pico or simply the RP2040, then the chances of physical releases of games previously only available as ROMs becomes great. Similarly, the costs involved for teams already releasing titles for retro hardware like the N64 drop considerably.
Check Konrad Beckmann’s GitHub to learn more about the project.
Gaming since 1984, retro gaming since 2004. Contributes to Linux Format magazine and MakeUseOf.com.