Those who remember playing their Game Boys by the staccato glow of passing streetlights while sitting in the backseat of their parent’s cars sure have a bevy of retro handheld revivals to choose from. Though we’ve had plenty of strong contenders, nothing really beats the original Game Boy Color design with its perfectly pocket-shaped shell. So, if you happen to have one of your old Game Boy Colors lying around gathering dust, a London-based DIYer is offering the chance to transform it into a pure emulation engine.
The ReBoi kit essentially replaces all the guts of your Game Boy Color and turns it into a Raspberry Pi Zero-powered mini PC made for retro game emulation, all with no soldering or electronics know-how required. London-based engineer James Sargent created the kit, saying that he has long been obsessed with the Game Boy Color’s bareknuckle design, and wanted to compress a full computer into something diminutive yet well-loved. The ReBoi is finishing off its Kickstarter this week, with shipments set to start in August (though like all Kickstarters, your mileage may vary on that front).
The full kit comes with a motherboard with a built-in sound card and microcontroller for making sure the PC operating system can work with the Game Boy’s face buttons. If you’re curious, the motherboard itself will be green, so take that into account if you want to use your old translucent Game Boy shell. The port is now full USB-C for both file transfer and battery charging. ReBoi also arrives with a new, backlit TFT LCD screen at 240 by 250 pixel resolution.
ReBoi advises new users to install the RetroPie architecture to make for easy emulation on top of the OS. This means you’ll have access to all titles existing on Game Boy through Game Boy Advance. (Obligatory reminder that you should, technically, own the games you emulate.) While older systems through the PSX should run fine, you’ll probably have far more difficulty getting later consoles like the Nintendo 64 to run on a mere Raspberry Pi Zero 2.
While the ReBoi kit promises everything is easy to install with no soldering needed, it’s important to note that the ReBoi requires that buyers procure their own GameBoy Color and Raspberry Pi Zero 2 board, a thumb-sized PC board that often sells for less than $15 for just the board. The kit doesn’t come with an in-built operating system or any in-built games, which Sargent made pretty explicit in his Kickstarter was to avoid any messy legal wrangling surrounding the current state of game emulation. At least based on Sargent’s videos, the build is actually relatively simple and only requires a pair of thumbs and a few simple tools.
Part of the fun of this device is building it, but it’s important to note that many of the other, similar GameBoy-likes built for emulation cost just as much, if not less than the $101 starting ReBoi kit. You also won’t get to play your old GameBoy cartridges anymore. The fake, plastic cartridge included in the kit is just for show. If you want a real modernized Game Boy for playing your old catalog, you’ll have to look towards other fist-sized systems like the Analogue Pocket (which can also emulate other Nintendo consoles as well).
Other companies like Retro Modding also offer some rather expensive DIY Game Boy replacement parts, though ReBoi is unique for offering an easy-to-build full guts replacement while keeping the original shell intact. We can’t advise anybody to go out and back a Kickstarter from a first-time creator, but we do hope everything goes well for both Sargent and the other Game Boy Color-obsessed backers.