Lets champion these stellar Raspberry Pi gaming handhelds for Pi day

raspberry pi
(Image credit: Raspberry Pi Foundation)

Happy Pi day, everyone! It's that time of year again where we have an excuse to get excited about the itty bitty, highly versatile Raspberry Pi. In all its forms, and with the many components it can be paired with, these little computers have been put to use in every which way imaginable.

Naturally, I started Pi day with a scout around for Raspberry Pi gaming kits, because what else should I be doing? Sadly, it looks like everyone else had the same idea. There's zip out there today; pretty much every Pi gaming starter kit I've taken a liking to has been stripped off the digital shelves. With RetroPie emulator remaining one of the more popular uses for Raspberry Pi's today, it makes sense that—today of all days—the cupboards are pi-bare.

Of course, I could always put together my own RPi gaming kit. It's probably possible to source all the components separately, but who has time for that kind of commitment in 2023?

So what now? I wondered, scoffing down the breakfast pie I made especially for Pi day. Looks like it's time to look back at all the amazing Pi gaming projects we've spotted over the years, of course. That way I can live vicariously through all these people who did have time to build amazing Raspberry Pi gaming handhelds.

One of those below is an emulator, one streams, and is more dev-centric. The latter is actually available to purchase, though if you're considering a Steam Deck emulation alternative it may not be exactly what you were looking for.

(Image credit: Reddit - Leoneq)

iNap Malinka

The iNap Malinka is a handheld radio controller that also works well as a handheld retro gaming console. Leoneq designed the iNap Malinka with a Raspberry Pi-based NRF24L01 transmitter which can be used to control all sorts of radio-controlled stuff.

The shell and Nintendo Switch-style gamepad buttons are 3D printed, though the joysticks are replacement Nintendo Switch parts. Assembly doesn't seem overly complicated, but it looks like you should take extra care when getting to the soldering and screen mounting portions of the project. 

There's even a version you can 3D print that doesn't have an antenna hole in case you're just looking to build a cute retro gaming handheld instead of a robot and toy car remote. 

(Image credit: Tombston)

Lemonlight v2

The Lemonlight v2 is the second iteration of a brilliant 3D printed, handheld device for streaming PC games by Tombston. Rather than emulating games, the Lemonlight streams them directly from your PC, lightening the powerload on the little Pi-based gadget. 

This one's powered by Moonlight, which Nvidia is sadly ditching support for so it may not work soon. Still, it's an incredible little machine. The Lemonlight v2 is built around a Raspberry Pi Zero W, and uses a 1080p AMOLED 5.5" Waveshare panel, accompanied by a tinkerBOY 4-Port USB Hub Breakout Board, Wi-Fi dongle, and buttons lifted from a slew of old controllers.

The chassis, bumpers and triggers were custom designed, and are highly reminiscent of the Nintendo Switch design with its rounded edges and button placement.

(Image credit: gsephelec)

Pimoroni PicoSystem

The Pimoroni PicoSystem won’t play your favourite old games, instead it's designed for deploying your own specifically made games coded in something like C++. Gsephelec’s initial demo is exactly this, and looks full of that sweet Gameboy nostalgia.

It looks like a great foundation for people looking to code some simple old school style RPGs straight onto this little system, and helps to show what can be achieved.

This one can be purchased through the Pimoroni store for $59, if you're interested in doing a little game design for yourself.


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Katie Wickens
Hardware Writer

Screw sports, Katie would rather watch Intel, AMD and Nvidia go at it. Having been obsessed with computers and graphics for three long decades, she took Game Art and Design up to Masters level at uni, and has been demystifying tech and science—rather sarcastically—for three years since. She can be found admiring AI advancements, scrambling for scintillating Raspberry Pi projects, preaching cybersecurity awareness, sighing over semiconductors, and gawping at the latest GPU upgrades. She's been heading the PCG Steam Deck content hike, while waiting patiently for her chance to upload her consciousness into the cloud.