Introducing the Pi3Cart!

The Pi3cart is a fun DIY kit that will allow a Raspberry Pi 3 to be installed into a classic NES cartridge.  It makes a great case for a retro gaming platform or any other Raspberry Pi system.

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Why a Raspberry Pi 3 instead of a Pi Zero?

By using a Raspberry Pi 3 instead of the much less powerful Pi Zero, many options open up such as playing many retro console games that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.  Furthermore, the integrated Bluetooth, WiFi, and full sized HDMI and USB ports eliminate the need for multiple adapters and extensions that would be required for a Pi Zero system.

What about Heat?

The Raspberry Pi 3 is known for overheating under heavy CPU loads. This problem is solved by integrating a cooling fan that is small enough to fit inside the cartridge and provides adequate airflow.  The fan keeps temperatures low even when running benchmark programs that max out all four processor cores for an extended period of time.  Cooling vents were integrated into the mounting bracket face so no holes need be cut into the cartridge itself.

How can a Raspberry Pi 3 fit into an NES Cartridge?

To get the Raspberry Pi into the NES Cartridge it is necessary to remove the Ethernet port and the double stacked USB ports from the circuit board.  The integrated WiFi on the Raspberry Pi 3 all but eliminates the need for an ethernet port, and two USB ports are relocated to the face of the mounting bracket.  A driving factor in the design of this project was to keep the exterior of the NES cartridge unmodified so as to maintain the stock appearance of the cartridge.  However, it would be possible to cut slots into the side of the case and install two more USB ports if desired.

Why is no SD card or software included?

There are many sizes and speeds of SD cards and I wanted to allow users the flexibility to pick one that suits their needs without paying extra.  Similarly, there are many operating system configurations available for the Raspberry Pi that suit many different needs.  For retro gaming emulation I have been using RetroPie (https://retropie.org.uk).  The RetroPie package is well documented and installation is reasonably simple.