A Wee Wii

James Smith created a miniature Nintendo Wii using original hardware and a custom 3D-printed case for an authentic retro gaming experience.

Nick Bild
1 month agoRetro Tech
A fully functional Wii, only smaller (📷: James Smith)

Retro gaming is all the rage right now, with re-releases of classic consoles being announced at a steady clip. You are probably familiar with the miniaturized remakes of consoles from the 1980s and 1990s that have been popping up at numerous retailers from brands that are respected, and also some that are of more questionable character. But one thing that these faux Nintendo, Sega, and Sony consoles have in common is that inside you will find components that look nothing like the original hardware.

Truth be told, these systems are just outdated computing hardware running emulation software inside a really slick looking case. They kind of lose their appeal when you think about it that way, don’t they? For the retro gaming aficionado, that simply will not do. Emulation of many classic consoles is quite good, but it is not perfect. Whether it is the colors, the sound, or some other annoying glitch, the games might not be quite what you remember.

The only way to truly replicate the experience of playing old games is to play them on the original hardware. Software engineer James Smith decided to do that, and also have the experience of owning one of those fancy miniature consoles that everyone is talking about. So, Smith more or less took a hacksaw to a Nintendo Wii to get rid of all of those “extra” parts that modern electronics apparently have, and shrink it down to about the size of a deck of cards.

To create this 1:2.38 scale model of an original Nintendo Wii, Smith first removed the original power circuitry and also the USB, Bluetooth, and GameCube connectors from the PCB. This left behind little more than the CPU, GPU, RAM, and flash memory. Next, custom PCBs were designed to replace these functions, since you kind of do need power and peripherals if you actually want to turn the miniature Wii on ever again. But these custom designs were much smaller than the originals, and they were also designed to be stackable to save space. Finally, a custom aluminum heatsink was added to the stack so that the compact hardware can keep its cool.

The case was custom-designed and 3D-printed to look like a tiny version of an original Wii case, with a few small exceptions. The GameCube controller connectors have been replaced with TRRS headphone jacks, for example, to keep everything small. By using an adapter, an original GameCube controller can still be hooked up to the system. A custom-cut acrylic light diffuser was even included to retain the signature lights around the disc slot.

Smith provides some reasonably detailed build instructions over at GitHub, but be warned — this is not a beginner project. Unless you are very comfortable with electronics, fine-pitch soldering, and PCB assembly, you are likely to wind up with nothing more than a broken Wii. Most would be better off keeping their own Wii intact, and drooling over pictures of the beautiful system that Smith has created.

Nick Bild
R&D, creativity, and building the next big thing you never knew you wanted are my specialties.
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