Traditional game system emulation uses software to allow your computer to take the place of specialized hardware originally used to play games like Super Mario Brothers, Mega Man, or any number of other old-school titles. While an amazing achievement in its own right, if one were to instead use an FPGA to run older games you wouldn’t have to emulate a system at all — your device could actually become a Game Boy, NES, or whatever you’re into at the time on a logic level.
Hardware hacker Craig J Bishop has actually put this idea into practice with his Gameslab console — as in "game-slab," an unwieldy object that plays games. The unit is beautifully constructed, with an aluminum covering that has two directional pads, along with a number of control buttons protruding. In the middle, graphics are displayed on a 5" 800x480 TFT screen, and buried beneath that is a control board that mounts a Xilinx Zynq FPGA-Arm Cortex-A9 combo SoC. Though normally this kind of chip would be prohibitively expensive, Bishop purchased it as a refurbished part for $120. Given the fact that it contains 275,000 logic elements, enough to replicate the logic of dozens of Game Boys, this is certainly a bargain.
It appears that this hardware has as of now mostly been used on Rust-based demos, yet the potential for this type of system is truly incredible. Bishop has outlined the project here, and plans to expound on it more. Be sure to check back there or even follow him on Twitter if you want to see what comes next!