Google Maps Finally Lands on the Nintendo Entertainment System — Nine Years After April Fools

Powered by a Raspberry Pi-based "PiPU," this souped-up cartridge brings Google Maps to the NES — nearly a decade after Google's gag.

Gareth Halfacree
9 months agoRetroTech

Pseudonymous maker "ciciplusplus" has ported Google's popular Maps application to an unusual target device: the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) eight-bit games console.

Released in 1985, following its introduction in Japan two years earlier as the Family Computer (Famicom), the NES is a fondly-remembered piece of gaming hardware — but hardly a powerhouse by modern standards. The console is powered by a MOS 6502-based Ricoh 2A03 eight-bit processor and has just 2kB of work RAM and an additional 2kB of video RAM inside its Picture Processing Unit (PPU).

If you've ever wanted to navigate from your NES, you can - thanks to a Google Maps port. (📹: ciciplusplus)

With such limited specifications, ciciplusplus had to get creative - building on an earlier project from TheRasteri to port id Software's 1993 first-person shooter Doom to the console and using exactly the same approach: Building a cartridge which contains a Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ single-board computer, which acts as a "PiPU" graphical accelerator.

As well as TheRasteri's work, ciciplusplus drew inspiration for the project from a 2012 April Fools announcement in which Google itself claimed to have ported Google Maps to the NES and Famicom — but stopped short of actually creating any real hardware or software to prop up the bit.

Ciciplusplus drew inspiration from a 2012 Google April Fools' gag, now brought to life. (📹: Google)

Ciciplusplus' version, by contrast, is fully-functional — and even uses period-appropriate imagery, turning Google Maps' imagery into tiles taken from The Legend of Zelda. The maker has not yet, however, published a build guide for the project.

Ciciplusplus has promised to release the work as open source, once some tidying — including fixing a tile rendering bug, adding missing functionality, and assembling all the required hardware onto a single cartridge board - has been completed.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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