Did you manage to grab yourself one of Nintendo’s mini-NES consoles this holiday season? The supply seemed to be low, but some folks managed to get lucky with their timing to pick up one of the company’s nostalgic emulators. And thanks to that group, an even smaller number of people with a knack for fiddling around “under the hood” with source code have found a way to add more games to the 30 already included inside.
Nintendo did not make it possible to do this the easy way and did not include the ability to download titles to the tiny system, so it was only going to be a matter of time before someone went around the rules to find their own way. While it isn’t an officially approved method — or legal in every sense — the method that some hackers in Japan and Russia have found does not require you to tear the system open. According to Ars Technica, it’s just some soft touches to the code if you have the mini-USB, a Super Mario Bros. save file and a few programs.
The site is quick to point out that all of this is “proceed at your own risk” type of material, especially since it involves downloading a program crafted by the modding community and requires you to find your own ROMs. Typically owning the game you’re using as a ROM gives you some legal ground to stand on, but it isn’t exactly something companies like Nintendo are known to support. But if you legally have the ROM files, you can follow the steps to add them:
Once you’ve added your own game files, which should also include custom JPGs that will appear in the NES Classic’s “box art” GUI, you’ll have to repack the hardware’s kernel, then fully flash the hardware yourself…
Do all of those steps correctly, and you’ll see every single game you’ve added appear in the slick, default interface.
Ars Technica is quick to point out that you run the risk of “bricking” your NES Classic by doing any of this, but the video above and other reports indicate that it is possible. Typically if you can read and follow directions clearly, you’ll have no trouble with these type of mods. Just make sure you have some extra cash lying around if you decide to try this out. The upside is that many games not included with the system, especially those from third-party developers, seem to work with the software inside the NES Classic. That doesn’t mean every classic game will have the same smooth transfer, but it does provide some positive examples.
You could always build your own machine and skip this sort of thing entirely, but that doesn’t help much if you’re curious about the limits of Nintendo’s tiny console.