Hardware hacker brings online multiplayer to the original Game Boy

Move over, Xbox and PlayStation. A new foe has appeared in the world of online multiplayer gaming! It’s the… uh, Game Boy. As in that unbreakable, gray, 4.19Mhz tank from 1989.

While the Game Boy has had a handful of locally multiplayer games since the beginning, using it meant physically connecting your Game Boy to another Game Boy via an accessory called the link cable. If you wanted to play some Nintendo with someone further than a few feet away… well, you’d just have to wait a few decades.

In a wildly impressive display of skill, hardware hacker stacksmashing has managed to reverse-engineer the Game Boy’s link cable protocol and effectively trick it into working across the internet. The Game Boy connects through the link cable hooked into a Raspberry Pi to a custom desktop client, which in turn pings an online game server that acts as the bridge between you and your opponent(s). The Game Boy thinks it’s talking to any other ol’ Game Boy, unaware of the fact that it’s actually communicating with a server that could be halfway around the world.

The first game they’ve got working? Tetris!

Getting any given game to work (imagine trading a Pok√©mon you caught in 1998 with someone across the internet!) will require that game’s unique communication protocols to be reverse-engineered, so it’s only Tetris for now. Fortunately, stacksmashing has opened up the source code for all the various components that have been built so far, so there’s something of a foundation to build upon. And because the whole thing is no fun without anyone to play with, there’s also a Discord channel just for finding others who’ve gone down this rabbit hole. There’s even a custom PCB in the works ($15, with preorders expected to ship by June) that’ll handle the connection between the link cable and the Raspberry Pi, removing the need for you to shred a link cable to expose its wires and make this work.

Stacksmashing also recently made headlines by cracking open and modifying Apple’s AirTags, as well as turning the Game Boy into a (hilariously underpowered) Bitcoin miner.