We love our games and consoles, but there's a big world that lies beyond the product you pull out of the box. Your console is capable of so much more than you may realise. Here are our top 10 video game hacks and DIY projects to prove it.
10. Hack Your Wii for Homebrew
If you own a Wii, you ought to hack it with SmashStack so you can run some homebrew games and apps. If you don't know, homebrew is kind of like the open-source software of the gaming world. Once you hack your console, there are really no restrictions regarding what you can put on it so you can start developing software. That software is considered homebrew. Here's a pretty current list. There are also tons of homebrew emulators, so you can have a pretty comprehensive library of playable retro games on your Wii. Do you really need more convincing? If you have a Wii, do it. It'll give you a whole new homebrew world to explore.
9. Repurpose Your Old NES System and Games
Tired of blowing your old NES cartridges? mod one into a wireless router. Still watch DVDs even though they're quickly falling into obsolescence? Rock two old school technologies by turning your NES console into a DVD player. The Nintendo Entertainment System was pretty great and has an iconic look. If you owned one you're likely racked with nostalgia and can't bear to give it up, even if it doesn't work anymore. Repurposing its console and cartridge casing and adding new guts is a great way to let it live on forever. It's also considerably less creepy than doing the same thing to your dead pets.
8. Turn an Old Controller into a USB Gamepad
If you're playing old emulated games on your computer, you need a gamepad. While there are a lot of cheap and not-so-cheap knock-offs of retro controllers available for your desktop or laptop, they generally don't feel the same. They're not made as well as the real deal and sometimes the buttons are really stiff. Basically, they're not like mum used to make. If you want a really solid controller, stick with what you know works and turn an old controller into a USB gamepad.
7. Control Your Computer with a Wiimote
Wiimotes are just big, white sticks with Bluetooth. What else has Bluetooth? Your computer. Probably. It didn't take long for someone to figure out that you can use a Wiimote to control your computer. While this may not be the most practical use for a Wiimote, it's definitely neat. At the very list it's a much cooler pointer for presentations.
6. Back Up Your Wii Games to an External Hard Drive
If you've hacked your Wii for homebrew, you should definitely start backing up your Wii games so they're playable from a hard drive. It's pretty annoying to have to switch disks just to start a new game. They take time to find, put in the Wii, and then load. When you have a hard drive hooked up, things just work a lot faster. Let's continue making the optical disc obsolete, or at least nothing more than installer. Start copying your games to a hard drive and make your playing experience seamless.
5. Create a Netbook Arcade
If you haven't figured it out already, old retro games are awesome. The downside nowadays is that the emulated experience isn't always as great as playing on your console or—better yet—an arcade machine. By now you may have also figured out that netbooks aren't always so awesome, but they do make for a great arcade machine. That's where the Nanocade comes in, which is essentially a netbook-based arcade cabinet. Not necessarily the simplest DIY project you could have, but it's sure pretty awesome. Alternatively, you could build a Nintendo arcade instead.
4. Hack Your Nintendo DS for Single-Cartridge Gaming
The iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch has been eating Nintendo's lunch in the portable market lately, but the Nintendo DS(i) is still a really great portable console. The one big glaring problem? You have to carry around cartridges. Fortunately, you can hack your Nintendo DS(i) to easily backup and play all your games from a single cartridge, letting you just carry your DS(i) around any not worry about taking a bunch of games. If you want to take it a step further, supercharge your homebrew-hacked Nintendo DS(i) for added functionality.
3. Retro Games on Your Mobile Device
We've shown you how to put Super Nintendo games on your iPad, which is a process that works for pretty much any jailbroken iOS device. If you're on Android, you can also download apps like SNesoid and Nesoid for retro game emulation. I think this is a wonderful direction for retro games, and one of the best places for them. I love playing SNES on my iPad. In fact, I'm convinced that the iPad may just be a $US500+ piece of crap without an SNES on it. Okay, maybe that's taking it a little far, but it's pretty much all I use my iPad for anymore. It's nostalgia just one tap away.
2. Install XBMC on Your Old Xbox (or Anywhere Else)
XBMC is, perhaps, the best thing to ever come out of a console hacking effort. It is an amazing media centre software, and we've got an ultimate XBMC start-to-finish guide to help you install it on your old Xbox, computer (like a cheap nettop), or Apple TV 2. It's really incredible and one of those things you can't believe you ever lived without. It's also completely free, so you really have no excuse to not try it out.
1. Turn Your XBMC Media centre into a Video Game Console
Clearly somebody writing this Top 10 has a bias towards retro gaming and also loves XBMC, so I can't imagine why said writer would thinking turning your XBMC media centre into a video game console would find itself in the number one spot. No, that just doesn't make sense. To be serious for a moment, it does seem a little weird. I mean, XBMC was design to turn a gaming console into a media centre and now we're suggesting you turn it into a console. But it's not the same. You're playing emulated games and XBMC doesn't stop being a media centre. This is one of those situations where you get your cake, eat it too, and also get to eat everyone else's cake. You're not a cake-hater, are you? As far as game hacks go, this one's a serious win.
Got any great gaming hacks or DIY projects that you love? Share 'em in the comments!