The Amazon Fire TV can run NES, SNES, and GBA games. You can even use the included remote, though the game controller works much better.

I made up a package with a batch script that makes it pretty easy.

MyTechJam took it a big step further and made a video tutorial.

 

Here is how to play NES, SNES, and GBA games on your Amazon Fire TV.

Note: This does not require you to root your Fire TV. You will not lose access to the Amazon interface. Nothing will be removed or change. If in doubt look over the package you download and definitely look over all of the .bat files.

Enable USB Debugging and Find out the IP address of your Fire TV

This steps turns on the features that allow you to remotely install software on your Fire TV.

  1. From the Fire TV Home screen, select Settings
  2. Go to System -> Developer Options
  3. Select ADB Debugging to turn it ON
  4. Go to System -> About -> Network, and take note of the Fire TV’s IP address

(Thanks XBMC Wiki)

Download and Extract my Installer Package

Amazon Fire TV Emulator Package: Download

Once you have it downloaded, unzip it.

Install Emulators and Send Your ROMs to the Amazon Fire TV

Installing the emulators:

  1. Double click on INSTALL-EMULATORS.bat (in the installer package)
  2. When prompted, enter the IP of your Fire TV
  3. You should see the emulators install with a ‘Success’ message

Copying the ROMS:

There are folders for ROMs for each system in the installer package. Copy your ROMs into the folder appropriate for them. If your ROMs are zipped, unzip them. Make sure the NES ROMs have a .nes extension, SNES .smc, and GBA .gba.

To play GBA games you’ll need a GBA bios file. Put it in the ROMS-GBA folder.

Once you have everything in the appropriate folders, double click on INSTALL-ROMS.bat. When prompted, enter the IP of your Fire TV. You should see everything copy over.

If at some point in the future you want to add more ROMs to your Fire TV, just add them into the appropriate folder and double click on INSTALL-ROMS.bat again.

Launch Emulators and Configure 

You should now have your emulators and ROMs installed on the Fire TV. Unfortunately side loaded applications do not appear in the Home screen, you have to launch them via the Settings menu.

  1. From the Fire TV Home screen, select Settings
  2. Select Applications
  3. Find and select the emulator you want. (Nesoid, Snesoid, GameBoid)
  4. Select Launch Application

You will want to go into the settings for the emulator and map the buttons for the remote (or your controller) to the game buttons.

Where to go From Here?

If you’re only using the remote that came with the Fire TV you’ll want to get a real controller. The remote works OK for RPGs and games that don’t require twitchy actions. Amazon sells a very good controller made for the Fire TV. XBOX 360 and PS3 controllers work well too.

The emulators I’ve included are not the best out there. There are some really good commercial Android emulators out there, installing and using them makes for a better experience.

What Exactly does the Installer Package do?

The general idea is that it side loads the emulator’s apk files via winadb. The installer package (if you can call it that) contains a apks for the emulators, winadb, and a couple of .bat files. The .bat files launch winadb with the appropriate commands to connect to the Fire TV and install the emulators. You can easily modify the .bat files to allow you to install other emulators.

I was asked to give a run down of the XBMC computer I am currently using. It was assembled from parts and is running openELEC.

HTPC XBMC Computer

The case looks good.

My XBMC PC is capable of:

  • Playing 1080i video with no stutter or buffering. (Both local files and files from a Windows file server)
  • Playing 1080i streams of local cable TV channels.
  • Recoding those streams DVR style.
  • Playing 720p streams of premium cable TV channels via USTVNOW. (The 720p limit is from USTVNOW, not the computer)
  • Using my surround sound system for 5.1 sound.
  • Playing older video games from Super Nintendo, NES, Game Boy, Genesis, ect.
  • Throwing some colors on the wall with a Light Pack.

Parts List:

Total Cost: $638.26

Not cheap. You get what you pay for.

Some notes on the hardware:

My previous HTPC was an ASROCK Ion 330. It was prone to overheating. A lot of this was due to the small case size. The CPU fan lay under a spinning hard drive with a 1/4 inch gap. The fan blew hot air onto a hard drive producing its own heat. This was then blown out of the case by a 25mm fan. Because of the cramped quarters I didn’t have any other options for larger fans or moving parts. While the PC never got hot enough to shutdown it did get hot enough to make me worry about.

The case on this XBMC PC is roomy. The fan from the CPU isn’t constricted. It has a 65mm case fan with room for a second. I’m using an SSD drive as they produce little to no heat. The SSD has the added benefit of being silent. The PC as a whole is quiet enough that you cannot hear it without putting your ear near the case. Even under a load it doesn’t get hot enough to spin the fans up. Idle temperature is around 40C, loaded is around 55C.

The CPU has an integrated GPU. It comes with a heat sink and fan in the box. The CPU is overkill for playing videos. I went big with the CPU because someday I plan on emulating N64 and Playstation games. Possibly even Game Cube.

The HDHomeRun is for watching cable TV. If that’s not applicable to you, then no need to buy one.

The lighting arrangement can be had in a DIY kit for $50.

Software:

Putting it all together gets you this:


My camera is unable to capture the lighting effect. Here is a video from the vendor showing how it looks.
ADAlight demo from adafruit industries on Vimeo.

 

 

GCW-Zero

I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on a GCW-Zero. I’ve had it for about two weeks now and have been playing with it just about every night for a hour or so before bed. I have mainly been playing Link’s Awakening DX, but I have spent a fair amount of time with each system I can emulate.

NES via FCEUX: Perfect. Tried a bunch of different games without issue. Made it all the way through Super Mario Bros. 1 without a glitch.
Game Boy/Game Boy Color via GamBattle: Perfect. I tried a couple of other emulators at first, both of which had problems with music or colors. (OhBoy notably)
SNES via Snes9x4d: I get the occasional slow down. It’s about like SNES emulation on a 3DS. SuperFX games do not work well such as Star Fox or Stunt Race FX.
GBA via ReGBA: No issues that I’ve seen. Mario Kart plays very well. I’m almost expecting to find something glitchy, but so far so good.
Playstation/PSX via psx4all: PSx4All is an unofficial port and the only PSX emulator I could find. Every game I tried was very slow and the sound stuttered or was lagged.
Genesis: I’ll confess I’m not much of a Genesis fan and didn’t try it. There are several Genesis emulators available.
Nintendo DS, Nintendo 64: Spec wise the GCW-Zero should be able to emulate these but there are no emulators yet written.

Some Random Notes:

The hardware is nice. It’s cool, in a nerd sort of way, to see Linux boot up on a handheld. The GCW is light and feels good to hold. You can hold it a long time and not get fatigued. The buttons are all easy to reach and have a good feel.

The native  games for the GCW-Zero are neat but nothing to write home about.

The one exception to the above is Kobo Deluxe.

ScummVM has a port but most of the games are pretty laggy. Should be all good once the software gets some optimizations.

Quake 1, 2, 3 and Decent 2 run really well. The control scheme made them unplayable for me though.

Doom is supposed to run well but for the life of me I couldn’t get it to work.

Warcraft 2 runs in DOSBox. It’s a little laggy but I was able to play the first mission without wanting to kill myself.

Adjusting the volume by holding the power button and using the D-pad is weird, but does the job.

By trolling Ebay I got my GCW for a lot less than retail. I’m not sure I would pay $140 for it.

The best comparison to the GCW-Zero are the Android handhelds put out by JXD. In my opinion the GCW-Zero has great hardware and questionable software. The JXD devices have questionable hardware (quality control issues) and great software (Android OS). If I knew for certain the JXD handheld I was buying had no hardware quality issues I would buy a JXD handheld over a GCW-Zero. Problem with JXD is no one knows if you’re going to get a device with a jacked screen, buttons, or who knows what else.

ThinkGeek is a reseller if you’re looking for a reputable seller.

Bottom Line:

If you can find one for less than $100 I would recommend a GCW-Zero. I think in a year the software will catch up and it’ll be an awesome device.

My other thought is that in a year the handheld Android consoles will be a dime a dozen with greatly improved build quality.

 
5/9/14 Update: With the release of the newest firmware and some updates to the SNES emulators, SuperFX games work pretty well. Stunt Race FX works great!

I have a Nintendo 3dS XL. I wanted to get a DSTWO flash cart to run emulators. While researching what to buy I couldn’t find a straight answer on how well the emulation works, specifically for SNES and GBA. About the one constant I could find was that the DSTWO has a CPU in it to help out with emulation. Most of what I could find beyond that went from one extreme to the other, it was horrible or it was great.

After trying out the DSTWO for about a month this is what I’ve learned.

SNES: Works very well. Games with lots of sprites moving around at one time will slow down a little, Contra 3 for instance. I remember Contra 3 slowing down a bit way back when I was running it on a real SNES though. Games that use the SFX chip are super slow and not playable. I played a Link to the Past, Ogre Battle,  and Super Mario All Stars (+ World) just fine.

Genesis: About the same as the SNES emulation. The Sonics play well.

GBA: Never saw any problems.

NES, Gameboy, and Gameboy Color titles all play well.

Tip #1: If you try to load the DSTWO and you get a ‘No game inserted’, or ‘No game card inserted’ error, take the cart out and press it back in pretty hard. Its not a problem with how you formatted the card or any other some such. It’s a problem with the cart not seating down properly and the pins not making contact. Just give it a good push in.

Tip #2: The SD slot in the DSTWO is spring loaded. You push the SD card in and it clicks when it is seated. You push it in again and it clicks and the card pops out. The bits inside the card that handle the spring and the seating are cheaply made and wear out after a while. This happened after about ten in and outs for me. I’ve read on some forums about it happening sooner and of course some people never have a problem at all. My SD card will push in, but it no longer clicks and sticks. I ended up opening the DSTWO up, removing the spring and taping the SD card down. I suppose I could of (and should of) sent the card back for an exchange, but I didn’t want to be without it for that long.

 

 

 

After owning a Ouya for a week I’ve returned it to Amazon for a refund. The Ouya had problems that I couldn’t get over. I could have waited and hoped some future update would have fixed those problems, but after dealing with Ouya support and reading their forums I wasn’t confident it would happen.

The Bad

Overscan

I wrote a whole post about my frustrations with overscan. The fact that it had the problem was frustrating enough, the response I received about the problem put me over the edge. This problem and the response is the majority reason I returned my Ouya.

Support

The lack of support is appalling. There are issues, such as the overscan problem,  that make the Ouya unusable for people. The response you receive, if any, is that they’re working on it. In the case of the overscan problem, it’s been about three months and three firmware updates with no fix. I did get a response about my problem with overscan, but I felt the Ouya representative was annoyed I was even bringing it up. It’s a problem with your TV after all.

The touch pad

The touch pad on the controller is an awesome concept. Their implementation is bad and almost unusable. It’s hard to reach and when you do get a finger on it the cursor flies around on the screen almost at random. Also, you have to really give it a good thump for it to detect a click.

Games

I personally didn’t care much for the games. My selection was very limited though because of the overscan problem.

The Interface

The interface was overly simplistic and somehow sluggish. I didn’t like that my side loaded apps were in a different spot than my Ouya Store apps. The store having some options to sort would be nice.

Wifi

The Ouya’s wifi is just plain bad. Side by side with an ASROCK 330 using a no name USB wifi dongle the Ouya had worse reception,  higher ping, and a slower speed. I had to use a wired connection for XBMC to properly play videos on the Ouya.

The Good

I don’t want to come off as an Ouya hating fan boy. The Ouya has some great ideas and some great qualities.

XBMC and Plex ran like champs. They self corrected for my overscan problem. They both played all of my videos without any long buffering or stutters. (once on a wired network)

The emulators are awesome. I tried everything from the Atari 2600 to the PSX, all worked fantastically and corrected for the overscan.

Where it went wrong for me

I have an old XBOX running XBMC I use for emulators, then I have an ASROCK 330 for XBMC. My hope with the Ouya was to combine those into one machine. As an emulator and XBMC box Ouya did well. The overscan and the other problems (especially the overscan) just bugged the hell out of me. I didn’t want to use something I felt was broken.

I think the Ouya as a concept will ultimately be successful. Either the Ouya 2 will correct all of the problems, or a competitor will appear that does. If nothing else, the Kickstarter shows the market for a set top entertainment device that is open and hackable, I just don’t think the current Ouya is it.