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Check Out These 8 Mind-Bending Console Mods

by Jon Gregory on Jan 30, 2015 at 06:30 AM

The average console owner probably handles his or her system cautiously, and with good reason. Messing with the hardware side of modern consoles can void important warranties and even get consoles banned from online services. However, for a small sector of the gaming community, tearing into gaming devices new and old in service of creating something crazy is worth the risk.

GC – Lynx

The original Atari Lynx snuck onto our recent list of gaming innovations the world wasn’t ready for.  Luckily, the general public’s lukewarm response to the handheld didn’t stop Atari from releasing a much better looking revision. Without the redesign, this beautifully executed GameCube handheld from Akira, a user of the popular Bacman modding forums, probably wouldn’t exist.

While far from the craziest example of a technique called frankencasing, in which creators adapt a pre-existing case to house their creation, Akira’s GC – Lynx is one of the of the nicest custom handhelds around. In addition to being an interesting use of a mostly forgotten piece of gaming history, the handheld sports the kind of attention to detail that makes it stand out from similar projects. 

Particularly impressive is the inclusion of triggers that mimic the original GameCube controller, the Lynx’s original rubber grips, and a vent shaped like the GameCube’s logo. The result is a handheld that looks like it could be a real Nintendo prototype.

The BMO Boy

Adventure Time’s blend of oddness, high-quality animation, and the earnest embrace of the geekier side of modern culture has allowed it to transcend the age barrier commonly associated with cartoons since its premier in 2010. One of the series’ most popular characters is BMO, Finn and Jake’s loyal companion and living video game console. With such a strong connection to the culture surrounding games, it was inevitable that a real version of the loveable blue box would pop up.

A handful of people have made different takes on BMO from the classic “fat” Game Boy model, but few are as pleasantly simple as Bacman user djlooka’s project. While the mod is mostly cosmetic, djlooka went the extra mile, creating a custom Game Boy cart to display BMO’s face and box art based on the original Game Boy.

 Gameboy – Reloaded

The original Game Boy is a longtime favorite starting point for modders. The case is big enough to be used for a handful of different types of mods, and it’s easy to work with. This particular Game Boy mod, also by Akira, sets out to be the Swiss Army knife of handhelds and succeeds. 

While not as visually outstanding as the GC – Lynx, the Gameboy – Reloaded can play a dizzying array of titles, including original Gameboy titles, dumped NES and SNES carts, and even some Nintendo DS games that don’t require a second screen. It also sports a custom cartridge that flashes LEDs in time to game music, a pair of extra face buttons, built-in rechargeable batteries, the DS’ larger bottom screen, a massive extra speaker, and a custom case with accessories. 

R2-D2 Gaming Droid

The gaming community’s interests regularly spill over into other forms of media; even Game Informer branches out and covers books, films, or board games once in a while. Occasionally, overlapping interests combine to make something special. Brian De Vitis’ R2-D2 Gaming Droid is just the kind of unique blend of video games and Star Wars worthy of being called special.

Work on R2 began in 2007, as De Vitis, a mechanical engineer who now builds unmanned vehicles, began modifying an R2-D2 themed Pepsi cooler. The project continued to grow for the next three years, incorporating more and more consoles as it neared its debut at PAX 2010. When work finally stopped on R2, the former cooler housed an N64, NES, SNES, Atari 7800, original Xbox, Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, Atari 5200, a Windows XP computer, GameCube, Genesis, a projector, and a PSP in a custom compartment. 

Everyone’s favorite astromech droid made the trip to a pair of PAX conferences, where it hosted tournaments and hung out in the convention’s free-play room. 

Xbook Duo

One of the biggest absences from the current generation of consoles is backward compatibility. The feature has been slowly disappearing since the middle of the last generation, and the current generation finally ditched it completely. YouTube user Eddie Zarick set out to fix that with his Xbook Duo.

While not the first of Zarick’s laptop creations, the Xbook Duo is the first to feature two consoles in one of his custom laptop cases. Made entirely from scratch, the Xbook’s flush-mounted power buttons and screen controls – along with its custom branding, machined parts, and clam-shell design – make it look like something that came straight out of a box, not a workshop. 

The mod is also one of the few that includes current-generation consoles, which, along with their last-generation counterparts, are often considered too complex for most people to work with. Zarick’s high tech approach might be far removed from the old-fashioned elbow grease of the average modder, but his creation is just as impressive.

Mini64 Zelda Edition

One of the biggest issues facing console modders is size. Consoles were built with their specific housing in mind, since most were never meant to be held or fit into tiny spaces. With many consoles using more space than they actually needed, stuffing them into the tiniest possible forms is a bit of a badge of honor in the modding community. The drive to create a smaller portable leads to all kinds of crazy things, from bending or cutting important parts to flattening out things that were never meant to be flat.

This gold and black Zelda-themed Nintendo 64 from YouTube user Clarky Smithy is a perfect example. It’s beautiful, and actually smaller than the original dimensions of the console parts it was made from. If being small enough to fit into a pocket wasn’t enough on its own, the Mini64 Zelda Edition comes with an extra battery pack to keep its user gaming even when the onboard batteries start to fade.

Bungle’s N64 Portable

Sometimes people come up with crazy ideas, and they toss them aside because they sound too crazy to actually work. Sometimes, they just decide they’re going to do it anyways, and the result is something that makes everyone’s brains hurt. This portable Nintendo 64 from Bacman forums member Bungle falls squarely into the latter category. 

Sandwiching Nintendo’s late ‘90s console in between two halves of its own controller, the monstrous creation is actually rather deftly designed. Instead of simply cobbling all the different parts together, as many modders do to good effect, Bungle actually cast molds of his case after he created it. Though definitely a more time-consuming method for creating a handheld, the result is a gorgeous system with a familiar shape.

Project Unity

The idea of a universal gaming system is nothing new. Fans the world over have been imagining a reality where any game can be played on just one system for years. While companies like Hyperkin, and its Retron line of consoles, have edged closer as hardware patents expired over the years, none of them can hold a flame to the work of a modder named Bacteria.

Bacteria, who owns and operates the Bacman forums many modders frequent, tidied up his massive multi-console behemoth in April, 2013. The boxy system features 15 different consoles that play 18 different formats, a single video output and power supply for all of the built-in consoles, and a universal controller. 

On top of being a mind-bending feat of engineering, Project Unity might be the closest thing the world ever gets to the coveted universal console.