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How I turned a mini PC into a gaming console

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How I turned a mini PC into a gaming console

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Key Takeaways

  • Easily transform your Ayaneo Retro Mini PC into a gaming console for NES, PS2, Game Boy Advance, and more with Batocera.
  • All you need is a spare USB to boot off of, a mouse, and a keyboard to get set up quickly and easily.
  • Transportable, low power usage, and convenience make the Ayaneo AM02 great for gaming – try it out on any PC today!


I recently reviewed the Ayaneo Retro Mini PC AM02 here at XDA, and given that it looks like a NES, I wondered if I could turn it into one. Turns out I could, very easily in fact, and I turned it into a gaming console that I can use for anything up to and including the Nintendo Wii U. That includes the NES, the PlayStation 2, the Game Boy Advance, and practically any other console up until that point.

If you’re wondering how you can do this, turns out it’s very, very easy. At minimum, all you need is a spare USB that you’re willing to commit to booting off of. I used Batocera for this, a custom Linux distribution with a ton of pre-packaged emulators that are all ready to work out of the box. You’ll need a mouse keyboard to set it up for convenience, but after that, you can pair a controller to it and use it like you would any other console. I’ve been using a Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, but any decent controller will do.


This will work on any PC, but a mini PC is the most convenient. It’s easy to transport, uses less power (typically), and honestly looks better when at a TV as well. The Ayaneo AM02 is great because it even looks like a console, and it was quick and painless to get set up. Not all hardware is compatible, so your best bet is to boot Batocera off of a USB first to see if it works. If you intend to use long term in this way, then you can install it to the internal drive once you’ve confirmed that everything works.

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Batocera running on the Ayaneo AM02 showing the Batocera Linux splashscreen on a TV


How to install Batocera on a mini PC

It’s a super easy process

Batocera showing a NES collection of games, highlighing Super Mario Bros 3


To install Batocera on a mini PC, you’ll need to get a USB or other drive to put it on. There’s a disk image that you mirror to whatever bootable device you want it on, and you can use software like Balena Etcher or Raspberry Pi Imager to do it. I used Balena Etcher, but the official instructions suggest using the Raspberry Pi Imager application to do it. It’s a very simple process, and you’ll have it up and running in no time.

You can use any PC for this by the way, so if you even have an older PC lying around it will be more than sufficient for this. Depending on the specs it may not be the most powerful, but at the very least you’ll be able to play older titles from the likes of the NES and the Game Boy with ease. The minimum requirements are incredibly forgiving, and you don’t need the best graphics card or anything to emulate these consoles.

Minimum

Recommended

1GB of RAM

2GB of RAM, higher depending on desired system

Graphics supported by nouveau/mesa

A supported GTX/RX/HD series graphics card

A 640×480 screen

At least the resolution of the desired system

A 32-bit x86 processor

A 64-bit x86_64 processor


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Using Batocera

Boot and set up

Batocera-Wi-Fi Connected

Source: Batocera

Setting up Batocera is really easy, and all you need to do is turn it on. The image you flash is a fully installed and preconfigured Linux distribution, and it works out of the box. You’ll need to connect it to the internet, but to do that you can simply go to network settings and scan for your Wi-Fi network. Once you’re connected, you’ll see a little Wi-Fi signal at the top.

Optionally at this point, you can connect your controller to it by going to the Bluetooth settings and pairing it, or simply by plugging the controller into a USB port on it. Either will work, and it has pre-mapped configurations for most popular controllers. You can technically plug in the controller and set it up that way if you wish, but it’s messy and I found it significantly easier with a mouse and keyboard.


My Nintendo Switch Pro Controller worked out of the box, and chances are if you have any official controllers from any company, they will too.

Copying files

Batocera SMB share on a Mac, showing the folders

To copy files to your Batocera instance, there are two ways to do it. You can copy files manually, or, the more convenient way, simply copy them over the network. Batocera, once connected to your home internet, will share an SMB server with the entirety of your local network so that you can copy files remotely to it. It’s a great and easy way to manage files, as there is no authentication or any additional steps to complete, my Mac found it when I went to connect to a local server, and I didn’t need to mess about with any local IP addresses.


If you want to bring it with you to places where you want to connect it to the internet but don’t want anyone sharing files to it, you can disable this automatic sharing, though you should remember to turn it back on when you’re home. It’s a super convenient way to transfer files, especially because a console shouldn’t really require you to ever hook up a mouse and keyboard. I’ve only had to do it once, and it was to accept a CEMU warning when launching a Wii U game file that may cause incompatibility problems.

Playing games with Batocera

The reason you set it up in the first place

Running Animal Crossing GameCube on Batocera, showing it on a TV

If you’re setting up Batocera, it’s because you want to play games! You’re already at the stage where you can, you just need to make sure to copy your game files to the right directories and to copy any required BIOS files, too. Batocera will warn you if a game may require a BIOS copied, so heed those warnings if you need to.


Every console that Batocera supports has a per-emulator set of features, and depending on the power of the mini PC that you’re using for this project, you can experiment a bit, here. Most games can be upscaled significantly, with PlayStation 2, Wii, and Wii U easily upscaling on the AMD Ryzen 7 7840HS that powers my machine. There are other features you can play around with too, including cheats if you’re interested, but upscaling is all that I changed.

It’s really just plug and play at this point, I had Batocera set up on the Ayaneo AM02 in less than an hour, and was playing Animal Crossing from the GameCube in even less time. Other titles like Mario Kart Wii and Super Mario Bros from the NES work too, and it’s a phenomenal way to get additional utility out of a mini PC or an older computer that’s lying around unused. Let us know what you end up playing in the comments!

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