Nintendo’s NES Classic is, at its core essence, a Nintendo-approved NES emulator that comes with 30 ROMs. It feels very similar to the sort of thing people have been building for ages by running Linux on a Raspberry Pi — with the main difference from a conceptual standpoint being that the NES Classic is considerably less legally questionable.
It turns out the differences pretty much end there. If you take apart an NES Classic — like GameSpot’s Peter Brown did — you’ll see that Nintendo builds its retro emulators a whole lot like the rest of us do.
Inside the NES Classic is a quad-core Linux computer with 256MB of RAM and 512MB of flash memory for storage. In other words, it runs off a standard off-the-shelf circuit board with some custom software. It seems that the best way to build an emulator, whether you’re messing around with a development board or a multi-billion dollar console producer, is to just drop a bunch of ROMs into a custom version of Linux.
Looks like the best way to build an emulator is to just drop a bunch of ROMs into a custom version of Linux
And while the specs may seem low when compared to today’s modern consoles and computers, it still provides more than enough power for emulating the finest 30 games the 1980s had to offer.
Those hoping to crack apart the NES Classic and take advantage to its open software to add more games are out of luck, as the flash memory is soldered to the motherboard — so if you’re looking to play more than Nintendo’s chosen 30 games, a more traditional emulator may be a better option. But while the NES Classic may be lacking in customizability, it does still has one major advantage over a Raspberry Pi: style.