The Nintendo Entertainment System is arguably the most iconic video game system of them all, and despite being nearly 40 years old, is still tons of fun to play. However, in the exceptionally busy world we live in, it’s hard to find time to plug in your old systems and sit down for an afternoon of retro gaming. Thankfully, the TinyTendo mod is here to save the day, shrinking down the NES hardware into a Game Boy-style form factor that you can easily pop in your pocket.
I’ve created lots of mods in my time, but the TinyTendo is easily one of the most charming. It’s fun, personable, and best of all, uses no emulation in the final product. With a simultaneously smart and adorable design, the TinyTendo takes everything you love about the NES and makes it portable, without sacrificing the gameplay experience or performance.
"The TinyTendo is more than just a pocket-sized NES, as this modified portable machine has everything you'd expect from a modern handheld."
The TinyTendo is a Mini Mod That Oozes Nintendo Nostalgia
The TinyTendo was created by RedHerring32, a talented electrical engineer who went above and beyond with this project. Unlike most handheld Nintendo mods, the TinyTendo does not use emulation, but instead is powered by modified NES CPU and PPU chips. After creating the OpenTendo, an open-sourced recreation of the original 1985 NES motherboard, RedHerring32 spent 3 years shrinking down the components to fit on a tiny 2×2.5-inch board. In fact, the TinyTendo motherboard is even smaller than a Game Boy DMG motherboard – that’s incredibly impressive.
How the TinyTendo is Built
Ever kind and generous, RedHerring32 recently sent me a TinyTendo kit so I could build my own, and I had a blast putting everything together. I’ll briefly describe the installation process here, but if you want to see the entire build and its satisfying conclusion, I recommend checking out my TinyTendo mod video on YouTube.
There are many different assembly parts in the TinyTendo kit, but the most impressive piece by far is the motherboard. What RedHerring32 has accomplished here is nothing short of amazing, as the NES CPU and PPU chips have been literally sanded and cut down to the size of your fingertip, all without losing functionality. Every other hardware element of the NES has been lovingly recreated in smaller form, including a custom button PCB for controls and a fresh audio board (headphone jack included). The TinyTendo also uses appropriately tiny game cartridges, created by another fantastic modder, Bucket Mouse.
Since most of the parts in the TinyTendo came pre-assembled, my installation process was much easier than creating this mod from the ground up. Putting together the TinyTendo simply involved dropping in the various board, buttons, and membranes, resulting in a magnificent final product. The modular design made it easy to place everything properly, but connecting the two halves of the shell did require some soldering and wire work. Although it took a bit of finesse and I had to replace the bottom half of the shell, the TinyTendo came out beautifully.
The Features and Future of TinyTendo
The TinyTendo is more than just a pocket-sized NES, as this modified portable machine has everything you’d expect from a modern handheld. Brightness and volume controls are easily accessible via thumb wheels placed on the side of the system. Instead of a clunky battery pack, the TinyTendo uses two 18650 lithium-ion batteries, easily recharged through a USB-C port.
I have to give a huge tip of the hat to RedHerring32, as their work here is mind-blowing. Working in partnership with other modders like Bucket Mouse, RedHerring32 has created a truly amazing mod that has very few issues. Plainly put, if you’re not using pre-assembled parts, making a TinyTendo will be a huge challenge that requires some intense modding knowledge. The only other problem I had with the build was the faulty bottom shell, which had some broken screw posts, but RedHerring32 immediately fixed this with a new design iteration.
Unfortunately, if you’re hoping to get your hands on a TinyTendo kit, RedHerring32 has stated that he has no intentions of selling the kit or creating TinyTendos on commission. That said, the modder still has some cool plans for the project. In hopes of recreating light gun games on the portable system, RedHerring32 plans on integrating a touch screen component, which would be awesome to see. They also have interest in adding a turbo button, and even shrinking the TinyTendo down to even smaller sizes. Generally speaking, I can’t wait to see what the future of the TinyTendo holds, as this is one of the most remarkable and impressive Nintendo mods I’ve seen in a long time.