The GameTank is the latest and greatest 8-bit game console

The NES, Atari 2600, Apple II, Commodore 64, and TurboGrafx-16 are just a few of the many game consoles and personal computers built around the 6502 processor. And although the 6502 is roughly Obsolete since the mid-90s, that hasn’t stopped hackers from building new systems with it in the 21st century. Today we can even show you a brand new game console based on the 6502: the GameTank, designed and built by [Clyde Shaffer].

The GameTank was designed to be easy to build by anyone, and is therefore largely constructed from DIP chips which can be purchased new from any component distributor. The main processor is a WD65C02 clocked at 3.5 MHz, assisted by a 6522 I/O controller and 32 KB of RAM. Composite video is generated by intelligent circuitry made up of discrete logic chips. The video card comes with DMA for fast transfers and even includes a blitter, allowing it to quickly move images across the screen without loading the CPU.

For controllers, [Clyde] decided to go with the more or less industry standard DE-9 connector gamepads as used on the Sega Genesis and various Atari consoles. He also made his own controller, a 3D printed one with four directional buttons, three action buttons, and a start button. The buttons are implemented with Cherry MX Clear switches – an unusual choice for a gamepad perhaps, but they’re apparently very comfortable for long gaming sessions.

The console itself is also housed in a case printed with a design reminiscent of the Nintendo 64. The game cartridges are inserted at the top and contain an EEPROM chip that can be written with a special programmer. The cartridge port also brings out several internal signals and can therefore be used as an expansion port, similar to how Super NES cartridges could house enhancement chips.

Currently available games include Tetristhe office-themed platformer cabin knighta Zelda-named style adventure cursed demonand a remake of the classic viral animation bad apple. [Clyde] provides a full stack of tools and sample code and invites anyone interested to help develop more software for the platform. There is also a hardware-accurate emulator, which is not only useful if you are writing new code for the system, but also if you just want to try existing games in your browser.

Rolling your own 6502 system is great fun, and we’ve seen several examples over the years: some are built with huge wiring harnesses, some come with a clever programming language, some are so small they take up on your wrist, and some are simply beautifully made.