Developed by Espressif Systems in Shanghai, China, the ESP32 board is a low-cost, low-power system-on-chip microcontroller. It even has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi built in.
Many IoT, robotics, and smart home projects have been made with ESP32, but here we’re focusing on the best ESP32-based gaming projects.
1. Augmented Reality Smart Glasses
This impressive augmented reality headset is built using a Wemos D1 Mini ESP32 board. Other components include an MPU6050 IMU, two 1.54-inch LCD displays based on the ST7789 driver, 1mm thick mirrors, LiPo battery, TP4056 battery manager, push-buttons, and resistors.
You will also need access to a 3D printer to print all the parts of the headset. All the STL files are available on the maker’s Instructable, linked above. To program it, you’ll need the Arduino IDE; the maker has provided their code, completely written in the Processing language so they were able to test it on different operating systems easily.
2. MegaGRRL Desktop
Ever wanted to play old-school Sega Genesis and Master System music? With the MegaGRRL, you can do just that! The music is accessed via an SD card and played using original sound chips.
The difficulty level of this project is intermediate. The parts required to build it include an ESP32, Yamaha YM2612 or YM3438 sound chip, TI SN76489AN sound chip, 3.5mm headphone jack for audio output, SD card slot for storage, 2.8-inch LCD display, push-buttons, power switch, D-pad, LEDs for status indicators, and 9~12V DC 599 mA battery for power.
The maker has even provided an enclosure design to house it, fully 3D printable and free to download from Thingiverse.
3. Automatic Chessboard
This is a small chessboard built with an ESP32. It allows you to play matches with other people online while retaining an authentic over-the-board (OTB) experience.
Furthermore, if you had two sets of these boards, then you and a friend could play it with real chess pieces! The 3D models provided can be printed using either FDM printing or resin.
The difficulty level of this project is hard. The core components required are an ESP32, Arduino IOT33, 16-bit multiplexer, 8-bit multiplexer, analog Hall sensor, electromagnet, buck converter, resistors, magnets, stepper drivers, 12V power adapter, and a slip ring.
Aluminum composite sheet and wood veneer were used for the board surface, while an aluminum exterior frame was added for support. The interior is made of MDF to hold the electronics, whereas the bottom plate is made of aluminum composite sheet. The chess pieces were created with a CNC machine!
Snake is a classic game that many people will recall playing on early mobile phones. Players control a simplistic on-screen snake. As the snake eats dots, it grows in length until its own tail becomes an obstacle in the game: colliding with that or the screen edges results in game over.
A hardware-based version of Snake is the focus of this project and the code for the game is available on Instructables. The core components required are an ESP32, breadboard, VGA port, VGA monitor, perfboard, and four push-buttons to control the snake.
5. Retro ESP2
Initially designed as an educational toy, the fully assembled version of the Retro ESP PCB is a drop-in replacement for the existing one in a Game Boy. Able to emulate a wide range of old-school consoles, it has full support for the ESP-ISP Dev toolchain, the Arduino toolchain, and utilizes the ESP32 WROVER board.
To build your own from scratch will take considerable skill. To help you, the maker has included the full details for how to make your own PCB. Other components required are capacitors, microSD card slot, LEDs, MOSFET, transistors, SMD resistors, SPDT slide switch, Wi-Fi module, linear regulator, lithium charger IC, audio amplifier, and a TFT display.
For the enclosure, you could reuse a Game Boy shell or opt to 3D print your own to take the project to the next level.
6. LED Tetris
Here’s a new take on the classic game of Tetris. Difficult to make, this project uses an ESP32 and addressable WS2812B LED strips to recreate the falling tetrominoes. Additional components required include a frame, wires, and power supply.
Want to expand it further to include classic games like Breakout? Check out the third part of this video series from the maker. Also, if you do not like the complex construction, you can also build the same project using an LED matrix.
7. Claw Machine Controller
Claw machines are fund to play at the arcade, but it can be frustratingly difficult (and expensive) to finally get a hold of a prize! There are even online claw machines available, but they don’t offer quite the same experience using a keyboard or gamepad.
Instead, you could build your very own claw machine controller for a fraction of the cost, able to connect to and control online claw machines thanks to ESP32’s Wi-Fi capabilities.
The difficulty level of this project is intermediate. The core components required are an ESP32, joystick module, push-button, perfboard, resistor, LiPo battery, and battery holder.
The maker has prototyped it with a breadboard first and notes that although the label on the joystick module states it’s 5V, connecting the joystick via 3.3V is still acceptable.
8. DIY MicroPython Arcade
The Raspberry Pi with RetroPie is often used for retro gaming emulation, but ESP32 can also be used to reproduce some classic arcade games written in the easy-to-program MicroPython language.
The difficulty level of this project is intermediate. The maker shows how to create some of the classics such as Bomber, Breakout, and Snake. These games will run on ESP32 with an output to a VGA monitor.
The core components required are an ESP32, VGA connectors (9-pin and 15-pin), resistors, joystick, and VGA monitor.
While there are plenty of ESP32 projects that run Doom, this maker has gone on to further modify and customize it. The difficulty level of this project is intermediate.
An LCD screen is connected to an ESP32-DevKitC and the game can be controlled with momentary push-button switches. WAD files for Doom modifications are stored on an SD card. For sound, an audio amplifier is connected to a tiny speaker. Other components required for the project are resistors, capacitors, and jumper wires.
10. Tiniest Game Boy
As the name of the project suggests, this is the world’s tiniest Game Boy Color, made with an ESP32! The difficulty level of this project is hard. Core components include an ESP-WROOM-32, a tiny speaker less than 1cm in diameter, a 150 mAh lithium ion battery, and a small 800×600 color OLED screen.
Which Gaming Project is For You?
In this guide, we have taken a look at ten great gaming projects made with an ESP32 board. Most of them require some sort of controller and a display. Others make use of SD card modules, LEDs, batteries, capacitors, and other electronic components.
Now it is up to you which project to dive into. Before choosing one, you’ll want to consider a suitable ESP32 module and the availability of other components required to build your project.
The 10 Best ESP32 Smart Home Projects
You can create some amazing, and useful, smart home projects using an ESP32 microcontroller.
About The Author
Cherie Tan (14 Articles Published)
Cherie is a Creative Technologist who joined MUO in 2021. She’s an avid maker and technical writer, with experience using Raspberry Pi, Arduino, Micro:bit, ATtiny, and ATMega devices as well as E-textiles, 3D printing, and KiCad. Outside of making, Cherie enjoys playing music and working out.