This Super Cheap Calculator Can Play Tons Of Classic Nintendo Games

These days just about anything with a working screen and a USB port has the potential to run video games — particularly if you can load Android OS onto it. And this rule applies to calculators just as much as it does refrigerators.

The hardware in question this time is the GHLBD desk calculator, which YouTuber Taki Udon says was purchased second-hand, online for about $10 (though it typically sells for more than that aftermarket these days). Thanks to its somewhat peculiar construction, it can handle both the installation and playing of a wide variety of games — with Taki Udon showcasing everything from the Nintendo Entertainment System and Game Boy Advance to the DS and Dreamcast.

Granted, the GHLBD doesn't come with these games installed, which means if you want to do this you'll have to delve into the world of emulators and ROMs — something that does carry a bit of risk as the downloads may not always be trustworthy, depending on your sources.

Why it works

The short answer for how this desktop calculator can run so many different games — from original NES to more modern titles like "Doom 3" — is its somewhat unnecessarily powerful internal components. The GHLBD comes with a 1.8 GHz 32 bit Quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 processor and 1 GB of RAM, along with a full color touch screen display and a USB-C connection port intended for charging. Android 9 is also pre-installed, which leaves the door open for software modification. There isn't much internal storage, but the GHLBD can work with an external USB drive and there's more than enough out of the box to run some classic NES games.

Of course, it's not going to simply play video games as soon as you turn it on. It will require a bit of setup by first swiping down on the screen and opening the Android settings, then turning on USB Debugging. Once that's done you can start installing apps (i.e. emulators) and games (i.e. ROMs) through the USB connection. In practice it should work much like loading similar software onto an Android phone, though the hardware is likely simpler than what you're used to.

Once everything is loaded up you can start playing games on your calculator — albeit with some inexplicable frame rate issues that can be seen in Taki Udon's video (even with NES titles).

Why you shouldn't bother

As tempting as it may be to hunt down a GHLBD calculator and stuff it with games, it's really not worth the time or effort outside of being an odd little curio. It's not particularly powerful, even struggling to run simpler games at times despite the processor being able to handle it (on paper), and it doesn't have much space for you to install very many apps and games. Additionally, the GHLBD's keyboard won't work as a controller, which means if you do want to play games on it you'll either have to resort to using the touch screen or connect a controller via USB or Bluetooth — making it a far less convenient option for portability.

What it really comes down to is that there are far more powerful devices out there that can also be set up to run classic games through unofficial means. And they'll run them better. While it might be neat or funny to say you can play classic console games — or even run modern games via Steamlink — on a desk calculator, the novelty won't last forever.