Modding video game components is a daunting yet rewarding way to reconnect with classic games. Inspired by my article, Modding Made Easy, I’ll start with the basic tools and show off one of my favorite starter projects in this article. Perhaps my chronicles might inspire you to try some of these projects yourself. 🙂

Let’s start with tools. A good screwdriver set is essential as many video game components utilize quirky screws like Torx and tri-wing that require special bits to open (looking at you, Nintendo 👀). While iFixit is a go-to for many, I took the road less traveled and picked up a kit by Strebito. It’s jam-packed with more bits, a screw magnetizer, and a magnetic mat to help keep your screws in check.

Soldering is one reason more people don’t pick up the hobby. It’s difficult, requires special equipment, and mistakes mean game over for your beloved hardware. ☹️ The good news? Thanks to the modding and developer communities, there are a lot of mod kits out there that don’t use an ounce of solder, making modding very beginner-friendly. Thanks to these ‘solderless kits,’ I’ve been able to mod an NES Dogbone controller, re-shelled my Switch, and even added new buttons to my controllers all with just my trusty screwdriver kit and a few helpful YouTube videos. While learning to solder is a great life skill, you don’t need that skill right out of the gate.

My favorite mod by far is my custom GameBoy Advance (GBA). At first, I was hesitant to perform this mod for two reasons. The first was mounting the new LCD screen. Some screens require mounting to a glass cover to ensure proper fit. However, if the screen is misaligned, or worse, dust gets on the screen before mounting, you could be looking at reordering a new screen. 😿 Secondly, these screens have additional features accessed through special button combinations. These functions have to be soldered into the GBA’s motherboard. 

However, I’ve found a pre-laminated screen kit that uses a touch sensor instead of solder to access the screen’s options menu (though soldering is still an option) and the screen is already attached to the glass cover. While I had to search for a compatible shell, I found custom buttons, membranes, and a USB-C battery pack that fits right inside the GBA’s battery compartment and comes with a modified cover. The result is a beautiful upgrade to my old-school hardware that’s rekindled my passion for portable gaming. 😍

With some research, a trusty screwdriver set, and some spare time on a Sunday afternoon, you too can dip your toes into the wide world of modding. The reward for a little effort is immeasurable, and I highly recommend it. Feel free to share your projects, trials, and tribulations in the comments below, and let’s walk this road together! 😃


Scott Dyer Scott Dyer (4 Posts)

Scott Dyer is just your friendly neighborhood gamer geek. By day, he works as a marketing communications consultant for a major automobile manufacturer. By night, he moonlights as an avid gamer geek on many levels. Whether video, tabletop, card, or anything in between, you can bet he's tried almost everything. When he's not playing games, Scott's modding video game consoles and accessories, building plastic models, traveling back in time to the Renaissance Faire, and now writing about his favorite gaming topics in Old School Gamer Magazine.