NES modder somehow gets 30-year-old console running Linux

Rebecca Hills-Duty
Unmodified NES running Linux

Have you ever wondered if it is possible to install Linux on an NES? Neither have we, but one YouTuber has gone and done exactly that.

For years Linux was relegated to being the sole domain of obsessive computer geeks who wanted complete granular control over their system, or who wanted guaranteed privacy and security. Linux is beginning to emerge from behind that cloud, however, thanks to devices such as Steam Deck utilizing a version of it for its operating system.

One modder and YouTuber decided to test just how compact and flexible Linux could be by making it run on an NES.

YouTuber and modder DeCrAzYo decided to embark on a mission to find a way to install Linux – or something very much like it – on an NES. First, he established some parameters surrounding what could be considered ‘running on an NES’.

DeCrAzYo noted that tricks such as putting a RaspberryPi into an NES cartridge and using that to run something, such as DOOM is possible, but he doesn’t consider it to be a legitimate way to accomplish his goal, as a RaspberryPi is doing the bulk of the work, with the NES functioning only as a terrible video card to display the images. What DeCrAzYo wanted was Linux code running directly on the NES processor.

Hardware limitations

Almost immediately, DeCrAzYo ran into a problem, in that even the most lightweight distribution of Linux would struggle to run on the NES processor. So instead he revised his goal to be a ‘UNIX-like’ operating system running on the NES. Searching for a UNIX-like operating system that would meet his requirements led him to Little UNIX, an OS originally written for the Commodore 64, but which provided an excellent basis for his work.

This brought DeCrAzYo to the next obstacle – the NES does not have a keyboard peripheral and is short on RAM for this application. Since UNIX is a text-based command line OS, a keyboard is a necessary piece of the puzzle. DeCrAzYo hit upon the idea of instead using the Nintendo Famicom, which is in effect the Japanese version of the NES, but one that has two vital components that the NES does not – peripherals for keyboard and a floppy disk.

After some experimentation, DeCrAzYo managed to get Linux to run on the Famicom Disk System, though with considerable limitations, mostly due to the disk access speed being extremely slow.

Having done all this, DeCrAzYo then loaded this experimental version of UNIX into an Everdrive cartridge and managed to get it to run on original NES hardware, though he was unable to get much further than the boot screen due to a lack of keyboard.

It will be interesting to see how much further this project gets, and what other uses old hardware like the NES or the Wii can be turned to.

About The Author

Rebecca is a Tech Writer at Dexerto, specializing in PC components, VR, AMD, Nvidia and Intel. She has previously written for UploadVR and The Escapist, hosts a weekly show on RadioSEGA and has an obsession with retro gaming. Get in touch at