Hardware Hacking: The Best (and Worst) Options


He's gotten his hands on every console from Atari to Xbox, and he's cracked open every single one of them. He's Tenshishi, a name which is either a brilliant example of the flexibility of the Japanese language, or just a bad alliteration of the name of his favorite band... We'd like to think that it's both. When he's not busting open old consoles, the wild Tenshishi enjoys reading and writing, drawing cartoons, and consuming media in the most convoluted ways possible.

33 Responses

  1. seanp2500 says:

    How is my ps4 not a god? It has a 19tb file system and it can run tloz botw???!!!

    • Nico says:

      because it’s a pain in the *** to find a hackable one in 2021.

    • zfreeman says:

      It can’t be hacked on every firmware version (yet).

    • Tenshishi says:

      The PS4 is going to be pretty good once hacks for it become more accessible, but going out of your way to find one with compatible software is tough these days; especially since the tradeoff isn’t worth it.
      Yes, you can put CEMU on a PS4 and try to run Breath of the Wild, but to what end? You’ll be looking at horrible performance on a Pro, let alone a regular PS4, and if you had a Wii U instead, you could play the game natively, as well as every single game in the series that came before it.
      Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to cracking my PS4 when it becomes feasible because I’ve got some purposes for it in mind, but both consoles in the final category beat it out when it comes to sheer flexibility and amount of offerings.
      Consider a direct competition between PS3 and PS4. Yes, the PS4 is more powerful, but because it shares just about none of the hardware, you can’t get PS3 games running on the 4 no matter how you hack it, and PS2 games are extremely iffy to the point that even official Sony emulators, which are chock full of game-specific optimizations, can only offer so many options, some of which perform very oddly… Whereas an original PS3 can play them perfectly, and a later PS3 can still play 90% of the PS2’s library compared to PS4’s ~50%. You gain the PS4 library to match, of course, but then the discussion comes entirely up to preference, and that’s completely subjective…
      Oh, and, the PS3 and Wii U internal storage can be upgraded as well.
      Once the PS4 can be hacked without any trouble, I think it’ll at least hold its ground, but at the end of the day, the top two just aren’t going to be knocked out.

  2. amenhotep says:

    I have almost all of these, but Wii is best because it can output 240p to a crt for classic game emulation

  3. twocows says:

    I pretty much agree. I’ve got a lot of hacked systems, but my favorites are definitely my n3DS, my Vita, and my Wii U. I’d probably like the PS3 too if i had one. Really, really great library support across those devices, and the handhelds (and the Wii U to a lesser extent) are comfy to play in bed.

    • Tenshishi says:

      I definitely recommend getting a PS3 if you ever have a little extra cash lying around. Even without any hacks, the PS3 has access to its own amazing library, as well as that of the PSX, but when you hack it, between Retroarch, PS2 Classics and PSP Remaster injection, it’s amazing just how much great fun you can fit onto one hard drive!

  4. Masamune3210 says:

    The ps2 is easily moddable without swap magic if its a fat, just use FreeHDDBoot and once you have code exec make a spare memory card for backup just in case something goes wrong with the adapter or the hard drive

    • Tenshishi says:

      Awesome! I guess that clinches the PS2 as the winner of its category even more!.. Though mostly as a fat. The Slim was the first PS2 I owned and I hacked it with SwapMagic, but it didn’t last long and always made loud noises – and even sometimes damaged my disks! The fat model does none of that, and has the hard drive option for game storage to boot!

    • SiCkNeSs says:

      Also there was the freedvdboot that was released for ps2’s that makes it even easier by exploiting the dvd player. You just need to burn a disk if your console is supported and play it. Then you can install freemcboot right from that

      • Turbogob says:

        I wonder if a drive emulator for the PS2 would have more game compatibility than the hard drive solution.

  5. Raphael says:

    Great article!!! The PS3 and Wii U are absolute power houses that can hold many generations of games. The PS3 never required a modchip, but needed a device called e-flasher to downgrade the system. The e-flasher was not installed inside the system just a one time deal.
    Xbox 360 is pretty cool if your good at soldering and can put a modchip in, good option to have OG XBOX games on it. The Dreamcast also has an Optical Drive Emulator which doesn’t require soldering and can play games from an sd card. Again great article and I agree with you and enjoyed the read, Thank you.

    • Cecil says:

      Reminds me of the days with my Dreamcast, and its super loud fan. It was jet engine in the room LOL

  6. Jesse says:

    The 360 deserves more love than you’ve given it. It can play emulators and still play ONLINE. You can use a stealth service (or create your own) to get around most of MS ban waves on XBL. You can also use their LiNK feature to use system link and play with other players like it is with X-link Kai/XBConnect – and it’s all built right into the dashboard. Not to mention that online isn’t really the 360’s main focus these days, you can still load and run 100s of great games from that generation straight from internal or external USB hard drives.

    • Tenshishi says:

      The 360 is definitely a bit better than I made it sound, but there’s still complications that come with hacking it that you just don’t get with other systems. That, plus its extra similarity to the PC that the other companies don’t have, and somewhat underwhelming library (that’s debatable of course, but with the release of the Halo Master Chief Collection on PC, the system lost its biggest contenders), made me place it closer to the bottom.
      That being said, if you’re not paying for 360’s online anymore and don’t mind taking the added risk, the 360 is still worth hacking to be sure.

  7. Dr.Lost says:

    Definitely cannot wait for the switch to be open. I remember back in the days of vita when “its simply impossible” all is needed is time

    • Tenshishi says:

      It’s going to happen. The 3DS was unhackable at one time or another and Nintendo kept fighting back against hacking teams with every update, but now it’s so easy to break into that a baby could do it. I think I’ll still prefer the Wii U by and large, between the hardware support and DS gimmick, but the Switch will become the king of the Mobile Gold category.

  8. P_A says:

    I bought a switch lite at launch and have been sitting on it, not updating it, waiting for the eventual hack. I remember the early Vita days and then Vita Christmas that blew it open, and the microSD revolution. I was lucky then to have not updated my vita in a while. But this time I’m saving the low firmware switch on purpose.

  9. mi_yu says:

    Great article! Thanks

  10. nebu_187 says:

    great article! best in years!

  11. RAGINGB0NER says:

    i have jailbroken every single jailbreakable piece of console here in this world… an achievement that oddly gives me happiness… i can finally die in peace…

  12. NeoDraven says:

    One of the best articles that doesn’t relate to just specific mod or exploit that this page has had in a long time.

    Well done.

  13. Skatan says:

    Hey… Dreamcast and original Xbox were gods 2!

  14. Alexander Houser says:

    Great article! I love me some reto consoles. There is nothing like playing childhood favorites on a CRT. I firmly belive that once the manufacture no longer supports a device it MUST be hacked. I remember 2015-16 checking this site weekly for Vita updates. This was right after I finished adding GC games to my Wii U. Over time I managed to get my entire disk based retro collection diskless. I think I paid $50 for my DC ODE. It takes SD cards and is a lot of fun. The easiest way to load homebrew and backups on a gamecube is with an action replay and just last year they came out with sd2sp2, an SD card reader that goes in one of the unused expansion slots. I have had a lot of fun with these mods and they required zero soldering.

  15. No Nintendo fan post-Wii says:

    PS2 fat configured to boot fhdb from the (sata) hdd is so nice. No physical MC even needed, create a virtual for saves, etc.

  16. rna says:

    Sorry i was forced to jump to the comments prematurely, the ps2 is easily hackable now, all you need is a a dvd burner, blank dvd, usb thumb and memory card, since you proclaim to be knowledgeable i’ll leave you to figure it out.

  17. rna says:

    The original xbox can be hacked through a vulnerability in the way the hard drive lock works, first power on the drive with an external source, then with the drive hooked up to the xboxes ide boot up the xbox, the drive is now unlocked until it is powered off, after which there were hacks such as ndure which were done by overwriting parts of the hard drive

    That works for old ide drives, i don’t know if it will work for sata drives, and i know even less about non sata ssds

  18. Sky says:

    I love my ps3 but I don’t like the DS3, is there a good way to use DS4 with ps3 now?

  19. quedato says:

    For me the Switch is the most awesome right now, so little time passed after the console first hacks and you can use Retroarch, play with another console controller (I have been playing with my DS4 for along time) run Linux (and Lakka), backup saves, install themes, overclock, and so on. Of course, I was lucky to buy this console on the begining of 2018. For me, hacking a old Switch is even easier and faster than 3DS. 360 is really a pain in the *ss, you need a hardware modding that not anybody can do, and with that mod you can do less than the majority of these consoles listed here, playing backups and installing DLCs is a little harder too.

  20. Mar2ck says:

    In the switch part you keep using the word “and” when really it should be “or”. You don’t need low firmware, unpatched model and a modchip all at once, you only need one of them. Other then that great article

  21. ard says:

    DS4 has been compatible with PS3s since the beginning, essentially. The only thing that won’t work is the home button.