You can build a lot of fun projects using the Raspberry Pi Pico, and to prove it, I’ll show you how to construct a replica of the classic “Simon” memory game. 

But I have to warn you, this game can be addictive. So I won’t take any responsibility for the time you’ll use up playing with your new toy!

Simon Game

In 1978 the toy company Milton Bradley introduced a new toy, a memory game that they named Simon (as in “Simon Says” or “Simple Simon”). It became a smash hit, in fact, it was one of the top-selling toys that Christmas.

Milton Bradley was acquired by Hasbro a few years later, and they still produce several variations of Simon. So it really has become a multigenerational toy!

Playing Simon

The classic Simon game is a circular object that has four colored quadrants. Each quadrant has a colored surface, which is a switch that also illuminates.

The quadrant colors are green, red, yellow, and blue.

You start by pressing a button, after which one of the quadrants flashes its light. It also plays a tone, with a unique sound for every quadrant.

The object of the game is to remember which light flashed, and then repeat it. 

If you succeed, then the game starts again, this time flashing the first light as well as a second one. Again, the object is to repeat the sequence.

As long as you successfully repeat the sequence, the game continues, flashing more lights and having you repeat them. It also gets faster as you get to higher levels.

If you fail, however, you are greeted with a disapproving tone, and you need to start again from scratch.

Building Simon

We will construct our version of Simon using LEDs, a piezo buzzer, and some pushbuttons. If you are handy with a 3D printer or have a circular case, you could emulate the actual arrangement of the original Simon game. However, I’m just using a solderless breadboard for my version.

The “brains” of our game is the Raspberry Pi Pico microcontroller, a 4-dollar technical wonder.  And we’ll be programming it using C++ instead of the traditional Python, so we’ll be using the Arduino IDE as well.

Parts Required

Here is what you’ll need to construct a Simon game:

  • A Raspberry Pi Pico microcontroller. You’ll also want to solder the pins onto the microcontroller, so you’ll need 2 20-pin male Dupont terminals.
  • Four colored LEDs. I suggest you emulate the original Simon by using a Green, Red, Yellow, and Blue LED.
  • Four Dropping resistors. Any value from 100 to 220 ohms will work, I used four 120-ohm resistors in my game.
  • A Piezo buzzer. Make note of the marker on the buzzer to determine its polarity.
  • Four Pushbutton switches. These need to be momentary contact, normally open switches. If you can get ones with colored tops to match your LEDs, that would be great, otherwise, any color will suffice.

Now, let’s see how we hook all of this together.

Simon Hookup

Here is how we will hook up our Simon game:

Make sure you get the buzzer polarity correct, the positive side is connected to Pico GPIO pin GP3. Also, be sure to note that the pins in the chart are the GPIO pins, not the physical pins.

Once you have everything connected, it’s time to write some code so our game can work.

Simon Code

In the past, we have coded for the Raspberry Pi Pico using MicroPython and CircuitPython. But this time we will be using C++ for our project. And for that, we’ll be using the Arduino IDE.

Raspberry Pi Pico on Arduino IDE

I have already shown you how to use the Pico with the new version 2.0 of the Arduino IDE, but this time we will be using the classic version 1.8x. Of course, you could use version 2.0 instead if you wish, the results will be identical.

The first step with the IDE will be to install the Boards Manager files for the Raspberry Pi Pico. You can do this as follows:

  • Open the Arduino IDE
  • Select the Tools menu from the top of the screen. A menu will open.
  • Scroll down until you see a Board listing, and highlight it. A submenu will open to the right.
  • At the top of the submenu, you’ll see Boards Manager. Click on it.
  • The Boards Manager window will open
  • Filter your results by typing “Pico” in the search box.
  • Look for the Arduino Mbed RP2040 Boards listing.
  • Click the Install button to install the board manager for the Raspberry Pi Pico.
  • Close the Boards Manager window, and restart the Arduino IDE.

Now connect the Raspberry Pi Pico to a MicroUSB cable that is attached to your workstation. Go back into the Tools menu, chose the Board selection, and change your selection to Raspberry Pi Pico.

Arduino IDE Oddness

One unusual quirk with the Arduino IDE 1.8x when using the Pico is that initially, you won’t be able to select a port for it.  However, you will see the entry of the port listed on the bottom status bar.

The “solution” to this bug is to simply upload a sketch to the Pico. After that, it will appear in the  Tools menu under Ports. Just like any other microcontroller.

You can use a simple sketch like Blink, or you can just wait and upload our Simon sketch to the Pico.

Simon Sketch

Here is the sketch we will be using for our Simon Game:

We start by defining a number of game constants and variables, most of which are arrays.

  • MAX_LEVEL determines the number of levels our game goes to. I doubt anyone could ever reach 100!
  • The sequence array is the sequence that the game generates, the one you need to memorize.
  • The sound array is an array of the corresponding sounds that the piezo buzzer will generate during playback of the sequence.
  • The player_sequence array contains the entries that the player inputs. It is compared to the sequence array to see if you got the selection correct or incorrect.
  • The level variable is the level the game is currently at. It starts at “1” and progresses as you correctly respond to the generated sequence.
  • The note variable is the frequency of the sound produced by the piezo buzzer.
  • The velocity variable is the time, in milliseconds, between LED flashes. As the game gets to higher levels this value is reduced, to make it more challenging.

We then define the frequencies for the piezo sounds (they correspond to musical notes) and the connections for the LEDs, pushbuttons, and the piezo buzzer.

In the Setup, we just set the LEDs and buzzer as outputs and the pushbuttons as inputs. We use the Pico’s internal pull-up resistors so that we don’t need external ones.

In the Loop, we see what level we are currently at. If it is level 1 then the game has just started, and we call the generate_sequence() function to populate the sequence and sound arrays with a random sequence.

The generate_sequence() function uses a random number generator that is seeded by calculating the time in milliseconds since the Pico was started, so we get a completely random sequence.  It takes advantage of the sequential port numbers we used for the LED connections.

Back in the Loop, we then cycle the LEDs on and off in sequence, for a “chaser” effect. That continues until you press the Green button, which initiates the game.

If the green button was pressed, or if the level is more than 1 (indicating an ongoing game) then we call two functions after a 1-second delay:

  • show_sequence() – This function displays the generated sequence. The level value determines how much of the sequence to show.
  • get_sequence() – This function gets the input from the player and compares it to the sequence. If it matches, then the level is increased, the velocity is decreased, and the game continues. If it does not match, then the game starts from the beginning.

The right_sequence() and wrong_sequence() functions control the LEDs and buzzer, and are called in response to the results of comparing the player’s input to the generated sequence.

Playing Your Simon Game

Load the code to your Pico and the game will start.

The game begins with the four LEDs running in a light-0chaser mode, which it will continue to do until you press the green button.

After you press the green button, one of the four LEDs will illuminate, and the piezo buzzer will play a sound. 

If you press the button corresponding to the LED that was lit then you’ll get a quick flash of the LEDs and the game will continue, this time with the original LED plus an additional one (it may also be the same LED twice, it’s entirely random).

Assuming you respond with the same sequence, the game will continue, each time adding another LED and flashing them a bit more rapidly.

But if you make an error the piezo buzzer will respond with a rather nasty note, the LEDs will flash, and you’ll be back to the beginning, with the LEDs in chaser mode. Pressing the green button will restart the game, with a different generated sequence.

Conclusion

This was a fun game to build, and it’s even more enjoyable to play. As OI warned y earlier, it can be addictive.

Although I just assembled mine on a solderless breadboard, you may want to build one on a perfboard, or even a self-designed PCB. Then you can play your Simon game any time you want to.

Enjoy the project!

 

Pico Simon Game
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Pico Simon Game
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Pico Simon Game
Description
Learn to use the Arduino IDE with the Raspberry Pi Pico and build an emulation of the classic Simon memory game. It's a fun and addictive project that you're sure to enjoy building.
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DroneBot Workshop
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Nick Scroggs
7 months ago

Thank you for this project. I had a blast doing it with my son. A fun extension was adding a way to track the score. We added a scoreboard using 4 LEDs to show the score in binary. It was pretty simple (taking the mod of the score (mod2,mod4,mod8 etc) to light up each LED. I am sure there are lots of other interesting ways to show the score though. I couldn’t get the buzzer to work though. I think I might have the wrong kind (there are no markings on the side). Is it supposed to be a 3v… Read more »

Dan
6 months ago

Can’t get this to work at all. After copying the sketch to the Pico it does activate the lights randomly but not in the constant light chaser mode. It does a couple of random lights then all 4 flash a few times then it does another short random set of flashes then repeats. I’ve tried rebuilding the entire project at least a half dozen times and it just won’t run properly and I also get no sound from speaker. 🙁

Noel
2 months ago

I had a problem with the buzzer and after troubleshooting and sizing up the pico pin out and your diagram of the sketch, I see that what you have labeled as GP3 for the positive buzzer connectivity is actually GP2 on the image. I fixed the issue by moving the positive connector to number 5 pin, which is the actual GP3.

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