RetroPie: turn your Raspberry Pi into a retro-gaming machine

RetroPie logo

If you’re a fan of retro games, those wonderful classics that never go out of style, then you’re bound to be aware of all those emulators and interesting projects that are springing up around the Raspberry Pi. Another of those projects to enjoy retrogaming is RetroPie, and of which I will reveal all the keys.

The truth is that there is more and more interest in this type of project, since the community of users who are passionate about these video games from past platforms keeps growing. In fact, even some manufacturers like SEGA or Atari have decided to give a second chance to some of their past machines to meet this huge demand…

You may also be interested in the best emulators for Raspberry Pi, as well as alternative projects such as RecalBox and Batocera. And also some control gadgets to create your own Arcade machine.

What is RetroPie?

RetroPie is a project by open source specially designed to turn your SBC into a retro game center, that is, a real retro game machine. It is also compatible with boards like the Raspberry Pi in its various versions, but also with other similar ones like the ODroid C1 and C2, and even for PC.Since RetroPie version 4.6, support for Raspberry Pi 4 has also been included.

Since the RetroPie 4.6 version, support for Raspberry Pi 4 has also been included

This project is based on other well known existing projects, such as Raspbian, EmulationStation, RetroArch, Kodi and others. All this is gathered in one centralized project to offer you a complete and simple platform so that you only have to worry about playing your favorite Arcade games.

But if you are an advanced user, it also includes a large variety of configuration tools so you can modify and customize the system almost as you wish.

Emulated platforms

Atari console
SONY DSC

RetroPie can emulate more than 50 video game platforms so you can use the ROMs of their games to revive them today. The best known are:

  • Nintendo NES
  • SuperNintendo
  • Master Syestem
  • PlayStation 1
  • Genesis
  • GameBoy
  • GameBoy Advance
  • Atari 7800
  • Game Boy Color
  • Atari 2600
  • Sega SG1000
  • Nintendo 64
  • Sega 32X
  • Sega CD
  • Atari Lynx
  • NeoGeo
  • NeoGeo Pocket Color
  • Amastrad CPC
  • Sinclair ZX81
  • Atari ST
  • Sinclair ZX Spectrum
  • DreamCast
  • PSP
  • Commodore 64
  • And other more

How can I get RetroPie?

You can download RetroPie for free from the official website of the project. But before you rush to it, you should note that RetroPie can work in several ways:

  • Install it on an existing operating system, such as Raspbian. More information for Rasbpian and Debian/Ubuntu.
  • Start with a RetroPie image from scratch and add additional software.

balentaEtcher

Apart from this versatility, the steps to follow to install RetroPie from scratch in the SD are the following:

  1. Download the RetroPie image for your Pi version.
  2. Now you must extract the compressed image in .gz. You can do it with commands from Linux or with programs like 7Zip. The result should be a file with the extension .img.
  3. Then use some program to format the SD and pass the RetroPie image. You can do it with Etcher, which is compatible with Windows, MacOS and Linux. So it’s the same procedure for all.
  4. Now insert the SD card into your Raspberry Pi and initialize it.
  5. Once it starts up, go to the WiFi section of the configuration menu to connect your SBC to the network. Configure your corresponding network adapter, as you may have an older board with a USB WiFi adapter, or you may have a Pi with built-in WiFi, or you may be connected by RJ-45 (Ethernet) cable. You must choose your option and connect to your usual network.

If you prefer, although it is not necessary in most cases, you can install additional software or more emulators.

controls

Once you’ve done that, the next thing is to ‘configure your controllers’ or game controllers, if you have them. To do this, the steps are:

  1. Connect the USB controllers you have. There are many RetroPie compatible controllers on Amazon. For example the QUMOX or the iNNEXT.. You can even use some more recent controllers.
  2. When you connect them, RetroPie should automatically launch an interface to configure them. It will ask you for a series of actions in a wizard that you must follow. If you make a mistake, don’t worry, you can access the menu later to modify the configuration by pressing Start or with F4 and restarting.

After that, what you can do is to bypass the ROMs to get your favorite games ready to run from your Raspberry Pi. You can do it in several ways, one is by SFTP (a bit more complicated), by Samba (also a bit more laborious), and the other is by USB (simpler and preferable by most). For the USB option:

  1. Use a USB stick or memory device previously formatted in FAT32 or NTFS. Both will work.
  2. Inside you must create a folder called “retropie” without quotes.
  3. Now safely unplug the USB and put it into a USB port on the Raspberry Pi. Leave it until the LED stops blinking.
  4. Now unplug the USB from the Pi again and put it in your PC to pass the ROMs inside the retropie/roms directory. If the ROMs are compressed, you will need to decompress them to make them work. You can also create folders within the roms to catalog the ROMs by platform, for example, you can create a folder called nes for Nintendo NES games, etc.
  5. Re-tap the USB to your Pi, wait for the LED to stop flashing.
  6. Now refresh EmulationStation by choosing Restart from the main menu.

And all that’s left is to start the game… By the way, to exit a game you are immersed in, you can use the Start and Select buttons pressed at the same time on your game controller and you will return to the RetroPie main menu…

Much easier (novice users)

If you don’t want to complicate your life with the ROMs or with the installation of the RetroPie, you should know that they already sell SD cards with this system installed, in addition to thousands of ROMs already included…

For example, Amazon sells a 128GB capacity Samsung microSD card that already includes RetroPie, as well as over 18000 ROMs of games already included.

Find ROMs

Prince Of Persia

Remember that there are many web pages on the Internet that allow you to illegally download ROMs as they are proprietary video games. Therefore, you should do it under your own responsibility, knowing that you may be committing an intellectual property crime.

In addition, at Internet Archive you can also find some very old video game ROMs. And, of course, you also have totally free and legal ROMs if you want them, like the ones at MAME.

Accessories available

You should know that there are a lot of DIY projects to create your own cheap and miniature arcade machine with the Raspberry Pi, as well as to recreate many other consoles from the past in a simple way. For this, RetroPie also provides you with some interesting documents:

But that’s not the only thing you have at your disposal, there are also very interesting kits you can buy to mount your retro console easily:

  • a retro console housing that imitates the SuperCOM
  • is another case that imitates the mythical Nintendo NES
  • Owootecc a GameBoy-like case for a Raspberry Pi Zero

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