In this tutorial, you will learn how to use a Raspberry Pi as a Retro Gaming Console. You will learn how to install, configure, and add ROMs with Retropie.
Retropie allows you to play your favorite classic games with Raspberry Pi. It is a gaming emulation software that builds upon the Raspberry Pi OS, EmulationStation, and RetroArch, which provides a wide array of configuration tools for system customization. You can either install it with an SD card image or within your current operating system. No need to reformat your Pi to try it out.
Retropie comes with a Linux operating system and pre-installed emulators. An emulator imitates a certain computer system, including retro consoles like Amiga, Apple II, Atari, Commodore 64, NES, SNES, Gameboy, Nintendo 64, Sega, and even earlier versions of PlayStation. Coming with these emulators are ROMS, which are the software equivalent to game cartridges. To play games with Retropie, you must download ROMs and install them to their respective emulators.
Keep in mind that ROMs are copy-righted content and that it may be illegal to download some games without buying them.
Setting up Retropie
To get started, here are the things you need to set up a fully-functional Retropie.
- Raspberry Pi
- MicroSD Card
- MicroSD Card Reader
- HDMI cable
- Computer Monitor or Television with an HDMI port
- USB Power Supply
- USB Keyboard and Mouse
- USB Game Controller
Currently, Raspberry Pi 4 is the best choice for Retropie. Unlike the Raspberry Pi, game consoles are tailored to accommodate games, so always get the latest Pi to have the best gaming experience. This way, you’ll get better performance, lower response time, and minimal lag.
I used an 8GB card just to test if it will work (it did!), but I recommend getting a 16GB SD card at least. With larger memory, you can store more games and not worry about filling up the storage with your saves. The rest of the hardware requirements depends on your preference and the item’s availability.
Now that you know the basics and the things you need to set up a retro gaming console with Raspberry Pi let’s install the software.
There are a few ways to install Retropie. In this tutorial, we will do the simplest. We will use the official Raspberry Pi Imager to write a Retropie image into your SD card. First, download Raspberry Pi Imager here. After installation, insert the microSD card you’ll use with the Raspberry Pi into your computer and run Raspberry Pi Imager.
Next, choose Retropie under the operating system section.
Choose the version of Retropie that goes with your Raspberry Pi board.
Before Raspberry Pi Imager starts writing to your SD card, the imager will ask you if it’s okay to delete all files inside the card. Select yes to proceed. Writing should take about five minutes, then another few for verification. After that, the imager will unmount your card and confirm that RetroPie is already installed.
Configuring Game Controllers
At first startup, Retropie will ask you to hold a button from a gamepad for configuration. You can use virtually any form of controller. Follow the on-screen instructions to configure it, and if you run out of buttons, hold down any button to skip. When you get to OK, press the button you have configured as “A.” Press F4 to quit anytime. It will take you to the command line so that you can change the system’s settings using a Linux environment. To return to the game menu, simply enter the
emulationstation on the terminal.
On the emulation station, you can either go to Retropie’s menu or choose the emulator you want to play. Inside the menu, you will find all essential configurations for your gaming system, including how to set and adjust audio output and volume, connect Bluetooth and WiFi devices, and access the file manager.
The preloaded SD image of the Retropie has the Wi-Fi disabled. If you prefer transferring ROMs over a wireless network instead of USB or Ethernet, you’ll need to connect to WiFI. You can do this by launching the Wi-Fi on the menu.
Next, find the SSID or the name of your Wi-Fi network and connect to it.
Enter the password for that Wi-Fi network.
The next thing you’ll want to do is to know your IP address. You can do that traditionally by pressing F4 to go to the command line and entering commands like
ifconfig. Alternatively, you can use the Retropie menu. In it, there’s “Show IP,” select that, and you’ll see your IP address.
Now that you know your device’s IP address, you can enable SSH using
raspi-config (which you can also access through the Retropie menu), and connect to your DIY gaming console using another computer. You don’t need to connect the Pi to a monitor if you just want to add some games or update the system.
Speaking of adding games, the easiest way to do it is by using Samba Share. Samba is a software that allows you to access file systems over a Wi-Fi network. It comes pre-installed with Retropie. Type \\retropie or \\”your IP address” in windows explorer and add your ROM to the ROMs folder according to what emulator you want to use. I had the SNES version of Mario World, so I copied the ROM inside the SNES folder.
Now, reboot the Pi. The emulator I added a game into now appears in the emulator choices. I select Mario World inside it and proceed to play.
The RetroPie Project is primarily maintained by a few developers who develop the project in their free time. If you have found the RetroPie project useful, please consider donating to the project here. As you become more familiar with RetroPie, please pay it forward by helping others on the forum. The RetroPie Project is what it is today because of the many contributions of the community.
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