The Raspberry Pi family of single board computers are incredibly popular among DIY enthusiasts. These tiny little computers can be used for a wide variety of projects, but one of the most common is retro gaming. There are a number of free, open-source projects focused on video game emulation, but Recalbox is one of the easiest to set up.
RecalBox is an operating system that includes a wide variety of video game consoles, arcade systems and PCs. It is one of the most popular alternatives to RetroPie and has some significant advantages.
This guide will go through the steps necessary to get RecalBox up and running on a Raspberry Pi.
Get the Appropriate Hardware
First thing’s first. If you don’t already have a Raspberry Pi and all of the associated bits and bobs, you’ll need to purchase them. If you’re not sure what you will need, don’t worry, as we’ve got you covered.
- Raspberry Pi – Recalbox works with the Pi 0/1/2/3
- Micro USB power supply – make sure it delivers 2.5 AMP or more
- MicroSD card – stick to reputable brands and look for a class 10 card. What size you’ll need depends on how many games you plan on installing. Recalbox recommends 16GB and above.
- HDMI cable
- Controller – Recalbox works with wireless PS3 and wired USB Xbox 360 controllers straight out of the box
- USB keyboard – if you don’t have a controller or have one that isn’t immediately recognized by Recalbox, you’ll need the keyboard to configure it.
- Raspberry Pi case – this isn’t necessary, but it is recommended.
There is a compatibility list available that is constantly being updated. The list features various MicroSD card manufacturers and sizes. In addition, it also includes accessories like controllers and the like. The list is a living document and is undergoing constant updating. Unfortunately, since the document is maintained by users, it is far from complete.
Note: in addition to the Raspberry Pi, Recalbox can be installed on a PC or an Odroid. For the purposes of this guide, we will be focusing on the Raspberry Pi; however, the installation process is the same regardless of hardware.
Downloading and Burning Recalbox to an SD Card
Now that you have all of your bits and pieces, you can install Recalbox. First, you’ll need to download the Recalbox image file. At the time of this writing, build 17.12.02 is the latest version of Recalbox available. Locate the image file appropriate for your hardware and download it.
Next, pop your MicroSD card into your computer and format the card to FAT32. Be aware that when you format the card it will erase any files stored on it. Once your card is formatted, download a program like Etcher or Win32DiskImager. Use the program to burn the Recalbox image file to your MicroSD card.
Finally, pop the MicroSD into your Raspberry Pi and power it on. Recalbox will automatically install. The installation process will take a few minutes.
Now that Recalbox is installed and ready to go, you’ll need to get your controller set up properly. Some controllers, like the USB Xbox 360 controller, will work automatically. If that’s the case, congratulations! Feel free to skip on to the next section. If your controller doesn’t work, you’ll need to configure it.
To do so, plug in a USB keyboard and hit “Enter.” This will bring up the Recalbox menu. Use the arrow keys to cycle down to “Configure Input.” Hit the “A” key on your keyboard to select it. Next, select “Configure a controller” and press the “A” key again. Follow the on-screen instructions to map your controllers buttons. Be aware that Recalbox names buttons based on the Super Nintendo controller. Once you’ve mapped all of the buttons, you should be able to use your controller to navigate Recalbox. If everything is working smoothly, feel free to ditch the keyboard.
Connect to Network
Open the Recalbox menu using the Enter key on your Keyboard or the Start button on your controller. Scroll down and select “Network Settings.” Here, you want to toggle “Enable WiFi” on. Next, select “WiFi SSID” and type the name of your network. Finally, select “WiFi Key” and input your network’s password.
At this point you probably want to play some games. Transferring ROMs to your Recalbox can be done in one of two ways. If you’re using Windows, open a File Explorer window. In the address bar type
\\RECALBOX to connect to your Recalbox via your network.
Double click on “share” and locate the folder named “roms.” Inside this folder you will see folders that correspond with all of the video game systems Recalbox is capable of emulating. Simply drag your game ROMs to the proper system folder.
Alternatively, you can use the Recalbox web browser interface to transfer your ROMs. To do so, open your web browser. In the address bar type “http://reacalbox.local/.” This should bring you to the web interface. Here you can manage your ROMs, BIOS files and more.
Note: the ROMs that you add will not be available until you either scrape your ROMs (see next section) or restart your Recalbox.
Scrape your ROM Collection
Scraping your ROM collection is the final step that will put the cherry on top of your Recalbox build. Doing so will provide metadata like synopses, release date info and box art for each one of your games. To begin scraping, open the menu and scroll down to “Scraper.” On the following screen scroll down to “Scrape Now.” You can change some of the settings here, but if this is your first time scraping your games, just hit “Start.”
How long the scraping process takes will depend on how many games you have in your collection. Once it has completed, your games should now have the relevant box art and metadata.
Recalbox combines a slick interface with a simplified setup process. Compared to RetroPie, Recalbox is faster and easier to set up, provided you’re okay with missing out on some customization options. Have you tried Recalbox? Which do you prefer: Recalbox or RetroPie? Let us know in the comments!