If you’re craving a retro gaming session and also happen to have a Raspberry Pi on hand, then you can install RetroPie on Raspberry Pi to build your very own vintage gaming rig.
There’s no shortage of gaming emulators out there, but RetroPie is one of the most popular retro gaming projects, largely because of the sheer number of different emulators it supports. Whether SNES, Atari, Sega, PlayStation or anything in between, you can play all of your favorite retro games on RetroPie.
What you’ll need
To complete this project, you’ll need:
- Raspberry Pi 4 (it should work with Raspberry Pi 3, too)
- SD card containing the Raspbian system image
- Raspberry Pi-compatible power cable
- Micro HDMI cable
- External monitor
- External keyboard and mouse and a way to attach them to your Raspberry Pi
- Gaming controller is recommended but not necessary
Once you’ve assembled all your tools, you’re ready to build your gaming rig!
Install the Raspbian operating system
1. Download the latest version of Raspbian.
2. Insert your SD card and launch the Etcher application.
In Etcher, click “Select image” and then choose the Raspbian file that you just downloaded. Click “Select target” and then choose your target boot medium, which in this instance is our SD card.
Etcher will now flash the system image to your SD card.
3. Remove the SD card from your computer and insert it into your Raspberry Pi.
4. Attach your monitor to the Raspberry Pi using the micro HDMI cable. Attach your keyboard to the Raspberry Pi device.
5. Plug your Raspberry Pi into a power source. The device should boot automatically.
6. Complete the usual setup when prompted. This includes connecting to your Wi-Fi network.
Once you’ve completed the setup dialog, you’ll be taken to the main Raspbian screen.
Installing Retropie in Raspbian
Next, download the latest RetroPie setup script:
1. Launch the Terminal by selecting the little “Terminal” icon in the Raspbian toolbar.
2. Type the following command into the Terminal:
3. Clone the Retropie setup script:
4. Run the setup script:
Read the onscreen message and then click “OK.” You’ll now be taken to the main RetroPie setup window.
5. In this window, select “Basic install” and then press Enter.
6. When prompted, select “Yes.” This will install all the core packages that are required to run the RetroPie SD image.
7. Once your installation is complete, you can boot into RetroPie by running the following Terminal command:
Configure your gaming controller
Since this is your first time running RetroPie, you’ll need to configure your gaming controller:
1. When prompted, attach your controller to your Raspberry Pi via a USB cable.
2. Press and hold any button on your controller, and RetroPie should identify your controller automatically.
3. RetroPie will now guide you through the process of configuring your controller.
Once you’ve completed this setup, RetroPie will be ready to use. However, you may have noticed there’s one thing missing – it doesn’t come with any games!
Where can I download RetroPie ROMs?
RetroPie games are distributed as ROMs, which you’ll need to download on a game-by-game basis. There are plenty of free games you can download from online ROM repositories, but you should always make sure you download your games from a reputable source.
Some websites breach copyright by offering proprietary games as free downloads, while others bundle their ROMs with malicious software. If you suspect a website may not be completely legitimate, then it’s always best to err on the side of caution and find another source, or you could perform an Internet search to see whether any other RetroPie users have posted about their experiences with this particular website.
If you have a specific game or genre of game in mind, then it’s always worth performing a quick Google search to see whether this game is available as a free RetroPie ROM. For example, if you wanted to relive all those afternoons you spent playing Tetris as a child, then you could search for “Tetris ROM RetroPie.”
If you’re looking for a legitimate source of free ROMs, then MAMEDev has a selection of ROMs that are compatible with RetroPie.
Once you have downloaded your ROMs, place them in the “~/RetroPie/roms/console” folder where the “console” is named after a console, such as SNES or NES.
Time to play: launching games on RetroPie
RetroPie identifies new games automatically, so just launch the emulator, and your new game should be waiting for you!
To launch a game, simply select it from the main screen using your gaming controller.
Depending on the game you’ve chosen to play, you may need to perform some initial setup, but RetroPie will guide you through the process. Happy gaming!
Congratulations! You have built yourself a retro gaming console with little effort. Now you can check out these optional packages you can install for RetroPie and customizing tips to improve Retropie gameplay and performance.