This RetroPie really happened: Watch (above) as our own Adam Patrick Murray and Alaina Yee build a RetroPie system after they couldn't buy a SNES Classic. Continue to laugh at (and learn from) our mistakes.
Over the past 20 years, retrogaming enthusiasts have dreamed of building a "universal game console" that can play games from dozens of different systems. Their ideal was cheap, easy to control with a gamepad and can connect to a TV.
Thanks to the Raspberry Pi 3 hobbyist platform and the RetroPie software distribution, that dream is finally possible. For under $ 110 you can build a very nice emulation system that can play tens of thousands of retro games for systems such as NES, Atari 2600, Sega Genesis, Super NES, Game Boy and even PlayStation.
All you have to do is buy a handful of components, put them together and configure some software. You also need to get the games, but we will talk about it later.
To make our "ultimate console", we will run software emulators and video games ROM files on a one-step computer: Raspberry Pi 3 Model B + -a $ 40 computer designed for hobby and educational use.
To make the process easy, retrogaming enthusiasts have combined all the programs we need into a free software package called RetroPie. RetroPie includes (among other programs) a Linux operating system, a large series of game system emulators and an interface that makes it easy to use.
For people who do not know emulation, here is a brief overview: For our purpose, an emulator is software that has been programmed to perform in almost exactly the same way as the hardware of an older video game system. It simulates the original console circuit in software.
Since most computers lack a place to read data from old video game cartridges, hobbyists have copied video game data to program files called ROM images. (For home PC emulators, such as Apple II, you may also encounter disk images that are copies of an entire floppy disk's contents combined with a single data file.)
A front-end interface is a program that displays a graphical menu listing available games on the system allows the user to select the game they choose with a game controller and then automatically runs the game on the appropriate emulator. In this case, the front program included in RetroPie is called EmulationStation.
This is a non – comprehensive list of some of the most popular classic game consoles that RetroPie can emulate very well: Nintendo Game Boy
Nintendo Game Boy Advance
Nintendo Virtual Boy
Nintendo Virtual Boy
Nintendo Game Boy
Nintendo Game Boy
Nintendo Game Boy
Nintendo Game Boy
Nintendo Game Boy
Sega Master System
Sega Game Gear
SNK Neo Geo
SNK Neo Geo Pocket Color
] Sony PSP
RetroPie supports many more platforms with varying levels of compatibility and user experience. You can find a complete list of systems supported on the official RetroPie Wiki.
The simplest user emulators are part of an emulation system called RetroArch, which combines many emulation engines (called "core") into a program with a uniform interface.
The other standalone emulators included in the RetroPie package provide mixed results that can be frustrating to configure.
Step 1: Buy the Hardware
Now that you know what to do, it's time to buy the necessary hardware. Below is a rough breakdown of the cost of a RetroPie system from April 2017. These prices come from Amazon.com, so they can vary considerably over time. The actual cost of this system depends on how much gear you bring with you.
Basic essential components
You need the computer itself, a case so it is not damaged and a power supply. The basic "official" Raspberry Pi case makes the job very good for a low cost. But if you want to dig out, see our summary of the best Raspberry Pi cases.
When it comes to power, even though the Raspberry Pi 3 is powered via a micro USB port, a 2.5 amp power supply is required. So much power is not supplied by most USB ports or adapters, so I think it is necessary to purchase a special adapter for this purpose, and Amazon sells a good from CanaKit.
Of course, you also need a TV to display games and an HDMI cable to connect Pi 3 to the TV. If you don't have an extra HDMI cable, buy one (for example, this 6-foot AmazonBasic's High-Speed HDMI cable for $ 6.99).
To set up RetroPie, you also need another computer system (Windows or Mac) that can write to SD cards.
Select a storage option
This SD card accommodates the operating system, emulators and game files. A bigger card means more space for games. If you already have an extra 8 GB or larger microSD card, you save some money. If not, here are some good candidates:
Select a keyboard option
You need a basic USB keyboard during the initial installation. Then you no longer need to stay in console games if you do not want to change some advanced options in the future.  Mentioned in this article
If You Want go wireless, the Rii Mini is a very nice keyboard that can make it easy to change system settings from a sofa if you need to do so in the future.
Choose a controller option
You need a multipurpose controller to play games from many different classic systems. Pi 3 has Bluetooth built-in, so wireless controllers are a good option, even though they are harder to install.
A versatile alternative is the 8Bitdo N30, a wireless Bluetooth controller with NES styling, dual analog sticks and four shoulder buttons. DualShock 4 Wireless Controller for PlayStation 4 – Jet Black
Alternatively, DualShock 4 works great for retro games. Because it has a very good D-pad, it is wireless and comfortable to hold. With its analog sticks, it can also do dual service for more modern consoles such as Nintendo 64 and PlayStation.
Example RetroPie builds
With these options in mind, let's build two test systems.
Only minimal building
This is the cheapest complete option, with only 16 GB SD card storage, a cheap USB keyboard (which you only need technical during installation) and a low-cost USB game controller with low cost, but still good. Again, the prices are based on Amazon listings from April 2017.
Total: $ 105.40
If you have a little more money to spend, try this building I use for one more comfortable setting:
Benj's recommended building:
With a 64 GB SD card (32 GB is also good) you have room for many more game-ROMs (especially newer games that take With much more space) with a wireless DualShock 4 and a miniature wireless keyboard, you have a complete wireless living experience.
Total: $ 152.92
Not so shabby. If you had told me a decade ago that I could build something like this for under $ 200, I'd have been flabbergasted.
Step 2: Download the software
Needless to say, the fact that all software we use is available for download for free, it also helps keep the building so affordable.
Software you need:
- RetroPie distribution disk image
- An SD card imaging tool for Windows or Mac
To get RetroPie, visit the official RetroPie download.  Click on the giant red download button for "Raspberry Pi 2/3" and you save a file called something like "retropie-xx-rpi2_rpi3.img.gz", where xx is the current version number for RetroPie. Put this file somewhere so you can easily find it, for example on the desktop.
This file is a disk image that contains all the software (including operating system, emulators, etc.) you need to run our RetroPie setting on a Raspberry Pi 3. For a moment we write it to a microSD card with a special tool.
Download an SD Card Image Writing Tool
Next, we need to download a program that writes the RetroPie software's disk image to an SD card. We need this tool because the file system used by RetroPie is not the same as that used by Windows machines or Macs, so copying the files directly to the SD card is not that easy. What we do is write an already configured Linux OS installation directly to the SD card.
If you have Windows download Win32 Disk Imager.
If you have a Mac download ApplePi Baker.
If you have Linux, you seriously doubt that you need this guide!
Step 3: Write the software to the SD card
RetroPie disc image we Just downloaded is compressed. If you are on a Mac, chances are that OS X will already compress the image to a ".img" file automatically after it is downloaded.
If you're on Windows and you can't extract a ".GZ" file, download 7-Zip, a versatile and free compression tool that lets you extract it.
Next, you must run the SD Card Image Writing Utility installer that you downloaded. Install it. Run the tool – either Win3 2Disk Imager or ApplePi Baker.
For Win32 Disk Imager: Under the Device section of the program, select the drive letter for your SD short. Make sure it is right, because if you choose the wrong device, this program can delete all the data.
Click on the folder icon next to the Image File box in the program. Select the file "retropie-x.x-rpi2_rpi3.img" which we previously downloaded and decompressed.
If you are absolutely sure you have chosen the right device, click the button and wait. "width =" 700 "height =" 418 "data imageid =" 100718427 "data-license =" IDG "/> screenshot arrow width" "700" height = "418" data imageid = "100718427" data-license = "IDG" /> Benj Edwards / IDg ApplePi Baker
For ApplePi Baker: First under Pi-Crust of the program, select it SD card device you want to write to. It will say something like "/dev/sda3".
Then under the section Pi-Ingredients of the program, click the [ … ] button next to the white box and select the file "retropie-xx-rpi2_rpi3.img" that we downloaded earlier.
Finally, click the Restore Backup button and the image will be written to the SD card.
Now you have the software on the card and you are ready for the next step.
Step 4: Mount the hardware
] Mount the case with Raspberry Pi in it
If you happen to have aluminum heat sensors (optional) as part of a kit you purchased, it's time to attach them to the top of the two blacks chips on the Pi card.
Then open the Raspberry Pi Official Case bag and place its plastic pieces on a table. Carefully insert Pi into the housing and close it. Then attach the adhesive rubber feet to the bottom of the housing.
Remove the microSD card from the computer you used to write the pictures.
Carefully insert the microSD card into the SD card slot on the underside of Pi. Pi 3 has a friction-fit SD card slot (previous models had a built-in slot), so push in slowly. The SD card label should face out, away from the Raspberry Pi card.
Connect everything in
Before starting the system by connecting it (Pi has no on / off switch, so it will be as long as it is plugged in) , connect the HDMI cable to Pi and to a TV or monitor.
Also connect your USB keyboard or USB keyboard wireless dongle. Then connect a USB gamepad if you have one. If you use a wireless pad, you don't have to do anything about it.
If you are using a wired internet connection instead of Wi-Fi, connect a properly connected Ethernet cable to the side of Pi.
Now is the time to remove your handy 2.5 amp power adapter and plug it into a wall outlet. Gently stick the micro USB connector in the side of the Raspberry Pi. The unit starts.
Step 4: Configure the software
If everything went as planned when writing the RetroPie software to the SD card, when you first plugged in your Raspberry Pi, you will see a colorful "RetroPie" splash screen and a long crawling of text messages whizzing by. These are Linux startup messages that are useful for troubleshooting if something goes wrong. Generally, you can ignore them.
After a few minutes, the EmulationStation will be at the front. You will see a white / gray screen saying, "WELCOME. No gamepads detection. Hold a button on your device to configure it. Press F4 to quit anytime."
What you're doing is next depends whether you have a wired or wireless gaming control.
If you are using a wired USB game pad:
Hold down a button on the control unit until EmulationStation detects it. Then it will ask you a long list of questions that let you specify which button goes to which control (ie up, down, A, B, X buttons etc.). Do not touch this or you must disconnect the Pi and restart.
When it is, you see a menu called RetroPie . It contains a list of shortcuts to set different settings.
Use your controller to select RASPI CONFIGURE from the list and press the primary selection key on the controller. Then skip to the Configure System Overview section of this guide below.
If you are using a wireless gamepad:
If you want to use a Bluetooth gamepad like DualShock 4 or NES30 Pro, you have much more work in front of you.
First, hit F4 on the USB keyboard and EmulationStation ends. You will see a black screen with text in the upper left corner. You are now on a Linux command prompt.
Don't panic. Enter this exactly, case sensitive:
sudo ~ / RetroPie-S etup / retropie-setup.sh
Then enter enter. This is the RetroPie setup program, a blue menu with lots of text options. "width =" 700 "height =" 420 "data imageid =" 100718521 "data-license =" IDG "/> Benj Edwards / IDG Select Bluetooth
You must change the controller in the mode – for DualShock 4, hold Share and PlayStation button until the lamp flashes, For NES30, hold down the power switch on the front left of the control panel until it is turned on. Using the Bluetooth utility and synchronizing with it (dial the second option for DualShock 4 after it is synchronized).
Then restart your Raspberry Pi.To do this, quit the configuration program and type it in the command prompt:  sudo shutdown -r now
The system restarts, after a few minutes, EmulationStation will start again, you will see the screen saying: "WELCOME. No gamepads detected etc. "
This time, instead of hitting F4, tap a button on your Bluetooth gamepad until it syncs with Pi.
Then hold down a button on the gamepad until EmulationStation detects it. It will ask you a long list of questions that lets you specify which button goes to which control (ie up, down, A, B, X buttons, etc.). Do not touch this, or you may need to disconnect the Pi and start
When it is, you will see a menu called RetroPie which contains a list of shortcuts for setting different settings, which is a convenient way to configure the system without having to let go a Linux command prompt
Use your controls by selecting RASPI-CONFIG and pressing the primary selection key on the controller
Configuring System-wide settings
If you did what I wrote above, either wired or wireless, you should now be in the Raspberry Pi system settings program. It is a blue screen with text-based menus.
You will carefully change some settings here. The first is Location Options (note the UK spelling) – you want to configure if you do not live in the UK. Pi and RetroPie were developed in the UK and they use a different keyboard layout than the United States. It is worth creating an American keyboard layout and setting your time zone as they will help if you need to make advanced configuration changes in
The second thing to change is under Advanced Options and then Overscan . When you ask if you want to enable display override compensation, select No if you are connected to an HDMI TV or monitor. Overscan compensation makes the image smaller so you do not lose information from the pages on the screen if you are using an old TV. The only time you would like to meet Yes here is if you are using a composite TV with a special cable.
When you have finished setting it, return from the menus and select Finish . Restart your Raspberry Pi. If you have a USB controller, press the start button and select Restart . If you have a text prompt, type:
sudo shutdown -r now and the system restarts.
If you have a wired Ethernet connection, you can skip this step. If not, it's time to use your gamepad to navigate to the RetroPie menu in EmulationStation, and then select the Wi-Fi option at the bottom.
This will provide a text based Wi-Fi configuration program. Do what it says – search for your access point and enter your password. Then you should be running an internet connection.
Step 5: Copy game files to Raspberry Pi
So you have I installed the hardware and the software, but you still need game files to have fun with this little beaste. So let's copy a little over. First, I want to share some thoughts on the ethical nature of what we do.
Currently, it is not legal in the United States to have and play copies of games that you have not purchased or have not licensed for games, but I personally believe (speaks for own account and not this publication) to play older games with emulators are ethical when done in dimensions. (It is also possible to run legally licensed or purchased ROM files, but it is outside of the article.) Digital works are fragile things and the emulation community has made an inescapable general good by encouraging people to play and preserve classic video games. Nothing less than our cultural heritage is at stake. So join my friends in your shared heritage. And don't feel bad about it. We all have the right to enjoy the basic cultural ingredients that came together to make us as we are today. Don't let anyone try to keep it from you.
Hopefully, this reality will one day be reflected fairly, but until then we leave building amazing, small emulation boxes and rationalizing it, but we can. 19659003] Copy ROM files via Samba network file sharing
With that disclaimer out of the way, simply copy game files to the Raspberry Pi. There are several ways to do this, but I think the easiest way is to use Windows file sharing called "Samba" in the Linux world. You can do this if you have a Mac or a Windows machine.
In Windows: Open a new Explorer window and type : Retropie to the location bar at the top
On a Mac: Open the Finder, select ] Go from the menu at the top of the window and then select Connect to Server . In that box, type smb: // retropie and click Connect .
If for some reason you changed the system's host name in the settings, you have to type it above instead of "retropi".
Now that you have connected to Pi via file sharing, you can click on the room shared folder. You will see a large list of folders named after different game platforms such as "atari2600" and "genesis."
Drag and drop all the ROM files or disc images you have into the correct platform directory folders on Pi. For example, .NES ROM files should be listed in the directory on Pi, and .SMC Super NES ROM files should be in the snes directory .
Once you have copied everything, restart your Raspberry Pi through the EmulationStation "start" button menu, and all games will be automatically identified.
Step 6: Play and enjoy
Wow, you've done a pretty good mass. Now is the time to sit back, relax and enjoy the fruits of your work. Play whatever you want, whenever you want, with ease. If you're a 30-something, or older like me, you'll be surprised at how little time you have to play these games compared to when you were a child. Just remember to take breaks every time and once to sleep, eat and feed your children.
For more tinker fun with the Raspberry Pi see our article on the best Raspberry Pi projects suitable for beginners and our collection of crazy innovative raspberry Pi projects. Or check out our summary of the best Raspberry Pi kits with all the parts you need for a particular project.