Retro Gaming With The Raspberry Pi

In a time when there is a large demand for powerful game consoles with graphics that are more and more realistic, it is kind of strange that there is now a greater demand for the older "retro" games.

Now of course, the best way to experience these is to get the genuine console and game to give the most authentic feel. But if you can't get your hands one, emulators are the next best thing.

One of the most fun ways to use a Raspberry Pi, is to turn it into a dedicated emulator. They are more than powerful enough to handle it plus you can plug into any TV you like. It is incredibly easy to do.


I must point out that the laws surrounding the use of ROMs varies from country to country. In general, unless you have the copyright owner's permission, it is not allowed. Therefore, if you are making this, you should only use ROMs that you have permission for.

Stuff You Need

Here is a list of stuff that you need. Right now, The Pi Hut is selling a bundle that contains all of these items that I highly recommend (and no, this article is not being sponsored by them). But you can obviously get these items separately. But here is what you get in the bundle:

Raspberry Pi 3

Picture of the Pi 3

Obviously. Without this, you would have nothing. I believe the emulator works with the Pi 1 and Pi 2 also, but may as well go for the most powerful iteration. Plus, it has plenty of USB ports for multiple controllers.

Raspberry Pi Case

Picture of the Pi Case

Kind of optional but you'll probably want to house your Pi in a nice case of your choosing. The kit above comes with a nice black one that actually opens up to reveal the circuit board.


Picture of the USB SNES controllers

In theory you can use a standard keyboard and mouse. But for a more authentic experience, you can use a replica USB controller also. The Pi Hut's kit comes with 2 replica SNES controllers (which you can also buy on their own if you are interested).


Picture of the power

The kit comes with a plug that has a micro usb on the other end for powering the Pi. It also had plug connections for other countries.

HDMI Cable

Picture of the HDMI cable

The Raspberry Pi has a HDMI port for connecting to a monitor or TV. The kit comes with a 2 metre long one.

Micro SD Card and Reader

Picture of the Micro SD card
Picture of the USB Micro SD card reader

The micro SD card is what holds the actual operating system and games. The kit comes with a 16GB which I believe is plenty. It also comes with a reader for the computer so that you can easily install the OS onto it (more on that later). The easiest way to install the OS, is with a completely empty card.

Putting It All Together

Whether you buy the kit or get the above items separately, it is now time to put it altogether. The process is incredibly simple.

Installing the OS

(Detailed instructions and troubleshooting can be found here, but the condensed version below is what I did on my Windows machine).

The OS that will be installed is called RetroPie. It is built on top of Raspbian and has all of the emulation functionality built in.

1) Download it from here.

2) You will need a way to unpack a .gz file. For Windows, I recommend 7-Zip.

3) Plug your micro SD card into the computer.

Disk Imager 4) Burn the image file onto the SD card. To do this on Windows, you can use Win32 Disk Imager, but a quick Google search can tell you how to do it on your OS.

Disk Imager Complete Done. It is that easy. Now you can put together the Pi.

Putting Together the Pi

This is even more easy and doesn't really need a detailed guide. Just put the Pi in the case, plug in the HDMI and insert your SD Card.

For this initial setup, you should also plug in the controller that you wish to use as you will need to map the keys. It is also not necessary on this first setup to have a keyboard and mouse.

All put together

First Setup

When you turn on the Pi, the OS will finish its installation by itself and no action from you is needed at this point. Just sit back and enjoy the show.

Eventually, you will be asked to setup the key mappings for the controller. Don't worry if you do this wrong as there is a way to change these settings later.

Configuring the Game Pad

For each letter, simply tap the button that you want and it will move on to the next one. If it there is a mapping for which you do not have a button (for example, if you are using the SNES controller, you will not have analog sticks), just hold down any button and it will skip to the next one..

Once setup is complete, you are done.

Retro Pie finished!

Congratulations, you have set up an emulator machine! As you can see, the actual number of steps is minimal, with most of the time actually waiting for processes to complete.

Installing ROMs

As I said earlier, you should only use ROMs that you are legally allowed to in your country. But if you have some ROMs, getting them onto your emulator is also very easy. You just need a blank USB stick.

1) Get a USB stick and make a folder on there called retropie.

2) Plug you USB stick into the Pi. You will not see anything happen on the screen, nor do you have to do anything. Just wait a minute or two for the light to stop blinking. Note, there may be some initial blinks and then a pause before it starts again - so be patient.

3) Once it has finished, plug the USB back into your computer and you will see that, as if by magic, some folders have magically appeared. Find the one called roms and you will see more folders inside for all the different types of emulators. Put your ROMs in here.

4) Plug the USB back into the Pi and wait for it to stop flashing, exactly like Step 2.

5) Take it out and restart the Pi. You will now see your ROMs on the emulator and ready to play. Enjoy.


As you can see, it is actually incredibly simple to turn any Raspberry Pi into an retro game console of your choice. If you are starting from scratch (i.e. you have no previous Pi or accessories), I highly recommend the Pi Hut's bundle that has everything that you need (seriously not sponsored, just a happy customer).

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