For Approximately $35, you can build your own vintage game console that will connect to any TV or monitor that supports HDMI. This guide will show you everything you need to do.
In this article we will use RetroPie, an awesome operating system that can handle all your simulation needs.
Any Pi can run RetroPie, but I recommend using Raspberry Pi 2 or Raspberry Pi 3 because these can maximize the range of games you can play because the later generation Pis has improved GPU, CPU and ROM capabilities.
Your Raspberry Pi will automatically start into the simulation station. This is a program that runs a custom SD card called RetroPie, which allows you to use the controller to select emulators and games without touching the keyboard or mouse. After all settings are complete, you will be able to navigate from the controller and perform all the operations you need to perform on Raspberry Pi.
This means that you can basically have an integrated entertainment center that can run classic games and media centers. How cool would that be?
What models can you emulate? We ll frankly a lot of them:
- Amstrad CPC
- Apple II
- Atari 2600
- Atari 5200 and 8 bit series
- Atari 7800
- Atari Jaguar
- Atari Lynx
- Atari ST/STE/TT/Falcon
- Commodore 64
- Dragon 32
- FinalBurn Alpha
- Game & Watch
- Game Gear
- Game Boy
- Game Boy Color
- Game Boy Advance
- Master System
- Nintendo 64
- Nintendo DS
- Nintendo Entertainment System
- Neo Geo
- Neo Geo Pocket
- Neo Geo Pocket Color
- PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16
- PlayStation 1
- PlayStation 2
- SAM Coupé
- Sega 32X
- Sega CD
- Sega SG-1000
- Super Nintendo Entertainment System
- Virtual Boy
- WonderSwan Color
- ZX Spectrum
What You Need
Let’s start our adventure at Retropie’s download page. Get the appropriate version of the Raspberry Pi board type – another SD card image optimized for Raspberry Pi “1” (model A, B, A +, B + and zeros), and the other for Raspberry Pi 2 or 3.
A Raspberry Pi (we recommend that you use Raspberry Pi 3 because you will get full game compatibility as well as built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. RetroPie will run on older versions of Raspberry Pi).
- Micro USB power supply.
- At least an 8GB Micro SD card.
- USB Controllers (optional, but makes the whole thing a lot more fun. We like the Buffalo Classic USB) RetroPie also natively supports PS 3/4 and Xbox 360/One controllers as well.
- USB keyboard (only needed for initial setup, we’ll explain Wi-Fi setup later, only need to be used) Of course, if you are simulating PC games, you can use the keyboard and mouse to control
- TV/monitor, AV/HDMI cables
- A Windows/Mac/Linux computer to set up your SD card and transfer your ROMs.
Place your Raspberry Pi into its case
Download the RetroPie SD-card image
RetroPie is a software package for Raspberry Pi, based on Raspbian, a Linux distribution. It combines a set of tools and utilities that allow you to quickly and easily run ROMs of various vintage game platforms. We will use the SD card image to install, is basically RetroPie the entire installation of the snapshot.
Because the Raspberry Pi doesn’t have an internal hard drive, it uses a microSD card for storage of the entire operating system and all files contained therein.
Download and unzip the latest RetroPie Image. There are two versions of the RetroPie SD-Card Image:
- Raspberry Pi Zero, Zero W, A, B, A+ and B+
- Raspberry Pi 2 and 3
Plug your SD card into your computer and start flashing.
Open the file browser on your computer and triple check what drive you want to flash for the SD card. If you tell Etcher to use the wrong drive, it can clear something on your computer. If you have to write down because we need to be here for a second.
- Unzip the RetroPie image you downloaded and put it somewhere on your computer.
- Open the Etcher program and click the first button that says Select Image.
- Take the RetroPie image you downloaded and press OK.
- Take your SD card with the middle button (if it’s not showing the right one, click it to change things, then double check it then triple check it).
- Click the button that says Flash! and let it do its thing.
It will take a few minutes – the slower the throughput speed on the SD card, the longer it takes. About three to five minutes for a typical computer. Do not interrupt it because it will tell you when to finish. When finished, place the SD card in the slot on Raspberry Pi.
Grasp your controller and insert it. If your Pi uses an Ethernet cable, you do not need a keyboard, but if you want to use Wi-Fi, you need to enter a Wi-Fi password. Any USB keyboard can work even with a dongle. And I am Using a Bluetooth Keyboard with touch pad 2 in 1. So this keyboard will be a great if you grab one from the AliExpress.
You can just grab the one from the computer you used to copy the OS and you’re good to go. Next plug the HDMI cable in, then plug the cord in.
At startup, you will see a bunch of text on a black screen, which is normal. Do not worry, after the completion, a simple graphical interface will automatically start. The first boot may take a few minutes as it sets some of the things that are done and you will see the setup controller screen. That’s why we need it to be inserted immediately.
The first time you start, your file system will automatically expand and you will be welcomed by the following screen – this menu will configure controls for Emulation Station and RetroArch emulators:
Hold down any button on your keyboard or gamepad and the name will appear at the bottom and then open up into a configuration menu:
Follow the onscreen instructions to configure your gamepad – if you run out of buttons just hold down a button to skip each unused button. When you get to OK press the button you have configured as “A”.
See the following diagrams for reference:
Xbox 360 Controller
Hotkeys can be pressed by a button combination to access functions such as saving, loading and exiting emulators. The following figure shows the default hotkey combination. By default, the hotkey is selected, which means that you hold the other button when you execute the command. Note that hotkeys are only available for / libretro-based emulators.
|Select+Right||Input State Slot Increase|
|Select+Left||Input State Slot Decrease|
If you want to use wifi to transfer discs over the network, not U disk or Ethernet cables, you need to set up your wifi- they can also be done from the reconfiguration menu in the emulator:
Connect to Wifi Network:
Choose your SSID from a list:
Type your Wifi Password (may take a moment to connect)
Once configured you will see your IP address
Due to the nature / complexity of copyright / intellectual property law, the ROM can not provided by RetroPie, which must be provided by the user. Note that owning some ROMs might not be legal.
There are three main ways to transfer ROM:
- (ensure that your USB is formatted to FAT32 or NTFS)
- first create a folder called retropie on your USB stick
- plug it into the pi and wait for it to finish blinking
- pull the USB out and plug it into a computer
- add the roms to their respective folders (in the retropie/roms folder)
- plug it back into the raspberry pi
- wait for it to finish blinking
- refresh emulation station by choosing restart emulation station from the start menu
if on windows type \\retropie into the computer folder. You can also replace retropie with your Raspberry Pi’s IP address
if on MAC OS X open finder, select “Go” menu and “Connect to Server“. Type smb://retropie and hit “Connect”.
After you add the disc, you need to restart the simulation station to display. You can restart the simulation station from the Start menu, or restart pi with sudo reboot.
For more details on individual simulators, advanced settings, etc, see the rest of the documentation. If things are still uncertain, the RetroPie community is very helpful at the forum.