Setup Retro Gaming on Your Raspberry Pi

You can build your very own vintage gaming rig that will hook up to any HDMI-enabled TV or monitor. In this article,  we will go through everything you need to do to start playing the classic console games.  Retro games are fun.  The Raspberry Pi board’s small form factor, low power usage, HDMI connection, and wireless networking make it a perfect micro-console that can sit under your television.

For this build, we’re going to use RetroPie, a software package that handles all your emulation needs.  An emulator is needed so different hardware can run the same program<a href=”#anchor1″>[1]</a>.  RetroPie is a software library used to emulate retro video games on the Raspberry Pi computer. It’s one of the most popular Raspberry Pi projects out there and the most popular emulation system for the Raspberry Pi. RetroPie features a user-friendly interface and an even friendlier setup process.  RetroPie runs Emulation Station and supports all major retro video game emulators, allowing you to play games from the NES, SNES, Genesis, Atari, and more on your Pi.  RetroPie combines Raspbian, EmulationStation, and RetroArch into one handy image. With RetroPie you can emulate arcade games, as well as titles originally released on a host of 8-bit, 16-bit, and even 32- and 64-bit systems.  Most other USB game controllers will work.  You can also use Bluetooth to connect a controller from most video games consoles. RetroPie has an interface that will be very familiar to anyone who has used a modern games console, and because it is open-source, it is constantly being improved.

RetroPie is a software package for the Raspberry Pi that is based on the Raspberry Pi OS, a Linux distribution. It combines a full suite of tools and utilities that will allow you to quickly and easily run retro game ROMs for various vintage gaming emulators.  We’re going to perform our RetroPie setup using an SD card image which is essentially a snapshot of an entire working installation of RetroPie rather than doing a manual RetroPie install.  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. 

An emulator is a software that allow you to run games for another computer on your current computer

A N64 emulator in Retropie allows you to run N64 games on a Raspberry Pi.  A ROM stands for Read-Only Memory. In gaming, this is an image from the original game.  For example, on N64, you played a game like GoldenEye by inserting the cartridge in the console.  On Raspberry Pi, you can’t use this cartridge. You need to have a file with the cartridge content

Raspberry Pi is a low-cost computer that has been designed for people to learn and experiment with. Since its launch, the device, which is slightly wider and longer than a credit card, has been used for everything from helping people learn to code to controlling complex machinery. It has low power requirements, can connect to the internet, and can be expanded with cameras and other sensors, making it incredibly versatile. In more recent years, the Raspberry Pi has been used by gamers looking to make their own consoles. Any Raspberry Pi model can run RetroPie, but I recommend using the Raspberry Pi 4 since its more powerful GPU, CPU, and RAM capabilities will maximize the range of games you can play. For this tutorial,  we will be using the 2GB version of the Raspberry Pi 4 since RAM doesn’t matter too much beyond a certain point for emulating retro games. In other words, at a certain point, the limitation is on CPU and GPU, not RAM.

The latest iteration of the Raspberry Pi, the Pi 4, contains a quad-core 64-bit processor and supports up to 8 GB of memory. This makes it a powerful machine capable of running a lot of different types of games.   Since Raspberry Pi OS is a Linux-based desktop operating system, you can use it to browse the internet like on any other computer. This immediately opens up access to thousands of web-based games from sites like Miniclip and Jigzone.  This also means that players can use a Raspberry Pi to access online casinos. These sites often offer huge catalogs of slot games with hundreds of different options covering just about every genre from Dracula to TV game shows. Most casino games can now be played through a browser, but translation tools like WINE can also get proprietary software running on the Raspberry Pis Linux architecture. 

For the setup,  we will be using the Raspberry Pi 4 with 2GB RAM.  We will also need a fast sd card even if any SD card could do the job.  You want to use a fast sd card because the Raspberry Pi is cheap  but not the fastest for emulation and gaming.  A fast SD card ensures that this part does not slow your games down.  You will also want a large one to store all the games you want.  Next,  we will need a Raspberry Pi case with cooling.  Gaming on Raspberry Pi, especially with more modern games, can increase your hardware temperature and it’s not good for the Raspberry Pi’s life span.  Make sure you have a well-ventilated case, heat sinks and maybe a fan.  You will also need a power cable that meets the power requirements for your pi.

The first thing to do is install the Rasbian image.  You can donwload the image from <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Raspberry Pi’s website</a>.  Once you have the image downloaded,  you will have to install it on an sd card.  Here we will install the Raspbian operating system in our Raspberry Pi using Etcher software. Etcher completes the whole process of flashing an OS image file into three simple steps: Select Image, Select Drive, and Flash Image. So in order to install the Raspbian operating system using Etcher software,  we will follow these simple steps.   BalenaEtcher is a free and open-source utility used for burning image files such as .iso, .img files and zipped folders to create live SD cards and USB flash drives.   You can download Etcher from its official <a href=”” target=”_blank”>website</a>.  Now after downloading the image file and Etcher,  select the image file you downloaded and attach your SD card to the computer using SD card reader. Etcher will detect it automatically. Etcher won’t write to your hard drives by default. Now click Flash to write the image file to the SD card.  Etcher will format the SD card, before writing and verifying the image.  After completing this process, remove your SD card from your laptop and insert it into your Raspberry Pi, and power it up. You will see the desktop of the Raspbian installed Raspberry Pi.  Etcher isn’t the only tool available for installing an OS onto a sd card,  you can use other tools in this article to <a href=”″ target=”_blank”>install your Raspberry Pi image</a>.

To install RetroPie, launch a terminal window on the Raspberry Pi on the top left-hand corner of your screen.  Next, download RetroPie setup files typing in the following to download and install:



     sudo apt install git lsb-release

     git clone –depth=1

     cd RetroPie-Setup

     chmod +x

     sudo ./



Once the setup runs,  the GUI will pop up.  Select Basic Install >> Quick Install. This will install the core and main packages of RetroPie.  Once RetroPie is installed,  you will need the ROMS for the games.  ROM stands for Read-Only Memory<a href=”#anchor2″>[2]</a>.  A ROM is a computer file, which contains data from an old support.  It is a copy of the cartridges of an old game console, which allows playing the game in RetroPie.  Video games are  protected by copyright laws.  So playing a licensed video game that you don’t own is illegal and punishable by law.  If you don’t want to take any risks, there’s a website that lists free games, usable on RetroPie.  It’s called <b>MAMEDev</b>, and the URL is  You will find most classic games three,  just choose a game and click Download to download the corresponding ROM.  Some other 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,  err on the side of caution and find another source.  The ROMS must be in  “~/RetroPie/roms/<b>console</b>” folder where the <B>console</b> is named after a console, such as SNES or NES.  RetroPie identifies new games automatically, so just launch the emulator, and your new game should be waiting for you.

After installation, begin your emulation session by typing in <b>emulationstation</b> in the terminal window.  Since this is the first time running RetroPie, you will need to configure your gaming controller. When prompted, attach your controller to your Raspberry Pi to the usb port.  Press and hold any button on your controller, and RetroPie should identify your controller automatically.  Next,  RetroPie will now guide you through the process of configuring your controller.  Once you have completed this controller setup, RetroPie will be ready to use. 

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.”

There are many customizations that can be done on the RetroPie.  The splash screen is the first thing you see when you boot up RetroPie. It is the image that you see as RetroPie is loading. The default is simply the RetroPie logo.  It’s a cool logo, but you can change it.  You can customize your RetroPie build by changing your splash screen to something else. You can create your own splash screen, or you can choose from a variety of pre-loaded splash screens.  To choose a new splash screen, let RetroPie boot up and head over to the RetroPie/Configuration menu. From there, scroll down to <b>Splash Screen</b> and hit the <b>A</b> button on your controller. This will bring you to a gray menu against a blue screen. The menu has several options.  You can check out the splash screens that are pre-loaded by choosing option 7, Preview splash screens.  To see if there are any new splash screens available, select option 8,  Update RetroPie splash screen.  Once you spot a splash screen that you like, select option 1,  Choose splash screen, to change the splash screen to the one of your choice.

RetroPie uses EmulationStation as a front end. Think of it as the User Interface that organizes all of your emulators and games. This user interface is known as a theme, and the default theme for EmulationStation is easy to navigate and looks pretty good to boot. Unfortunately, the default theme is minimal and can get old quickly.  You can change your RetroPie build by applying a new theme. This ensures that your build will never look or feel stale.  To find some new, more exciting themes,  go to the RetroPie/Configuration menu. Scroll down and select <b>ES Themes</b>. This will bring you to a gray menu window on a blue background. The first thing you’ll want to do is select <b>Download Theme Gallery</b>. Once the themes have downloaded to your Pi, you will be asked to <b>choose an option for gallery</b>.  To apply a new theme for your RetroPie build, open the Main Menu by pressing the <b>Menu</b> button on your controller (usually mapped to the Start button). In the main menu, scroll down to <b>UI Settings</b>.  From there, scroll down to <b>Theme Set</b>.

RetroPie is an excellent way to relive all of your video game nostalgia without having to blow into cartridges. As cool as it is to lap your friends in Super Mario Kart or beat up baddies in Streets of Rage, the default version of the RetroPie user interface is designed for functionality. Unfortunately, this means things can look a little bland. Thankfully, there are ways to customize the look of your RetroPie build to make it more pleasing to the eye.

<p id=”anchor1″>[1]<a href=”” target=”_blank”></a>    “Emulator”</p>

<p id=”anchor2″>[2]<a href=”” target=”_blank”></a>    “Read-only memory”</p>