RetroPie step by step beginners guide (with - Raspberry tips
Today, I’ll show you how to make your first steps with RetroPie on Raspberry PiRetroPie is promoted as a free and easy retro gaming consoleBut it’s not so easy to start for a beginner on Raspberry Pi and/or LinuxIf you are in this case, this article is for you
How to get started on Retropie?Learn what is RetroPieFind the required hardware to play games on Raspberry PiInstall RetroPieDownload new gamesOptimize your setup
Even if I recommend reading all of this if you are a beginner, you can use the table of contents below to go directly to the point you’re interested in
If you are looking for the fastest way to get Retropie with games on your Raspberry Pi, you can check this SD card loaded with Retropie and over 100k games. It’s available on Amazon, and really cheap for the time it would take to build that kind of library 🙂
Get a list of my 24 favorites games (with links) to play on Retropie, Recalbox or Lakka
The main goal of the RetroPie project was to bring retro gaming abilities to the Raspberry PiBuilding RetroPie was a work on two dimensions: software and hardware
On the software side, the project was divided into four parts:Operating system: they made the choice to use Raspbian at the endEmulators: they had to bring all emulators of our favorite consoles insideSetup script: they wanted the installation to be easy, and the setup script should do everything possibleFront-end: they needed a cool graphical interface to use Retropie as a classic game station
But it was not enough. The hardware part was also an important workThey wanted to add the ability to transform the Raspberry Pi into an arcade boxThey created a GPIO adapter to plug joystick and button on the Raspberry PiRaspberry Pi BootcampSale: 10% off today.
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Today the RetroPie project has a dedicated website available hereThey keep updated pre-made images for the Raspberry PiBut it’s also possible to install RetroPie on other operating systems (over Raspbian or in Ubuntu/Debian systems)
The last image includes most emulators, just about everything you can dream:Nintendo: NES, SNES, GameCube, GameBoy, N64, …PlayStation: PS1, PS2, PSP …Others consoles: NEO GEO, Dreamcast, Saturn, …Old computers: Atari, Commodore, …And a lot of others emulators !
Retro Gaming vocabulary
Just before getting started, let’s assure that you understand two words I’ll use a lot in the next paragraphs
An emulator is a software that allow you to run games for another computer on your current computerA 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 gameFor example, on N64, you played a game like GoldenEye by inserting the cartridge in the consoleOn Raspberry Pi, you can’t use this cartridge. You need to have a file with the cartridge content
A BIOS is the only software part you have on a computer before installing an operating systemOn a PC, you may use it to set options like Boot devices order, date/time, hardware preferencesOn a game station it tells how the computer should work, so the emulator may need it for launching games
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Yes, you already know you need a Raspberry Pi to install RetroPie …But I want to be sure you have the Raspberry Pi 3B + or moreOn other models, games can be slow as the hardware is not powerful enough to run all games
You can try with another one for a test, but in the longer term you should buy a Raspberry Pi 4 (check the best kit in my resources page)
Even if any SD card could do the job, I recommend starting directly on a fast and large SD card
Fast because as you’ll see, the Raspberry Pi is a cheap console, but not the fastest for this kind of thingsA fast SD card ensures that this part does not slow your games downI have tested all the most popular SD cards here, please read this article before making your choice.
And a large one to store all the games you wantYes, you can start on a small one, and change later, but you must reinstall everything, backup your save games, etc …
So first thing, find a fast and large SD card to start.The best idea for Retropie beginners is to look for a preloaded SD card with Retropie and thousands of games already installed (my favorite is this one on Amazon), it’s the best price/quality and quantity ratio and it works on any Raspberry Pi (even Pi 4)You’ll save much time by not having to download and install each game one by one.If you prefer starting with an empty one, check my recommended product page for the best you can buy at the moment
The second point is the Raspberry Pi case, or at least the coolingGaming on Raspberry Pi, mainly with recent games, can increase your hardware temperatureAnd it’s not good for the Raspberry Pi life span
So ensure you have a well-ventilated case, heat sinks and maybe a fan.I wrote a post about how to install heat sinks if you need more information.Passive cooling might be an option for casual players. I also have in-depth reviews of my Flirc case and Argon Neo case that you can check.
And for the case or fan, you can find original cases with a good cooling system (this one is perfect for retro gamers 🙂 ).You’ll get the classic look, even for your case. Don’t forget to add the options you need for a complete kit (fan, heat sinks, power supply or SD card)
And finally, what is a good retro gaming console without retro controllers?Even if you could play with your keyboard, it’s not the same, the time machine requires the use of an old-fashioned controller 🙂
My favorite for now is this one on Amazon, but you can find other alternatives in my resources pages. Playing games like the ones from N64 with a basic controller is not possible, you need at least two sticks to control it. That’s why I prefer this controller, or at least a N64 controller clone.Also, if you are using a Bluetooth controller, you can read this tutorial on how to set it up with RetroPie.
How to install Retropie
At this point, you know what RetroPie is, the common vocabulary and you have all the needed hardware to play in good conditionsLet’s move to the installation processMaster Python on Raspberry PiSale: 10% off today.
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The first thing to do is to download the RetroPie image from the official website: hereThere are two versions, take the one corresponding to your Raspberry Pi model
I don’t recommend downloading images on other websitesEven if you can find images with a lot of games or add-ons inside, don’t trust themYou can’t guess if they are safe or not
Once you finish downloading the image, follow this procedure to create the SD card:Insert the SD card in your computer.If you don’t have an SD card slot on your computer, you can use a cheap adapter to plug it on a USB port (check the price on Amazon)Download and install Etcher if needed (it’s a free tool to flash SD card)Start EtcherOn the left choose the image fileIn the middle select your SD cardThen click “Flash!” to start the SD card creationAfter a few minutes, you SD card is ready
Insert the SD card and start the Raspberry PiThere is almost nothing to do, just wait for the boot sequence to finish
The only thing you need to do is to configure the first controllerWhen RetroPie asks you to plug your controller, do itPress one key for a few seconds until RetroPie detect itThen follow the wizard to configure all the controller keysIf you have a basic controller, without all keys, let one key pressed for a few seconds until the wizard move to the next oneWhen you configure all keys, press “OK” and the main menu appears
You can now use the main menu to follow the basic configuration procedure in the nextparagraph
In the main menu, select “Configuration” and enter (press A)
You should now get a full configuration menu like this:
I’ll give you all the things to configure in this menu before going furtherObviously, you can browse all the submenu to set everything as you wantBut I give you only the important things to configureAudio
This menu is only to set the audio output for RetropieSet the default sound output as you want
On a TV, HDMI should be enough.On a basic computer screen you may select jack 3.5 and plug speaker or headphonesRaspi-config
If you’re used to Raspbian, this is the same menuNote: On my installation, I needed to switch back to the keyboard to use this menu. I’m not able to make a selection with my game controller
Set what you need in this menu:Localization optionsIf needed, start by configuration locale, time zone, keyboard layout and Wifi countrySetting the Wifi country is mandatory before the connectionNetwork optionsUseful if you have a specific network configuration to make (Wifi or static IP)For RJ45 with DHCP you have nothing to doUpdateThen select this one to update the system to the last versionRetroPie setup
This menu will help you manage RetroPie componentsTry at least to update the system:Updating RetropieChoose “Update” in the first menuAnswer “Yes” to all the following questionsThis will update everything on your systemThen choose “Perform Reboot” to apply all changesCome back to this menu after the rebootInstall Retropie managerIn the Retropie Setup menu, select “Manage Packages”Then “Manage experimental packages”Find “Retropie Manager” and install it from sourceStart Retropie managerIn the Retropie Setup Menu, choose “Configuration / tools”Select “Retropie Manager”Then select “Enable RetroPie-Manager on boot” and “Start Retropie-Manager now”Show your IP
You must know your Raspberry PI IP address later in this guideSo enter this menu and note your current IP address
You can also use the traditional techniques to find your Raspberry Pi on the network, as explained in this article.
Get new games
I already wrote an article about downloading ROMs for RetropieSo if you need help about this, I recommend you to read this post and come back after
Short answer:You can download ROMs from websites like MAMEDev or ROM Hustler
But I think that the best idea to save time is to look for a preloaded SD card with Retropie and thousands of games already installed (my favorite is this one on Amazon), it’s the best price/quality and quantity ratio and it works on any Raspberry Pi (even Pi 4)You’ll save much time by not having to download and install each game one by one.
If you don’t have a Raspberry Pi 4 you can try this one, it’s similar but for Raspberry Pi 3 / 3B+.
Once you have downloaded one game on your computer, you need to send it to RetroPieRetroPie Manager
RetroPie Manager is a web interface to manage your RetroPie systemYou can access it with your web browser at http://:8080If you didn’t note your IP address, you can find it under the “Show your IP” menu in the RetroPie configuration screen
In this interface you can find a lot of information about your systemThe monitoring screen will show you the current status of the Raspberry Pi (memory, file system and CPU)But our goal is to upload a new game on the RetroPie console
Interesting, isn’t it? If you want to discover other tips about Retropie to improve your experience, you can check this article where I introduce 13 tips that will impress your friends 🙂Installing a new gamePrepare the game filesMost of the time, you download a compressed fileYou need to extract it to another folder with your favorite software (for example WinRAR or 7zip on Windows)Upload the filesClick on “Roms” on the top menuSelect the system corresponding to the gameDrag and drop the extract files into the intended frameWait a few seconds, games are now visible in the list below
If you want to use other options, you can check this tutorial where I go in more depth about this.Playing your new game
Now it’s time to play!You may need to reload the main menu for the new games to appearPress Start on your controllerThen select “Quit” in the pop-up menuAnd finally choose “Restart Emulstation”, and confirm “Yes”Now your main menu should have changedThe new game system should appear in the listSelect the game system you want to play (in my case Nintendo)Then choose the ROM to start (you may have multiple versions in the ROM archive, find the one you prefer)And then it’s done, you can play your favorite game 🙂
Just repeat the steps from this section for each game you want to play
The first game played on Retropie is a good start, but you’ll soon have other questionsI’ll try to answer them in this sectionHow to exit game?
Once in the game, you have to go to the main menu to exit and come back to RetroPieFor this you need to use the hot-key from your controllerIf you don’t have configured it, it must be Select+Start at the same timeHow to change the controller configuration?
You may have been fast on the first boot and want to change something?Press “Start” in the main menu, then select “Configure Input”It will ask you again to define all the keys
Same thing if you want to add another controllerGo to this menu and hold a button on the new controllerHow to use a Bluetooth controller?
It’s possible to use a Bluetooth controller on RetroPie (like the 8bitdo SNES controller).It’s my favorite controller because you have the classic SNES look, with all the modern improvements (dual stick, Bluetooth, …) and it works not only on Raspberry Pi but also on any computer or smartphone.
First, you need to set up your Retropie with a wired controller (use your keyboard if you have only a Bluetooth controller)Then go to the configuration menu and choose Bluetooth > Register and Connect to Bluetooth DeviceFinally, select your device in the list and follow the previous instruction to configure keys
As said previously, you can read the step-by-step guide in this article, where I show you how to configure a PS4 controller on Retropie.How to remove games?
If you uploaded too many games or if you are missing space on your SD card, you can remove games from Retropie ManagerGet back to the web interface (http://IP:8080), go to Roms and choose the game systemFind games you want to delete in the list above, check them, and click on “Delete selected files”How to save progress in a game?
Some games create a save automatically at some point, or when you use Select+Start to leaveIf not, you can try to use Select+R1 to save and Select+L1 to load the saved gameWhat’s the default login and password?
If asked, default login and password are the same as on any fresh Raspbian:
Login: piPassword: raspberryHow to start Emulstation automatically on boot? (auto login)
For me, after a few updates and reboot, the Retropie menu wasn’t launching automaticallyI had to login with the keyboard and then the menu came up
To fix this go into the configuration menu > RetroPie Setup > Configuration/ToolsThen select “autostart” and “Start Emulation Station at boot”
Next time you’ll get the menu directly on bootHow to over clock my Raspberry Pi for Retropie?
First thing you need to know is that over-clocking is not possible on the Raspberry Pi 3So if you are on this model, don’t waste your time: you can’t
For others models, you’ll find a complete tutorial hereHow to use another theme?
You can install and apply other themes for the Retropie MenuGo to Retropie configuration > ES ThemesIn the list select one line starting with “Install …”
Once installed, press Start in the main menu and choose “UI Settings”Then go to “Theme Set” and select the one you just installedExit and enjoy the new menu theme 🙂
You can see a preview for all themes here.Or even better, check my selection of the best themes for Retropie in this article.
I also have a YouTube channel there, with a bunch of video about RetroPie. Here is the one corresponding to this article:
But you can also watch the other ones that might be interesting for you:
My Recommendations for Retro GamingRetropie SD card : Save time and play directly to any game you want with this giant SD card preloaded with over 100k gamesRaspberry Pi 4 : Retropie is now available for Raspberry Pi 4, and it’s excellent 🙂 Why would you stay on a slower device?8bitdo controller : This is currently the best controller for retro gaming on Raspberry Pi. All the latest technologies in a retro design.Retropie Arcade Game Machine : If you are a serious gamer, you should take a look at this to build your own arcade console. Your friends will love this 🙂
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I hope this post helps you to make a good start with Retropie and answers most of your questions
Feel free to leave a comment below if you need help on other things, or if you want to give everyone some other tips to enjoy RetroPie
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