A Raspberry Pi emulator can provide you with hundreds of hours of fun with lots of classic retro games to play. It’s a great nostalgia project and runs incredibly well once you have it set up.
This tutorial will take you through all the steps that you will need to do to have a fantastic all in one retro game emulator set up and running on a Raspberry Pi.
This game emulator is an excellent project if you’re an avid lover of retro games that you wish to play. It’s important to remember that the Pi might not be able to play all the classics due to its limited processing power but should be able to handle a majority of them.
There are a ton of emulators included in the default RetroPie setup. You can find a list of all the emulators that you can utilize at the bottom of this tutorial.
You can find all the bits and pieces that you will need for the retro game emulator tutorial.
Setting it all up
The steps below will take you through all the steps to getting the Raspberry Pi emulator setup and ready to go.
Format the SD Card
1. You will need a formatting tool. Visit the SD Association’s website and download the SD Formatter for either Windows or Mac.
2. Follow the instructions to install the formatting software.
3. Insert your SD card into the computer or laptop’s SD card reader and check the drive letter allocated to it, e.g. G:/ (If you don’t have one then you can buy a USB SD Card reader here)
4. In the SD Formatter, select the drive letter for your SD card (eg. G:/) and then click format.
Download & Install the RetroPie software onto the SD Card
1. Download the latest RetroPie SD Card image from the RetroPie GitHub. Once downloaded, unzip the file so you’re left with a .img file.
2. Next we will need some software to install the image to the SD Card, for this tutorial we will use Etcher. Download Etcher from their website and install it.
3. Once installed, open Etcher and press the select image button. Browse to the .img file we downloaded in step 1.
3. Next click the select drive button. Select the correct drive and press continue.
3. Lastly, click the Flash! button to begin the flashing process. It can take some time so be patient Once completed, remove the SD card from the computer and place into the Raspberry Pi.
Skip down to the booting up the Retro game emulator section to proceed.
Installing Raspberry RetroPie from Scratch
This section of the tutorial is for setting up RetroPie on a pre-existing operating system.
1. To get started, we need to ensure there’s a minimum of 2GB free disk space on our primary partition. We can do this by using the following command, and paying attention to /dev/root.
2. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we should also update the package list and run an upgrade on all pre-existing packages.
We can ensure that everything is up date to by issuing the following command in the terminal.
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get install -y git dialog
4. Now we can retrieve the latest version of the RetroPie setup script easily, enter the following commands to get it to download the latest version.
cd git clone --depth=1 https://github.com/RetroPie/RetroPie-Setup.git
5. We can now cd to the Retropie setup folder and make the script executable, so we can run it. Once we have done that, we just run the script.
cd RetroPie-Setup chmod +x retropie_setup.sh sudo ./retropie_setup.sh
6. This should now display the RetroPie setup script, this will have a variety of options, but the one we want to pay attention to is Basic Install.
Select this option by using the arrow keys to navigate to it and using the enter button to select it.
7. Next, you will be presented with a screen asking you to confirm whether you want to install the Core and Main branches of RetroPie, select Yes to this option to begin the installation.
8. When completed it will take you back to the menu, this time select Configuration/tools.
9. Within here, go to autostart and select this menu.
10. In here, select Start Emulation Station at boot, this will make the front-end boot when the Raspberry Pi powers on.
11. It is now safe to quit out of the configuration tool. You can do this quickly by pressing Ctrl + C or press escape and select the exit option.
12. Once this has completed, you will now be able to copy over roms for Raspberry Pi RetroPie.
To launch the frontend of RetroPie we need to type the following command into terminal, this command will launch the EmulationStation frontend.
Booting up the Retro Game Emulator
1. Insert the SD Card into the Pi as well as connect the mouse, keyboard, Ethernet cord and power supply. If you installed RetroPie to a pre-existing Raspbian installation then reboot the Pi using the following command.
2. The Raspberry Pi will now boot and launch into RetroPie.
3. Next, press f4 so that it will take you to the command line.
4. Type ifconfig and write down the numbers and dots next to inet addr. (You may need it later)
5. If you haven’t already done it, we will now need to enable SSH, expand the file system and overclock the Pi to achieve the best performance possible.
Type the following into the terminal to open up rasp-config.
6. Select Expand File system and accept until you’re back to the main screen.
7. Go to Advanced Options->SSH and enable it.
8. Next go to overclock, select Medium or Turbo if you’re feeling risky. (These options are different on newer models. For example, The Raspberry Pi 3 doesn’t support overclocking.)
9. Afterwards, select finish and then select yes to reboot. It’s now time to proceed to adding roms to your Raspberry Pi emulator.
Adding ROMS to the Raspberry Pi Emulator
ROM is short for read-only memory and is the format in which you will find pretty much all the classic games in.
ROMs can be found all over the internet, and since there are so many different sources, it’s best to simply google the game you wish to download followed by ROM. eg. (“Doom ROM”).
There are many sites around such as Emulationking, Abandonia that provide all sorts of ROMS, emulation help and much more. These are perfect if you want to take a look further into the emulator scene and add more to your Raspberry Pi emulator.
Utlizing a USB Drive
1. Before we get started, we need to make sure that the USB service is enabled on Retropie. If not, then this section of the tutorial will fail to work.
Let’s get started by going to the terminal. You can get to this from RetroPie by pressing F4 and pressing any key.
2. Now that we are in the terminal, we need to get to the RetroPie setup script. We can launch it up by typing in the following.
cd RetroPie-Setup sudo ./retropie_setup.sh
3. In here go to Configuration/tools, within this menu, you will want to go to near the bottom of the list and look for the option labeled usbromservice, select this option.
4. This option will now install the usbmount daemon. Before it finishes up, you will be asked whether you want to enable it, when prompted select Enable USB Rom Service.
5. Once complete, quit out of the setup tool by hitting ESC and selecting exit, or using Ctrl + C.
6. Now reboot your Raspberry Pi with the following command.
7. First, ensure that your USB drive is formatted to FAT32. You can check this on Windows by right-clicking on the drive, clicking Properties and look at the text next to File System:.
8. On the USB, create a directory called retropie, the software will detect this folder when plugged in and set it up for copying over ROMS.
9. Now plug that USB into the Raspberry Pi, give this a few minutes as the RetroPie software will be setting it up in preparation for copying over ROMS.
If your USB has a flashing light, wait until it has stopped flashing before you pull it out. If it doesn’t have a light, then wait a few minutes for the job to complete.
10. Now take out the USB from the Raspberry Pi and plug it back into the computer.
11. Add the ROMS to their respective folders on the USB. These folders will be in the RetroPie/roms folder. (Eg. RetroPie/roms/snes)
12. Once you have finished copying your ROMs to the USB, plug it back into the Raspberry Pi. The RetroPie software will immediately start copying these files off, don’t take out your USB for some time.
13. Refresh emulationstation by pressing F4, or choosing quit from the start menu
Copying over SFTP
For SFTP you will need to utilize a program such as WinSCP to connect to the Raspberry Pi. If you are running Mac use something like Cyberduck.
1. On Windows, go to the WinSCP website and download the latest version of WinSCP. WinSCP is the tool that will interact with the Raspberry Pi and allow us to copy over files directly to the Raspberry Pi.
2. Once downloaded, launch up WinSCP. It will immediately ask you for new login details. You will need to enter the following details into the correct fields.
File Protocol: SFTP
IP address: To find the IP address of your RetroPie, go into RetroPie options from the main menu, and select the last option “Show IP address”.
Port Number: 22 (default)
Username: pi (default)
Password: raspberry (default)
3. Once successfully connected, you should pay attention to the right-hand side screen. Locate the folder named RetroPie, double-click on that, once within that folder locate the folder named Roms and double-click again to enter that folder.
You should now be sitting in the directory where all your roms will be stored. The file directory displayed at the top should be something like /home/pi/RetroPie/roms
4. Once in the right folder, all you simply need to do is drop the files into the relevant folder for your console, such as for a SNES game you would drag and drop the file onto the folder named snes.
Note: If you would like to copy over more files instead of just roms you may first need to enable the root password by typing the following command into the terminal.
sudo passwd root
This will allow you to set up a password for the root user.
Copying over Samba Network Shares
A clean installation of RetroPie also has Samba pre-installed and enabled. Samba is the interface that allows Linux and Mac-based devices to connect with Microsoft’s shared network devices interface.
This allows you to access the files on your Raspberry Pi over the network without needing to connect with something like WinSCP.
1. If you are running a clean install from the RetroPie image, then you can skip ahead to step 6. Otherwise, if you have installed RetroPie to a pre-existing Raspbian installation, you will need to go through a few extra steps to setup this.
To get started, enter the following commands to launch the RetroPie setup script.
cd RetroPie-Setup sudo ./retropie_setup.sh
2. Once the setup script is loaded, go to Configuration/tools by using the arrow keys and pressing enter.
3. Within this menu, you need to search for the option labeled samba, once you have selected this option, press enter to select it.
4. Selecting this option will install the packages required to setup samba, once that has completed, you will be met with another screen.
On this screen, select Install RetroPie Samba shares. This option will set samba up to share the RetroPie related folders and allow network access to them.
5. Once done, you can now safely quit out of the RetroPie software. There are two ways you can do this, one is to hit Ctrl + C, and the other is to hit ESC and select exit.
6. Now back on your computer. On a Windows PC, open a file explorer window, and in the address bar type in the following address.
Note: Make sure you swap out the IP address with your own.
7. There is a chance it may ask for your login details for your Raspberry Pi. Just enter your password and username. If you are still using the default user, that will be the following.
3. Once in, you can now copy any file you want over to your Raspberry Pi. For copying over roms, you will want to go into roms and copy the file into the folder of the console it belongs with.
For instance, a SNES game will go in the folder called snes.
Emulators included in RetroPie
Below are all the emulators installed with Retropie at the time of writing this tutorial.
The Amiga is a range of computers that were sold by Commodore throughout the 1980s and the 1990s. The Amiga featured lots of games but just to name a few, there is The Chaos Engine, Lemmings, Turrican and Shadow of the beast.
This Raspberry Pi Amiga emulator will let you play many of the classics games that you loved on this old school computer.
Apple II (LinApple)
The Apple II introduced in 1977 was one of the most successful personal computers of its time. The Apple II featured a lot of games throughout its lifespan such as Castle Wolfenstein, Lode Runner, Choplifter and the list goes on.
Make use of the Apple II emulator on the Raspberry Pi and relive some of those great classics.
Apple Macintosh (Basilisk II)
Play Apple Macintosh games that were built to run on the MAC OS 8.1.
Amstrad CPC (CPC4RPi)
The Amstrad CPC or short for Color Personal Computer is a series of computers released in 1984 through to 1990s. There were many great games released for this computer such as Roland in the caves, Harrier Attack, Gauntlet and much more.
The Atari 800 is part of the series of the 8 bit home computers that were released back in 1979. Again many games were released for the Atari 800 such as Montezuma Revenge, Jumpman, Star Raiders and much more.
The Raspberry Pi makes for a great Atari 800 emulator. Again there are just so many games that you can play.
Atari 2600 (RetroArch)
The Atari 2600 released back in September 1977 by Atari was more commonly known as the Atari VCS at the time of the release. Ikari Warriors, Pengo, Pigs in Space and Pac man just to name a few games released for the console.
If you’re looking for an Atari 2600 Emulator then this Raspberry Pi mod makes it possible.
The C64 or the Commodore 64 released in 1982 by Commodore International. It is the highest selling computer model of all time and sales between 10-17 million units.
Using this guide, you can set up a Commodore 64 emulator using the Raspberry Pi.
Game Boy Advance (gpSP)
The Game Boy Advance is one of the highest selling handheld gaming consoles of all time. Boasting more than 81.5 million sales there we many great games for this great handheld. Some of these great games were Pokemon, Super Mario Advance, Super Mario Bros and much more.
The Raspberry Pi Game Boy Advance emulator lets you replay some of those great classics released for the handheld console.
Game Gear (Osmose)
The Sega Game Gear is a handheld console that was released back in 1990.
Intellivision released to the public back in 1979 is a video game console that was developed by Mattel. The console sold over 3 million and a total of 125 games released for it. Games that released for the console included BurgerTime, Night Stalker, B-17 Bomber and much more.
Neo Geo (GnGeo, Genesis-GX & RetroArch)
The Neo Geo was found both in arcades and in homes and didn’t stop production up until 1997. Games that released for the system includes Rage of the Dragons, Twinkle Star Sprites and much more.
The Raspberry Pi makes for a great Neo Geo emulator making it possible for you to relive some of the great games released for this system.
Sega Master System (Osmose)
The SMS or Sega Master System was released back in 1985 in Japan. It was not until 1986, 1989 and 1989 it was brought in to North America, Europe, and Brazil. The system did alright but wasn’t able to overturn Nintendo’s dominance in the market only selling 10-13 million compared to the 62 million NES units sold.
The Sega Master System Emulator is a great way to play some of the classics released for the system such as Alien Syndrome, Asterix, Cyborg Hunter, Wonder Boy and much more.
Sega Megadrive/Genesis (DGEN, Picodrive)
The Sega Megadrive or also known as the Sega Genesis is the third console and successor to the Sega Master System. This system boasted a library of over 900 games and was popular in North America and Europe, the console, however, struggled in Europe.
The Raspberry Pi does well at being a Sega Genesis emulator so if you have one you should definitely play some of these games.
Nintendo Entertainment System – NES (RetroArch)
The Nintendo Entertainment or also known as the NES was released back in North American in 1985. It was the console that helped revitalize the US video game industry after the crash back in 1985. The NES had classics such as Mario Bros, Mega Man, Duck Hunt and much more.
RetroArch could be the best NES emulator as you can not only have the NES games you love but also games from other great consoles.
Nintendo 64 – N64 (Mupen64Plus-RPi)
The Nintendo 64 or also known as the N64 is another hugely popular video game system released by Nintendo.
There was a total of 387 games released for the console with a fair few of them exclusively sold in Japan. Some of the great games that were released for this console include Donkey Kong 64, Super Mario 64, Perfect Dark, Goldeneye and many more.
If you’re looking for an excellent n64 emulator, then the Raspberry Pi will do a pretty decent job having a few games that can run on this amazing little computer.
PlayStation 1 (RetroArch)
The PlayStation 1 or most commonly known as PS or PS1 was released back in 1995 and was the main competitor the Nintendo 64. Many of the great games released include Driver, Tomb Raider, Resident Evil 2, Crash Bandicoot and much more.
This mod for the Raspberry Pi is an excellent PlayStation 1 emulator and will allow you to play some of the great games you remember.
Super Nintendo Entertainment System (RetroArch, PiSNES, SNES-Rpi)
The Super Nintendo Entertainment System or also known as the SNES is a video game console developed and released by Nintendo back in 1990. The SNES was hugely successful and still has a great fan base for it today. The SNES had great games such as Sim City, Super Mario World, Casper, Civilization and much more.
This could be the best SNES emulator around as you can set it up to be purely a console for just your SNES collection.
Other emulators I should mention
There are a ton of other emulators that you’re able to run, here is a list of the ones I feel need a mention.
- Arcade (PiFBA, Mame4All-RPi)
- Atari ST/STE/TT/Falcon
- CaveStory (NXEngine)
- Doom (RetroArch)
- Duke Nukem 3D
- Final Burn Alpha (RetroArch)
- Color (RetroArch)
- MAME (RetroArch & AdvMAME)
- Sega Mega-CD (Picodrive)
- Sega 32X (Picodrive)
- Sinclair ZX Spectrum (Fuse)
- PC Engine / TurboGrafx 16 (RetroArch)
- PC / x86 (rpix86)
- Z Machine emulator (Frotz)
I hope that this guide has helped with setting up the Raspberry Pi emulator. If you come across any issues, have feedback or anything else then please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.