Chances are, if your reading this article you already know what the Rapsberry Pi is and have more than likely heard of its many uses. Including its ability to run Retropie, a freeware program that allows you to revisit many classic games from yesteryear through a series of emulators and ROMS.
Setting up RetroPie on a Raspberry Pi is very easy to do. Simply follow the steps below and you’ll be on a one way train to Nostaglia City in no time.
So first things first…
What will you need ?
- A Rapsberry Pi – You can use any Rapsberry Pi device (A, A+, B, B+, 2, Zero, or 3) , however for better performance I’d recommend using a Rapsberry Pi 3 Model B. I’d also recommend going for a starter kit as they tend to include the raspberry pi enclosure, (Micro) SD card, charger and a memory card. For Example:
- A USB mouse and keyboard. To be honest, you don’t really need a mouse, only a keyboard is needed to type some commands. For example:
- An Ethernet cable, in case you want to use Ethernet instead of WiFi (n.b – the raspberry Pi 3 comes with a prebuilt in WiFi module).
- HDMI cable to connect the Pi to your HDTV or monitor.
- You will also need an SD card reader for your PC, or a micro SD adaptor if your PC already has a (SD/XD/Micro SD card) reader built in.
- A compatible micro SD card (full list of supported cards here) – n.b if your buying a starter kit these usually come with a compatible SD card anyway.
- Compatible game controller – I’d highly recommend the Buffalo Snes classic controller however, you can use Xbox 360, PS3, PS4 controllers as well if desired.
Again, the simplest way to get all the things you need is to go with a Raspberry Pi 3 starter kit, then just buy a HDMI & Ethernet cable and also a keyboard (if you don’t have a spare one lying about).
For this example we will assume we are using an Ethernet cable and not wifi.
Now that you’ve received all the hardware, lets hook it up:
- Place the Raspberry Pi into its enclosure that came with the starter kit and secure the screws.
- Connect your Ethernet cable to the ethernet port on the Pi and then to your router / Ethernet switch.
- Connect the HDMI cable to your Pi and then to your HDTV / Monitor.
- Connect the USB keyboard to the Pi.
- Connect the Game controller to the USB port on the Pi.
- Finally, connect the power to the Pi.
Download and installation of RetroPie
At this moment in time there are currently two versions of RetroPie available: one version for Raspberry Pi 0/1 (Model A, A+, B, B+) and another version for Raspberry Pi 2/3 models.
- Download the SD image for your model of Raspberry Pi onto your PC using the link below (n.b – If you don’t know which version of Raspberry Pi you have, when the Pi boots up you will see the Raspberry Pi logo in the top left hand corner of the screen, if there is only x1 raspberry, this indicates you either have a Raspberry Pi 0 or 1. If there are x4 Raspberry’s on bootup, you will have a Rapsberry Pi 2 or 3): https://retropie.org.uk/download/
Once you’ve downloaded this file:
- Extract the downloaded file to your desktop using a program like 7-zip. You will notice the extracted file is now showing as a .img file (an image file).
- Next we want to write the .img file onto our micro SD card. To do this:
- Plug your microSD card into your PC (n.b this is where the SD card reader or adaptor will come in handy!).
- Download the free program Win32DiskImager (its safe) – this will allow us to write the .img file to the SD card. When Win32DiskImager downloads, open it, then click in the image file box and locate your .img file on your desktop (see 1 in the screen below). Then select the drive letter for your SD card thats in your computer (see 2 in the image below). Once your happy your selected the correct image file and drive letter for the SD card, hit Write (see 3 below).
- Now that the image file has been successfully written to your SD card, remove it from your PC and insert it into you Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi should now load retro-pie when you power it on.
When your Raspberry Pi turns on for the first time you’ll be asked to configure the controls for the controller you have plugged in, so follow the instructions on screen to complete this step.
You will also notice that you do not have any emaulators showing yet, just the ”RetroPie” menu (which gives you access to the RetroPie settings menu btw ! – took me about 25 minutes to find out where this was). The emulators are built into RetroPie, but in order for them to show on screen, you need to have ROMS (or the games) stored on the Micro SD card first. So head onto the next step where we will discuss how to transfer ROMS from your PC to your raspberry Pi via a FTP program such as WinSCP. FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol and is simply described as “transferring files from one computer to another via a computer network”.
Transferring ROMS via FTP.
I’m not promoting the illegal download of ROMS here, so I wont be given out any sources on where to download them, this part is all down to you (and your best friend Google *wink wink*)
- Once you have your ROM files saved in a folder somewhere on your PC, download the FTP program WinSCP.
- Open WinSCP when its finished downloading.
- Then insert the following into the box that appears:
- File Protocol: SFTP
- Host name: retropie
- Port Number: 22
- User name: pi
- Password: The default password = raspberry
- Hit Save when your done. A connection will then be made from your PC to the Raspberry Pi. You will know this is successful as you will see your PC folders on the left hand panel of the screen and on the right, in the remote site, you’ll see retropie and the retropie folders.
- In the left panel then, locate your folder of ROMS (to make this easier I would create a master folder on your desktop called ROMS, then make sub folders within the master folder called Snes, GBA, GBC, Master System etc – then put all the game boy colour ROMS into the ”gbc” folder for example).
- Once you’ve organised your ROMS into their corresponding folders, open a ROM folder (i.e gbc – the game boy colour folder).
- Then in the right hand pane of WinSCP, click the RetroPie folder you can see, then roms then gbc (so the directory is pointing to: /home/pi/RetroPie/roms/gbc).
- Back to the left panel where you can see all you gbc ROMS, select all of them and hit the Upload button – this will transfer all of your gbc ROMS over to the gbc ROMS folder on the Raspberry Pi. Repeat this for the rest of your ROMS in the other folders (snes, mega drive etc).
Once you have transferred all your ROMS, the different emulators will appear on the main menu screen with the amount of games listed underneath.
Download and set different themes
You can install various themes (around 30 in total) to change the look of retropie. Theres themes for everyone and if your feeling a little creative, you can follow this guide on how to create your own EmulationStation themes for use in retropie.
The easiest way to access the themes already built into your Pi, is to go to the main menu and:
- Push A (or whatever button / key you have configured as ”enter”) on the ”RetroPie” heading below – this will take you into the settings menu.
- Scroll down to ”ES Themes” and press A.
- Choose Option 1 – ”Download Theme Gallery” and allow it to complete.
- Then check the theme gallery here and have a look to see what theme you like the look of.
- Go back to your Pi and scroll down the list of themes and hit “install [name of theme] (not installed)” on the theme you want to install and allow it to finish.
- Restart your Pi and the theme will be installed and display on the TV / monitor.
Download Meta Data for games.
Using the raspberry Pi’s built in scalper function will allow you to download and install metdata for your games, allowing you to view box cover art and much more for each of the games you have in your library.
The built in scraper from pulls data from thegamesdb.net and can be accessed via the start menu in retropie. Simply select scraper, then choose the systems you want to scrape data for then confirm it and let it do its thing. N.b this time it takes this scraping process to complete depends purely on the amount of ROMS and systems you have on the Pi. IF you have 2 systems with 30 ROMS each this will complete much quicker than if you had 10 systems that had 100 ROMS each in them.
Once, complete you will have a nice looking library of games with full box cover art and game synopsis. Also note that not all games will have cover art and description sections. If you want to run a more reliable scraper for your ROMS, then I’d highly recommend using ”Steven Selph’s scraper” which is greatly documented right here.
Thats it for now guys, I hope you found this guide useful.
Any questions please leave a comment below and stay tuned for more content coming real soon.