The Raspberry Pi is a great little computer for many, many different applications. The one that brings a lot of joy is the ability to turn the credit card sized computer in to a portable retro arcade machine.
Thanks to software like RetroPie Project and EmulationStation that wraps up a lot of different emulator systems in to a nice looking menu with plenty of support for the wide range of joysticks and gamepads, you are open to the vast array of games from Amstrad to Playstation 1. [Full List]
RetroPie Upgrade Kit
What is in the box?
The Upgrade Kit contains 2 controllers and a micro SD card pre-installed with RetroPie. The kit is perfect to expand on your current Raspberry Pi setup, or maybe get the dust covered Raspberry Pi out of a cupboard drawer to wind down at the end of a day with a few hours of Tetris.
What you should have already is:
- A Raspberry Pi – Any flavour will do
- A TV or monitor with appropriate leads
- Keyboard – For some systems like the Spectrum or Amiga
- Power Supply
- A tough durable case for the Raspberry Pi
All of these are available from our Shop if you find that you are missing something.
Copyright laws and where to get the games
Due to most games released being protected under copyright laws in many countries, the RetroPie doesn’t come with any games preinstalled. Although the roms (games) can be downloaded from many various websites, we unfortunately can’t provide any links due to copyright laws, It is up you to check the copyright laws in your country to ensure you comply.
Are ROM images of games legal?
The short answer is no they are not. Therefore you shouldn’t download them and you absolutely shouldn’t upload them and make them available for other people to download.
Connecting everything up
If this is the first time handling a Raspberry Pi, it might be best to read Switching on your Pi for the first time.
For the more experienced Raspberry Pi handler, all that is required is to make sure the power is disconnected to the Pi, insert/replace the micro SD card and plug in a single controller to one of the USB ports.
Connect the Pi to a screen via HDMI to a TV or capable monitor, or composite to a non-HDMI TV. Lastly add an Ethernet network connection so it is possible to transfer games over to the Pi.
Make sure everything is plugged in firmly, and plug in the power to the Raspberry Pi. Almost immediatly the black screen with white text should scroll through nicely, and you’ll be greeted by the RetroPie logo.
Followed by the Emulation Station logo
Setting up the controller
Once the Pi has finished booting up, it’ll present a stating it has detected a Game Pad, and requires configuring.
The configuration stage is needed as RetroPie doesn’t know how to handle the game pad connected, so the buttons need mapping. In short, the software needs to know which is, for instance, the A button so it can perform a jump in the game whenever it is pressed.
Start by holding down A until the screen changes, here you will be instructed to press the appropriate button. If at anytime you make a mistake, press F4 on the keyboard to restart Emulation Station. Doing so will take you back to the Welcome screen above.
Keep pressing the required buttons when asked to do so. Each controller is different, a NES controller only has a + pad and 4 buttons, whereas an X-Box 360 controller has a + pad, 2 analogue sticks, and 12 buttons. As RetroPie doesn’t know exactly what is connected, it has to ask for every button and listen for a response.
So when you come to a button that doesn’t exist, just hold down any button to skip it, the screen will indicate by a quick countdown before moving on to the next input.
Just repeat this until you reach the end.
Press A to save the configuration.
The main navigation features each of the consoles that have a ROM available for it. So although it is possible to play games on any console up to Playstation 1, they will only be visible if there is something to play on it.
Using the + pad on the controller allows you to scroll left and right between consoles, A button will enter the menu for the chosen console, and B will go back a step.
As mentioned, each console requires ROM images. These images are a complete cartridge/CD of a given game condensed down in to a single file. The images stored in a folder on the Raspberry Pi within the folder of the console like this;
To access these folders requires a network connection, and to know the IP of the Raspberry Pi. The IP address can be found by entering the RetroPie menu (scroll left or right until RetroPie shows up), press A to choose the menu, then press down until you reach Show IP Address.
Press A to select it, the screen will go black with white text. Looking carefully at the top left corner some text will appear briefly for 5 seconds showing the network connections and their respective statuses. If you miss it just select Show IP Address again.
The line of importance starts with inet followed by a series of numbers, in this case:
Luckily Windows has built in support to connect to the Samba server built in within RetroPie, so clicking on My Computer, and typing in the address bar at the top of the window; \\number.from.above followed by enter.
You will see 3 folders, bios, configs and roms. The BIOS and Configs folders we won’t worry about yet, these are more crucial at getting some games setup to run effectivly. Double click on ROMs, a full list of all the emulators will appear, some are easily understandable, some are just codes such as GBC – GameBoy Colour.
Now we have somewhere to put the games, we now need the games. Unfortunately due to copyright laws we can’t link to places to download ROMs from as to have a copy of the game you must own the original.
The roms downloaded are typically in a ZIP format, containing the rom file of the game. Simply extract the rom file to an easily accessible place such as the Desktop, then drag the file to the folder, in this example is a NES rom.
The file sizes of older consoles are only a few KB each, transferring is very quick.
Choosing and playing
Last step is to restart Emulation Station, press Start. Go down to Quit.
Press A, and A again to restart.
After 5 seconds the screen will reappear, scroll along to find the new console appear in the list.
Press A to choose the console, and A again to chose the new game.
Finishing a game
As console games weren’t designed to have an exit function, neither does the roms. Instead of just turning the Pi off and on again, just press the Start and Select buttons together at the same time.
Doing so will tell the emulator to quit (make sure you have saved your game first!) and return to Emulation Station where the Pi can be shut down, or a new game selected to play.