Retropie tutorial

This tutorial will teach you how to build a classic video gaming system that is capable of playing hundreds of games from several classic consoles and plugs into the HDMI port of your TV – all for less than $100.

Let’s get started.

Here are the components you’ll need:

 

Tools:

Step 1: Get familiar with your Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry pi was originally developed in the UK in 2012 as an inexpensive device for teaching computer science in schools. Its small size and low price tag have made it a popular choice for many different applications in the ensuing years. While it is far from the most powerful computer you can buy, it easily runs the classic video games we all know and love. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the “guts” of your new gaming console.

The micoSD card slides into a slot underneath the Raspberry pi’s motherboard. The micoSD card will store everything required to run your classic video games, including the operating system and the games themselves.

You’ll use the USB ports for your game controllers. They’ll also serve as an interface for importing your games via the USB flash drive.

The HDMI port will be used to connect the Raspberry pi to your TV or monitor.

Although the Raspberry pi has an ethernet port, it also has built in Wi-fi. Internet access is not required, but you’ll get some enhanced features if you connect your Raspberry pi to the internet.

Step 2: Attach your Raspberry pi to the case.

If your case came assembled, remove the screws and separate the two sides (or follow the manufacturer’s directions if your case works differently). Typically, the screws will be inserted through the bottom of the case so place the top of the case upside down on your work surface. Place the raspberry pi into the case top, lining up the screw holes in the Raspberry pi with the screw hole of the case.

Carefully place the bottom over the Raspberry pi, again lining up the screw holes. Insert the screws and tighten each one a little bit at a time in a criss cross pattern to ensure the case remains aligned. When all four screws are tight, flip over the case.

Your retro gaming machine is ready for software.

Step 3: Download RetroPie

Navigate to the Retropie download page.  Click on the link for the Raspberry Pi 2/3 as indicated by the arrow below. Save the file on your computer.

Step 4: Extract the RetroPie image

The RetroPie disk image is delivered as a gzip compressed file. The instructions for extracting the image vary based on the operating system you’re using:

Windows

Mac

Windows

If you’ve already got software that extracts gzip files, you can just use that. If you don’t, or you don’t even know what a gzip file is, follow the steps below.

Step A: Download the free trial of Winzip.

Navigate to the Winzip downloads page. Click the “TRY IT FREE” button. You’ll get a 21 day free trial of the software. For the purposes of this trial, you’ll only need to use it once.  

Step B: Install Winzip

Double click the downloaded file. The Winzip installation wizard will start.

Click the “next” button and you will be presented with the license agreement.

Make sure you read through and accept the license agreement, then clock the “Next” button. Winzip will then go through the installation process and eventually arrive at the final screen.

Just click the “Finish” button.

Step C: Extract the RetroPie disk image

Open Winzip. If you’re using the trial version, you’ll get a screen that informs you that the product is not yet registered.

Just click the “Use Evaluation Version” button. On the next screen, use the file browser on the left side of the screen to select the RetroPie gzip file you downloaded in step 3.

Click the image file in the middle of the screen to select it. Then in the action section on the right side of the screen, select the folder where you’d like to save the unzipped disk image and click the “Unzip” button.

Winzip will begin extracting the disk image. This may take a few minutes. When it is completed, the disk image (a .img file) will appear in the destination folder you selected above. You can close Winzip and proceed to step 5.

Mac

Simply double click on the RetroPie gzip file you downloaded during step 3. Your Mac will begin extracting the disk image file. When it is done, the disk image (a .img file) will appear in the same folder. You can proceed to step 5.

 

Step 5: Install RetroPie

Installing RetroPie requires software that writes the RetroPie image to your microSD card. The software varies by operating system:

Windows

Mac

Windows

Use Win32DiskImager to install RetroPie on your microSD card.

Step A: Download Win32DiskImager

Grab the latest version of Win32DiskImager from sourceforge.net.

Step B: Install Win32DiskImager

Click on the file you downloaded in step A. There’s a good chance Windows will ask you if you want to give the program access to make changes on your computer. You do. You’ll be presented with the installation wizard.

Click the “Next” button. You will be presented with the license agreement.

Read through the license agreement and make sure the “I accept the agreement” circle is selected before clicking the “Next” button. The wizard will ask where you’d to install the program.

Select your desired location and click the “Next” button. You will be prompted for a start menu folder for the program.

Choose one and click the “Next” button. You’ll be asked if you want the wizard to create a desktop icon.

If you want to create a desktop icon, click the box and then the “Next” button. If not, just click the “Next” button. The wizard will inform you that it is ready to install and list a summary of the options you have selected in the previous steps.

You can use the “Back” button to change the options. Press the “Install” button to complete the installation. The wizard will let you know when the installation is completed.

Unless you’re interested in reading the README.txt file, you can uncheck that box and the press the “Finish” button. Windows will likely again ask you if you want give permission to Win32DiskImager to change your computer. Again, you do.

Step C: Install RetroPie to the microSDCard

Insert the microSD card into your computer, using an adaptor if necessary. If you didn’t start Win32DiskImager in the previous step, you can do so now.

In the text box labeled “Image File”, select the RetroPie image file you extracted in Step 4. In the drop down list, select the drive letter assigned to the microSD card. If you don’t see the microSD card, try restarting Win32DiskImager.

Please Note: Installing the RetroPie image onto the microSD card may erase or corrupt any data that is already on the microSD card. It is highly recommended that you use a microSD card dedicated to the RetroPie.

With the above warning in mind, press the “Write” button. The RetroPie image will be installed on the microSD card. Once it is finished, you can safely eject the microSD card and proceed to step 6.

Mac

Use ApplePi-Baker to install the RetroPie disk image on your microSD card. Make sure your microSD card is attached to your Mac (using an adaptor if needed).

Step A: Download ApplePi-Baker

Navigate to the ApplePi-Baker download page. Your download should begin automatically. You’ll be prompted for a download location. Choose your preferred location and press the “Save” button.

Step B: Extract ApplePi-Baker

Double click the zip file you’ve just downloaded. ApplePi-Baker will be extracted in the same location.

Step C: Open ApplePi-Baker

Double click ApplePi-Baker. Depending on your security settings, your Mac may not let you open the program right away.

Click Okay, then open your system preference and select “Security & Privacy”.

Click the “Open Anyway” button. You’ll be asked if you’re sure you want to open ApplePi-Baker.

Click the “Open” button. You’ll be asked for your password.

Enter your password and click “OK”.

Please Note: Installing the RetroPie image onto the microSD card may erase or corrupt any data that is already on the microSD card. It is highly recommended that you use a microSD card dedicated to the RetroPie.

In the “Pi-Crust” section, select your microSD card. Then, select the RetroPie image file you extracted during step 4 in the “Pi-Ingredients: IMG Recipe” section. Click the “Auto eject after successful restore” check box. Finally, press the “restore backup” button. ApplePi-Baker will begin installing the RetroPie disk image to your microSD card. When it is finished installing, ApplePi-Baker will let you know.

Press the “OK” button and remove your microSD card from your Mac. Then, proceed to Step 6.

Step 6: Assemble your new gaming system

Slide the microSD card face down into the microSD card slot on the back of your Raspberry pi.

Slide the microSD card as far as it will go into the slot. If you feel like you need to force it, you probably have it the wrong way. Make sure the metal contacts are facing up and toward the Raspberry pi as you slide it in.

Attach your controller(s) to the USB ports on the Raspberry pi. Attach one end of the HDMI cable to the HDMI port on the Raspberry pi and attach the other end to an HDMI port on your TV or monitor. Turn on the TV and select the appropriate HDMI input. Finally, attach the power supply to the Raspberry pi and plug the other end into an electrical outlet.

Your Raspberry Pi will begin to boot up automatically.

Step 7: Configure your controllers

During the boot process, RetroPie will automatically detect your controllers. It will pause the startup process to allow you to configure the controllers.

Press any button on your controller and hold it until the configuration screen appears.

Follow the directions on the screen to configure your controller. The RetroPie is able to handle many different types of controllers. Depending on the controller you are configuring, you may not have all of the buttons the RetroPie asks you to configure. To leave a button in the “Not Defined” state, simply hold down any button until the next button is selected. When you are finished configuring, the “OK” button will be selected. Press any button on your controller to exit and save the configuration.

If you did not select a hotkey enable button, simply select “OK” to use the “select” button for this purpose. After a little more automatic setup, you’ll be taken to the RetroPie home screen.

If you need to configure additional controllers, press the “start” button on the controller you have just configured. This will bring up the Main Menu.

Use your game controller to move the selection bar to the “Configure Input” section and press the “A” button on the controller to select it. This will bring up the controller configuration screen you previously used. Press and hold any button on the controller you’d like to configure and repeat the process for each additional controller.

When you’re finished, you can exit the Main Menu by pressing the “B” button on your controller.

Step 8: Prepare your USB drive

Insert the USB flash drive into your computer. If it does not open automatically, open it using file manager (Windows) or finder (Mac). Create a folder on the flash drive called “retropie” (without the quotes, all lowercase).

Eject the USB flash drive from your computer.

Insert the USB flash drive into one of the USB slots on the Raspberry pi. If your flash drive has an indicator light, it will start blinking. When it’s done blinking, remove it from the Raspberry pi. If your flash drive does not have an indicator light, wait about 60 seconds before removing the flash drive.

Insert the USB flash drive back into your computer and open it. You should still see the retropie folder you created. Double click it to open it.

You should see that Retropie has created three folders inside. If you don’t see these three folders, try the above process again.

Double click on the folder called “roms”. Inside you’ll find 28 folders corresponding to the 28 different gaming systems Retropie supports.

If you’re confused about which folder goes with a particular gaming system, check out our list of rom folders and corresponding gaming systems.

Step 9: Install your games

Disclaimer: Be aware of the copyright laws of your locale. Technically, you should only download roms of games you own.

There are many places online to find video games. A simple search for your gaming console of choice followed by the word “roms” (eg., “Sega Genesis roms” or “Nintendo 64 roms” will yield a plethora of choices. The word “rom” stands for “Read Only Memory”. The “rom” for a game is what was imprinted on the media used for the classic video game (typically a cartridge or CD).

Once you’ve found a rom you’d like to add to your gaming system, download it to your computer. Often the roms will arrive as compressed .zip files. You’ll need to extract them like you would any other zip file (refer to the step 4 instructions for extracting the RetroPie disk image if you need help).

Once extracted, copy the rom file into the appropriate folder for its gaming system on the USB flash drive.

Eject the flash drive and insert it into one of the USB ports on the Raspberry pi. The indicator light will begin blinking. When it is finished blinking, remove the USB flash drive. If your USB flash drive does not have an indicator light, wait about 2-3 minutes before removing it.

Open the RetroPie main menu by pressing “start” on your game controller.

Using your game controller, select “Quit” and press the “A” button. This will bring you to the quit menu.

Using your game controller, select “Restart System” and press the “A” button. The Retropie will reboot itself. Once rebooted, you should see the gaming systems for which you have roms installed available for selection on the RetroPie home screen.

Use your game controller to select the gaming system you’d like to play and launch the game menu with the “A” button. You’ll see a list of games installed.

Use your game controller to select the game you’d like to play. Press the “A” button to launch the game.

Play!