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How to Create a Retrogaming Emulation Console for Raspberry Pi



This RetroPie really happened: See (above) how our own Adam Patrick Murray and Alaina Yee build a RetroPie system after they could not buy a SNES classic. Go on, laugh at our mistakes (and learn from them).

For the past 20 years, retrogaming enthusiasts have dreamed of building a "universal game console" capable of playing games from dozens of different systems. Their ideal was cheap, easy to control with a gamepad and connected to a TV.

Thanks to the Raspberry Pi 3 platform for hobbyists and the RetroPie software distribution, this dream is finally possible. For under $ 110 you can create a very nice emulation system that lets you play tens of thousands of retro games for systems like NES, Atari 2600, Sega Genesis, Super NES, Game Boy and even the PlayStation.

All you only need to buy a handful of components, assemble them and configure software. You also have to provide the games, but we'll talk about that later.

The Plan

In order to create our "ultimate console", we will make software emulators and video game ROM files on a single-board computer: the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B + – a computer for $ 40 which is designed for Hobby and educational purposes.

To simplify this process, retrogaming enthusiasts have put together all the software they need in a free software package called RetroPie. RetroPie includes (among other things) a Linux operating system, a large suite of gaming system emulators, and an easy-to-use interface.

For those who are unfamiliar with emulation, here is a brief overview: An emulator for our purposes is software that is programmed to almost in the same way as the hardware of an older video game system. It simulates the original console circuit in software.

Because most computers lack a slot to read data from old video game cartridges, hobbyists have copied video game data into software files called ROM images. (Home PC emulators such as the Apple II may also have disk images, which are copies of the entire contents of a disk that are grouped together in a single computer file.)

There is a front-end interface a program This displays a graphical menu listing the available games in the system. The user can select the game selected by him with a game controller and then automatically run the game on the corresponding emulator. In this case, the front-end program is called RetroPie EmulationStation.

  Classic Systems Evan Amos

You do not need any of these classic game consoles to enjoy their best games.

What consoles are supported?

Here is a non-exhaustive list of some of the most popular classic game consoles that RetroPie can emulate very well:

  • Atari 2600
  • Atari 7800
  • Atari Lynx
  • GCE Vectrex
  • NEC TurboGrafx-16
  • 19659019] Nintendo 64
  • Nintendo Entertainment System
  • Nintendo Super NES
  • Nintendo Game Boy
  • Nintendo Game Boy Color
  • Nintendo Game Boy Advance
  • Sega 32X [Sega
  • Sega
  • Sega
  • Sega
  • Sega Saturn
  • SNK Neo Geo
  • SNK Neo Geo Pocket Size
  • ] Sony PSP

RetroPie supports many other platforms with different levels of compatibility and user experience. For a complete list of supported systems, see the official RetroPie wiki.

The easiest-to-use emulators are part of an emulation system called RetroArch, which has many emulation engines (so-called "cores") in a program with a Unified Interface.

The other standalone emulators included in the RetroPie package produce mixed results whose configuration can be frustrating. If you stick to the above platforms, you're sure to have a good time.

Step 1: Purchase the Hardware

  ingredients Benj Edwards / IDG

These are the hardware components for a RetroPi computer

Now that you know what we are going to do, it is time to buy the necessary hardware. The following is an approximate breakdown of the cost of a RetroPie system as of April 2017. These prices are from Amazon.com and therefore may vary significantly over time. The actual cost of this system depends on how much equipment you bring.

Required basic components

You need the computer itself, a suitcase to prevent it from being damaged, and a power supply. The basic "official" Raspberry Pi case does the job very well and at low cost. But if you want to branch out, take a look at our summary of the best Raspberry Pi cases.

Regarding the power supply, even if the Raspberry Pi 3 is powered by a micro USB port, a 2.5 A power supply is required. Most computer USB ports or adapters do not provide that much power, so I think it's necessary to buy a special adapter and Amazon sells a good one from CanaKit.

Of course you also need a TV to display the device games and an HDMI cable to connect the Pi 3 to the TV. If you do not have a replacement HDMI cable, buy one (for example, this 6-foot AmazonBasics high-speed HDMI cable for $ 6.99).

To set up RetroPie, you also need another computer system (Windows or Mac) that can write to SD cards.

Select a storage option

This SD card contains the operating system, emulators, and game files. A larger card means more space for games. If you already have a microSD card with 8 GB or more, you will save yourself some money. If not, here are some good candidates:

Select a keyboard option

You will need a basic USB keyboard during initial setup. Now, if you stick to the console games, you do not need it anymore – unless you want to change some advanced options in the future.