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How to set up RetroPie on any Raspberry Pi (including Raspberry Pi 4) and create your own retro games console

RetroPie is a great piece of software that works as a front-end to many emulators, allowing you to create a mini games console, with all of your favourite retro games on.

As well as emulating popular consoles such as the Atari VCS, NES, Mega Drive and PlayStation, RetroPie does a good job at covering the less common ones too. Want to play Fairchild Channel F games, or Trailblazer on the Commodore 16, or something on the Oric. Well, if you really want to, you can.

RetroPie doesn’t come with any games itself – you will need to supply those yourselves.

Many people snapped up the Raspberry Pi 4 when it came out, hoping that they would be able to better run more systems on RetroPie, such as N64 and Dreamcast. However, as RetroPie is worked on for free by volunteers in their spare time, the new Raspberry Pi 4 compatible version of RetroPie is still being developed.

But those who like to live on the edge, can download a development build of the software, and get going with RetroPie on the Raspberry Pi 4 straight away.

We’ve also got instructions on how to set up RetroPie regardless of what Raspberry Pi you have.


You will need:

Raspberry Pi 4
  • Raspberry Pi
  • PSU for your Raspberry Pi.
  • Minimum 8GB Micro SD Card (Unless you are using the original Raspberry Pi Model A and Model B, which need a full-size SD card)
  • Access to a Computer to write the software the SD card
  • Internet Access
  • USB Game Controller
  • USB Keyboard.
  • HDMI Cable
  • HDMI-Capable Display. Your TV will probably be just fine.

If you are using a Raspberry Pi Zero, you will also need:

  • micro USB to USB convertor (or a USB Hub with Micro USB connector)
  • A USB hub (recommended)
  • Mini HDMI to standard HDMI convertor- or – lead with one end standard and one end mini.

If you are using a Raspberry Pi 4 you will also need:

  • Micro HDMI to standard HDMI convertor – or – lead with one end standard and one end micro.

Getting Started

First thing to do, go to the RetroPie website and download your RetroPie image, and ‘flash’ the image on to your SD card.

For Raspberry Pi Zero, 1,2 or 3 you will need to download the image from here. Note that there are two separate images – one for Pi Zero and 1; and another for Pi 2 and 3.

If you have a Raspberry Pi 4, you will need to go to the weekly development build page here, and download the image called retropie-buster-4.5.14-rpi4.img.gz

Note: The Development Builds are unsupported and untested, so if you get stuck, you’re on your own – however in my testing, things work pretty well currently.

If you do not know how to flash the RetroPie image to the SD card, you can follow our guide here.

Place the SD card in the Raspberry Pi, plug the HDMI cable to the TV and Pi, plug in your USB keyboard and controller and connect the pi to the power.

If everything is in order, you should see a rainbow square, followed by some raspberries, and some text, then a RetroPie logo, then an Emulation logo. Once the booting up has finished, it should ask you to set up your controller.

RetroPie will ask you what everything is on your controller. It will ask you where the select button is and the right trigger etc. If it’s asking you about a button you don’t have on your controller, simply keep another button held down and it will skip that one.

Once this is done you will see the main RetroPie screen.

First thing after you have set up your controller, is to set up the internet. Make sure you have a USB keyboard plugged in. Go to RetroPie Configuration and select the WiFi option.

The RetroPie Configuration Page. The WiFi option is the one at the bottom

You will need to first set your country in the Raspberry Pi Configuration tool.

The Raspberry Pi Software Configuration Tool. Set your WiFi country in Localisation Options.

Go down to Option 4, which is called Localisation Options. Tip: It’s easier using the keyboard on this config menu than the controller.

Then on the next page, again choose Option 4, which is Change Wi-fi Country. (If you’re in the UK, then it’s in the G section between Gabon and Grenada.)

If you’re ever likely to interact with your Pi using SSH, then we may as well do that now. Go down to Option 5: Interfacing Options, then enable Option 2 to enable SSH. (If none of that made sense to you, it is unlikely you will want to use SSH, so skip this bit – you can always come back later)

Now go down to Finish, and you’ll be thrown to the following page.

Choose Option 1 to add your WiFi credentials. Once connected, the screen will display your IP address – make a note of it, or snap a picture of the screen with your phone. (This is handy if you’re going to be using SSH)

Now go to Exit, and you’ll get back to the main RetroPie Interface.

Now what? Let’s add some games!


Adding your games to the RetroPie

The easiest method for adding games for me is using Samba Share. You will need to have your Raspberry Pi on the internet, but there is an internet free option for those of you without, or are using a Raspberry Pi Zero without WiFi. (see transferring via a USB stick on this page here)

Connecting Via Samba Share with Windows 10

In the File Explorer, right-click on This PC in the side bar, and choose the Add a network location menu option. The Add Network Location Wizard will then appear. Just click Next.

On the next screen, when it asks ‘Where do you want to create this network location?’ select Choose a custom network location and click Next.

You then need to specify the address of your network – you’re gonna need that IP address I asked you to note down earlier. In the address box type:

\\123.123.123.12\roms

But instead of 123.123.132.12 you need to type in the IP address you noted earlier.

Then you can choose a name to identify it easier. We’ve called ours RetroPie-roms but you do whatever you like.

Then it’s all done. When you press Finish on the last screen, provided you don’t untick ‘Open this network location when I click Finish’, then you’ll see your RetroPie ROMS folder.

In the FileExplorer, you will see a list of several folders. Each representing a different platform that the RetroPie can Emulate. Most of these are fairly self explanatory.


Connecting Via Samba Share with Mac OS

In the Finder, go to menu Go > Connect to Server... or press + K

In the box that comes up, type smb://retropie and then press the Connect button.

It will then ask you to enter the name and password, but you can just click Connect As: Guest, and then press Connect.

You will then be asked which volumes you wish to mount. The main one we’re interested at the moment is roms

In the Finder, you will see a list of several folders. Each representing a different platform that the RetroPie can Emulate. Most of these are fairly self explanatory.


Done the Samba bit? Read on…

Drag your game file to the system it belongs to. In our case, we’re going to upload the awesome new home brew Game Boy title, Quest Arrest. The game won’t appear in RetroPie immediately, you will need to restart Emulation Station.

To do this, press the Start button on your controller, while in one on the RetroPie screens, and a Main Menu will appear.

Select Quit

And in the next screen select Restart Emulation Station

When the system restarts, you now have a new Game Boy section!

And if all has gone to plan, we should have Quest Arrest in the Game Boy section:

Let’s see if it works…

Looks like it did!

To exit a game, just press Select and Start on your controller at the same time.

To add other games to other systems, you just repeat that process. Some systems take a little bit more setting up, but we’ll come to them another time. In the meantime, the following systems are basically, ‘put the games in and it just works’

  • Atari – Atari 2600
  • Atari – Atari 7800
  • Atari – Lynx
  • Nintendo – Game Boy
  • Nintendo – Game Boy Advance
  • Nintendo – Game Boy Color
  • Nintendo – N64 (Needs a fast Pi)
  • Nintendo – Nintendo Entertainment System
  • Nintendo – Super Nintendo Entertainment System
  • PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16
  • Sega – Game Gear
  • Sega – Master System
  • Sega – Mega Drive / Genesis
  • Sega – SG-1000
  • Vectrex

Tip: If you are having audio issues with the Raspberry Pi 4 – check your HDMI cable is in the correct port. It should be in the one labelled 0 and it’s the one nearest the power cable.

Have fun playing with your new RetroPie console! There are lots of options and customisations available. If you get stuck, the documentation at https://retropie.org.uk/docs is pretty thorough.


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