Since its release, the $35 Raspberry Pi mini-computer has been hailed as the perfect all-in-one retro game console. Now, it’s easier to do than ever, and it doesn’t take any advanced Linux knowledge. Here’s how to make your own retro game console in under 30 minutes.
Update (4/1/2015): We’ve updated this guide to reflect the changes in the newest version of RetroPie. This includes entirely new sections for setting up your card, system, and controllers. Thankfully, the whole process is considerably easier now!
We’ve walked you through all sorts of DIY projects for the Raspberry Pi, but this one might be the simplest. You’ll have your retro game console—complete with old-school controllers—up and running in less than 30 minutes. All you need to do is install the operating system on an SD card and do some simple file sharing from your PC.
Before we get started, let’s go over some basics. Emulating old-school video games requires two things: game ROMs and an emulator to play them. A ROM is a copy of a game that exists on your device. An emulator is an application that can play that ROM. The rule of ethics is that you should have a physical copy of a game if you have a ROM (or you can create your own from your old cartridges). We’ll leave it to you to come up with the ROMs on your own. With that, let’s get the Raspberry Pi set up.
What You’ll Get
Your Raspberry Pi will boot automatically into EmulationStation. This is a program running off a custom SD card called RetroPie that allows you to use a controller to select an emulator and a game without ever touching a keyboard or mouse. After everything’s set up, you’ll be able to navigate and do everything you need to do on the Raspberry Pi from a controller.
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Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.