Among the numerous applications of Raspberry Pi, using it as a basis for a gaming emulator is one of the most popular. With a relatively simple setup, you can play an assortment of retro games that you might not otherwise have access to on a computer system that is new and affordable. We walk you through the steps for how to use Raspberry Pi to build a retro gaming console below.
Developers from the Libretro Team have created an open-source software called RetroPie that contains all the code needed for your Raspberry Pi to function as a game machine. The Raspberry Pi uses a microSD card as its primary storage unit, so you’ll need to download the software in the RetroPie SD-Card Image format from its website. Select the version that corresponds to your version of Raspberry Pi. We recommend using a Raspberry Pi 4 since this is the latest and most powerful update to the computer.
Connect the SD card you’re using to your personal desktop or laptop. Then, find it in the Explorer display and right click it. Select “Format” from the menu that pops up. For Mac users, you must go through “Applications,” then “Utilities,” followed by “Disk Utility.” Click on the SD card and then the “Erase” option to format it. Formatting allows the SD card to function with your Raspberry Pi. From there, you must download a utility that can install RetroPie onto the SD card. Etcher is an example that will work on any computer.
With RetroPie on your SD card, you can proceed to boot up your Raspberry Pi. Connect the controller and keyboard that you want to use, along with a monitor and the SD card. After you have hooked up all the peripherals, finish by connecting the power supply. You must save the power supply for last to ensure that the Pi recognizes all these components. Turn on the Pi and wait while it automatically loads the gaming interface EmulationStation. On your monitor’s screen, the Pi will give you prompts that will synchronize your controller with it. With this done, you won’t need to use the keyboard anymore. Note that if you have a wireless controller, you’ll need to plug it in via USB port in the initial setup.
To obtain ROMs for games that you want to play, you’ll need to establish an internet connection with your Raspberry Pi. This step is simple, as long as your Pi has wi-fi functionality. The Raspberry Pi 4, 3, and Zero W can all access the internet wirelessly. Just hit the menu option on your display, then move down the resulting list until you can click on “WIFI.” Pick out your home network, type in the password, and you should be good to go. You’re now ready to download games and start playing!
Find Raspberry Pi project kits online with Chicago Electronic Distributors. These can become the foundations for creating your own retro gaming console.
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