Retro Console With Raspberry
Having a leisure centre in the living room with all the games of your childhood is more at hand than you think.
Thanks to the famous ARM processors, a small computer is able to emulate more than 40,000 games from about 40 consoles from the start of the video games to 32-bit consoles like Sony Playstation.
What are you waiting for? It’s only gonna take 15 minutes.
Legal Notice: Having a rom from a game without having the original is illegal. So download only the roms from the original games you own. Sometimes the game author or the company that owns the game may authorize the download (in cases such as very old games or studies that have disappeared).
Retro console in the living room for a few euros
Let’s start with the basic kit just enough to start enjoying consoles like Nes, Super Nintendo, Mega Drive, Game Boy, Atari, Game Boy, Master System, Sega Mega Drive, Nintendo 64, Sega 32x, Game Gear, Neo Geo and Arcade.
- Raspberry Pi 3
- Box for Raspberry Pi 3
- Power adapter with micro USB 5.1V 2.5A output (or a Galaxy S5 charger for example)
- microSD card (16 GB or higher recommended)
You can buy a pack with these four components directly from Amazon. It is better to buy the Raspberry Pi 3 as it has Wi-Fi connection and Bluetooth built in, so we will not need a dongle or a network cable to connect the console to the local network.
There are even boxes that perfectly mimic the shape of the Nintendo NES for Raspberry Pi.
First let’s prepare the microSD card with the necessary software. We will format the microSD card on a computer with the official SD Association software, SD Formatter for Windows or Mac.
Now we will download the software that will move all the emulators inside the Raspberry Pi 3: Recalbox.
To download the latest version we must visit the Recalbox GitHub website, here we will download the .zip file of the latest version. Here you also have the Recalbox manual in Spanish. By the way, Recalbox also includes the Kodi multimedia centre.
Once downloaded we will decompress the file directly on the microSD card. If you want you can do it in two steps by first decompressing the file on the computer and then copying its contents onto the card.
At the end we should have a few folders and several files directly in the root directory of the microSD.
We already have the micro SD card ready and we will insert it into the Raspberry Pi 3 that we have previously placed in its box.
It’s time to connect it to the TV with an HDMI cable and then we can plug in the power adapter. The Raspberry Pi 3 has no switch is turned on as soon as we connect the micro USB cable.
The first time we connect it, the system will self-install. It may restart and will take a few minutes. When it’s over, everything will be ready to start playing. Recalbox includes a few games but you can add more. To control it we can use a USB remote, keyboard or our smartphone.
Transfer games to Raspberry Pi with Recalbox
The easiest way to move more games to Recalbox is through the local network thanks to the Wi-Fi connection of the Raspberry Pi 3.
For this opreation we will need the help of a USB keyboard that we will connect to the Raspberry Pi. Enter the Recalbox configuration menu by pressing the intro.
If the menu is in English you can change it to Spanish in System Settings > Language and move to the sides to choose the language, go back with the A and the system will ask you to restart. When it starts again it will be in Spanish.
Enter the menu again and select Network Settings. In SSID WiFi you must put the name of the network and in Key WiFi, as you suppose, the password. In this menu above it informs us of the state of the connection and of the IP address that later we will need.
Once Recalbox is connected to the local network we can access it from a computer by searching it in network sites or from an internet explorer by typing the IP address in the address bar. With both methods we’ll get to a folder called roms that contains the folders of all the consoles that Recalbox emulates.
In them we are going to place all the roms of the games ordered by console. Inside the folder of each console there is a file that explains in which format should be the roms of the games.
Using a Smartphone to Play at Recalbox
To play and control the entire Recalbox system you can use a USB remote or you can also use your smartphone.
Enter an internet browser on your smartphone and in the address bar enter the IP of the Raspberry Pi 3 that runs with Recalbox, now scroll down and choose the Virtual gamepag. A shortcut is to place directly in the address bar the IP followed by colon and port 8080 (e.g. 192.168.1.155:8080).
As a tip you can save this page as a shortcut to your smartphone’s home page. In Chrome for Android click on the three dots to the right of the address bar and select Add to home screen, give it a name and click on Add.
Turns the retro console into a laptop
We have seen the basic package but the Raspberry Pi 3 still offers more possibilities. With a screen and a battery we can take the console wherever we want. So these are the extras we’re gonna need:
- Official 7 inch screen for Raspberry Pi.
- Powerbank with an Output of 5.1V and 2.4A
- A USB remote (without a local network we can’t use the smartphone, but you can create a Wi-Fi Zone from the smartphone if you don’t have a remote).
As you can see, I have covered the screen with a homemade frame made of wood, but what I’m going to do is I’m a “do it yourself” lover. You can also buy screen frames from Amazon.
I decided on a Bluetooth and cable remote, which is a little more expensive, but also works with the smartphone.
Also the Raspberry Pi 3 has Bluetooth and although Recalbox still does not support it I’m sure it will very soon.