Skip to Content

Build the Ultimate Retro Raspberry Pi 3,2 and B+ Gaming Machine 2020 Updated Review

Build the Ultimate Retro Raspberry Pi 3,2 and B+ Gaming Machine 2020 Updated Review

Building your very own ame  It’s inexpensive, powerful, and easier to set up than you might think. All you need is a Raspberry Pi board, a microSD card, a micro USB power adapter, and a case to put it all in.


You don’t need to solder anything, or write any code, or even deal with command lines unless you really want to.

There are plenty of options to explore and menus to dive into, though, so you should have some computer savvy before you begin.

If you aren’t afraid to poke around computer settings, you’ll be fine.

The Hardware

To start, you need a Raspberry Pi. If you’re not familiar with Raspberry Pi, it’s a series of inexpensive ARM-based microcomputers designed for education and experimentation.

It will serve as the core of your retro game system; everything else will feed the Raspberry Pi data, power, or input/output capabilities.

There are several different versions of Raspberry Pi, and for video games we recommend the most advanced model, the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+.

It has the fastest processor of all the Raspberry Pi boards, and includes wireless features like Bluetooth and dual-band Wi-Fi.

he Raspberry Pi doesn’t have any onboard storage to speak of either, so you need to get a microSD card. Again, this is a very inexpensive investment.

The RetroPie software doesn’t take up a lot of space, and most older games aren’t particularly large, so you don’t need a huge card.

You can get by on a 16GB microSD card, but we recommend at least a 32GB card just to be on the safe side.

You can pick one up for around $11.

Finally (for the device itself), you need a place to put the Raspberry Pi. It ships as a plain computer board, and it will run just fine naked

Raspberry Pi cases are cheap and plentiful, and you can even find Raspberry Pi starter sets that include the board, the power supply, a case, and usually a memory card all in one bundle.

If you want to get fancier, you can 3D print your own Raspberry Pi case from a slew of creative models on Thingiverse and other 3D printing sites.

Necessary Accessories

You also need a game controller.

RetroPie is robust in terms of controller compatibility, and if you have a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, you can use their controllers easily.

You can also order retro-styled game controllers, with or without analog sticks, wireless connectivity, or other features, from manufacturers like Retro-bit and 8Bitdo.

You should have a keyboard on hand. It generally won’t be necessary, but it will help if you want to navigate system menus or change settings on your retro system.

One final detail: You should get yourself a standard USB drive. Any size (bigger is better), any design, any speed. It’s the easiest way to put games on the console.

Step One: Prepare the OS

Physically putting the system together is the easy part, but without an operating system you can’t actually do anything with it. That’s where RetroPie comes in.

It’s a Raspberry Pi-friendly Linux distribution with a compatible version of LibRetro’s RetroArch software overlaid on top,

Set to automatically jump into the emulation software you want to use without dealing with a lot of Linux command lines on your end.

To start, install the free software 7-zip and Etcher. These will let you put the RetroPie software on your microSD card without any typing or complex commands on your part.

Step Two: Build the Box

This can look like one of the most daunting tasks because you need to work with a bare circuit board, but it’s incredibly direct and easy. Unless you’re using accessory boards to Build the Ultimate Retro particularly complicated custom devices, Raspberry Pis are effectively one-piece and plug-and-play.

First, take the microSD card you wrote the RetroPie disc image to and insert it into the board’s microSD card slot. Some Raspberry Pi cases offer easy access to the slot, but just in case, it’s easiest to insert the card before you install it, unless you’re planning on juggling multiple cards with different disc images (a viable plan for Raspberry Pi users).

Second, screw the Raspberry Pi board into your case.

The case should come with compatible screws.

If you 3D print your own, check what screws are needed. Then close up the case, probably with a few more screws.

Step Three: Turn It On (And Set Up the Controller)

Attach an HDMI cable, a game controller, and your keyboard into the appropriate ports. Connect the HDMI cable to a TV or monitor.

When everything’s ready, plug the power adapter into the wall to power on the Raspberry Pi.

If you use an optional power switchboard or a case with a built-in power switch, press or flip the switch to turn it on.

Without a separate switchboard, the Raspberry Pi powers on as soon as you plug it in.

It might take a few minutes to set everything up the first time to Build the Ultimate Retro

The screen should display a startup process, showing Linux commands getting executed before the RetroPi logo appears.

The system will prompt you to set up your gamepad, which should be plugged into one of the Raspberry Pi’s USB ports.

Follow the instructions to map your controller’s inputs to the appropriate commands on the system.

This manual calibration helps make sure that buttons do what they should be doing in RetroPi’s Linux environment.

Don’t worry if you press the wrong button; you can reconfigure your controller afterward, and have a keyboard as a backup input method if you really need to reset things Build the Ultimate Retro

When everything is set up, the RetroPie main menu will appear. You can’t do much from here now, but if you want to look through the different settings menus, feel free (but be careful before making any changes).

Step Four: Load the Games

Step Four: Load the Games

RetroPie can play games from several dozen classic computers and game consoles, thanks to LibRetro’s back-end.

You can play NES, SNES, Game Boy, Sega Genesis, PlayStation, Neo Geo, and even Atari Jaguar and Virtual Boy games, if you can find them.

We can’t tell you how, because that’s very much a legally gray-to-black area.

However, If you have a method of pulling game images from your own cartridges, you can put them on the RetroPie easily, putting your entire classic game collection into a tiny box.

You can also play older computer games on the RetroPie, which has many more options for legitimate imaging and importing. Classic DOS games, for example, can be purchased on

GOG configures DOS games to run in Windows using the DOSBOX emulator, but the games themselves are completely intact and can be put on the RetroPie.

Step Five: Start Playing

Step Five: Start Playing

Now you can play your games. RetroPie organizes the games added to its library onto individual menu screens for each system.

Pressing left or right on the gamepad flips between the game libraries of any console or computer RetroPie supports, as long as you uploaded games to it.

Empty libraries won’t show up, so if you only see the RetroPie screen and can’t go to individual systems, go through step four again.

Select a game and press the button you mapped to A to start it.

RetroPie will load the relevant emulator and start running the game.

From here any console or handheld game, or any computer game that supports gamepad controls, should simply work with your controller, since you already mapped the buttons on it.

This is the hotkey combination to quit your game and go to the main menu.

You can also hold down the Hotkey button and press the right shoulder button to save your game state

Customizing and Fixing

Customizing and Fixing

Now that your retro system is set up, you can start customizing the interface. You also should be aware of how to fix any problems that might come up.

In fact, you might have already tried to play a game and it acted weird, or looked stretched-out.

If you want to update RetroPie download themes and customize the look

You don’t need an internet connection to use your retro game system, but it’s nice to have for maintenance.