My Sort of Portable Retro Gaming System

Starting Up Emulationsation running RetroPie 4.2.
Using a Pi Zero W
2.8 capasitive touch screen
pocket juice
Powered by a 4000 mAh PocketJuice portable charger with 5 volt 2.4 amp output.
And an 8Bitdo mini bluetooth gamepad.
Ready to play!

Starting Emulationstation Installed On Raspbian

How to start Emulationstation, that was installed manually from the RetroPie script, on Raspbian, for Raspberry Pi 2/3 (updated 7/26/16).

This post is in reference to my post on installing a Retro Gaming System on the Raspberry Pi 3. Click Here to read it.

So let’s say you are a beginner like me and you installed RetroPie on your Raspberry Pi 2 or 3, through Raspbian using the manual setup script. And, you are trying to figure out how to start it up so you can play some games. Well, you would think that after installing it, there would be some sort of icon or way to launch it from the desktop on Raspbian. Or you could go to the LX terminal, located on the desktop, and type “sudo” something, right?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like many other programs you installed on your Pi through the terminal. RetroPie is built on a program called Emulationstation (ES), and you have to start ES to run RetroPie. But, ES can’t be started through the LX terminal on your desktop either with “sudo something”. I tried that, it will give you an error and say you must stop X, and there is no launch icon. It can only be started from root. And no, not the root folder on your desktop. I mean, outside of Raspbian, through the command line interface (CLI or short).

Here is how to get to the command line interface, so you can run ES.

Go to the Start Menu-> Preferences->Raspberry Pi Configuration.start emulationstation from raspbian desktop

Then look for “Boot” under the System tab (what it automatically opens to). Switch the “To Desktop”, to “To CLI” and then click ok, then choose Reboot.

start emulationstation from raspbian desktopThen it will reboot (you will see all the script stuff like in the pic below) to the command line prompt (you may have to log in with your username and password. if you haven’t changed the default username and password, it would be username: pi and password: raspberry).

cli prmpt

Then here is where you will type in “emulationstation”. Then you should see the ES logo load up and start RetroPie to a screen to setup your game controller.


To get out of ES and back to your desktop, you can push whatever button on your controller you chose to setup as the “start” button, and select Quit. Then at command prompt type, startx, and it will load the desktop.

That’s It! Took me a while to read between all stuff on all the forums, scratching my head, but I eventually got it. If there is an easier way, please share it with me in a comment, below!

Now, you can get it on like Donkey Kong!…..never mind….sounded good in my head! lol! Have fun playing those old games!

P.S. Once you change the setting under the preferences to boot to CLI, it will boot to that, until you manually change it back. You can just go to your preferences again and change it back to boot to the desktop.

Retro Gaming on the Raspberry Pi – Simple to Install!

How to Turn the Raspberry Pi into a Retro Gaming Machine!

retro gamingI am a big fan of many of those old video games I use to to play on my old Atari and Nintendo consoles. One of my favorites has always been Donkey Kong. I actually still have a few of the old Atari 2600 and Nintendo cartridges. But, unfortunately my Atari and Nintendo consoles stopped working a long time ago. But, I have a raspberry pi 3 and I was really exited to learn that you could emulate these old consoles on it and basically turn it into a retro gaming system!

So, how do you turn a Raspberry Pi into a retro gaming system? One way is by installing emulators. 

What is an emulator?

I don’t know all the technical details behind how it all works, but in short, an emulator is a software program that emulates the hardware of a game console. But you can’t stick a cartridge in your computer (actually I wouldn’t doubt there is a way). You will need something called a ROM image, of the original game.

What is a ROM image?

A ROM (read only memory) image is like a data copy of the original cartridge or disk. It utilizes the emulator program code, to play the game. It’s sort of like a virtual cartridge.

WARNING: There is a legal gray area surrounding the use of ROMS. Some will say, If you own the original game cartridge, it’s ok to be downloaded and played. Some say, it isn’t legal at all. Then there is the adage that it’s preservation of history and nostalgia. If these games are no longer being sold in circulation for a current console and you’re not selling them, then they are perfectly legal. So play at your own risk. You can google all this, to find out more information.

Several Emulators to Choose From

You can install several different emulators on the Raspberry Pi. I won’t go into detail on how to install them, but the Raspberry Pi Pixel desktop does contains an Add and Remove software GUI utility. You can search from there to find emulators to try. Some of them run ok on the Pi, and some don’t. Or you can install a whole operating system (OS) that contains already installed emulators, all in one place. You can also add more!

Retro Gaming OS’s for the Raspberry Pi.

Two OS’s I have tried are called Retropie and Recalbox. Both were built on a platform called Emulationstation, and are very similar with about the same functionality.

To install these retro gaming OS’s on your Pi, you simply download the SD card image and burn it to your SD card (recommend class 10 16gb or higher), using your favorite SD card writing utility. Then pop the SD card into your Pi and then follow the prompts to get it going.

Download the RetroPie image, here.

Download the Recalbox image here.

They are both pretty simple to get started. Recalbox however is probably the easiest for the novice, that requires less configuration. It almost works “out of the box” so to speak. But more experienced Linux users will probably like Retropie, because you can configure and tailor things the way you like them. There is plenty of documentation found online, to help you get started.

As far as where to get ROMs, google is your friend. I will not tell you were to get them. But, they can be found on this planet among the emu and caught with a dot net. However, they don’t speak English! You can use the google translator to figure out what they are saying.

Note: Retropie and Recalbox does not contain or authorize the use of any copy righted game ROMs, that you do not own! And, will not be distributed with any copy righted games. Use at your own risk! Also, neither system is for resell!

Build Your Own

There have been many people build their own retro gaming cabinet, tables, and gameboy type hand held devices. The possibilities are endless with a Raspberry Pi! You can see many examples on Youtube.

retro gaming arcade cabinet

Sounds like a fun weekend (or over 3 or 4 weekends maybe) project!

By the way, you can do a lot more than play games with a raspberry pi! You can also use it as a second hand desktop computer, a media center pc, or to create many other neat projects.

Anyway! Enjoy your retro gaming! Good luck and have fun!

If you are looking to get started with a Raspberry Pi, I highly recommend this kit below!