I’ve had this project on my list for quite a while, but the COVID-19 stay-at-home order that began on March 20, 2020 gave me reason to pursue this with a little more urgency. I always enjoyed playing video games as a kid, but I haven’t kept up with the times on newer gaming systems. Having an all-in-one gaming console that allowed me to play vintage games was appealing to me. Ergo, the RetroPie. It’s a purpose-built Raspbian distribution that includes emulators for all the popular gaming systems from Atari, NES, SNES, and Genesis, to PlayStation, N64, and even Game Cube (who had one of those?). Here was my process to get up and going.


  • You’ll need a Raspberry Pi. The nifty $35 motherboard packs a punch, especially the new versions. I like to get the CanaKits as they come with the board, a case, fast SD card, heat sinks, and power supply. Plug in to an existing keyboard and mouse you have laying around and hook it up to your preferred LCD in the house. Current prices on Amazon were $84.99.
  • You’ll need a game controller as well. This is a preference issue. It really depends on which console games you think you’ll find yourself playing the most. I went with a USB SNES controller, which could be used for SNES, NES, and Atari. If I find myself playing N64 or other consoles later, I will need to get a different controller.
  • Download the latest RetroPie distribution. Use the one for Raspberry Pi 2/3
  • Really easy documentation on how to write the iso file to your SD card and get things up and going
  • Games are packaged up into files called ROMs (read only memory). They may be in zip or rar format. Then, you transfer them to your RetroPie. You can download these to a USB thumb drive on your computer and then plug it into your Raspberry Pi and you’re good to go. A fancier way is to set up a Samba share and just copy them over the network to your RetroPie.
  • So, technically, acquiring and running ROMs for games is legal if you own a licensed copy of that game already for that console. If you don’t own the game, then it’s really no different than you pirating music or movies. Let your own ethics be your guide on this one. Here is where you can find them.
  • Happy vintage gaming!