Building a RetroPie Machine

3 minute read

Intro

I love playing games. When I was a kid I played all the games I could get my hands on and later I wrote my own games on my Laser 310 and later my PCs. It was not until I was able to buy my own console’s that I actually played on them, so I skipped the entire Mario and Zelda phase. This always sadenned me, because I think the games of the old days can teach us quite a lot about playability.

So I am grown up (somewhat) and now have a son…. being a nerd-dad the only logical thing to do is build my own retro arcade console! In this day and age we can build pretty much anything, so why not that?

In this article I explain the steps I have taken to build my own machine. As I am still building it, the instructions here might change as I learn new things.

Parts needed

I decided to start with the most simple thing possible, so we only need a few parts:

  • Raspberry Pi
  • XBox 360 Controller for Windows (USB version)
  • SD Card (8GB as we want to store games as well)
  • Some form of networking; WiFi or Ethernet

The first thig is to get some emulator software for the Raspberry Pi.

RetroPie

I decided I wanted to use Emulator Station as the frontend for my arcade machine; it has all the emulators readily available and a pretty neat interface to boot.

For the Raspberry Pi a project called RetroPie has some great prebuilt images available. I downloaded the Wheezy - Standard version.

There are many ways to burn this image to an SD card, luckily the folks at Raspberry Pi have some great instructions.

After burning the OS to the card and booting the Raspberry Pi with it you are dropped into Emulator Station. This is great! Just follow the instructions and all will be fine.

XBox 360 Controller

I later decided to add an XBox 360 Controller. This should be quite simple, but I did run into a few problems…. first of all, go into the Retro Pie menu and select Configure RetroPie. You will be dropped into a console application from which you can choose Configure XBox/XBox 360 Controller. Activate the driver and you should be all done after a reboot.

Sadly I found that my installation didn’t work correctly; the xboxdrv in the supplementary directory doesn’t seem to work on ARM devices. So I did the following:

$ sudo apt-get install xboxdrv

This will install a compatible version: /usr/bin/xboxdrv. Edit /etc/rc.local in nano:

$ sudo nano /etc/rc.local

Replace the path to the xboxdrv application to the one in /usr/bin. You can now use the controller in the various emulators.

Known issues

Currently I still have an issue with this setup. The XBox 360 Controller gets all its buttons mapped during the setup, so there is no way to exit an emulator once you choose a game to play. I found an article which might be of help, but have not tried it yet.

Outro

There you have it, a complete working arcade machine with minimum effort. My son is quite excited about it and thinks I am the coolest dad ever to build this thing. I myself am quite happy as well as it allows me to play games like Mario with an console like feel to it.

There are many things that can be done to make it even cooler; think about a nice case for the console. Perhaps it is also possible to create a portable version of it, or in the opposite direction; creating a full size arcade machine?