RetroPie Guides and Retro Gaming

RetroPie Setup Guide: The Ultimate Super Easy Guide For Beginners

August 7, 2016 by in category RetroPie Beginner Guides with 1 and 0

retropie_setup_menu_retrojarThis is a step by step guide to creating your first retro gaming console using RetroPie. This RetroPie setup guide is written for people with very little programming knowledge and experience.

If you can navigate the internet, download files, install application and transfer files to USB sticks, this will be a breeze.

This RetroPie setup guide also makes for a great project to build with your kids. The RetroPie build is a great way to introduce children to computing and programming.

Once you have all the hardware, this project can easily be completed in a weekend. Of course there are other ways to build and configure a RetroPie machine, this is just one way that is incredibly easy.


RetroPie is an OS build that turns your Raspberry Pi into a fully fledged retro gaming machine. It sits on top of a full Raspbian OS and combines EmulationStation, RetroArch and other projects.

RetroPie allows you to play games from NES, SNES, GameBoy, Mega Drive/Genesis, N64, Atari and many more.








What You Need


So we are going to need some hardware before we can start our RetroPie setup.

This may sound like a lot of things, but to make it even easier, you can buy most of it as a package deal. You can even take a big shortcut and get a package with RetroPie already installed. (But where’s the fun in that?)

Installing RetroPie


Now that we have all our hardware, it’s time to get down and dirty with RetroPie. We are going to now go online and download some cool stuff. These are all safe downloads and very important tools and files for our RetroPie setup

Download our RetroPie Image

So we have a blank micro SD card and we have a little computer to run it (the Raspberry Pie 3). Now we need to download what we call an “OS image” or typically just an ‘image’. This will give life to our RetroPie.


What is an OS Image?

An OS Image, or Operating System Image, is basically a pre-configured computer operating system set up. When you buy a new computer it will probably come with Windows or OS X and a heap of pre-installed games and applications. You can imagine that the new computer was just loaded with an ‘image’.


So we are going to download and eventually install an ‘image’ of RetroPie so most of the hard work is done for us.

To get the latest and stable RetroPie image, we need to:retropie_setup_retropie_image_download_retrojar

  • Visit
  • Click the RED button labelled Raspberry Pi 2/3
  • Click on the GREEN button to Donate a few pounds to the project (This is a project of love, not profit. Think of the memories it’s going to bring back)

You should now be downloading a file ending in .img.gz

Once downloading is complete, we will have to extract our compressed .img file. There are a few ways to do that. Right clicking on the file and looking for an option like “Extract” or “Extract Here”.


If you are still having issues, try downloading a little program called 7-zip. You can get it here and it is a safe download.

Once you manage to extract it, you should now have a file ending in .img (Note the .gz is gone)


Your RetroPie image is ready to go!



Format our SD Card

Before we can install our image on to our SD card, we need to wipe it clean of any data, and make sure it is prepared to load on an image. This can also be called formatting. To do this we need to follow these steps:

  • Visit
  • Follow the instructions to download SD Card Formatter or SDFormatter V4.0
  • Install the application and open it
  • Insert your Micro SD Card into your Micro SD Card Reader
  • Plug Your Micro SD Card Reader into your computer (usually via USB)retropie_setup_sdformatter_settings_retrojar
  • Using SDFormatter, click “Refresh”
  • You should now see something in the “Drive:” box (Note, make sure ONLY your SD card reader is plugged in)
  • Click “Option”
  • Click OK
  • Double check there are no other USB drives plugged in to your computer
  • Click Format


Your Micro SD Card is now ready to be imaged with RetroPie!



Load RetroPie Image

Our RetroPie image is ready, our Micro SD card is ready, we just need to combine the 2. To do that we are going to download one more little application.retropie_setup_win32_disk_imager_download_retrojar

For Windows we want to download and install Win32 Disk Imager

For Apple we want to download and install ApplePi Baker

Once we have installed Win32 Disk Imager, we want to:

  • Open Win32 Disk Imager
  • Click the little folder to browse to where our .img file isretropie_setup_win32_disk_imager_retrojar
  • Select our .img file and OK
  • Next select our ‘Device’ (this is our newly formatted SD card)
  • Then simply click ‘Write’


You now have an SD card fully loaded with RetroPie just waiting to be powered up!



Let’s Fire it up!

Ok let’s plug it all in and turn it on. On our Raspberry Pi 3, we want to connect our USB keyboard, our USB game pad, our micro USB power supply and our HDMI cable. We also want to slide in our Micro SD card on the underside of the Raspberry Pi 3.

Next we will plug the other end of our HDMI into our TV. Turn the TV on and select the correct HDMI channel or source. To avoid possible hotplugging issues, it’s best to have the TV on and connected to the Raspberry Pi 3 before powering up the unit.

The final step is switching on the power to the Raspberry Pi 3 and watch our RetroPie setup come to life.

Setting Up Controllers


If we have followed all the above steps correctly, our Raspberry Pi 3 should have booted into RetroPie. The first screen you will come across is the controller configuration screen. We now need to assign buttons and keys so that we can navigate RetroPie and most of all play games. Let’s start with the USB keyboard.



Setting up the USB Keyboard

Even though we probably wont be gaming too much with the keyboard, it is probably the most useful controller while we are still setting RetroPie up to our liking.

First press and hold any keyboard button and you will see RetroPie start picking up your keyboard. We want to now follow the prompts to assign keyboard keys to RetroPie controls. You don’t need to assign everything, but here is a sample of the keys I usually assign that makes sense to me.

  • D-PAD UP = Arrow upretropie_setup_keyboard_setup2_retrojar
  • D-PAD DOWN = Arrow Down
  • D-PAD LEFT = Arrow Left
  • D-PAD RIGHT = Arrow Right
  • START = Enter
  • SELECT = Right Shift
  • A = A
  • B = B
  • X = X
  • Y = Y
  • LEFT TOP = 1
  • RIGHT TOP = 9
  • The rest I just push and hold a button to skip

If you mess up a button assignment, don’t worry we can fix it up later on.



Now we should be in!



Before we go any further, let’s go ahead and set up our game controller to work too.

  • Press START, which for us would be Enter on the keyboard
  • Navigate to ‘CONFIGURE INPUT’ (Using the arrow keys and A to select)
  • Press and hold any button on your gamepad
  • Continue to assign the appropriate buttons


Note: The left and right bumper buttons should be assigned to LEFT BOTTOM and RIGHT BOTTOM. Not LEFT TOP and RIGHT TOP. 

Basic RetroPie Setup


At first, your RetroPie setup may seem underwhelming. No Nintendo and no SEGA options is the first disappointing thing I found the first time. Most of all there’s no games except for in the Port folder.

Don’t panic. The game system menus will appear only when there is something or some game actually inside it. So the reason there is no SNES option, is because we havent added any SNES games yet! We will get to that, but first let’s set up some basics.


Setting up WiFi

WiFi isn’t necessarily required, but it will allow us to do a few cool things a bit later on.

Navigate to the main menu option of RetroPie.
Press A to enter and B to go back. It may seem counter intuitive, but pressing the actual Enter key will open a whole different menu all together. We want to navigate with A and B, not Enter.


Once in the RetroPie menu, go down to WiFi and press A. Now the screen will look a little different, and as silly as it seems, we will be using X instead of A to go forward.




  • Go to “Connect to WiFi Network”
  • Select your network
  • Enter your WiFi’s password
  • This should now connect you

You can tell if this worked if you can now see a ‘Current IP”‘ and a ‘Wireless SSID’


Your RetroPie is now connected to your WiFi!



Changing Themes

Now that we are connected to the internet via WiFi, lets customize the look and feel of our RetroPie setup. We are going to start with the ‘Theme’

A RetroPie theme is basically a stylized skin for RetroPie. It changes the backgrounds, text colors and even game list formats.

Let’s install my favorite theme. Simple Themeretropie_setup_retropie_menu_ESThemes_retrojar

  • Navigate to the RetroPie menu again (where we found WiFi)
  • Navigate to ES THEMES, press A
  • Scroll down until you find “Install simple (not installed) “
  • Press X to install (when we are in these blue menus, usually we need to press X instead of A to continue. Confusing I know)
  • Once installed, press RIGHT to highlight <Cancel> and press X to cancel out of there

If we were connected to the internet, that should have downloaded and installed Simple Theme.

We will now see if we can activate it.retropie_setup_UI_settings_retrojar

  • Press START on your gamepad or ENTER on your keyboard
  • Navigate to UI Settings
  • Navigate to THEME SET
  • Press Left or Right until you see the option SIMPLE
  • Press Down to highlight “Back” and Press A
  • Press START again to exit the main menu

Your backgrounds and menus should look a lot different now


Changing Splash Screens

So we have changed the theme, now let’s change the splashscreen.

The splashscreen is the image that appears when the RetroPie is booting up. By default you probably saw something like this…



Lets go ahead and change it to something more interesting.

  • Navigate to our RetroPie Menu (The same one where we find WiFi and ES Themes)
  • Navigate to SPLASH SCREENS and press A
  • Navigate to Preview splashscreens and press X
  • Navigate to View slideshow of all splashscreens and press X
  • Press X on RetroPie splashscreens

This will now take you through a slideshow of all the currently available splash screen. When you find one you like, make a note of the file name. Now using <Cancel>, navigate your way back  to the previous menu.

  • Select ‘Choose splashscreen’ with X
  • Select ‘RetroPie splashscreens’ with X
  • Find your favourite splash screen and select it with X
  • Now navigate out of those menus using <Cancel>

Now when your RetroPie restarts, it will load up with a different splashscreen.

Try it now

  • Press START / ENTER
  • Navigate to Quit, Press A
  • Navigate to RESTART SYSTEM, Press A


Feeling confident? Try installing a few different themes. Change them and see which one you like best

Adding Sweet Games


Now that you have RetroPie setup, adding games is where things get a little bit… grey. Games are pretty much known as ROMs. So when you hear me talking about ROMs, you know I’m talking about the game files.


Finding RetroPie ROMs

Now the legality of ROMs is tricky. It’s a case of copyright and intellectual property laws and differing laws country by country.

This is why RetroPie doesn’t come with any sweet Nintendo or SEGA games. They have to be provided by you. But how do you get them?

  1. All ROMs you inevitably download, you should legally own as real world cartridges/games.
  2. ROMs can be found rather easily if you are familiar with a website called Google.
  3. They can also be known as SNES ROMs, GENESIS ROMS or GAMEBOY ROMs etc.
  4. If you are familiar with downloading and finding Torrent files you will be fine.
  5. All ROMs you inevitably download, you should legally own as real world catridges/games.

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Adding ROMs to RetroPie

This guide continues assuming you have managed to legally acquire some ROMs to play on your RetroPie setup.

  • Take your little USB stick and plug it into your computer or laptop. Not the Raspberry Pi 3.
  • Open the USB stick and delete any files it might have on it already.
  • Create a new folder on the USB stick and call it retropie (all lower case).




  • Safely remove your USB stick from your computer.
  • Plug your USB stick into your Raspberry Pi 3 and leave it in there until it stops flashing. Or wait at least a goodcouple of minutes to be safe.
  • Remove the USB stick and plug it BACK into your computer.
  • Navigate to the retropie folder you created and you will now see a bunch of new folders.





  • Simply click and drag your roms into the corresponding game system folder.




For example. If you have a Super Nintendo ROM file, copy and paste it inside the folder retropie/snes. If you have a Game Boy ROM, copy and paste it inside the folder retropie/gb.

Once you have added all your legal ROMs to the USB stick, safely remove it from your computer and plug it back into the Raspberry Pi 3.

RetroPie will now automatically start copying those ROMs to itself. Once the USB stick stops flashing, or you give it a good 15mins or so, you should be able to safely remove the USB stick from the Raspberry Pi 3.

Using your Keyboard or game controller, press Enter/Start, select Quit and then Restart Emulation Station.

Now when your RetroPie restarts, you should see the new options and games in your menu.


Scraping ROMs

Finally we want to use what we call a ‘scraper’ to go online and automatically fetch all the information about our games, including the original box art.

This isn’t essential, but I think it’s important for getting that full retro gaming experience.

  • Press START / ENTER to access the main menu
  • Select SCRAPER with A
  • Select SCRAPE NOW with A
  • Select SYSTEMS with A and select which game systems you want to scrape. (I like doing 1 system at a time)
  • USER DECIDES ON CONFLICTS- ON = Fully automated, OFF = you personally go through every game and check it
  • If you have the time, or not many games, I recommend OFF because the auto scraper is not perfect
  • Select Start with A

Simply follow any prompts you might get. You may need to decided from a list which game the file actually is. Usually it gets confused with games that are sequels.

Now that your games are scraped, you should now see more information for them when you go into your game system menus.

Other Helpful Sites


There is a great community out there of RetroPie developers and enthusiasts. Here are some more links with RetroPie setup guides.


There is also a great setup video on YouTube provided by ETA PRIME

Did you find this useful?


If you found this RetroPie setup guide useful, please leave a comment below.

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If there is something else you would like covered on here, let us know!

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