Retropie Setup – What Do You Need To Get Started?

A lot of game enthusiasts prefer to use RetroPie for an enhanced gaming experience. It is a program running off of a custom SD card that lets you use a controller to choose an emulator and a game without touching a mouse or a keyboard. Do you want to get started with RetroPie? If yes, you should have first hand and reliable information on getting started with this handy program. However, it is essential to find out what do you need to get started in RetroPie. The following guide will provide you the basics to get you running from an SD card to initial boot into the emulation station.

Hardware you need includes:

  • Raspberry Pi 3 model B for better performance
  • Raspberry Pi case (recommended, but optional)
  • MicroSD card
  • MicroSD card reader
  • 4 Pole RCA to 3.5 mm cable or HDMI cable (it works best)
  • Computer monitor or TV (any screen with RCA or HDMI ports)
  • Ethernet cable or Wi-Fi dongle
  • Micro USB power supply (5V 2A), 2.5A for Pi 3
  • Mouse and USB keyboard
  • Your preferred USB game controller (here are some good retropie controllers)

Installation procedure


Download the SD image for your version of raspberry Pi by following the instructions of the download.  Look here for more info.


After downloading the SD card image, extract it using a zip program. Follow the simple instructions to complete the process.


For installing the RetroPie SD card image on the MicroSD card, you will need a MicroSD card reader for plugging it into the computer. Since RetroPie is built on the top of Raspbian, the partition on the SD card (which is EXT4, a Linux file system) is not visible to those who use Windows systems. The card will show a smaller size than usual. Also, you won’t be in a position to see everything on the card. Don’t worry; the card and everything on it are there.

Configure controllers

On the initial boot, your file system will expand automatically. Then you will be welcomed with a screen with a menu that will configure the controls for both RetroArch emulators and the emulation station. Hold any button on the gamepad or keyboard; the name will show up at the bottom, and then open up into a configuration menu.

Follow the instructions on screen and configure the gamepad. In case you run out of buttons, hold a button to skip each unused button. Once you get to OK, click/push the button that you have configured. If you want to configure an additional controller, do it from the start menu of the emulation station.


Hotkeys let you press a combination of buttons for accessing functions like loading, saving and exiting emulators. By default, any hotkey is select; this means that you hold select when pressing another button for executing a command. Remember that hotkeys are only specific to libretto/retroarch based emulators. The default combinations of hotkeys are listed below.

Hotkeys Action

  • Select + start Exit
  • Select + left shoulder Load
  • Select + Right shoulder Save
  • Select + Left Input state slot decrease
  • Select + Right Input state slot increase
  • Select + B Reset
  • Select + X RGUI Menu

Emulation station

When you first take a look at the emulation station, you will not see systems like the Game Boy or SNES. Don’t worry; they are present on the system. You have to add ROMs to their respective folders to make the systems visible.


If you want to use Wi-Fi for transferring ROMs over the network instead of an Ethernet cable or a USB stick, you will have to set up your Wi-Fi. You can easily do this from the RetroPie menu in the emulation station. All you should do is follow the commands on the menu. Once configured, you will see your IP address, and this means that the Wi-Fi setup is complete.

Transferring ROMs

Due to copyright issues, ROMs do not come with RetroPie. You should only use ROMs of games you own. Basically, there are three methods of transferring ROMs.

1. USB

Make sure that the USB is correctly formatted for FAT32 or perhaps NTFS

Make a folder as retropie on the USB stick

Plug the stick in the pi and wait till it finishes blinking

Pull out the USB and plug it in the computer

Add ROMs (in the newly created folder retropie/roms) to respective folders

Now plug it in the raspberry pi and then wait till it finishes blinking

Finally, refresh the emulation station by selecting restart emulation station from the start menu


To ensure that SFTP works, you should enable SSH. A wired SFTP will require an Ethernet cable. A wireless SFTP will need a Wi-Fi dongle. There are various SFTP programs, and you can choose the one you like. In general, the default username in the SFTP program is pi. Likewise, the default password is raspberry. Follow the instructions of the program to transfer ROMs.

3. Samba-shares

If you are using a Windows system, type //retropie in the computer folder. Now select the ROMs and hit connect. You could also replace retropie with the IP address of your raspberry pi. In case you are on the MAC OS X, open finder. Then select the “GO” menu and connect to server. Now type smb://retropie and press connect.


Once you have added ROMs, you have to restart the emulation station so that the ROMs show up. You can restart the emulation station from the start menu. You can also do this by rebooting the pi with sudo reboot.

Bottom line

Having a handy program such as RetroPie to play games is something every game enthusiast would cherish. With the ease of usage of RetroPie, you can take your gaming experience to a new level. However, what do you need to get started in RetroPie is the main issue faced by many folks. If you are one of these folks, check out the above tips and advice on getting started with this simple program. With the right stuff and setup, you are on your way to using this useful program to enjoy a much better gaming experience.

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