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Videos / How to Build a RetroPie Gaming Console

Today is your lucky day because we’re going to go through everything you need to build your very own RetroPie Gaming Console setup.

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Hey  guys, How’re you going? My name’s Sam from Core Electronics and today we’re going to take a look at how you can build a RetroPie Gaming Console which is really cool. It’s one of the funnest things you can do with your RetroPie (in my opinion) I think vintage gaming is really cool. So what is RetroPie, what is it we keep talking about? Well RetroPie is an operating system designed to run on the Raspberry Pi and it contains a whole bunch of different emulators for all of the vintage consoles. For Sega, the original Nintendo Entertainment System, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo 64, (I love Nintendo!) but heaps of other ones, Dreamcast etc etc which is very very cool.

Now we’ve already got a tutorial called Gaming Kit for RetroPie which looks at the software configuration for RetroPie, how to configure a controller, how to put ROMS on, how to get it up and running for the very first time. But today we’re going to be taking a look at what you actually need to build it, all the different stuff. Now of course we’ve got an actual Gaming Kit for RetroPie specifically for this. It comes with everything you need including 2 controllers for those epic multi player battles. But how do we go about connecting it all up? It can be a bit confusing if you’v only just got your RetroPie, oh sorry your Raspberry Pi and you’re not really sure what to do. So what do we need? So first up you guessed it! We need a Raspberry Pi! Now I’ve actually got my Raspberry Pi in this nifty nifty little case here which is the last thing that I put down that you need, but I’ve got mine in here because I’ve got a heat sink and a fan in there as well which you don’t need at all, it’s not strictly  necessary but if you take a look at our Optimising RetroPie tutorial then you’ll notice that with a bit of overclocking you might want to keep your Raspberry Pi cool. Not strictly necessary at all but you do need the Raspberry Pi board, see that, yep, cool.  Alright so you’ve got your board,that’s fantastic - good on you!  But a board isn’t much good unless you can power it up so you need a power supply, now what I’ve got here and I recommend to everyone,  is the official Raspberry Pi power supply. This one is white, there are also black ones, they’re very good, they come with a micro USB connector and they are a really high quality 5 V, 2.5A power supply. Well now that’s important,the new Raspberry Pi 3, well new compared to the Raspberry Pi 2 has some really great new performance bumps but along with that comes an increase in power. Especially if you are using external gaming controllers and all the rest of it via the USB ports then you are going to need that extra current so pick yourself up one of those. We’re also going to take a look at how you can build a portable gaming console which is cool, I hope to have a specific project up on that soon but if you want to do that then just grab yourself a USB power supply. One of the ones you use to power your phone, its very cool. We’ve got one on our store and now anything above about 6000 mAh will give you a couple of hours of life you know. Assuming average current draw 1.5 A for the Pi something around that, perhaps even less and then if you put a portable display on then I think it’s about .5 A for that guy so maybe 2 - 3 hours. But the one I recommend is on our store and I’ve linked it in the article there, its a USB power bank and it has a 10,000 mAh capacity, it’s awesome and it has 2 USB ports. The important thing is make sure it has a 2 A output otherwise your system isn’t going to get enough amps, not enough power.

All well and good, so you’ve got your Pi turned on but it does nothing - that’s because the operating system is all on the micro SD card. So I’ve got one here, it comes with very fancy black full size USB adaptor and pull it out and you get the micro SD card which goes into the micro SD card slot of your Raspberry Pi, goes in like that, you will need one of those. Now we’ve got them preloaded with RetroPie, they come preinstalled,oh sorry - preloaded with RetroPie with our Gaming Kits but if you already have one lying around there’s a link there where you can download the image and use windisc32 or another similar imaging tool to pop it onto a card, which is cool. Now you can power it up and you can see it on your screen - ooohhh I didn’t mention screen, we’ll get to that in a moment, never fear.  You can see it on your “hypothetical” screen but you’re going to need a controller, you’re going to need something to control it, to do something with otherwise it’s a very boring experience so I recommend our NES or SNES style USB gaming controllers. They are super cheap, they are pretty durable and really reliable bits of gear and you can pick up a handful of those and have friends around for a multi player gaming system. Or alternatively we have 8BitDo controllers, there’s one here, we just got these in - look at it (oooohhh) look at it! It’s a bluetooth 64 controller! We just got these into the warehouse this morning and I’m very very excited about that. Otherwise we’ve got a SNES style wireless controller - wireless bluetooth vintage gaming with no annoying cords or where you are sitting in front of the screen like this - it’s very very cool. Pick up one of those or you can also use a keyboard to play it as well and just map the different keys but you are going to need a controller.

Then next up as we alluded to before you need a screen. I’ve got myself one here, it’s just a standard old HDMI computer monitor. Nothing special but it works just fine. Any display with a HDMI port will work really really well. A TV, computer monitor, anything like that. You can also use a composite video display but I really don’t recommend it, it doesn’t give you a great output. Now some of the games yo might be playing were originally designed for composite video so you say, well why do I need HDMI anyway? Well that’s because the whole RetroPie operating system is designed to run with the HDMI output, everything looks fuzzy and awful and you’re not going to have a good time - you are NOT going to have a good time! Get a HDMI display - super super awesome.

Now as I was saying we can also create a portable gaming console (project coming soon) and you can use the official 7 inch Raspberry Pi touch screen which is really cool. You don’t specifically need the touch screen but you could map with a bit of a software hack, map some of the points on that screen to controls which is really cool. Otherwise it still makes for a great screen, you mount the Raspberry Pi on the back and you’ve got a really compact setup. There’s more about setting up that portable display in the Screens and Displays Tutorial for Raspberry Pi.  Last thing, not super necessary but the case, the case keeps your Raspberry Pi safe from knocks, accidental drops and all those other nasty things. It also protects your GPIO pins and makes sure your board doesn’t get accidentally fried or suffer static damage anti looks sweet. Also it allows you to put a fan or heatsinks for overclocking and things like that. But, that is all you need. Again, Gaming Kit, everything but the screen - it’s what you want.

So how do we set it up for the first time? Well we take our micro SD card and put it into your micro SD card slot like so, done. Now connect up your HDMI cable into your HDMI port, just there. Cool cool. Now attach a keyboard or gaming device, any of the USB ports will work just fine. Now you could also attach an ethernet cable if you wanted internet but bear in mind the Pi 3 has built in WiFi as well as Bluetooth so you can go into the RetroPie settings and configure WiFi as well, so not really necessary.

You’ve got your gaming controller now let’s attach some power! Take your micro USB cable and connect it up here, and you see the magical red light, can you see it very faintly just there, cool cool. The you’ll see everything - it boots up! RetroPie - you get the RetroPie splash screen which is really really cool and fun times are ahead. So that is all there is to it guys - it’s really simple to build your own Retro Gaming Console and now of course there is so much more to this that you can take. I’d love to see a really sweet enclosure, you know a custom built enclosure for this that houses everything together. As I said I might have a project up really soon for a portable console which will be fun, check that out. Otherwise post in the comments below your RetroPie set up, how you’re liking it - that’s all for now guys, it’s going to boot up into the best vintage gaming experience of your life - well - ok, I think it’s the best vintage gaming experience of your life!!! Check it out yourself and take a look at some of our more awesome RetroPie tutorials. See you guys :-) 

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