How to Install RetroPie on Raspberry Pi

RetroPie allows you to turn your Raspberry Pi, ODroid C1/C2, or PC into a retro-gaming machine. It builds upon Raspbian, EmulationStation, RetroArch, and many other projects to enable you to play your favorite Arcade, home console, and classic PC games with the minimum set-up. In this article, you will learn how to install RetroPie on Raspberry Pi step by step.

What you’ll need

To complete this Raspberry Pi project, you’ll need:

  • Raspberry Pi 4 (it should work with Raspberry Pi 3, too)
  • SD card containing the Raspbian system image
  • Raspberry Pi-compatible power cable
  • Micro HDMI cable
  • External monitor
  • External keyboard and mouse and a way to attach them to your Raspberry Pi
  • Gaming controller is recommended but not necessary

How to install Raspberry Pi Imager

To install RetroPie we will use Raspberry Pi Imager is free to install from the official Raspberry Pi website. It’s available for macOS, Windows, and Ubuntu systems.

  1. Visit the Raspberry Pi download page.
  2. Download the Raspberry Pi Imager installer for your Operating System.
  3. Run the installer and follow the prompts to complete the setup.
Raspberry Pi Imager

Also See: How to Setup Raspberry Pi Remote Desktop

Write a Raspberry Pi Imager built-in image

We will use Raspberry Pi Imager to write RetroPie images to SD cards. Raspberry Pi Imager comes with a few operating systems to choose from, so you don’t have to download anything separately.

  1. Launch Raspberry Pi Imager.
  2. Click Choose OS. The feature somewhat replaces NOOBS, providing a couple of basic operating systems like Raspberry Pi OS.
  3. Select Emulation and game OS > RetroPie from the list.
  4. Click Choose SD card.
  5. Select from the list the SD card you want to write to.
  6. Click Write to begin the image writing process.
RetroPie OS

Wait while the RetroPie data is written to the SD card and verified, then click OK. Eject the SD card, and insert it into your powered-off Raspberry Pi. Connect the power cable and wait as the computer boots the RetroPie.

RetroPie: Configure Controllers

RetroPie: Configure Controllers
  • Now RetroPie will ask you to plug in the game controller
  • Hold down any button on your controller or keyboard until RetroPie detects it
  • Follow the onscreen instructions to configure your gamepad to configure all the controller keys
  • If you have a basic controller, without all keys, let one key pressed for a few seconds until the wizard move to the next one
  • Once all the keys are configured, click OK
RetroPie EmulationStation

Also See: How to Install Docker on Raspberry Pi

RetroPie: Hotkeys

The Hotkey Enable button enables you to press it in combination with another button to access functions such as saving states, loading states, opening the RetroArch GUI (RGUI), and exiting back to EmulationStation.

Note Hotkeys are specific to the RetroArch/Libretro based emulators and may not work on other emulators.

Hotkey CombinationAction
Hotkey+Right ShoulderSave
Hotkey+Left ShoulderLoad
Hotkey+RightInput State Slot Increase
Hotkey+LeftInput State Slot Decrease
Hotkey+XRGUI Menu

For more information, see Hotkeys

Transferring ROMs to RetroPie

You will not see any game systems (NES, n64, Playstation, etc) on the system list until you add ROMs, here is how to add ROMs in RetroPie

  1. Ensure that the USB stick is formatted to FAT32 or exFAT, and that the SD card has enough free space to hold all ROMs
  2. Create a folder called retropie on the USB stick
  3. Plug it into the RetroPie system. If the USB stick has an activity light, wait for it to finish blinking, else wait a few minutes
  4. Remove the USB stick and plug it into the computer containing the ROMs
  5. Add the ROMs to the USB stick inside their respective folders within the retropie/roms/$CONSOLE folder, where $CONSOLE is the name of the target console, e.g. snes or arcade.
  6. Plug it back into the RetroPie system. If the USB stick has an activity light, wait for it to finish blinking, else wait (with many GBs of ROMs, wait several hours)
  7. Remove the USB stick. The ROMs have now been transferred from the USB to the RetroPie system’s SD card
  8. Refresh the game listing in EmulationStation by pressing F4, or press Start on your controller > Quit > Restart EmulationStation
  9. The transferred games should now be visible within EmulationStation. If any are missing, return to step 6

Also See: How to Install Portainer on Raspberry Pi


In general RetroPie, audio will work out-of-the-box without any tweaking if using HDMI, but if you have audio issues you should follow the instructions on the Sound Issues Page to fix them. You will most likely need to visit this page if you are using a USB audio device, or if you are using an aftermarket RPi HAT add-on audio device (such as a Justboom sound card).


After you’ve transferred your ROMs, you need to restart EmulationStation in order for them to show up. You can restart EmulationStation by pressing Start > Quit > Restart EmulationStation, or with SSH access by rebooting your pi with sudo reboot. Once rebooted, you should see the game systems appear on the system list.

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