The Best RetroPie Build Ever!

The Best RetroPie Build Ever!

Missed out on the SNES Mini preorder? Here’s a walkthrough to make the best RetroPie build.

Okay, obviously that is a subjective statement. There are thousands of different options available to those wanting an all inclusive retro gaming system. From full blown arcade cabinets powered by gaming PCs running “Hyperspin”, to tiny adorable Raspberry Pis running RetroPie. Here I will show you my current build, which I believe delivers the best of both worlds.

What you will get. For around $90 you will have a cool case resembling the officially released NES Mini, supporting bluetooth controllers, running on the strongest overclocked Raspberry Pi (Model 3B), with thousands of built in games from every retro console & arcade, running on one of the best RetroPie custom skins available for Project Hyperpie. (As seen in the video below).

This is not the fastest, cheapest, or the easiest RetroPie build, but it is the coolest. So follow along with as we build an awesome RetroPie the GFU Way!

STEP 1) ASSEMBLE THE HARDWARE:

  1. The Case

We will be using the RetroFlag NESPi case as seen here – http://retroflag.com/

I went with this case for a number of advantages over other Pi cases, mainly that its friggin’ sweet lookin’. But also it features a working Power/Reset button, a working flap that houses extra USB and ethernet ports, a built-in place for a CPU fan (Which will be essential as we are overclocking this Pi for max performance), and hidden compartment for additional SD cards if you would like to have additional images available.

The case can be somewhat difficult to find. At the time of this writing, it is available on Amazon, eBay, or (most cheaply if ordering in bulk) Alibaba. Just do a search for “Retroflag NESpi” on any of those sites and one should turn up.

I personally went in with some friends and ordered through Alibaba.com to get the price down to about $12/unit.

  1. The Raspberry Pi

Your Raspberry Pi is your computer and therefore you will want the most powerful version available. At the time of this writing. That would be the Raspberry Pi Model 3-B (Make sure you get the “B” version with bluetooth support). Specs are shown as 1.2GHz (Overclocked will be around 1.35GHz), 64-bit quad-core ARMv8 CPU, & 1GB RAM. If a higher output model becomes available go with that version.

Cana Kit makes various packages that I recommend which bundle a 2.5v power supply and heat sinks. Since this build is based on overclocking you will definitely want the heatsinks and the sufficient power supply. You can pick up a kit on Amazon for around  $43 https://www.amazon.com/CanaKit-Raspberry-Micro-Supply-Listed/dp/B01C6FFNY4/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1504563640&sr=8-4&keywords=raspberry+pi

  1. The Heat Sink & Fans

To get the most out of your RetroPie, to run later console emulators such as PS1, N64, & DreamCast you will want to overclock your CPU. Overclocking requires additional cooling. I am happy to report with the addition of $4 worth of heatsinks and a fan I have been overclocking and can play most ROMs with no issues.

My heatsinks for both the CPU & GPU both came with the Cana Kit that I attached above. The CPU fan which will snap perfectly into you NESPi case should be 30mm x 30mm x 10mm. I used this one from Amazon and its working fine for me – https://www.amazon.com/TOOGOO-3010S-0-06A-Brushless-Cooling/dp/B008P72JWM/ref=sr_1_5?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1504564027&sr=1-5&keywords=cpu+fan+30mm+x+30mm+x+10mm

  1. SD Card

You will need a minimum 128GB SD Card. Your SD card will hold everything so you will want a quality one.

There is a risk here, as the Hyperpie image we will be flashing are all around 128GB in size, but a 128GB out of the box will only ACTUALLY have around 119GB (Too small). To fix this we will need to reformat every last bit out of that SD card and you want one that can get as close to an actual 128GB as possible. This is not the place to go cheap. In fact, if I did this again I would probably just go for the 200GB model to make room for additional PS1 & N64 games which are larger files.

In watching a YouTube video from the Arcade Punks channel, they said they tried several and had good luck with the ScanDisk Ultra 128GB MicroSD which comes with an adapter. This is the one I used as well and happy to report it worked just fine. Found here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B010Q57S62/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o04_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

  1. Controller

You have several options here. There are several USB ports on board the NESPi case, but to get the most out of your system I would recommend a bluetooth controller. I personally am a huge fan of the assortment of retro bluetooth controller at 8bitDo (http://www.8bitdo.com/ ). I am using the NES30 Pro model pictured and would highly recommend it, but plan on adding another $45 to the initial quoted cost of this project. Be forewarned however, these controllers can be tricky to set up initially, but I have attached a video below when we get to that stage.

On the cheaper end, I have heard that the Buffalo Classic USB controller is pretty good and sets up easy out of the box for around $15. But lacks joy pads. Available on Amazon.

You can also re-use your PS4 or Xbox One controller and save some money if you like. Just make sure you have a USB controller handy.

STEP 2) Put It All Together!:

  1. When all the Hardware has arrived in the mail this is what you should see in front of you……next to my Awesome Mix Vol.1 Cassette for scale……and inspirational music. 
  2. A quick tour around your sexy new case. The front features functioning Power & Rest Buttons with 2 USB ports where the controller jacks would be. If you flip up the functioning lid you find 2 more USB ports for flash drives etc., and an Ethernet port for transferring ROM files or faster video streaming with Kodi, which you will have. 
  3. Around the back you have your power supply, audio out, and HDMI ports. 
  4. On the right side you have your SD card slot. This is a friction based slot, no spring, so you may want a pair of tweezers handy when you need to pull it out. 
  5. Underneath your have a hidden compartment for additional SD cards, in case you want to make a back-up or try different RetroPie images…. or anything tiny really. 
  6. Crack that bad boy open and you will see where the Raspberry Pi fits and all the connections. The case comes with screws and instructions so its a breeze. Just attach the wires before screwing the Pi board down and be gentle with the wiring. 
  7. On the inside top of the case you will see a built in slot to snap in your CPU fan. No screws needed. The slot accommodates a 30mm x 30mm x 10mm fan size. 
  8. Snap your CPU fan into place. To plug it in, you will see a designated 2-pin connection on the front facing board of the NESPi case labeled “CPU Fan” simply connect there as indicated and you are good to go. 
  9. Apply your heatsinks to the CPU and GPU of the Raspberry Pi. The Cana Kit comes with self-adhesive heatsinks so just peel and stick. 
  10. Now simply screw the Raspberry Pi into the NESPi case with the provided screws (be sure to connect the wires first). With all the hardware assembled we are ready to go to our computers and get our Hyperpie software onto the SD card. 

STEP 3) ASSEMBLE THE SOFTWARE:

Here is a list of all the free software you will need to download Hyperpie from ArcadePunks.com and flash the image to your SD card. After this you simply pop the SD card into your Raspberry Pi and turn the power on. It should boot right up loaded with thousands of games.

Software Needed:

  • Hyperpie Image – This is a pre-configured custom version of RetroPie by YouTuber “Mad Little Pixel” preloaded thousands of games and a custom “Attract Mode” interface, wheels, and music which brings the beloved MAME Arcade’s “Hyperspin” aesthetic into a smaller Raspberry Pi compatible format. This will have all of your ROMs and emulators included. For a tour of what this looks like see the video at the top of the page. Currently the only place to download this image is from the Arcade Gurus over at http://www.arcadepunks.com/.

  • An SD Card Formatter – Your 128GB SD card will come out of the box with an actual 119GB of space thanks to bloatware. Since that will not fit the 128GB Hyperpie image we will have to use an SD Card formatter to bring it back to it’s full capacity.

You can try the standard SD Card Formatter from the SD Association here. However, reports are it does not work for cards above 32GB and indeed did not work for me. https://www.sdcard.org/downloads/formatter_4/

I would recommend instead GUI FAT32 Formatter for larger than 32GB cards. This one worked for me – http://www.ridgecrop.demon.co.uk/index.htm?guiformat.htm

  • MegaDownloader – This software (Unfortunately) is the only software Arcade Punks uses to downloaded pre-configured Hyperpie images from their website and so will be needed.  – https://megadownloader.en.softonic.com/

STEP 4) INSTALL HYPERPIE:

Now that you have everything you need, lets go ahead and download and install Hyperpie. I went ahead and attached YouTube tutorial videos I used to further explain how to complete these steps.

  1. Open a Google Chrome browser and navigate to Arcade Punks website at http://www.arcadepunks.com/retro-pi-downloads-page/ .
  2. Follow this helpful guide for obtaining the Hyperpie image using Arcade Punks and MegaDownloader – https://gameroomsolutions.com/hyperpie-setup/ .
  3. Scroll down and select the “128GB HyperPie Image v4.2” by “Mad Little Pixel”.
  4. You will see it broken into 3 parts, plus a few .Rar patches (rar140, 141, & 42) you will need to download all these.

  1. When you click these you will see an ad, and then be prompted to downloaded the “MegaDownloader” Software mentioned above.
  2. When downloading with MegaDownloader.  There are many upset users complaining that they have put bandwidth limits on their downloads recently. Which means you should either plan on spending a few days downloaded the 128GB of compressed data, OR try circumventing the limits by using a VPN service, OR bite the bullet and pay the $5 (Like I did) for unlimited downloads. Also at the time of this writing the desktop Download Manager was not working for me so I ditched it and used the Web client with little issues. It still took a full day to download all the files for me.
  3. Using MegaDownloader you can either paste the URL into the Desktop client pictured below, or manually download each of the 140ish .rar files manually through the web portal.

  1. While you are waiting, lets go ahead and format your SD card. Simply insert it into your laptop, fire up the GUI software and follow the steps in this video. This video by YouTuber “ETA Prime” is a great walkthrough for Formatting SD Cards and Flashing the finished image to the new SD. (This video is installing “RetroPie” instead of “Hyperpie” but the basic principles are the same.) BE SURE TO SELECT THE CORRECT DRIVE CONTAINING YOUR SD CARD, DO NOT FORMAT YOUR HARD DRIVE BY MISTAKE.

  1. Many hours later when you have all the 140 plus .rar files downloaded, you will need to use your WinRar software to unzip the files. Take a moment to look over all your file numbers and make sure they are sequential and you aren’t missing any. Also make sure all files are around 700mb, none should be 0mb, if so you need to download the patched file or re download. The unzipping process can take an hour so you wont want to start over.
  2. Now simply right-click your first zipped file and select “Extract To” then select an area that has room for adding 128GB (personally I had to extract onto an external hard drive plugged into my laptop).
  3. During extraction, it may periodically pause and prompt you to select the next file in line. It will tell you which file its looking for so simply browse to that file.
  4. You should now see a Disk Image file in the folder that you selected.
  5. Now it’s time to flash your Hyperpie image to your freshly formatted SD card.
  6. Insert your SD Card into your computer.
  7. Boot up Win32 Disk Imager and follow the steps in ETA Prime’s video above at the 5:00 minute mark. The whole process should take about 30-45 minutes. BE SURE TO SELECT THE CORRECT DRIVES CONTAINING YOUR SD CARD TO WRITE TO.
  8. That’s it!!! You are now Ready to take your SD, stick it in your Raspberry Pi, and hit the power button. If all these steps were followed it should boot right up into RetroPie.

STEP 5) BOOT UP AND CONFIGURE:

  1. On initial boot up you should have a controller or keyboard physically connected via USB because you haven’t set up your bluetooth yet.
  2. You will get the following controller config menu. Just follow the prompts and map your buttons.

  1. You will then boot into the base RetroPie software menu. It should look like this on the homepage.

  1. Navigate to the “RetroPie” tab and go into the options menu pictured. You will need to navigate to the “Attract Mode” and hit select. This will reboot your Pi and upon boot up it will instead enter into “HyperSpin” Attract mode. It will now boot into this automatically every time until you change the setting.

  1. When it restarts you should now see your beautiful Hyperspin interface with wheels and music. As seen in the video at the top.

  1. It’s now time to flip through your emulators and ROMs. Make sure everything is working properly and music plays. Good? Great! You’re welcome!

Take note of the load speeds and issues and lag times. Don’t worry, we will take care of that in section 7.

STEP 6) ADD YOUR BLUETOOTH CONTROLLER:

  1. If you have a bluetooth controller head to the options menu and go through the menu prompts.
  2. If you need help or have one of those tricky, but beautiful, 8bitDo bluetooth controllers that I mentioned, use this video tutorial. Mine took a lot of trial and error but it is oh so worth it.

STEP 7) OVERCLOCK THAT BAD BOY:

  1. WARNING! OVERCLOCKING WILL VOID WARRANTIES AND INCREASE RISK OF DAMAGE TO MOTHERBOARDS OR FIRES IF NOT MONITORED.
  2. As mentioned from the beginning you may notice a slight lag flipping through the wheels and running N64 or PS1 games etc. Good thing you paid an extra $4 for those fans and heat sinks right?!?
  3. Rather than try to walk you through the overclock myself I will simply refer you to the man himself, “Mad Little Pixel” who created this Hyperspin image. A great thanks to him and his YouTube channel for making this possible, if you feel so inclined please drop him a donation to him through his channel. The process is super easy and took me all of 2 minutes. And takes care of that pesky ½ second lag in the menus for me.
  4. This process should take your processor from 1.2GHz to approximately 1.35GHz.
  5. Having run mine overclocked with heatsinks and fan for a few weeks now, I have experience no issues and CPU temperature is around 55 degrees C.

STEP 8) ENJOY!!:

That’s it folks!! Your now set for retro video games for life! And have something way better than that overpriced NES Classic Mini going for hundreds on eBay!

Now you can go tell all your friends that your Raspberry Pi is better than theirs because you did things the Geek Force Ultra way!

Cheers!

DEFINITIONS:

Cana Kit – A Raspberry Pie bundle with assorted accessories usually for a better price.

ROM – A file containing a single game in Read Only Memory

Emulator – A piece of software that emulates the program of an original console such as a Sega or Super Nintendo.

VPN – Virtual Private Network that allows secure connection between larger networks.

Overclock – Reconfiguring your CPU’s processing speed from manufacturer settings to improve speed and performance, usually at the cost of heat output and voiding warranties.

SD Card – Secure Digital Card, used for memory storage found in small electronics like cell phones and cameras.

CPU – Central Processing Unit, is the central processor or brains of a computer.

GPU – Graphics Processing Unit, is the main component responsible for rendering images, animations, and videos.

Raspberry Pi – A low cost, credit card sized computer mainly designed as an inexpensive educational tool to learn programing skills.

RetroPie – An platform developed for Raspberry Pi to support Emulators and retro gaming.

Emulation Station – Graphical font-end of RetroPie. Contains game launchers, box art, and controller support.

HyperPie – Specific Attract mode developed by Project HyperPie to run on the RetroPie Platform.

Image – An exact replica of the contents, configurations, and storage of a device.

Flashing – Installing an operating system or application onto memory storage.

Reformat – Completely erasing the hard drive of a device and reinstalling the base operating system.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Hi this is awesome but do you have instructions on how to do all the steps mentioned using a Mac? Cheers Darren

  2. Thanks for the comment Darren. Unfortunatley I haven’t done this on a Mac myself, but most of the downloads listed also have both Mac/PC/Linux options.

    If not it shouldnt be too difficult to find comparable MAC versions of software needed. Other than that all the steps should be the same.

    Thanks

  3. Can someone really give me a sensible explanation why 128gb retropie image makers had to use every bit of the space to the point that many times 128gb sd card is not enough? Why can’t they leave like 10gb space to breathe?

    1. I know, I have had the same thought Hakkan. My guess is that because these images start at the 250G SD version, and then they have to start deciding what great games to delete to squeeze them into the smaller and smaller SD card packages. Your instinct is probably to leave in as many goodies as possible.

    2. Its because the iso image is an exact copy of every byte of the sd card. Even if the card is 10 gigs of nothing… that nothing is recorded in the iso as required space. So you want to look for the words “shrunk” so those 10 gigs of nothing have been removed.

  4. I really appreciate and admire your work. Thank you.

    1. Thanks for stopping by. Cheers.
      Share with your friends if you like, helps us get noticed.

  5. Hi, I just can’t get my image of HyperPie to run 🙁 I’ve tried several different images on a couple of 128 gb Samsung Pro Micro SDXC UHS-I cards (class10). I used fat32 to format the cards, but nothing. I also have a different image (32gb image) I run on a Sandisk 32 gb microsdxc card and that one works. If I copy the boot from the sandisk to the samsung card something happens but it just doesn’t boot into retropie/ES. What am I missing?

    1. That is Weird Dennis. I have repeated this build several times as gifts and works every time. When you say, “several different images” have you tried the reference MLP image included? Other than that it will just be trouble shooting. Does it boot into something other than ES? Could it possibly a Pi hardware defect? Maybe try a different formater and see if that works for you. Are you seeing that the image has completely been burned to the SD? Check the file size once complete. Are you on MAC or PC? You sitch does sound interesting. If you find a solution drop in the thread for others who may experience the same issue.

  6. Hi, thanks for the reply. I tried the MLP image, the Crisp image and a 128 gb Hyperpie image I downloaded from Arcadepunks. I formatted the card first with SDformatter and then with GUI fat32 and then wrote the image to SD with Diskimager. When the process is completed the sd card has been split up into 2 partitions. When i insert the SD card in my Pi3 nothing happens. It doesn’t boot, just a black screen. It isn’t a hardwaredefect because I tried the image also on my Mediapi. I do have a 32 gb. image that does work (it is written on a 32 gb card). I am using a PC. I’m in the process of writing an image. If this doesn’t work, I’m going to check if the SD cards are proper (or fake ) and after that, I’m going to try a smaller (32 gb. image). Are there any settings in cmdline file/config file in the bootsector that can be changed?

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