Recently, the NES Classic made a big splash. The ability to play all your old favorites on a tiny device! However, it only plays NES games, and can fit upwards of 30 games maximum on it. We would all like the ability for a device like this to play our entire library of roms, including SNES and Sega!
Luckily, if you buy a Raspberry Pi, know a little bit about Linux, and can use Emulators and Roms, you can build a miniature SNES! That is what I’ve based my project on. Luckily for you, I knew nothing about Raspberry Pi, or linux when I first started this project, so this tutorial will cover the steps from the beginning. So let’s get started!
Noobs (New Out of Box Software)
An easy Operating System installer for the Raspberry Pi
NOOBS is designed to make it easy to select and install operating systems for the Raspberry Pi without having to worry about manually imaging your SD card.
NOOBS is available for download on the Raspberry Pi website: raspberrypi.org/downloads
When you first boot NOOBS will format your SD card and allow you to select which OSes you want to install from a list. This OS list is automatically generated from both locally available OSes (i.e. those contained in the
/os directory on disk) or those available from GitHub remote repository (network connection required).
The NOOBS user interface contains these functionalities:
- Install – Installs the selected OS onto your SD card. If you change this, it will erase all other OS installed.
- Edit Config – opens a cmd prompt that allows editing of the config file of the selected OS
- Language Selection – Allows you to select the language to be displayed
- Display Mode – By default, NOOBS will output over HDMI at your display’s preferred resolution, even if no HDMI display is connected. If you do not see any output on your HDMI display or are using the composite output, press 1, 2, 3 or 4 on your keyboard to select HDMI preferred mode, HDMI safe mode, composite PAL mode or composite NTSC mode respectively.
- Keyboard Layout Selection – Select keyboard layout to be used
- Online Help – (Network Required) Displays Raspberry Pi Help Page
- Exit – Quits NOOBS and reboots the Raspberry Pi into OS boot menu.
1. How to install NOOBS on an SD card
Once you’ve downloaded your copy of Noobs.zip, you will want to put the contents onto a formatted SD card. First, grab a blank SD card at least 8 GB, I used a 64 GB.
- MAKE SURE the SD Card is Formatted with FAT32. You can plug insert into your computer, check properties if you don’t know. If it is not formatted yet, you will need to format the SD card as FAT32. (*Note – 32GB + are formatted differently)
- Download and extract the files from the NOOBS zip file.
- Put a copy of the extracted files onto the formatted SD card. The file needs to be at the root directory of the SD card, not a subfolder. In the event that it does extract into a folder, copy the files a level up into the root directory.
- Upon first boot, the “RECOVERY” FAT partition will be automatically resized to a minimum, and a list of OSes that are available to install will be displayed.
Operating System Choice
NOOBS is available in 2 formats:
- NOOBS Full includes the installation files for Raspbian only.
- NOOBS-Lite does not include any Operating System at all.
OS Network Download
Both versions of NOOBS allow additional Operating Systems to be downloaded from our remote repository. To do this, the Raspberry Pi must be connected to a wired network, or it can connect over Wifi using the Raspberry Pi USB wifi dongle or the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B built-in wifi (which I have picked for the project).
How to Format an SD Card as FAT
Note: If you’re formatting an SD (or micro SD) card that has a capacity over 32GB (i.e. 64GB and above), then see the separate SDXC formatting instructions.
This will tell you “According to the SD specifications, any SD card larger than 32GB is an SDXC card and has to be formatted with the exFAT filesystem. This means the official SD Formatter tool will always format cards that are 64GB or larger as exFAT.”
To format exFAT into FAT32, quickly and easily, take note here. I have searched multiple forums for you, and found a tool that pops up again and again and again. http://www.ridgecrop.demon.co.uk/index.htm?guiformat.htm – I did several search engine searches to make sure the forums I was currently on were not betraying me, this pops up over and over in multiple forums as THE ANSWER to format 64GB exFAT drives into a more useable FAT32.
We tested it out, and in a matter of seconds it had formatted successfully. We were also able to launch Noobs and Raspbian from our Raspberry Pi on a 64GB Sandisk Drive. Both programs require instances of FAT32 to function properly.
As a Windows user, we recommend formatting your SD card using the SD Association’s Formatting Tool, which can be downloaded from sdcard.org. You will need to set “FORMAT SIZE A DJUSTMENT” option to “On” in the “Options” menu to make sure SD card entire volume is formatted. Instructions for using the tool are available on the same site.
The SD Association’s Formatting Tool is also available for Mac users, although the default OS X Disk Utility is also capable of formatting the entire disk. Which can be done by selecting the SD card volume and choose
What’s inside the NOOBS download
- Raspbian with Pixels
- As of a few years ago, this is the only software available on NOOBS.
1) How to Install Raspbian directly to Raspberry Pi
If you want to skip Noobs altogether, you have that option. This method is just as easy if you are familiar with command prompt. You can download a fresh Raspbian Image from here. The Raspbian image can be installed the same way as the RetroPie image (as described here).
Raspbian now automatically expands the filesystem so that step is no longer necessary.
You can check your free disk space with
/dev/root is your main partition. Then, I would recommend to update and upgrade the existing APT packages with
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade
Verify Locale Settings
Most of the install scripts will attempt to install a variety of packages and libraries that each emulator requires. These installations will fail if your system locale settings are invalid. You can easily verify this by executing
locale command. A valid locale will return values set for all options.
If any of the above configuration lines are unset (particularly LANG, LANGUAGE, and LC_ALL), you should set them before installing RetroPie. The easiest way to set each item is to use the
update-locale command, such as
$ sudo update-locale LC_ALL="en_US.UTF-8".
Users can also set the local through the
A reboot is required before these changes will be reflected by the
2. Install RetroPie
What is RetroPie?
To turn our Raspberry Pi into a true console, we need RetroPie. This is a software built for Raspberry Pi, that powers our mini SNES. RetroPie contains a bunch of emulators to play old games from an array of systems, including the NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, Sega Genesis, TurboGrafx-16, GameBoy, and many more.
There are two ways, manually using command or on an SD card. I chose manual, but will put both here.
Install RetroPie Manually
After that, we install the needed packages for the RetroPie setup script:
sudo apt-get install git lsb-release
Then we download the latest RetroPie setup script with
cd git clone --depth=1 https://github.com/RetroPie/RetroPie-Setup.git
The script is executed with
cd RetroPie-Setup chmod +x retropie_setup.sh sudo ./retropie_setup.sh
The screen should look like this then:
Install RetroPie from image on MicroSD card
To get this up and running, you will need to install RetroPie to the Micro SD card. If this seems too difficult, please install manually.
!Important – When you format a MicroSD card that already has data on it, you are essentially wiping it clean.
- Visit This page for the latest links to the latest versions to download the image of RetroPie. If you’re using an older Raspberry Pi, you select the Raspberry Pi 0/1. If you’re using a Raspberry Pi 3 like we are, select the download for Raspberry Pi 2/3.
- Download the file locally, and extract the image. If you’re on Windows, a program like winzip, or 7-Zip might be needed. If you’re a Mac user, the built-in Archive Utility will do the job just fine.
- Now you need to install that image (which is about 2GB) onto your microSD card. If you’re using Windows, use the Win32DiskImager to install the image on your micro SD card. Mac users can use an app called Apple Pi Baker.
- Grab that micro SD card and toss it in the Raspberry Pi!