Build a simple & cheap arcade machine

I want another machine at my home which will be dedicated to games

These are my requirements
  • Many different games without the hassle of installing and setting them up (console emulator)
  • Cheap machine (console emulator, probably not one of the newer ones like ps2 and up)
  • Joysticks (several bucks at eBay)
  • Multiplayer support
  • Wireless controllers (so the kids won't damage the machine when they pull the controllers)
  • Nice launcher (So each game will be presented nicely)
  • Launcher could scrape online databases for the details on every game
  • Wifi support (optional, as I can connect to RJ45 once and get all of the scraping done)
  • HDMI output
  • Community support

After some digging I think I can get the best results with Android or Rspberry PI.

I think there is better support for the Raspberry machines, so I went on the Raspberry PI B+.

So I need the following: 
  • Buy Raspberry PI b+ with a simple case (latest version) (about 45$ with shipping etc)
  • OS (linux distribution customized for radpberry)
  • Buy Bluetooth dongle for the wireless controllers (1-2$)
  • Buy bluetooth gaming controllers (about 8$ each)
  • Buy Wifi dongle (optional) (1-2$)
  • Buy MicroSD card (on it I will install the OS) (10$ for the 16gb class 10)
  • Drivers for my wireless controllers
  • Emulators for the systems I want to emulate
  • FrontEnd for those emulators
After some digging I found that there are several compilations of OS + Drivers + Emulations + FrontEnd.

Some candidates are:
  • Chameleon (Wasn't updated in up to a year and was hacked when I looked at it)
  • PiPlay (which was PiMame) - This is a good candidate
  • RetroPie - Chosen candidate!

I chose RetroPie, as it is the most updated, most used and oldest one out there.

I download the latest RetroPie image file which I copy into the SD card - Thus I have an OS with ALL emulators installed with a very beautiful "emulationstation" front end which contains meta data and images scraper with a beautiful GUI.

That's it, so all you need is about 75$ + RetroPie and you are all set with a beautiful machine with wireless controllers and thousands of games .

(And of course download some ROMs for your emulator)

UPDATE (12/04/2015):

UPDATE (04/2016):

  • The latest Raspberry pie has internal support for wifi & bluetooth which means that I don't need to buy these two dongles and that these two usb ports remain open for other peripherals (hurray!), but more importantly, these two dongles were a lot of hassle in the past (installing drivers etc), so I really recommend buying the latest & greatest with these two internal chips already there.
  • More software is available for game OS competing RetroPie:
    • Lakka - Looks nice, should be very sophisticated but currently still has several bugs
    • Recalbox - Aims to be dead simple (simplified retropie), uses the same frontend (emulation station), looks like very good competition for retropie
  • RetroPie has a new home
  • I bought several different controllers for the different emulated systems (nes has less buttons than snes for example)
  • I suggest not copying roms of every system, just go with 2-3 good systems and enjoy them, I went with Nes, SNES & DosBox
  • I strongly suggest finding a USB cable with a switch button so you can easily turn your Raspberry on and off (because unfortunately the RP doesn't have such a switch !?)
  • You will want two usb controllers so you can play with a friend
  • The controllers you can buy are different as a NES controller for example has less buttons than a SNES controller, so buy controllers according to the systems you want to emulate
  • If you have 2 controllers, a keyboard and a mouse then all 4 USB slots are taken (you don't want an external USB hub for many reasons one of them is power consumption), so if you don't plan to emulate SCUMMVM then you might disconnect the keyboard & mouse
  • Consider not deploying a wireless wifi dongle which will reduce the hassle of configuring one and will release one USB slot and instead use a lan cable to do all the networking stuff (update the software, copy ROMS & scrape the data and is much faster than wifi) then disconnect it, the regular use of the Raspberry Pie doesn't need any networking.


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