13 Tips About Retropie That Will Impress Your Friends

Here we go again to another tutorial on Retropie
But this time I want to give you 13 tips to improve your experience with Retropie
You can follow these tips just after the installation to immediately enjoy new features in your Retropie setup

What are these 13 tips about Retropie?
I will come with the list right away, but here is what you can expect from reading this article
You’ll learn how to improve your Retropie installation with extra tips for security, appearance or gaming comfort
For example, I’ll show you how to use an external hard drive and how to replace the default menu theme

But for now, let’s get started with the first Retropie tips of this list

1 – Change the Retropie theme

The first thing you can do is to change the default theme and use the one you prefer
For example, if you use Retropie in an arcade box, you probably look for an old theme

Let’s see how to do this:

  • Go into the Retropie configuration menu, and choose “ES Themes”
    retropie es themes menu
  • In the next window, you’ll get a list of all available themes
    Select the one you want to install, you can check the themes illustrations here
  • For the example, I’ll try the Retropie/turtle-pi one
  • Click on it to install
    install a new theme on retropie
  • Exit the Retropie configuration menu and get back to the home screen
  • From there, open the Main Menu (Start key probably)
  • Go into “UI Settings” and scroll down to “Theme Set”
  • Select your new theme in the list and exit the menu
  • That’s it, you now have the theme you chose by default
turtle pi theme on retropie
The Turtle Pi theme

If you have any issue while enabling the theme, for example if you don’t get it in the theme list, try to restart Emulstation to apply changes (Main Menu > Quit > Restart Emulstation)

2 – Use the Retropie web manager

Even if you can use the network share or the SSH access to upload new ROMs on Retropie, there is a better option : the Retropie Web Manager
It allows you to get a web interface to see everything about your ROMs, BIOS and system status in general

You can install it from the Retropie setup :

  • Go to the Retropie configuration menu, and click on “Retropie Setup”
  • Then choose “Manage packages” and “Manage experimental packages”
  • Scroll down to retropie-manager (near the end of the list) and click on it
    install retropie manager
  • Choose “Install from source” in the next window
  • Wait a few seconds for the Retropie script to install the package
  • Then exit the Retropie setup menus

Retropie manager is now installed, but you need to start the service before using it

  • Go back to the Retropie Setup section
  • Select Configuration/tools
  • Then Retropie Manager, you’ll get a menu like this:
    retropie manager start on boot
  • Click on 1 and 3 : “Start Retropie-Manager now” and “Enable Retropie-Manager on Boot”

That’s it, Retropie manager is now available at http://IP_ADDRESS:8000

If you don’t know the Raspberry Pi IP Address, you can get it in the Retropie Configuration > Show IP

I cover the web manager usage in detail on my Beginner’s guide for Retropie

3 – Play on Raspberry Pi 3B+

My next tip is a short one, concerning your hardware
Even if Retropie can run on any Raspberry Pi model (I read somewhere that the Raspberry Pi 1 had the same power as the old SNES), I highly recommend using a Raspberry Pi 3B+ for Retropie

I’m not saying you should buy a Raspberry Pi 3B+ right now if you don’t have one yet
But once you tried Retropie on your current device, please consider upgrading to a Raspberry Pi 3B+ if you want to continue using Retropie regularly

raspberry pi 3B+

We are talking on this list on how to get the best experience with Retropie, and the easiest way is to start with the best Raspberry Pi available
This way, you’ll get better performances, lower response time and no lag in games

A Raspberry Pi at $35 will be highly gainful if you intend to play regularly on Retropie
You can check my recommended products page to get the best products available right now

For a specific Retropie usage, I recommend finding a complete kit with all the basics, including controllers.
I really like this one for example (check the price directly on Amazon), also including a retro gaming case and two SNES controllers
With it, you’ll really impress your friends, like the title says ^^

4 – Mount an external USB drive

The SD card limitations

As you probably know, there are two main issues when using Retropie on a Raspberry Pi:

  • The SD card storage size is not unlimited. You probably have something between 16 and 64G
    Depending on what kind of ROMs you want to use, this can be quickly full (ROMs for the latest platforms can weight over 500M, so 32 ROMs like this and your 16G SD card is full)
  • The second issue is the SD card lifetime. They are not known to work for years with an intense usage, so you may lose everything if your SD card die

We will talk about backups in a next tip, but for the moment I want to show you how to use a USB device to store your ROMs on it
In fact, this is the best option to avoid both issues listed above

Yes, if you need more storage, you can find big and cheap SD cards for Retropie, like this giant and fast SD card. With a storage like this, you can keep anything you want (games, screenshots, videos, etc.). Also, it’s one of the fastest models from my SD card benchmark, so space and speed are not incompatible 🙂

If you want to be more safe with your storage, another option is to store your ROMs on a USB device (or at least do a regular backup on it).
If you don’t have one yet, you can find several disks that are good value for money. Personally, I have this one on Amazon.

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Mount a USB drive on Retropie

OK, so once you get the perfect USB device, plug it on your computer and format it in FAT32
On Windows, open the file explorer, right click on the device drive and choose “Format”
Make sure to select “FAT32” for the file format and click on “Start”

Unplug the USB device, and plug it on your Raspberry Pi
Then follow this procedure to use the drive for ROMs storage:

  • Enable SSH :
    • Got to Raspi-config in the Retropie configuration menu
    • Then click on “Interfacing options” and finally on “SSH”
    • Answer “Yes” to enable the SSH server
    • You can now connect to your Raspberry Pi using SSH
    • Default login is pi, default password is raspberry
  • In command line, use the df command
    retropie df
  • For me, my USB key was automatically mounted under /media/usb0 (last line)
  • Move to this folder
    cd /media/usb0
  • Move the SD card folder tree on it (if you already have ROMs on the SD card it’s OK)
    sudo mv /home/pi/RetroPie/ ./
  • Delete the original folder if needed and replace it with a symbolic link to the USB drive
    cd /home/pi
    rm -rf RetroPie
    ln -s /media/usb0/RetroPie RetroPie
  • You can now upload new games as usual (with share, web manager or scp)

That’s it, you have now a lot more space and have your games secured, even if the SD card crashes

5 – Use a game scraper

You probably already saw this option in the Retropie main menu: “Scraper”
The goal of this tool is to download a thumbnail for each game you have on your system

But unfortunately, the default one never works, no matter which game (I think the website is down)
To fix this, follow this procedure:

  • Go to Retropie configuration > Retropie Setup
  • Click on “Manage optional packages” and scroll to the bottom
  • Click on “scraper” (the last one) to install it from source
  • Then you need to stop Emulstation to configure it
    • Open the main menu (press Start)
    • Choose Quit and Quit Emulstation
    • You are now in a terminal and can follow the next steps
  •  Open the setup script from here
    cd Retropie-Setup
    sudo ./retropie_setup.sh
  • Go to Configuration / tools and click on scraper
  • From here you can configure scraper as you want (scrape all now, configure sources, enable videos, configure the image size, …)
    retropie scraper configuration
  • For now, you can keep the default values, except for the console sources where you need to select something else (ScreenScraper for example)
    Just click on “Scrape all systems”
  • Finally, start EmulStation or reboot the Raspberry Pi and go back to your games list to see the new thumbnails

If you have any issue with this, try to update your system and then test other images sources

6 – Create backups

Here is a security tip if you want to keep you Retropie games safe
If you already followed my advice to use an external hard drive, that’s great, you’ll avoid most of the issues

But that’s not enough
On the hard drive you don’t have everything, and if you don’t use a hard drive your system is at risk

My advice to create backups is to make an entire image of your system

  • Install Win32DiskImager (or a similar tool for non-Windows users)
  • Insert your SD card in your computer and select the corresponding device in the list
  • Choose a file name and folder to save the image
  • Finally, click on “Read” to start the image creation

This way you can flash another SD card if needed
It will have the exact same configuration and data from this image

This is the only way to be safe with an SD card

If you use an external hard drive, you can copy files from the disk to another one
But I highly recommend cloning the whole system like this

7 – Get 2 SD cards

This tip is the continuation of the previous one
Once you create the image of your Retropie SD card, you can flash it on another SD card

Firstly, it’s always a good idea to check that your backup is really working
But most of all, it allows you to use the second one for test purposes

What I recommend is to install Retropie, configure it as far as you want and install some games (less than 10 to start)
Then clone this SD card to another and identify one for “production” and the other for tests

If you want to try something, do it first on the test SD card
If it’s working correctly and doesn’t break anything, you can do it now on the “production” card

This way you’ll never break your main SD card and this can save you a lot of time if you are using Retropie in the long term

Don’t forget to use two SD cards with the same size, you can’t create an image of a 64 GB SD card to a 32 GB one
For example, you can find the best deals currently on my resources page

8 – Access the Linux command line

You probably already noticed it, if you followed all the previous tips, but there is a hidden way to access the Retropie command line

  • From the Retropie home menu, press Start to open the Main menu
  • Scroll down to “Quit” and then click on “Quit Emulstation”
  • The graphical interface will stop and give you access to the command line interface
    retropie command line

From here, you can use most of the Linux/Raspbian commands
But RetroPie is not Raspbian, so you can notice some small changes or missing commands/dependencies

9 – Autosave on exit

With old games, it’s not always possible to save when you want
At this time, it was the classic way to manage save games
You may need to achieve a checkpoint or finish a level before saving

But RetroPie added a “cheat feature” to save the game automatically on exit
You just need to enable it in the configuration file

The easiest way to do this is to use the web manager:

  • Go in the Retropie web interface (http://IP:8000)
  • Click on Config > RetroArch
    retroarch configuration file
  • Find savestate_auto_save and savestate_auto_load
  • Comment out both lines (remove the #)

Reboot your system to apply changes

If you don’t have the web manager, you can edit this file from the command line

sudo nano /opt/retropie/configs/all/retroarch.cfg

10 – Enable achievements

Another cool thing you can do on RetroPie is to enable the achievements from the original games
RetroAchievements is a website that centralize all achievements for a lot of games, you can connect to this database from RetroPie

  • Create an account on RetroAchievements
    retroachievement login
  • In the same file as in the previous tips (retroarch.cfg), add the following lines:
    cheevos_username = USERNAME
    cheevos_password = PASSWORD
    cheevos_enable = true
  • This will enable achievements after the next reboot

11 – Use the original controllers

Here is another hardware tip that will improve your game play and impress your friends too 🙂

I highly recommend to use original controllers when you play retro games
Playing Mario 64 without a N64 controller is horrible
Yes, SNES controllers are cool, but not for N64 or PSX games, where you absolutely need to control camera and direction at the same time for most of the games

retropie nintendo 64 controller

If you have a PS3/PS4 controller, it should be OK if you configure it well.
You can also buy it separately directly on Amazon. A PS4 controller is the ultimate controller for retro gaming, with all the required keys to play on any platform (keys for NES, sticks for N64, etc.).
You can check my guide on how to configure this PS4 controller for Retropie here

But for a “hardcore retro gamer”, I think the best option is to buy the controller corresponding to the system you play with
You can find cheap packs on Amazon, like this one, with all the main controllers
There is a variant with 10 controllers, if you want to play multi

12 – Use another splash screen

Another thing you can customize on RetroPie is the splash screen
What we call the “splash screen” is the first image you can see when you start your Raspberry Pi
By default, it’s the Retropie logo

But you can change this:

  • Go to Retropie configuration > Retropie Setup
  • Select Configuration / tools and scroll down to “splashscreen”
  • Click on the line to configure it
  • Here you can select “Choose splashcreen” to change it, or “Preview splashscreens” to view them before making a choice
  • Then in Choose splashcreen, select “RetroPie splashscreens”
    retropie splash screens
  • Select one file and confirm
  • Reboot your system to see the change

You can find a lot of splash screens on the web, and you can even create your own
To add new splash screens, upload them to /home/pi/RetroPie/splashscreens

13 – Build your own arcade cabinet

And my last tip to impress your friends is to build your own arcade cabinet
You know the ones we can now find in the retro arcade gaming room

You can build your own, with a Raspberry Pi, RetroPie and some technical skills
As I’m not an expert about this, I’ll let the pro speak 🙂

Build a RetroPie Bartop Arcade Cabinet with a Raspberry Pi

You can find arcade buttons and joysticks on Amazon, and all other parts in your favorite DIY store. There is really no possible comparison between this kind of installation and a simple Raspberry Pi placed on your TV cabinet, I recommend that you test if you can!
There is a link in the video description if you want to try it, with more details and plans


That’s it, this is the end of my best tips for RetroPie
I hope you enjoy this post, feel free to check all my other tutorials on retro-gaming with your Raspberry Pi

And you, what is the best tip you would like to know earlier about Retropie?

Patrick Fromaget

I'm the lead author and owner of RaspberryTips.com. My goal is to help you with your Raspberry Pi problems using detailed guides and tutorials. In real life, I'm a Linux system administrator with a web developer experience.

2 thoughts on “13 Tips About Retropie That Will Impress Your Friends

  1. im really not interested in 100000 roms but there are about maybe 20 or 40 games i wouldloveto be able to play and only 1 or 2 emulators everytime i try and build a caed i get 1 or 2 games then tryagain get afewmore andlosethe ones i had before its driving me nuts can someone help

    1. Hi William,

      Maybe if you tell us what you’re looking to do exactly, someone can help you

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