How to Add Games on Raspberry Pi (4 ways on Retropie)


I often write about Retropie on this website, but there are so many questions that you can have when trying Retropie for the first time :). Today, I will show you how to add new games on your Retropie system.
You have many ways to do this, and I will show you the most commons here.

Once the games downloaded on your computer, there are several ways to transfer them to Retropie:
– Using a USB Key.
– Sending files through SFTP.
– Using the network share.
– Or simply by installing the web interface
.

In this tutorial, I will show you the details on how to use each one of these features. So, you can make your choice depending on your installation and the method you prefer.

If you need help getting started on Raspberry Pi, I have an entire course to guide you through your first steps. I’ll help you use the perfect hardware, plug everything in and install your first system. You’ll also do your first project with me, just to make sure you are ready for the next level. Get all the information on this page if you are interested.

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I answer your questions - Raspberry Pi FAQ

Prerequisites

Before adding games on your Retropie system, you need two things: games files and Retropie 🙂

Download ROMs

If you are here, you probably already have found at least one game, but do you know the best way to download ROMs for Retropie?

I already made a guide on that topic that you can read here: Where to Download Retropie Games?.
You’ll find here the best websites I like to use, to download games, and a few other tips on that subject.

My favorite games!
Get a list of my 24 favorites games (with links) to play on Retropie, Recalbox or Lakka

Another easy option is to grab an SD card with thousands of games already loaded on it. For example, I recommend this one on Amazon, preloaded with 10000+ games and Retropie pre-installed.

Retropie Installation

And obviously, you need to install Retropie on your Raspberry Pi before starting this tutorial
If you need help on that topic, I have a complete step-by-step guide on how to install Retropie.

Before going further, make sure you have:

  • Retropie installed.
  • Your system up-to-date.
  • Your Raspberry Pi IP Address.
    You can get it in Configuration > Show IP.

Once done, you can move to the following section, and learn 4 ways to install new games on Retropie.

Recommended hardware for Retropie power users

  • Retropie SD card: Save time and play directly to any game you want with this giant SD card preloaded with over 100k games.
  • Raspberry Pi 4: Retropie is now available for Raspberry Pi 4, and it’s excellent. Why would you stay on a slower device?.
  • 8bitdo controller: This is currently the best controller for retro gaming on Raspberry Pi. All the latest technologies in a retro design. But for N64 games specially, you can use the Nintendo version here.
  • SSD drive: if you have thousands of games and want to improve performances, a SSD will help you a lot, check this one from SanDisk on Amazon…

4 ways to add games on Retropie

As I told you in the introduction, here are the 4 main ways I use to add games on Retropie.
You’ll certainly find the perfect one for you in this list.

Use a USB Key

The first idea is to use a basic solution, no network, no protocol, we just want to use a USB key and keep everything simple.

You first need to prepare a USB flash drive for Retropie. I use this one for example, but any model should work.
Here is the procedure on Windows:

  • You’ll lose any data on this drive, make a backup first if needed.
    If you already have a FAT32 formatted USB key, you can use it, no need to have a blank one.
  • Open your file explorer.
  • Right-click on the USB key (probably D: or E:) and select “Format…”.
  • A window like this show up:
  • Select FAT32 and give a name to the new volume.
  • Click on start to confirm formatting.

Once done, you can now use it to transfer games from your computer to Retropie:

  • Create a “retropie” folder on the USB drive.
  • Now plug it 10 seconds on your Raspberry Pi.
  • And plug it back on your computer.
  • Open the USB drive in your file explorer.
    You’ll now have new folders under “retropie”:
  • You just need to copy your games files into the “roms” folder.
  • Pick the folder corresponding to the game you want to install and copy it.
    Don’t forget to unzip the files before copying it.
    For example, I will install Pac-Man2 on Super Nintendo for this tutorial:
  • Do the same for each game.
  • Insert the USB key on the Raspberry Pi now.
    Retropie will copy all the files in the correct path (on the SD card).
  • You just need to restart Emulstation to apply the changes.
    Start menu > Quit > Restart Emulstation.

That’s it, your game is now available in the Retropie menu:

SFTP

The second way is the one I prefer for mass upload.
SFTP is a protocol similar to FTP running over SSH.
So, as soon as you have SSH enabled on your Raspberry Pi, you can use SFTP to transfer files from your computer to the Raspberry Pi (on any system).

My favorite games!
Get a list of my 24 favorites games (with links) to play on Retropie, Recalbox or Lakka

The first step is probably to enable SSH on Retropie:

  • Go to the Retropie configuration menu.
  • Click on Raspi-Config:
    raspi config
  • Scroll down to “Interfacing options”.
  • Then select “SSH”.
  • “Would you like the SSH server to be enabled?” ⇾ Yes!.
  • That’s it, you can exit the configuration.

Then you can connect from your computer like this:

  • Preferably, use an FTP client like FileZilla.
    FileZilla is free and available on any operating system.
    You can download it here.
  • Once in FileZilla, Open the site manager (first icon).
  • Add a new site for your Raspberry Pi, and configure it like this:
  • The protocol is SFTP.
    The host is your Raspberry Pi IP address (you can get it in the Retropie configuration > Show IP).
    The user and password are the one you use on the system (by default it’s pi / raspberry).
  • Click on connect to start your connection.
  • Once connected, you can see your computer on the left, and the Raspberry Pi on the right.

    On the left, browse to the folder containing your ROMs files.
    On the right, go to /home/pi/RetroPie/roms
    .
  • Then for each ROM to upload, go to the corresponding subfolder, and transfer the file from the left to the right.
    To transfer the files, you can use drag & drop, or right-click > upload.
  • Finally, restart EmulationStation to apply the changes.
    Start menu > Quit > Restart Emulstation.

That’s it, your new games are now available in the Retropie menu.

Network share

This one is similar to the previous one, but may be better integrated in your operating system.
With SFTP, you will probably use an FTP client like FileZilla.
But network shares are something you can use directly on any system.

Here is how to do this:

  • Open your file explorer.
  • Connect to the share.
    On Windows, go to \\IP_ADDRESS.
    On macOS and Linux, it’s most likely something like smb://IP_ADDRESS.
  • You can get the Retropie IP address in the Retropie Configuration > Show IP:
  • So, in your file explorer you’ll get something like that:
  • You already know these folders if you have tried the previous solutions.
  • Open the “roms” folder, and browse to the console folder corresponding to your folder (“snes” for example).
  • Copy and paste your ROM file in this folder.

Now, you just need to restart EmulationStation to apply changes (Start > Quit > Restart EmulationStation).

Web interface

And finally, probably the easiest one to use: the web interface.
It works really well when you want to upload a few games.
But I don’t really like it when you have to upload 50 games for various consoles.
So, you may choose a different way to install new games depending on the situation.

The web interface is not enabled by default, you first need to enable it:

  • Open the Retropie configuration page, and click on “Retropie Setup”.
  • Start by updating the Retropie Setup script (S).
    The default one on the image doesn’t use the correct GitHub repository for Retropie Manager.
  • Back in the Retropie setup menu, go to “Manage Packages”.
  • Then “Manage experimental packages”.
  • And finally, click on “retropie-manager” (at the end of the list):
  • Click on “Install from source” and wait a few seconds.
  • After the installation, go to Configuration / Options and select “Enable Retropie-Manager on boot” and “Start Retropie-Manager now”.

That’s it, you can now use it from your computer like this:

  • Open your favorite web browse and go to http://IP_ADDRESS:8000.
    You can get the IP address in the Retropie configuration page > Show IP.
    For example, for me, it’s http://192.168.1.19:8000.
  • You now have access to the Retropie manager main page:
    retropie web manager
  • Go to Roms and select your console folder.
    And simply drag and drop your game files on this page to install them.
  • As for any method, don’t forget to restart EmulationStation to complete the games installation (Start menu > Quit > Restart EmulationStation).

You can repeat the operating each time you want to install a new game on your system.

Video

If you are someone visual, you can check this video to see all the process on YouTube:

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Conclusion

That’s it, you know 4 ways to add new games on Retropie.
I let you enjoy the games now :).

If you need more information about retro-gaming on Retropie, I have a few more tutorials on that topic that you can check here:

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Grab your free PDF file with all the commands you need to know on Raspberry Pi!

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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.

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