Batocera on Raspberry Pi 4: Installation and First Steps


Retro gaming on Raspberry Pi is starting to be a crowded market: Recalbox, Retropie, Lakka, and others all offer almost the same thing.
A few months ago, I heard about a new competitor: Batocera.
I have tested it today, and I share with you here what I have learned.

To install Batocera on a Raspberry Pi, download the image on the official website and flash it on a SD card with a tool like Etcher.
Once done, all the configuration can be done from the Start menu.

So, the installation part is almost like any other distribution, but I will also tell you their origins and give you a few tips to get started quickly with Batocera.

By the way, if you are regularly using your Raspberry Pi as a retro-gaming platform, I highly recommend finding an excellent controller, it will change your life. I currently recommend this one on Amazon, as it works perfectly for any console emulation. Good luck if you play to PlayStation games with a NES controller 🙂

Batocera presentation

Introduction

As I already told you, Batocera is a retro gaming solution based on Recalbox.
So, it’s also a potential alternative to Retropie and Lakka for example.

The project started in 2016 as a fork of Recalbox with former Recalbox developers.
The reasons and goals were unclear for me, but hopefully, you can read the great comment of the lead developer at the end of this post.

https://youtu.be/GK4OtN_gYNI

He also explains the story behind the Batocera name:

I saw one time in my life a batocera rufomaculata.
It is a big bug of 10 centimeters ; a single hard piece when sleeping. But it becomes wonderful, like a flying ball when it is alive.
This is exactly the image of Batocera : a single file that shows all its features when living into your board.

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Differences with Recalbox

As the project is still young, there is no major differences between both for now.
You can check the Batocera change log here, but there is no “major project” that they put first that could explain the reason of this fork.
However, they released many fixes and upgrades that add more compatibility for hardware and software.

I read in a few forums that performance are often better on Batocera, and that more components are recognized directly by the systems.
So, you probably need to try it and compare. It may be better for some of you, but most people won’t see any difference.

If you don’t know what is Recalbox, you can find my complete guide on Recalbox here.

Raspberry Pi 4

They recently announced a full support of the Raspberry Pi 4 (in April 2020).

So, it’s good news as we want to play games on it, but a bit late compared to some other competitors.
Releasing a compatible version 6 months before Retropie would probably have helped them to become more popular.

Anyway, let’s jump to the installation (on Raspberry Pi 4 by the way).

Installation

Download

An image of Batocera is available directly on this page.
Scroll down and find your Raspberry Pi model.
It’s also compatible for Odroid, Tinkerboard and Rockchip boards if you are in this case.

Click on the corresponding picture and wait for the file to download.

SD Card preparation

You’ll get a file with a .img.gz extension, there is no need to extract it.
Just follow these steps to create your SD card :

  • Download and install Etcher if you don’t have it yet
  • Start Etcher.
    A window like this shows up:
    etcher menu
  • Click on “Select image” and browse to the file you just downloaded
  • Insert your SD card, it should select it automatically in the center of the window
  • Click on “Flash!” to start the copy

A few seconds later, your SD card is ready to use.

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First Boot

Insert the SD card into the Raspberry Pi and start it.
After a few automated steps, you should arrive directly in EmulationStation.

Configuration

If you already played with Retropie or Recalbox, you shouldn’t be lost here.
But there are a few differences, so I will give you the first steps to get started with your device configuration.

For example, there is no “Configuration” screen like in Retropie, but there are the “Favorites” and “All games” submenus.
Also, there are a few games already available as demo content.

Configure a controller

If you have a controller plugged, Batocera will not ask you to configure it directly on first boot.
You’ll get the configuration wizard only once you press a button.

  • Press any key on your controller to show the popup message
  • Then hold a key until the wizard appears:

    This menu should be familiar if you already used a system with EmulationStation
  • On each line, press the corresponding key you want to use for this action.
    If you don’t have enough keys to configure everything, keep one key pressed until the wizard skips the line
  • Once done, press OK at the bottom of the screen and you can now use your controller to do everything (menus and games)

Network configuration

You can now press “Start” to access the main menu.
If you don’t have a controller yet, you can use the “Space” key on your keyboard (and directly check my recommended product page to find one because playing these games with a keyboard is boring ^^).

Anyway, once in the main menu, click “Network settings” to configure anything you need about this.

If you are using an Ethernet cable on a network with a DHCP server, it should already be OK.
If you want to use Wi-Fi or change something, you can do it here.

For the Wi-Fi, you need to first enable it.
Then you can select your SSID in the list and enter your passphrase.

Once connected, take note of the IP address. You’ll need it later to copy games to the Raspberry Pi.

Updates & Downloads

As I told you, there is no Configuration menu in the systems list, no Retropie script or anything you can be used to with other systems.
Everything is included in this main menu (and it’s a good idea, I think).

As you just installed it, there is no update available, but for information this menu allows you to manually start software updates (Main Menu > Updates & Downloads).

You can also download themes directly here, which is very interesting:

Once selected, your download progress appears in overlay in the top right of the screen.

UI Settings

The UI Settings submenu allows you to configure everything concerning EmulationStation.

For example, if you downloaded a theme in the previous part, you can select it here
Once selected, Batocera will reload and display your new theme.

You can also change other settings here like the default game console to open on boot.

Other settings

For the other settings, the interface is very intuitive, so you should find everything by browsing in each submenu
For example, if you want to use a Bluetooth controller, you can pair it in the “Controllers settings” submenu.

If you want to use SSH or SFTP, SSH is enabled by default, so you can use it directly.
The default login is “root” and default password is “linux”.

As you may have already noted, Kodi is pre-installed on Batocera, so you can use it directly from the main menu
Kodi is a media center tool that you can use to watch movies on the same device (more details here).

Play a game

Download ROMs

If you are new to retro gaming on Raspberry Pi, the first step to play games is always to download them.
I already have a tutorial that explains everything here, so I let you check it if you need some help about this.

Games files are the same on any system, so don’t look specifically for Batocera ROMs.
If you have no idea what to try, you can check my 12 favorites games here.

Let’s find your first ROM and move to the installation part.

Install games

The game installation is almost the same as with any other retro gaming system.
A network share is available directly after the installation, so I suggest using it :

  • Extract the downloaded files
  • Copy the ROM files and go to this path:
    \\IP

    For example, in my case it’s \\192.168.222.31
    I showed you previously where to find the IP address.
    From Linux, you’ll probably use “smb://IP”.
  • Open the share folder at this location, you’ll get something like this :
  • Go into the ROMs folder and find the one corresponding to your ROM file.
    There may be some slightly difference with the common names.
    For example, Super Nintendo is “snes” or PlayStation is “psx”
  • Copy the files here.
    Do the same thing for each new game you want to play

Start a game

Once your game on the SD card, you need to reload EmulationStation to refresh the game menus
You can restart the system completely or use this option:

  • Open the Main Menu (press start)
  • Go to Games Settings
  • Scroll down to “Update Games Lists”.
    Click on it and confirm
  • The Batocera interface reloads, and your new games will now be available

From here, just press B to start the game 🙂

Note: the scraper seems to work directly with the default settings (at least for the games I tested), which is not the case with most of the other alternatives. So, good point for this.

Video

Conclusion

That’s it for this quick overview of Batocera on Raspberry Pi.
For now, the system doesn’t offer many new things compared to Recalbox or even Retropie.
But it’s probably a project we need to follow, if they build a team with the most motivated elements from Recalbox, the difference may increase quickly between both projects.

If retro gaming is a topic you are interested in, you’ll find many topics on this website, for example :

And as always, if you have any question or anything to add, feel free to leave a comment below 🙂


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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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