difference retropie recalbox

What’s the difference between Retropie and RecalBox?

If you decided to play retro games on your Raspberry Pi, it’s a good choice!
But when the software choice comes, you have several options to consider
In this post, I’ll compare Retropie and RecalBox, two big competitors is this field

What’s the difference between Retropie and RecalBox?
Retropie is older, has more platform support and the biggest community in retro gaming
RecalBox is easy to use and gains more and more supporters each year, but it’s less complete than Retropie

In this post, I will detail this answer and complete it with other things to take in consideration
I’ll first introduce you to each competitor and finally compare them at the end

Retropie

retropie menu

Retropie story

Retropie exists since the beginning of the Raspberry Pi (something like 2012)
It was a side project from the petRockBlock community before moving to a new website and organization at Retropie.org.uk

The goal of the project was to turn the Raspberry Pi into a retro-gaming console

And it’s now a big project, with a giant community all around the world
They release a new version each year and add new features constantly

Retropie installation

The Retropie installation process is straightforward

You need to download the Retropie image from the official website
Flash it on your SD card and start the Raspberry Pi

During the first boot you need to configure your controller and that’s all, you are directly in the main menu and can use Retropie

If you need more help about this, you can check my Retropie installation guide here

Retropie interface

The Retropie front end runs with EmulStation

At the beginning you’ll only get access to the configuration menu
But after installing new ROMs, you’ll see a new entry in the menu for each platform

It’s easy to use and you can find your games quickly

Retropie compatibility and support

The main usage of Retropie is to install it directly on your Raspberry Pi, with a dedicated SD card
But it’s possible to install it on top of other operating systems
For example, you can install it on Raspbian (Raspberry Pi), Debian or Ubuntu (PC), or Ubuntu on ODroid boards

Retropie is also available with BerryBoot if you want to use dual boot on your Raspberry Pi

Last thing to say, Retropie supports a lot of systems like SNES, N64, PlayStation, Wii, Dreamcast or Atari
As I will not manage to keep it updated, I’ll let you check the entire list in the Retropie documentation

Retropie customization

After the Retropie installation, it’s possible to change a lot of settings in the configuration menu
You can use the Retropie setup script to install new packages (like a web interface), change the theme, use Bluetooth hardware, etc …
You’ll also find a lot of other features in the Retropie configuration menu

retropie configuration menu

Sometimes that’s probably too many options to keep it simple, but you now you can do everything with Retropie

RecalBox

recalbox main menu

RecalBox story

I didn’t find any information about the exact project start date, but I found no files older than 2013 in the GitHub repository, so it should be something like that
The project has probably started a few months after the Raspberry Pi official release date

RecalBox installation

If you want to install it, you can check my RecalBox installation guide about it

But basically it’s really simple
You just need to download the image from the official website, flash it on an SD card and boot the Raspberry Pi

The main menu shows up immediately, you just need to configure your controller and install new games on it
A web interface is available directly to manage ROMs easily

RecalBox interface

RecalBox use EmulStation for the front-end interface
Rather than describing it for you, check this video:

What I really like is that Kodi is directly available from the interface
So you can plug your Raspberry Pi on your TV and use it as a retro gaming console and media center solution

RecalBox compatibility and support

RecalBox is available for all Raspberry Pi models, PC and other single boards like ODroid and Pine64 models

RecalBox includes over 80 emulators to play your favorite games from any platforms

RecalBox customization

To go further after the default RecalBox installation, there are a lot of things you can configure
The good news is that everything is integrated in EmulStation menus, there is no need to edit configuration files manually or use a non intuitive menu

Differences between Retropie and RecalBox

Stories & popularity

Retropie and RecalBox come from different stories, but they share the same goal: build the best open source retro-gaming solution for Raspberry Pi

But Retropie is older and have the largest online community in the retro gaming market
It will be easier to find answers and documentation for Retropie

Installation

The installation process is simple for both Retropie and RecalBox systems, that’s cool!
There is no real difference in the installation methods they use

Configuration

This one is more mixed

Retropie allows you to configure a lot more things, to add new packages and to go further on anything
But is it too much?
Sometimes it’s difficult to find basic things in all the menus and sub-menus you have available

On the other side, RecalBox is easy to use, everything is directly integrated in the EmulStation menus
I find this a better experience
You mainly want to play and configure a few things, not to spend hours in configuration

Interface

Except the configuration part, the interface is almost the same on both systems
I prefer the RecalBox interface design, but it’s my own opinion I think

Emulators

Historically, Retropie had a big advantage on the list of systems supported in their solution
But step by step, RecalBox is growing its emulators list to almost compete with Retropie now

If you want to play games from a specific game console on Raspberry Pi, check both emulators list, but for the main one it’ll be supported

ROMs

You can use the same ROMs file on Retropie and RecalBox, so it’s not really something to consider for your choice

If you don’t know where to download ROMs for Retropie and RecalBox, click on the link

Related questions

Is there another competitor? Yes! To be complete in your choice, you also need to check the Lakka project. It’s a great competitor with a completely different interface (looks like the PS4 menu), and uses different softwares. Check my guide linked in the conclusion to know more about Lakka

Conclusion

That’s it, you now know exactly what you’ll find on Retropie and RecalBox
You also get some comparison points to make your choice between both

Basically, RecalBox mainly targets beginners, with an easy-to-use interface but probably fewer features
And Retropie gives you the possibility to go further with your retro gaming solution

RecalBox is my favorite as it’s easy to use out of the box, but Retropie is a great software, so it’s a difficult choice 🙂

If you need more information, you can check my other topics on this subject:

 

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