Beginner’s guide for RecalBox on Raspberry Pi (with pictures)

recalbox beginner guide raspberry pi

Today we’ll see a step-by-step guide on how to install and use RecalBox on Raspberry Pi
RecalBox is a free operating system to play retro games on your Raspberry Pi

In this tutorial, I’ll show you:

  • What is RecalBox, a short background about this software
  • How to install RecalBox on Raspberry Pi
  • The first steps you need to take to enjoy RecalBox (the controller configuration, downloading games, etc…)

Feel free to use the content table below to go directly to the part you’re interested in

RecalBox introduction

What is RecalBox?

RecalBox is a free operating system, dedicated to retro gaming
It allows you to play old games on your Raspberry Pi

Here is a short presentation video about the RecalBox system
(the video is for the version 4.0, we are now at 6.0, so there have been changes since this video)

RecalBox features

RecalBox supports all the main gaming systems: NES/SNES, Game Boy, PSP, Megadrive, PlayStation, PC, Atari, …
So you can play games for all these platforms in one place, on your Raspberry Pi

You can also use RecalBox as a media center solution, as it also includes Kodi
Check my post about Kodi, if you don’t know what it is

Other features:

  • Multi players (5 max)
  • Rewind
  • Screenshots
  • Save state to continue your game later
  • Wireless Controllers

But instead of talking about theory, let’s see how it looks

RecalBox installation guide

Download RecalBox

RecalBox is available for free on the official website
Click on Download and then choose your current architecture in the list

For example, for a Raspberry Pi 3B+ click on this link
download recalbox
After a few minutes, you get the recalbox.img on your computer, and you can move to the next step

Flash a RecalBox SD card

Then you need to flash an SD card with the RecalBox image
The procedure is the same for any system:

  • If needed, download and install Etcher
    Etcher is a free tool to create SD card from an image
  • Then start the Etcher tool
  • You’ll get something like this:
    etcher menu
  • Click on “Select image” and choose the recalbox.img file from your computer (probably in the Downloads folder)
  • Then insert your SD card in your computer and click on “Flash!”
  • After a few minutes, your SD card is ready to use

First boot

  • Insert the SD card in the Raspberry Pi slot
  • Start the Raspberry Pi
  • You’ll quickly get the main menu
    It looks like this:
    recalbox main menu

You’ve done the installation process, you can move to the configuration part

RecalBox configuration

Before playing your first game on RecalBox, there are a few things to configure to complete the system setup

Controller configuration

You need a USB controller to use RecalBox (for the first controller)
If you don’t have one, you’ll find my favorites in the recommended products page

  • Plug your USB Controller in the Raspberry Pi
  • Press any key on it
  • A configuration screen will appear, asking you to hold a button to start the configuration
  • Then a configuration assistant opens, asking you the key to use for each action
  • Fill all the key configuration lines you can
    But with a basic controller you may not have everything available
    You can skip some with the down arrow key or holding one button
  • Try to keep a button available for the hot key at the end

You can now move to the main menu and use your controller correctly

Network configuration

The next step you need to do is to check the network configuration
If you use an RJ45 cable with DHCP, there is probably nothing to do

But for wireless usage, you need to follow this procedure:

  • Click on the “Start” button to open the configuration main menu
  • Scroll down to “Network settings” and click on it
  • A configuration menu like this will appear:
    recalbox wifi settings
  • Enable the WiFi like on the screenshot
  • Then select your WiFi SSID in the list
  • Finally, enter your WiFi password and close this windows to apply
  • Come back to it to note your IP Address, you’ll need it later

Audio settings

RecalBox is playing music in the menu, and if you want sound in your games, you may need to configure the audio device to use and the volume level

To do this, open the start menu and choose “Sound Settings”
In the new window you can adjust the volume and force the output device to use

Other settings

Basically, you’ll find all settings in this start menu
You can check every submenu to see if you have something to configure

For example:

  • Language and keyboard in System Settings
  • Autosave and shaders in Games Settings
  • Add a wireless controller in Controllers Settings
  • Overscan and over-clocking in Advanced Settings

Update your system

The last thing I recommend you to do before playing is to update your system
You probably already got an update pop-up after the network configuration

  • Open the start menu with “Start”
  • Then go to “Updates”
  • Click on “Start Update”
  • Confirm with “Yes”
  • If a new version is available, it will download and install it now
  • At the end of the update, the system will reboot automatically and complete the upgrade

Playing games with RecalBox

Free games

RecalBox already includes free games after the installation
So you can play it directly by choosing a game in the main menu

  •  Scroll to your favorite system, ex: Super Nintendo
  • Then choose a game in the list, ex: Classic Kong
  • And click on it to start the game
  • That’s it !
    recalbox classic kong

But you’re not limited to the included games, you can download and add new games
That’s what we’ll see in the next section

Download games

I already wrote an article on how to download games for Retropie
You can follow the exact same procedure for RecalBox

Let’s take an example:

  • Open RomHustler in your web browser
  • Click on Super Nintendo in the top menu
  • Scroll down to Street Fighter II Turbo and click on it
  • Click on “Click here to download this ROM”
  • Wait, a few seconds and click on the second link

You have now a file called “Street Fighter II Turbo.7z” on your computer
We’ll now see how to upload it to RecalBox

Install games

The easiest way to install new ROMs on RecalBox is to use the web interface:

  • From your computer, open the web interface using : http://IP_ADDRESS
    If you didn’t note it previously, the ip address can be found in the start menu > network settings
    In my case, I use http://192.168.1.17
  • A page with RecalBox Manager opens
  • Click on ROMs in the left menu
  • Find “Super Nintendo Entertainment System” in the list and click on it
  • You’ll get a page like this
    recalbox add rom
  • Click on Upload ROMs (blue button)
  • Browse to your Downloads folder and find the ROM we just downloaded
  • The game will appear next to Classic Kong in the game list
  • Finally, you need to Restart EmulStation (yellow button) to apply changes

Note: you can also use the share at \\IP\share\roms to manage ROM files

Play games

As soon as your interface is back on the Raspberry Pi, you can play your new game

  • From the main menu, scroll to Super Nintendo
  • Select “Street Fighter II Turbo” in the game list and click on it
  • The game starts
    street fighter recalbox

Related Questions

Why there’s no picture for new games in the interface? To get pictures, reviews and descriptions for new games you install, you need to run the scraper process. In the start menu, choose “Scraper” then “Scrape Now”. If the tool find it, it will add all these informations for new games

How to use Kodi from the RecalBox interface? Click on Start and select “Kodi Media Center”. You’ll get directly to Kodi. Then to get back to EmulStation, click on the Power icon on the top and choose Exit. Kodi is a powerful media center software, you can read my guide here about it

Where to get more information about RecalBox? If you need to go further, you’ll find the official documentation here on GitHub. It’s available in 6 languages and covers all the main features. There is also a forum on the official website, you can use it to ask specific questions

Conclusion

That’s it, you now know everything you need to get started with RecalBox on Raspberry Pi
It’s an easy-to-use retro gaming system, with everything ready to enjoy your gaming sessions

I find it easier than Retropie for beginners, as it already includes everything in the EmulStation start menu
There is no need to go in sub-sub-menus to enable something important

If you like retro gaming with Raspberry Pi, I have a few articles available
Feel free to check them to find your favorite gaming platform:

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