Tired of trying to get your hands on the Nintendo NES Classic Edition? Pray for SNES Classic? Stop wasting time and build your own using the Raspberry Pi and the RetroPie emulation package. Here’s how to do it.

Create your own NES or SNES Classic Edition

While the Nintendo NES Classic Edition and the SNES variant may arrive easier these days, you don’t have to wait for the right deal.

You can build your own Nintendo NES Classic Edition today using an inexpensive Raspberry Pi computer! We recommend the Raspberry Pi 3 for best results, although you can squeeze some more juice using the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ (although this may be less stable).

You will also need:

  • 8 GB microSD card
  • Reliable power supply
  • Etcher SD card for writing software from etcher.io
  • Filezilla FTP client software from filezilla-project.org
  • HDMI cable
  • Nintendo style USB game controllers
  • Optional USB keyboard (for initial setup)
  • Suitable occasion (for this authentic look)

Matching game controllers can be bought online, as can Nintendo and NES-style cases. Some Amazon sellers bundle the Raspberry Pi 3 with a matching case and game controllers.

Before you begin, make sure your Raspberry Pi is connected to your TV and your game controllers are ready to use. The power supply must be within easy reach, but switched off. You should have downloaded the suggested software and had an SD card handy.

Playing classic NES and SNES games on Raspberry Pi

Retro gaming software makes it easy to install and play classic NES and SNES games on your Raspberry Pi. Dreaming of playing back with Super Mario Bros 2 or The Legend of Zelda? Want to tackle Donkey Kong Country and finally complete it?

You can!

RetroPie menu screen

However, there is one caveat. For these games you will need ROMs, snapshots of data from the original cartridges. If you can’t do it yourself (it’s not easy), you will need to find the files online. Similarly, you will also need the BIOS files that allow you to run emulators.

Detailed information on Nintendo Entertainment System BIOS files can be found on the RetroPie:NES BIOS wiki.

Note that the SNES does not require a BIOS file.

Unfortunately, we cannot tell you where to find the ROM. Most games are copyrighted; in fact, unless you own a copy of the original game, you shouldn’t be using the ROM file.

However, you will find what you need using your favorite search engine, but be careful. In 2018, Nintendo stopped popular retro gaming sites from sharing their classic games. Therefore, searching the ROM may take some time.

(If this all sounds a bit disappointing and you still want to play retro, don’t worry. We’ve listed 10 classic games you can play on your Raspberry Pi without emulation.)

Installing RetroPie on Your Raspberry Pi

Once you’ve collected a few discs, you’ll want to play them. While there are several retro game systems available for Raspberry Pi retro games the best option for Nintendo games is RetroPie.

To install this you need to go to retropie.org.uk and download the correct version for your Raspberry Pi. As noted, the best results can be achieved with a Raspberry Pi 3, although older versions will also work with Nintendo games.

Etcher imaging software is ideal for installing the operating system on the Raspberry Pi. Download and install it from the link above before proceeding.

Make sure you know where you downloaded RetroPie, then insert your Pi’s microSD card into your PC’s card reader.

Use Etcher to Write Data to Your SD Card

Then open Etcher and under » Select image» find the disk image for RetroPie and select it. Make sure your microSD is listed under «Select Disk» (click the button and navigate to it if not), then click «Flash» to start writing RetroPie to the microSD card. Etcher will notify you when the process is complete, at which point you should safely eject the card, insert it into your Raspberry Pi, and boot up.

You will find more information in our guide to installing the Raspberry Pi operating system.

What if you are using your Raspberry Pi for a specific purpose and don’t want to format the SD card? Lucky you; You can install RetroPie as an app on your Raspberry Pi and download the emulation software as and when you need it.

When you download RetroPie, you will be prompted to set up your game controller. Follow this process to make sure the controller is set up correctly so you can navigate the EmulationStation user interface. This is RetroPie’s «interface» that organizes your emulators and ROMs for easy launch.

Turning your Raspberry Pi into an NES

With RetroPie installed, you need to somehow copy the ROM and BIOS files you downloaded to your Raspberry Pi. The easiest way to do this is through an SFTP-enabled FTP client. FileZilla is probably your best bet, but first you need to enable SSH on your Raspberry Pi.

Other ways to copy data to Raspberry Pi are available.

Nintendo Super Marioworld entertainment system

Enable SSH using your controller (or keyboard) to get to the » Configuration» and select » raspi-config» . This will open the Raspberry Pi configuration screen where you have to select » Interface Options» > «SSH» . Select Turn on then reboot your Raspberry Pi.

When the computer restarts, open FileZilla on your computer and select site manager . Click here New site and enter your credentials. You will need the device’s IP address (found in the Configuration menu) and the default username and password. This is the default Raspbian username and password pi and raspberries .

Transferring Data to Raspberry Pi with FTP

After selecting the SFTP option, view the contents of your PC (left panel) and Raspberry Pi (right panel). Using FTP is very simple: find the files you want to copy on the left and find the target directory on the right. Then just double click the files to start copying.

To run your NES games with RetroPie, copy the ROM files to the directory /nes/ . Don’t forget the BIOS file, which should be copied to the folder /bios/ .

When everything is copied, use the game controller to select » Menu»> « Exit». Select Restart EmulationStation and wait. In a few seconds, you’ll see your NES games are ready to play on your Raspberry Pi!

Running SNES games on your Raspberry Pi

To run SNES games with RetroPie, follow the same steps as above but copy the SNES files to directory /snes/ .

Again, it’s a good idea to restart your computer after copying files. When you’re done, RetroPie will have an SNES menu with your games ready to play!

Meet problems? Check out our RetroPie Performance Tips for Productivity Improvement Tips

You have just created a Raspberry Pi game console!

Marvel Capcom emulated on Raspberry Pi

The Nintendo NES Classic Edition is hard to find and expensive. It also doesn’t play an SNES title.

Meanwhile, the Raspberry Pi is easy to acquire, affordable, and can play NES and SNES games. Oh, and it will also let you enjoy PlayStation games, Sega Dreamcast games, and even Commodore 64 games, among many others!

However, thanks to the Pi’s small size, you can use it in a variety of ways to play games, from installing it in a game controller to building your own gaming machine. Even if your Raspberry Pi looks like a mini Nintendo, you can still use it to play almost any video game.

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