You’ve set up your Raspberry Pi as a retro gaming station, perhaps under a TV, as a portable device, or even in a full-size gaming machine. But the default look and feel doesn’t really rock you.

Luckily, you have a large selection of themes to choose from. Here is how to install and apply themes to EmulationStation in RetroPie.

RetroPie and EmulationStation

If you’re already using RetroPie, you’ll be up to date with EmulationStation. This is the «interface» for the emulators that are grouped under RetroPie. EmulationStation is a user interface that allows you to access emulators and installed game ROMs.

Download the EmulationStation Image for RetroPie

You see this when you browse games on your system; this happens when you press the menu button in a game to select another game or restart your computer.

RetroPie Default Theme

RetroPie itself can be found in the background. In some cases, you will encounter this through the menu configuration . This is where you can configure various options, including adding a new theme for EmulationStation.

Looking for new themes for RetroPie

The surprisingly easy-to-use interface of EmulationStation, unfortunately, can quickly become outdated. Luckily, alternative themes will give your RetroPie a stunning new look.

view the RetroPie configuration menu

To find new themes, you need to go to the menu retropie and choose ES Themes .

Here you will see the RetroPie settings window. Go to the first option: download theme gallery and wait for the gallery to load. (Note that if you don’t want to wait for the gallery, you can simply scroll down and select a theme from the list.)

launch theme browser in RetroPie

Once this is done, select » View or update the theme gallery, and then » Browse Theme Gallery», to see a preview of the themes. This will start the slideshow, but you can switch between options using the home button on your controller. It is recommended to write down the theme names as they cannot be installed without returning to the previous menu.

You can also check out the themes on the RetroPie wiki.

Browse the list of themes for EmulationStation

To install a new EmulationStation theme, simply scroll down to highlight the one you want and click the » OK» . You can install as many as you need, or return to this screen later to add more.

But which topics should you choose?

The Best Themes You Can Add to RetroPie

To start with a brand new look for your RetroPie system, we’ve gone through the themes to find the best ones. Some of our favorites include:

  • Minimum: a stripped-down version of the EmulationStation (Carbon) main theme, has a white and blue color scheme.
  • SNES Mini : Boasting an SNES-themed user interface, it’s full of 1990s-style pixels and neon colors. If you turned your Raspberry Pi into a classic DIY SNES is a good option.
  • comicbook: much more sophisticated than the name suggests, it’s available in 16:9 and 4:3 resolutions.
  • Stranger Stuff : As the name suggests, this is inspired by the TV show Stranger Things, and certainly just as memorable. Along with a few other retro gaming platform themes, this one looks especially good when RetroPie is running on an old TV.
  • vertical_arcade : Finally, if you’re planning on building a RetroPie box into a full-size arcade machine. this theme is perfect. Note that you will need to change the pin orientation of your Raspberry Pi in order to use this (as well as your display!)

If you are using vertical_arcade or any other suitable theme, you will need to change your Raspberry Pi configuration. This can be easily done opening file config.txt in directory /boot/ and setting the value display_rotate, as below:


Don’t forget to save the file before exiting and reboot your Raspberry Pi to apply the setting.

This will set your Pi’s image output orientation to portrait mode, perfect for the vertical_arcade theme.

While these are good options, they are not our only offerings. Other themes you might want to check out include Nintendo Wii-style pii_wii; You might prefer a retro frame, or perhaps the feel of a boxcity library. If you’re a Game of Thrones, Star Trek, or Star Wars fan, some threads dedicated to those franchises are also available (look for tributeGoT, tributeSTrek, and tributeSWars.)

Choosing a New RetroPie Theme

To select an installed theme for your RetroPie system, you need to open the RetroPie main menu. You will find it by clicking the button menu on your controller.

Choose a new EmulationStation theme

Select here UI Settings > Theme Set and use the left and right buttons of the controller to select one of the installed themes.

Select Back, when your preferred theme is selected and close the menu.

Change how games are listed in RetroPie

It’s that simple and you’ll be enjoying the stunning new look of your RetroPie system in minutes. You can also change the default settings to view more information about the game. Once again on the menu user interface settings change game list view style from main to detailed or even video . The end result is a new interface for the retro game center.

Don’t like the new look? Just! Just go back to the ES Themes menu and switch back to the original theme. It should be easy to find; if not, look for a topic called carbon.

Improving RetroPie Even More

Amiga retro pie theme

Since RetroPie is so easy to install (even as an app), you may not have thought about how easy it is to give it a new look. However, once you personalize it, you most likely won’t look back.

However, don’t go into it blind. Please make sure you have multiple themes before installation. Also, don’t feel like you have to stick with a new topic if you don’t like it. Just switch back to Carbon or choose a different theme.

Your new RetroPie installation might look pretty slick, but is there a performance boost somehow? Check out our RetroPie tips for better gaming performance. RetroPie for better performance RetroPie for better performance

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