Raspberry Pi DIY Classic NES Game Emulator

Raspberry Pi DIY Classic NES Game Emulator

Raspberry Pi DIY Classic NES Game Emulator

Didn’t get the NES Classic Edition for Christmas? Well, this tutorial will go about how to turn a Raspberry Pi into a Classic NES Game System for only $50.

Nintendo NES Classic Edition

RESOURCES – DIY Classic NES Game Emulator


  • Computer: Lenovo T420 Windows 10
  • Keyboard: Generic USB Keyboard
  • MicroSD Card: MicroSDHC 8GB w/ SD Adapter
  • Microprocessor: Raspberry Pi 3 Model B (1GB)
  • Power Supply: 2.5A/5V USB Power Supply
  • Cables: USB Type-A / Micro-B; HDMI Cable
  • Drive: USB Thumb Drive
  • TV: Any TV with HDMI
  • WiFi Router: Generic WiFi Router
  • Controller: USB Classic – NES


  • SD Formatter v4
  • Win32 Disk Imager 0.9
  • RetroPie 4.0.2

STEP 1 – DIY Classic NES Game Emulator

Setting up the Disk Image

1. Download the latest RetroPie disk image from retropi.org.uk for your Raspberry Pi chip


2. Format an 8GB MicroSD Card. I use SD Formatter v4


3. Write the downloaded Disk Image to the microSD Card. I use Win32 Disk Imager

Win32 Disk Imager

STEP 2 – DIY Classic NES Game Emulator

Get Your Games

There are a lot of websites claiming to have legal retro video game ROMs available for download. Emuparadise is one such site with over 500 downloadable NES titles.

Raspberry Pi DIY Retro NES Gaming System

Is it Legal?

While I do not have a doctorate in Copyright law, I did some researching online and it worth understanding the “fuzzy standard” of Fair Use. The folks over at How-To Geek do a great job of debunking myths about Fair Use and Copyright and provide a great defense to all of us who have grown up buying game cartridges.

Is Downloading Retro Video Game ROMs Ever Legal?

STEP 3 – DIY Classic NES Game Emulator

Know your Controller

In my opinion, the controller is the most important part of the retro gaming experience. I wanted that classic NES hand-cramping feel and found a $10 USB controller at Walmart.com.

Raspberry Pi DIY Classic NES Retro Gaming System

RetroPie can also emulate other popular gaming consoles besides the NES. You can check out the complete list here: https://retropie.org.uk/documentation/systems-in-retropie/.

If you’ve got a hankering for another gaming system, RetroPie will work with all USB Controllers. Find the one you prefer and plug it into your Raspberry Pi when you boot the RetroPie disk image and a quick and easy controller setup window will guide you through mapping the buttons on your controller.

STEP 4 – DIY Classic NES Game Emulator

Booting into RetroPie

It’s time to take your RetroPie disk image and boot your Raspberry Pi with it. I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here. Check out this fantastic installation video from TechTipsta for all the details.

STEP 5 – DIY Classic NES Game Emulator

Update RetroPie

I found some glitches when I booted straight off the downloaded disk image. The issues went away once I updated the operating system. RetroPie has simple setup script that downloads and manages everything. Follow these instructions on how to access it.

Raspberry Pi DIY Classic NES Retro Gaming System

STEP 6 – DIY Classic NES Game Emulator

Getting the ROMs loaded on the Raspberry Pi

If you are like me, you downloaded the ROMs to your PC. Collect them and put them on a USB thumb drive. Plug that thumb drive into the Raspberry Pi and follow the instructions below on how to copy them to the NES folder. This process requires a Keyboard so plug that into your Raspberry Pi also.


STEP 6 – DIY Classic NES Game Emulator


I rebooted the Raspberry Pi after this and jumped right into playing. This was a Christmas present for my wife who loves classic games and she spent Christmas eve introducing all the classics to my 11-year-old son.

Raspberry Pi DIY Classic NES Game Emulator

Such a great project. Such a great gift. When everyone fell asleep, I took over the controls and played Tetris until my hand cramped up. The nostalgia of playing games I had when I was a kid, brought back awesome memories. And seeing Aiden so interested and asking questions just made the night.

I hope this DIY helps you build some memories of your own.

Thanks for tuning in,


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *