There’s no doubt about it, Raspberry Pi was a real success back in the day. The size of a credit card, the minicomputer brought in a bunch of exciting games, hence its impressive sales, around 30 million units.
It may sound hard to believe, but no matter how sophisticated and realistic today’s games are, the truth is more and more people turn to retro gaming these days. It’s a trend. To some, it’s an incursion into the beginning of video games. To others, it’s about nostalgic moments from their childhood.
Bringing Raspberry Pi back is mostly about finding the right emulator to replicate its operating system and the right games. You can then play your favorite childhood games on modern devices.
All in all, this article will introduce you to some of the best Raspberry Pi emulators on the market and what they can do.
RetroArch is one of the most popular options on the market, and for some good reasons. In theory, it’s not built as an emulator. From a technical point of view, it’s basically software that implements the framework for different applications.
To keep it simple, it allows you to run different cores and emulate pretty much any platform out there. Apart from Raspberry Pi, it can also emulate PlayStation, NES, Virtual Boy, SNES, and others.
Not every core is perfectly optimized, so you may have a bit of latency or bugs, but it works perfectly when it comes to Raspberry Pi. There are mobile versions of the emulator too.
It’s updated on a regular basis, so potential bugs for various platforms are sorted straight away. You can download it over the official website or the mobile store.
Once you get it, you just need some quality and original ROM games to get back into your childhood.
RetroArch might be the most popular emulator program for a wide variety of platforms, and its diversity is the main reason behind its fame. But when it comes to Raspberry Pi only, RetroPie is by far the top rated emulator out there.
The name aims to make it obvious that it’s designed specifically for Raspberry Pi.
Now, here comes the interesting part. RetroArch has done such a good job that RetroPie relies on its cores for most of its emulation. In other words, you’ll get a slightly better experience with RetroPie due to the extra customization, but it will be similar to what RetroArch can give you.
RetroPie comes with another great benefit, there’s plenty of user documentation all over the web. No matter what issue you have or what possible glitch you run into, look it up online and you’ll easily find a fix for it.
You don’t need to be a programmer to sort it out, as most guides come with step by step instructions.
Just like RetroPie, Lakka also relies on RetroArch. It’s not an actual emulator, but a highly customized Linux distribution made with the one and only purpose to bring back old school gaming.
There are more versions out there, with one of them created for Raspberry Pi.
Lakka provides access to the whole operating system and the emulation package. You can run your favorite games without knowing anything about Linux or emulators. It’s straightforward, reliable, and super simple to run.
It’s probably a bit more sophisticated than RetroArch, but pretty much everything is optimized upfront for you to play games straight away.
PPSSPP is not directly aimed at Raspberry Pi fans, but it works well and can provide a unique experience. PPSSPP is actually one of the best rated PlayStation Portable emulators on the market.
Here comes the good news though…
Raspberry Pi is excellent at powering PSP games without any technical experience. Compatibility is almost perfect, so you can basically use PPSSPP for a great Raspberry Pi experience.
Fortunately, there’s lots of documentation to ensure a smooth emulation, and according to avid gamers, potential bugs and errors are not big enough to alter your experience.
Batocera is another Linux based system and not a technical emulator, but it carries the same capabilities. Furthermore, since it’s a Linux system, it’s free. The best part about it is you can emulate numerous platforms, from PSP and MS-DOS to Nintendo Wii and Apple II… Apart from Raspberry Pi, of course.
You gain access to different themes, bezels, fancy bells and whistles, shaders, and so on. Practically, Batocera is known for its aesthetic profile in terms of visual effects and graphics.
Assuming you’ll try out other platforms too, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the bezel feature. Based on the platform you emulate, you’ll have a bezel around the screen for a more original experience.
All in all, Batocera is simple and intuitive, so setting it up is a matter of minutes.
Just like other applications in this list, RecalBox runs on the RetroArch platform. It’s a free application with a highly intuitive interface. Even if this is the first time you use an emulator, you’ll get used to it straight away.
Managing your game libraries is what makes RecalBox stand out because the process is flawless.
RecalBox also supports different gaming platforms, so you have a bit of variety apart from Raspberry Pi. Numerous features are included too, such as screenshots, multiplayer settings, and wireless controllers.
There are a bunch of other emulators that could give you an immersive Raspberry Pi experience, some of them more general and varied than others. Here are a few other options to consider:
- PCSX ReARMed
Bottom line, Raspberry Pi has definitely earned its fair share of fans overtime. To some of them, it was a temporary experience. To many others, it brought in a deep introduction to video games or perhaps some of the best childhood memories. The possibility to enjoy retro Raspberry Pi games on modern devices is definitely worth some attention, and any of the above mentioned emulators can provide a unique experience with no hassle whatsoever.