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How To Make A Linux-Powered Classic Video Game Console With RecalboxOS

Many people buy the Raspberry Pi, ODroid, and other hobby boards to use it as a cheap, build-it-yourself media center that can play anything they want on it. However, there are other interesting things owners of these boards can do, like creating a Linux-powered classic video game console.

The retro scene for Pi owners is pretty much cornered by Retro Pi, and for good reason: they make a great free product that makes emulation on the TV easy. Still, Retro Pi isn’t the only emulation operating system available. If you’re looking for something a little more useful, install RecalboxOS.

In this tutorial, we’ll be focusing on installing RecalboxOS to the Raspberry Pi. Though, the Pi isn’t the only device that has excellent support for this Linux operating system. If you’re interested in using it, you’ll need a Raspberry Pi 1/2/3, an Odroid, or a traditional PC.

Installation Disk

To use RecalboxOS, an installation disk needs to be created. The steps differ, depending on what kind of machine you’re installing it on. If you are planning on using this OS on a traditional PC, download this version of the OS. It’s designed to run specifically on any generic PC. Keep in mind that you’ll need a USB flash drive of at least 2 GB to flash anything.

Alternatively, if you plan on installing RecalboxOS on a Raspberry Pi or Odroid, you’ll need to download a different image entirely. RecalboxOS has images available for the Raspberry Pi 1, Pi 2, Pi 3, Pi Zero, Odroid XU4 and Odroid C2.

Please understand that in order to use RecalboxOS on the Odroid or Raspberry Pi, a high-speed SD card is required. When buying an SD card, look through the description for “high performance”, etc.

Once you’ve downloaded the correct image for your device, download the latest version of the Etcher USB/SD Card flashing app. This program works very well with this guide, as users on Mac, Windows, and Linux can all use it no problem.

When Etcher finishes downloading, extract the AppImage file from the archive file. Then, open up the Linux file manager and double-click on the extracted Etcher file. Click the option in the pop-up window, and the program should instantly open.

Next, plug in your SD card (or USB flash drive if you’re using the PC version), and click the “Select Image” button to open up the file-browser dialog. In the file browser, find the RecalboxOS image file you downloaded and select it to open it with Etcher. To start the creation process, click “Flash!”

Flashing RecalboxOS with Etcher will take a few minutes, so be patient. When it completes, remove the SD (or USB)  from the PC, plug it into the device, and power it up to start the installation process.

Install RecalboxOS

As you plug in the device, you should see an installation screen. Depending on the device you’re installing on, the installation screen may look different. For hobby boards like the Pi and Odroid, it’s an automatic process. Don’t press anything and let RecalboxOS extract itself onto the SD card.

RecalboxOS will take more than a few minutes (depending on the speed of your SD card) to extract and create a fully functional, partitioned storage drive. When it completes, the grey install menu will fade away and replace itself with a black screen. Don’t worry, you won’t need to fiddle with this screen either. Be patient and wait for the next screen.

After the loading screens finish, RecalboxOS should be ready to use.

Using RecalboxOS

Gaming on RecalboxOS is fairly simple. Plug in a compatible game controller, and wait for the prompt that says “gamepad detected.”. Press and hold the button that RecalboxOS asks you to press, and soon you’ll be taken through the controller configuration menu.

Use the up and down buttons on your gamepad to select different emulators. Start a game by pressing the “A”, or “start” button on the gamepad. Need to quit? Press the “A” button on your USB/Bluetooth gamepad, select “close content”, then “quit”.

Adding ROM Files To RecalboxOS

Need to add some more video games to your RecalboxOS system? Plug in the SD card, and access the mounted device that says “SHARE”. In “SHARE”, go in the file manager, right-click and select “open in root”. If you don’t have that option, go to the Linux terminal and enter:

sudo name-of-filemanager

Inside the “SHARE” mounted partition, look for the “roms” folder. Inside this folder, there are dozens of emulators. Nintendo 64, PSP, SNES, NES, Sega, and more. To add ROMS for specific systems, find the correct folder and place the ROM inside.

Note: before adding any new roms, read the readme text file inside the emulator folder and follow the instructions.

When the new roms are added, unmount the SD Card, plug it back into the device and load RecalboxOS back up. You should see the new ROM files right away.

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