Retro Gaming Hardware/Software Advice

I put this here instead of the gaming category because I think it’s more about hardware than it is about gaming.

I am interested in building a retro gaming device with my son (he is 21, not young). This is just for fun.

I have seen projects like Retro Pi that look pretty neat but I don’t really know what is out there and what works well. I am NOT a gamer and I really don’t pay much attention to that world.

I’m not too worried about price (within reason of course – this is just for fun). I just mean I don’t need to go the cheapest possible… e.g., if it will bring substantially more capability to use, say an Intel NUC vs a Rasp Pi I am open to that.

So, what would you recommend I buy in terms of hardware? What should the base be? Controllers? Which host system?

I am primarily after the flexibility to use as many emulators as possible, preferably with a nice interface. Just connecting to a 1080p TV via HDMI so nothing too elaborate needed (I don’t think).

If it helps, I would classify my Linux skills “advanced”, more or less. :slight_smile:

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So the hardware heavily depends on what games you want to play, for instance a raspberry pi 4 can play pretty much everything up untill the n64, even then some games don’t work well like Goldeneye and Conkers Bad Furday. These games have performance issues even with the latest release of Retropi which makes it possible to play some Dreamcast games really well on the Pi4 like Crazy Taxi. If this is okay for you then I would recommend the Raspberry Pi 4 2gb min with a Flirc case which will allow you to overclock to 2ghz on the CPU and 700 on the GPU without needing a fan, the case itself can cool off the Pi4. If you want external storage your best bet would be to get a [powered] USB 3.0 hub so you can connect a full sized SSD or a 3.5 inch hard drives to the Pi4 with disk enclosures. The Raspberry Pi 4 works best with Retro Pi in my opinion but Lakka is a great alternative that uses retro-arch as it’s OS which gives you a nice ps3 like menu to play with.

For Playstation 2 emulation, Wii and Gamecube I would recommend a AMD Athlon 3000G 2-Core, 4-Thread at bare min with a GTX 1050 or equivalent Amd card this is because some of the PlayStation 2 games namely need for speed carbon or later released Wii games are very graphics intensive on the emulation side of things. Side note Arm 64 is not compatible with pcxs2 the main Ps2 emulator at the moment so x86 single board computers like a Intel NUC can run these emulators but performance on many games will be compromised by the low powered GPU on single board computers so I recommend building a micro Atx low power PC instead for these kinds of games.

Emulator List

  • Higan - SNES
  • Mupen64Plus - Nintendo64
  • Reicast - Dreamcast
  • Pcsx2 - Playstation 2
  • Dolphin - Gamecube & Wii
  • Cemu - Nintendo Switch
  • Rpcs3 - PlayStation 3
  • PPSSPP - PlayStation Portable

Final note Ps3 games are very hard to run, The AMD Ryzen 3 3300X with a Rx 5500 XT should be able to handle PS3 Emulation at 1080p 60fps on pretty much everything.


Retroarch ( is definitely worth a look at as far as emulators with a nice interface are concerned. It acts as a frontend to various emulators, using plugins (called cores) to install the emulators. The cores I use are:

  • Emux NES for the NES
  • Snes9x-current for the SNES
  • Beetle PSX HW for the Playstation

As far as hardware goes I’m set up on a Lenovo B590 with a 3rd generation Core i3 and 8Gb of RAM. Playstation games run a little sluggish sometimes, but anything lower end runs just fine.


Thank you so much for all of the great info!

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Thank you! Perfect! Will definitely check it out.

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Check out the ETAPrime Youtube channel…

Note: I’m not a gamer, but I think that Retro games are the “lesser evil” these days, compared the really, really addictive AAA game titles out there now…

I try to advocate non-addiction whenever I can. The nice thing about retro games is that you can save the game state, and thereby stop playing, and this can help kids regulate time spent playing games daily (as in, after a certain amount of time, save the game state, stop playing, then do something else more wholesome instead).

The newer games suck you into playing for hours and hours and hours on end, “punishing” you for stopping (your friends will get more experience than you, and you’ll fall behind your friends). Not good!


When you mentioned retro-gaming I was thinking C64 and Speccy, or Amiga and DOS :slight_smile:

My nephews have owned PS3+4, Wii etc but I’ve never played any games on those or consoles in-between. Emulation has always fascinated me though, so I might try some of the more modern options some time.

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Throw in Atari and yes, you get the idea. :slight_smile:

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I agree @esbeeb. When my kids were young we were the mean parents that curtailed their game time. In fact, we made them earn 30 minutes of video games with 30 minutes of reading. It worked out pretty well. Now that they’re older and my son especially likes the playing with video games from before his time, I thought it would be fun to build something. I am not a gamer at all. At least with the old games from my era I have a chance to compete with him though. :slight_smile:

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