Raspberry Pi Retro Game Systems: RetroPie And Recalbox Face Off


2016 has been kind to retro gamers everywhere with the return of classic games to newer consoles. The year has been especially sweet after the return of the Nintendo NES Classic which brought back the old school games that shaped the video game industry.

Those who are not content with the re-mastered games, re-release of classic consoles that have limited games, and remakes of old handheld consoles such as the Super Retro Boy, however, have opted to make their own emulators from Single Board Computers (SBC) such as the Raspberry Pi 3 and open source platforms that promise a wider variety of games.

The two Retro Game system competing for the top spot are RetroPie and Recalbox and both are free to download and use with your Raspberry Pi 3 or other SBC with similar technical specifications.

Both systems offer a wide variety of games from Retro gaming consoles so making a choice between the two highly depends on what kind of user or player you are.

Update And Support

Between the two systems, RetroPie has a wider reach since it has been offered far longer than the Recalbox. Basically, this means that if you're the type of person who prefers the time-tested software, RetroPie is your best bet. That doesn't mean, however, that Recalbox is a no-go since this system also offers a wide variety of games and supports a wide variety of controllers. It's just that the Recalbox's does not update as often and as fast. The RetroPie, on the other hand, releases updates shortly after a new Raspberry Pi version is released.

Just take a look at the update announcements from the two companies below.

As for support, since the RetroPie is a bigger project, it is easier to find answers to your problems because of helpful and well-written documentation as well as active forums.

Despite the Recalbox's smaller reach, however, it still has a fairly good forum where other Recalbox users are willing to help out the newer users.

Difficulty With Setup

In truth, neither of the two are difficult to install if you follow the simple steps outlined I their respective websites. However, since installing the Recalbox is simpler and more "straight to the point," beginners and those who simply just want to play their Retro games already may want to use it over the RetroPie which offers more customization options.

"Recalbox is hands down the easier of the two to set up [...] download the newest version of Recalbox, copy all the files to your SD card, then put the SD in your Pi. Recalbox handles the rest," Thorin Klosowski writes.

He also notes that attempting customizations with the Recalbox can be a pain since it is mostly configured to be used in its simple form

If you are the type of person who wants to control every aspect of the emulator, however, Retropie will give you a better experience.

"RetroPie allows you to adjust nearly every aspect of the system so it can work on a huge variety of displays, with tons of different controllers, on different operating systems, and more [...] it's also built so you can choose what options get installed, change the version of Linux it runs, create your own splash screens on launch, tweak display properties, and tinker with nearly every setting imaginable," Klosowski adds.

The Verdict

As explained above, both RetroPie and Recalbox suit different types of gamers and DIY-ers. If simplicity and playing old games are what you seek, Recalbox would be the best system for you. On the other hand, if you want full control over every aspect of your Retro gaming experience, you will be happier with RetroPie.

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