Illustration | design

RetroPie Case

These are pictures from a project I’ve been working on for the past couple of weekends and days off: building a case for a Raspberry Pi 3, running RetroPie.
For those who don’t know about the Raspberry Pi, it’s a cheap, small computer, which you can use to build all manner of projects. You can install a full operating system on it (like Raspberry’s own ‘Raspbian’ or a full-fledged Linux distribution) but people have found all kinds of uses for them. Including running a suite of retro gaming console emulators, which is what I’m doing with it.

The hardware involved, is a Raspberry Pi 3 + micro SD card (has the game ROMS and the software on it) + charger + Hyperpixel4 screen + 8Bitdo SN30 wireless controller + a cheap battery pack + USB cable with an off-switch (not pictured). I started out with a cheap wired controller I bought off eBay years ago but the SN30 is really worth the investment since it also pairs with MacOS, Windows, iOS and Android. I even got a clip to mount my phone on top of it if I ever want to play games on there.
Maybe at some point I’ll write out a post about how and what I had to install to get everything working, since there’s many guides but none of them are as complete as I would like. There’s a bunch of things that don’t work right out-of-the box or have some caveats, including running Amiga or DOS games for example.

Here’s a list of the emulators I have set up and running at the moment:

  • Amiga (but I haven’t configured any controllers for it yet)
  • Gameboy (and Gameboy Color)
  • Gameboy Advance
  • NES
  • SNES
  • N64
  • Sega Mastersystem
  • Sega Megadrive (or Genesis, if you’re in the USA)
  • Sega GameGear
  • NeoGeo
  • NeoGeo Pocket (and Pocket Color)
  • DOS games
  • PS1

Some I still need to get working properly, are ‘arcade’ games (commonly refered to as ‘MAME’). The difficulty with arcade games, is that there are many different kinds of games running on different versions of the appropriate software so you need to do a bit of puzzling to get things exacly right and I haven’t got the patience at this point.

For building the case, I mainly used recycled materials. Most of it is corrugated cardboard (different thicknesses, sourced from various packaging boxes), a bit of 2mm white cardboard and a lot of PVA glue. Oh, and a couble of bolts & nuts + 2 strips of transparent plastic for the hinges (I cut up some plastic dividers I found but could just as easily have used cardboard as well).
The whole thing is painted in some generic black water-based paint I still had and the ‘metal’ is a silver-colored acrylic paint I applied using some dry brusing (I once bought a small set for airbrushing for cheap). Then I sealed it using a spray can of transparent matte coating.
I probably need to do another pass with some black and silver to make the ‘weathering’ look better but I like it okay enough for now.
Since taking these pictures, I also replaced the USB cable with one that has an integrated off-switch and the white charger is permanently plugged in. That way, I never have to take out the battery pack to charge or turn off the Pi. I also packed in a set of cheap headphones, the controller’s charging cable and the case for the micro SD card.