Recalbox is a cross-platform and all-in-one retrogaming operating system. It allows you to play tens of thousands of games on more than a hundred home consoles, portable consoles, computers, but also on arcade terminals! In this article, we will see together how to install Recalbox easily.
At FLEX it is our favorite choice. The system is stable and offers advanced features to bring your games into the 21st century while keeping their retro charm. Everything is fully customizable, from the emulator settings to the interface, with beautiful themes (we chose NextPixelIt is supported by a very active community that keeps it constantly evolving and produces a lot of technical documentation but also 100% retrogaming content on their Youtube channel.
For this tutorial we'll use a Raspberry Pi4, but it's also valid if you want to install Recalbox on a PC or Odroid, you'll just have to select the right hardware when downloading.
Hardware needed :
- A computer with an internet connection
- A raspberry-pi (all versions are supported but the 4 is the one that will give you the best performance)
- USB-C power supply of at least 2A and a micro hdmi cable to (your input on the screen side, probably a hdmi)
- A micro SD card (get a good one because EVERYTHING will be stored on it! We take SanDisk 128gb)
- A wired controller or one USB keyboard
A micro SD card reader (we love these little SanDisk readers)
1. Download Recalbox
Go to the official Recalbox website and follow the instructions to download the right version for your hardware
Download and install Raspberry Pi imager, this is the program that will allow you to "flash" your micro SD card (you can also download the image alone to flash it with Etcher for example).
If you install on a PC it's the same, it's just the storage medium that changes.
2. Write the image on the card
Select the OS to flash then the hardware used, in this case under "Emulation and game OS" we will look for "Recalbox" then "Raspberry Pi4". We choose our micro SD card in the list "Storage" then we launch with "Write".
The utility will download a version adapted to your hardware and flash it on the card. Depending on the speed of your connection/reader/card it may take a while, at least you have time to go and make a coffee.
3. First launch of Recalbox
Insert your micro SD card in the Raspberry, connect an hdmi (on the power supply side) then turn it on by connecting the power supply.
The system will now create the necessary partitions on the card.
It takes about ten minutes, the system will reboot and bring you to the main menu. You have time to make yourself a sandwich.
4. Basic configuration
4.1 System settings
Let's start by changing the interface language. Connect a joystick (normally they are preconfigured if recognized by Recalbox) or a keyboard to the USB port of the Raspberry.
By default a keyboard is configured as follows:
Enter > Start (wait for the settings from the main menu)
Q > Ok
S > Back
From the main menu, go to the settings with the start button on your controller or the Enter button on your keyboard, then :
> System settings
> System language
> Keyboard layout
> We make return to the controller or to the keyboard with the letter S, the system will restart to record.
This time it's much faster, but the time it takes to restart you still have a minute to wonder about the emptiness of existence.
4.2 Setting up the controllers
If you install your Raspberry in an arcade machineyou will probably have connected your buttons to a usb encoder. To be able to navigate with the joystick/buttons we will have to tell Recalbox which button does what (we will map them). Don't worry, Recalbox includes a very well done utility.
From the main menu go to the settings with the start button of your controller or the enter button of your keyboard then :
> Controllers settings
> Configure a controller
> The system asks you to press and hold a button on the controller to be configured and if all goes well it launches the utility.
Follow what it asks you to do, up, down, left, right, skip the analog joysticks if you don't have any, we configure the buttons and then very importantly we choose the "hotkey". This is the only command that can be assigned to a button that has already been used above, usually we put hotkey on the select key. It is by doing the combination of keys Start + Hotkey that we will be able to leave a game.
4.3 Go ahead and search!
Now that you can navigate easily, we encourage you to dig into the settings to compose your Recalbox the way you want. We recommend that you start with :
- Connecting it to WiFi under "Network Settings
- Change the theme under "Appearance Options
- Select the right output for the sound under "Sound options".
All the settings are detailed on this excellent video of Fabrice.
5. Add Roms and Bios
The roms are the files of the games you will have downloaded, the bios are the files used by Recalbox to run these games.
Recalbox integrates "out of the box" nearly 160 royalty free games and their bios. You can easily add others that you have downloaded on the internet but be careful! To be legal you must have the original copy of the game and its console!
To access the storage folders "roms" and "bios" you have 2 solutions:
5.1 Solution 1 : insert your micro sd in the reader of your computer
This is the technique to use if you have a lot of roms to transfer or if the wifi network is bad between your computer and the Raspberry. By default when you insert your card in the PC, only the "Recalbox" partition is visible but it is not the one we are interested in, we want access to the "Share" partition.
Again a video of Fabrice to explain you the procedure to make it appear under windows. Once the partition is visible, you can drag your roms under share/roms/(console folder)
In each folder, a text file gives you some details about the expected file format (often a zip)
5.2 Solution 2 : access to files via WiFi or ethernet cable
This is a very practical solution to add small games or a big game from time to time. Under good conditions transfers can be fast, and no need to open your arcade every time you want to add/remove a game, but also to change the theme or access the advanced settings via the recalbox manager.
Follow this video guide to add games and bios.
6. Play the game!
Don't forget to restart your recalbox after each big change / addition or removal of a game. Also make sure to turn it off properly by using the "Select" button from the main menu then "Turn off".