Build your own retro game console

Our TV setup with the Blast 16 operating system running.

Did you grow up in the nineties playing games that came in cartridges? The last years Nintendo especially, but also SEGA, Neo Geo and others have had immense success in selling retro-consoles in “mini” versions. Here is how to build your own instead.

Why, you ask? Because it’s fun! But also, to keep the legacy of all the games NOT included on the official mini-versjons alive.

Choosing hardware

There are several ways of emulating old gaming consoles. You can even do it on your smartphone (if you have an Android device), but I’ll be using the famous Raspberry Pi. I’m fitting it with a 32GB Micro-SD card. Why 32GB? Because it currently is the best cost vs capacity size, but you could do with as low as an 8GB to, just make sure to choose a fast and expensive card as the cheaper ones tend to end up corrupted at some point. I usually end up with the Sandisk Ultra or Extreme cards.

Then you need a case for the Raspberry and a couple of controllers. There are again, a sea of alternatives, I chose to buy Retroflag. Simply because the quality is great, and the look is awesome and true to the original consoles and controllers.

Retroflag MegaPi case with Retroflag controllers

The Retroflag case includes a power on/off switch and a restart button that is useful compared to other Raspberry Pi cases. I’m using a Raspberry Pi 3B+, make sure you buy a case that is compatible with the Raspberry Pi you have. My case is for example not compatible with the new Raspberry Pi 4.

Choosing the right distro

You could use distro’s like Retropie or Recalbox (I personally love Recalbox). These are Linux based distros with EmulationStation as a front end that can emulate almost any old console from the Atari 2600 up to Playstation.

But instead, I’m going to write about the distro called Blast16. It’s a distro dedicated to emulate SEGA Megadrive, including MasterSystems and Megadrive 32x.

In this blogpost I will use Blast16, simply because it’s what I have in my living room, I love the Megadrive controllers and because Nintendo is a bit frantic about emulation…

I’m not going to write a HowTo on installing Blast16, because the official guide is quite good. Also, this video-tutorial from ETA Prime that also includes how to transfer games and boxart to the Raspberry Pi is very good:

Where do I get games and boxart?

I could tell you, but it could get Vivaldi (my blog host) in trouble, do a search in a private browser window for “genesis roms” and you should find some sites where you can download ROM (Read Only Memory) files. If you search for a “roms pack” you could probably find a download that includes all the games ever released for SEGA Megadrive/Genesis.

Boxart for all SEGA Megadrive/MasterSystems games can be found on if you scroll down a bit.

Blast16 can handle up to 200 games loaded on the system without issues. More than that and the UI starts to slow down. I have about 120 games loaded on mine, and it runs butter smooth 🙂

Note I: In the US, SEGA called the Megadrive Genesis. You can change the branding and regional logos in the distro to match your childhood. This does not affect the games; you can play games from any region regardless.

Note II: You can use Bluetooth controllers, but only a selected few actually work. I think I’ve read that they only officially support controllers from 8Bitdo.

Note III: If you are more of a Nintendo-fan, you can download the distro for Super Nintendo emulation from the same developer. It works more or less identically, just for SNES instead.

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