Raspberry Pi Gaming Operating Systems

3 min read

In this article by Shea Silverman, author of the book Raspberry Pi Gaming Second Edition, we will see how the Raspberry Pi, while a powerful little device, is nothing without software to run on it. Setting up emulators, games, and an operating system can be a daunting task for those who are new to using Linux. Luckily, there are distributions (operating system images) that handle all of this for us. In this article, we will demonstrate a distribution that have been specially made for gaming.

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PiPlay is an open source premade distribution that combines numerous emulators, games, and a custom frontend that serves as the GUI for the Raspberry Pi. Created in 2012, PiPlay started as PiMAME. Originally, PiMAME was a version of Raspbian that included the AdvanceMAME and AdvanceMENU frontend. The distribution was set to autologin and start up AdvanceMENU at boot up. This project was founded because of the numerous issues users were facing to get MAME to compile and run on their own devices. As more and more emulators were released, PiMAME began to include them in the image, and changed its name to PiPlay, as it wasn’t just for arcade emulation anymore.

Currently, PiPlay contains the following emulators and games:

  • AdvanceMAME (Arcade)
  • MAME4ALL (Arcade)
  • Final Burn Alpha (Capcom and Neo Geo)
  • PCSX_ReARMed (PlayStation)
  • Dgen (Genesis)
  • SNES9x (Super Nintendo)
  • Gearboy (Gameboy)
  • GPSP (Gameboy Advance)
  • ScummVM (point-and-click games)
  • Stella (Atari 2600)
  • NXEngine (Cave Story)
  • VICE (Commodore 64)
  • Mednafen (Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket Color, Sega Master System, Turbo Grafx 16/PC-Engine)

To download the latest version of PiPlay, go to http://piplay.org and click on the Download option. Now you need to burn the PiPlay image to your SD card. When this is completed, insert the SD card into your Raspberry Pi and turn it on.

Within a few moments, you should see an image like this on your screen:

Raspberry Pi Gaming - Second Edition

Once it’s finished booting, you will be presented with the PiPlay menu screen:

Raspberry Pi Gaming - Second Edition

Here, you will see all the different emulators and tools you have available. PiPlay includes an extensive controller setup tool. By pressing Tab key or button 3 on your controller, a popup window will appear. Select Controller Setup and follow the onscreen guide to properly configure your controller:

Raspberry Pi Gaming - Second Edition

At the moment, there isn’t much to do because you haven’t loaded any games for the emulators. The easiest way to load your game files into PiPlay is to use the web frontend. If you connect your Pi to your network, an IP address should appear at the top right of your screen. Another way to find out your IP address is by running the command ifconfig on the command line.

Navigate your computer’s web browser to this address, and the PiPlay frontend will appear:

Raspberry Pi Gaming - Second Edition

Here, you can reboot, shutdown, and upload numerous files to the Pi via a drag and drop interface. Simply select the emulator you want to upload files to, find your game file, and drag it onto the box. In a few moments, the file will be uploaded.

Raspberry Pi Gaming - Second Edition


In this article, you have been introduced to PiPlay Raspberry Pi distribution. All Raspberry Pi distributions share a lot in common, they go about implementing gaming in their own unique ways. Try all and use the one that fits your gaming style the best.

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