How to Setup Raspberry Pi RecalBox?

RecalBox is a lightweight Linux distribution made specifically for turning a Raspberry Pi into a retro gaming console. With RecalBox, you can play classic games from platforms like NES, SNES, Genesis, PS1, and more, all from your Raspberry Pi. Setting up RecalBox is relatively straightforward, but does involve imaging an SD card, modifying some settings, and pairing controllers.

How to Setup Raspberry Pi RecalBox?

Benefits of Using RecalBox

Before we get into the setup process, let’s look at why you may want to install RecalBox in the first place:

  • Simplified emulation: RecalBox bundles together many popular emulators and optimizes them to work well on the Raspberry Pi’s hardware. This simplifies the emulation process.
  • Good performance: By tuning settings specifically for the Pi, RecalBox can get better performance in emulators compared to running them on standard Raspbian.
  • Easy game management: RecalBox provides an intuitive game interface and scrapes box art so you can browse your game collection.
  • Wide compatibility: RecalBox supports emulating dozens of retro game consoles and computers. The versatility is excellent.

So in summary, RecalBox makes setting up emulators much easier compared to configuring them yourself on Raspbian, and optimizes performance. This lets you focus on gaming instead of tinkering.

Hardware You Will Need

To install and run RecalBox on your Raspberry Pi, you will need the following hardware:

  • A Raspberry Pi 4 is recommended for best performance, but Pi 3 or Pi 2 will also work. Avoid Pi 1/Zero as performance will suffer.
  • Micro SD card with at least 16GB of capacity, Class 10 or UHS-1 rating preferred. This stores the OS and ROM files.
  • Power supply compatible with your Pi model that can provide at least 2.5A current.
  • HDMI cable and TV/monitor, and/or composite RCA video cable if your display supports it. Lets you see RecalBox’s interface.
  • USB controllers, keyboards, or specialized RetroPie-style gamepads if you don’t want to use keyboard controls. These connect to Raspberry Pi’s USB ports so you can control games.

Optional but recommended extras include:

  • Heatsinks and/or fans to control CPU/GPU temperature. This reduces thermal throttle which improves gaming performance.
  • MicroSD card reader to simplify getting RecalBox image onto the SD card if your computer does not have SD slot.

That covers the key gear you’ll require. With this hardware assembled, we can now look at installing the RecalBox software itself.

Installing RecalBox on Your SD Card

To install RecalBox, we’ll need to image the RecalBox distribution onto our SD card, similar to installing Raspbian. Here are the steps to image your card:

  1. Download latest RecalBox image: Visit and navigate to the downloads section to get the latest RecalBox image (not the update files). You want the image ending in .img.xz.
  2. Extract the image: The .xz compression must first be extracted so you have a regular .img file. On Windows use 7-Zip, on Mac/Linux use unxz command.
  3. Image SD card: Write the RecalBox .img file directly to your SD card with imaging software like balenaEtcher, Win32 Disk Imager, dd, etc. Be very careful to choose right drive so you don’t overwrite another disk.
  4. Enable SSH (optional): Place an empty ssh file in the /boot/ directory on the FAT32 partition so you can later access command line if needed.

That covers the basic imaging process. Insert your new RecalBox SD card into your Pi and power it on to begin setup.

First Boot and Configuring RecalBox

On your first boot, RecalBox will walk you through some mandatory configuration:

  • Choose language: On first launch you’ll be prompted to pick your UI language. This sets language globally.
  • Configure controllers: Follow the on-screen process to pair Bluetooth or USB gamepads with RecalBox and map buttons. Up to 4 controllers are supported.
  • Set display mode: Based on your display, set preferred video output mode. Safe mode is used if trouble.
  • Change username/password: Set the root login username and password so you can access command line.
  • Set Wi-Fi: Select your Wi-Fi network and enter password if you have a wireless router on network.
  • Update packages: RecalBox will then update its own packages to latest version before launching to menu.

That initial setup makes RecalBox ready for play. After, you can tweak more advanced options like overclock, display options, and adding game ROMs.

Key RecalBox Configuration Options

After first launching RecalBox, you may want to custom configure some options to meet your specific needs:


Overclocking your Pi’s CPU and GPU boosts gaming performance. To modify clock speed from RecalBox’s UI:

  1. Go to the main menu and choose System Settings.
  2. Select the Overclock tab.
  3. Pick from None, Low, Medium, or High/Turbo profiles.
  4. Confirm overclock settings change. System will reboot.

Start lower if concerned about heat issues or stability. Overclocking voids Pi warranty.

Display & Regional Options

Modify options like screen orientation, UI language, keyboard layout and more:

  1. Access the System Settings menu.
  2. Navigate to Display Options or Locale Options sub-menus.
  3. Tweak relevant settings in this section based on your setup needs.

Some tweaks require a reboot to take effect.

Set Up Gamepads & Controls

To modify gamepad configurations after initial setup:

  1. Access the Controller Settings section from the main UI menu.
  2. Select your paired controller here and edit button mapping.
  3. Further configurations like sensitivity are available for analog sticks and triggers.

If facing issues with gamepad response, try tweaking deadzone settings here for misbehaving analog sticks that drift or have inaccurate centering.

Scraping Media Information & Assets

To automatically pull box art and game metadata:

  1. From the main menu choose the option Scrape All Games For Assets.
  2. RecalBox will search online and attempt to download box art, descriptions, ratings and other metadata to flesh out your game collection with media.

Scraping may take awhile if you have a large games library! Enable internet connectivity first.

Adding ROMs to RecalBox

Of course setting up emulators is only half the fun – you need games! Here is how to add ROMs:

  1. Insert SD card into computer and mount share partition.
  2. Navigate to /share/roms/ folder – this is where ROMs are stored.
  3. Create a new folder for each system (nes, snes, megadrive etc.) if not already existing.
  4. Add your unpacked game ROMs (.zip, .7z archives won’t work) to relevant system folder.
  5. After adding ROMs, safely eject SD card from computer and insert back into Pi.
  6. Launch RecalBox on your Pi and your new games should now appear in the menus!

Downloading commercial ROM copies is often illegal. Only use personal backup copies legally obtained!

Now enjoy playing your favorite classic games on RecalBox! It may take some tweaking to polish your setup, but the gaming payoff is worth it!

Key Takeaways

To recap key points for setting up RecalBox successfully:

  • RecalBox simplifies emulation by bundling multiple emulators
  • Use Raspberry Pi 4 for best performance
  • Image RecalBox OS to >=16GB Class 10 MicroSD
  • Configure Wi-Fi, controllers, and performance options after first boot
  • Add ROMs to /share/roms/ folder, use folders for each system
  • Overclock for extra speed, watch thermals!
  • Scrape media data to make collections more engaging
  • Legally source personal backup copies of commercial game ROMs

Have fun gaming on RecalBox!


RecalBox delivers a polished retro gaming experience leveraging the unique capabilities of the Raspberry Pi. By streamlining multi-system emulation down to a simple SD card image and optimizing performance through overclocking, it makes enjoying classic titles easy. Configuring RecalBox’s wide array of options like gamepads, screen settings, Wi-Fi, and ROM folders enables fully customizing your setup. While a bit of learning is required on the front end, after RecalBox is tuned to your liking you can spend your time revisiting childhood favorites for that nostalgic gaming rush instead of fiddling with settings or troubleshooting emulators. RecalBox handles the complexity, you handle the gaming fun!

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Does my Raspberry Pi model work?
    RecalBox supports Pi 2/3/4 officially. Avoid Pi Zero and Pi 1 for best experience. Pi 4 is recommended.

  2. Can I overclock my Pi safely?
    Yes. But monitor thermals and start with conservative overclock profile. Heatsinks also recommended.

  3. Do I need to prep SD card before imaging?
    No. Directly image RecalBox OS to SD card with imaging software for simplicity. 16GB+ card required.

  4. Why add an empty ssh file?
    Adding empty
    ssh file to /boot/ partition lets you later access command line on RecalBox which is useful for troubleshooting.

  5. Can I use Bluetooth controllers?
    Yes. RecalBox supports connecting many Bluetooth gamepads in addition to wired USB ones.

  6. How do I exit a game and return to menu?
    Press your Start button mapped on your connected gamepad to exit games cleanly back to menu.

  7. What button do I map menu actions to?
    Map your gamepad’s “Hotkey” button to access menu shortcuts while gaming for quick save states, volume adjustment etc.

  8. What display resolutions are supported?
    RecalBox can output video from 640×480 progressive scan up to 1920×1080 HDMI. Match to your display device capabilities.

  9. Why add games per system folders?
    RecalBox reads ROMs from folders labeled per emulator (nes, snes etc.) Ensure your ROMs go into the designated emulator folder on the share partition.

  10. Can I play Sega CD or 32X games?
    Yes! RecalBox emulates Sega CD & 32X through the Genesis Plus GX emulator. Add your ISO & ROM files to the
    /Sega CD and /Sega 32X share folders respectively.

  11. What file formats do ROMs need?
    Most emulators rely on uncompressed ROMs such as
    .bin/.cue, .zip, or platform-specific like .sfc. Avoid compressed formats like .7z.

  12. How do I safely exit RecalBox?
    Press Start to return to main UI menu, then choose the Power icon followed by Shut Down System. Avoid simply powering off system.

  13. Can I access Linux terminal commands?
    Yes! You can access the Linux command line through SSH if you enabled it on first setup. Use the
    root username and your set password to login. Very useful for troubleshooting.

  14. Why does UI navigation lag?
    Try overclocking to Boost mode or tune GPU memory split settings to increase performance if UI navigation feels sluggish. Lower display resolution can also help.

  15. No audio in my games?
    Verify your TV or HDMI display has speakers or you have powered external speakers connected to audio jack or HDMI. Check audio settings if stillissues.

  16. Missing box art for games?
    Manually initiate metadata scraping which will download missing artwork online based on CRC identifiers. Art must exist online from various game databases for scraping to source it.

  17. How do I safely remove SD card?
    Once fully shutdown (not rebooting), it is safe to remove MicroSD card. Use safe software eject process if RecalBox is running to prevent SD card corruption.

  18. Controller not responding?
    Try re-pairing the controller using RecalBox’s pairing wizard accessible from main UI menu which will remap buttons. Check batteries if using wireless gamepad.

  19. Can I use Wi-Fi and ethernet?
    Yes. Ethernet takes priority if both connected, but Wi-Fi connectivity is supported and works well for networking. Enable Wi-Fi during initial configuration wizard.

  20. RecalBox won’t boot?
    If failing to boot, unplug all peripherals and try booting to Safe Mode from recovery menu. If boots, plug in devices one by one to isolate hardware causing conflicts.

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