December 8, 2017 NESPi + RetroPie: How to Build Your OWn NES Mini

NESPi + Retropie: How To Build Your Own NES Mini

As the huge sale success of the NES Classic Mini shows, the NES is still enjoying great popularity even more than 30 years after it’s release. The production of the mini-console has been discontinued despite good sales figures in the meantime and should not be available again until next year. 

Thus, the Classic Mini is currently only on the second hand market to get correspondingly high prices. So it looks like you need to make do with an original NES from Ebay, just like the Fresh Prince from Bel Air!

Fresh Prince enjoying the NES

But, wait! Why not just turn a Raspberry Pi into a retro games emulation machine? Retro gaming systems like RetroPie make this possible without much configuration effort.

What is RetroPie?

RetroPie offers the ability to run over 50 different game emulators on a Raspbian operating system. So you can, for example play NES; SNES, Super Nintendo, Game Boy, Nintendo 64, Playstation Portable (PSP), Sega Megadrive, Atari console games, and Arcade games on the Raspberry Pi 3. RetroPie brings together a number of projects such as EmulationStation and RetroArch.

What is missing then is the iconic gray case of the console classic of course. Since the selection of high-quality Raspi cases in the NES look is not exactly abundant, the manufacturer Retroflag with its NESPi Case now wants to close this gap in the market.

The NESPi delivery contents
Delivery contents: This is what you get when you order the NESPi.

Close to the Nintendo Entertainment System Model

The NESPi Case is not just a plastic enclosure for the Raspberry Pi. To preserve the charm of the original, two of the four USB ports with network socket were banned under the flip. The remaining two USB ports are intended for connecting gamepads and sit in the appropriate place.

The whole thing is extended by a power and a reset button. As with the big prototype, the power button snaps in and displays the on state of the device via a red LED.

Owners of the original will remember the mysterious expansion slot on the underside of the NES. Also at the NESPi Case there is a removable lid at this point, which serves only as a hiding place for SD cards.

The NESPi has a little lid where you can store sd cards
Secret stash at the bottom o the NES case: Store SD cards where no one is looking

Retroflag says:

“We created this Pi case applying the most iconic element in the retro game world as a homage to the most classic console ever made.”

The case is compatible with the models RasPi B +, 2B and 3B. In addition to the housing is a small screwdriver and an English-language assembly instructions included.

Optionally, a 30 mm × 30 mm fan can be installed, which, however, is not absolutely necessary in the already quite moderate heat development of the Rasperry Pi.

The housing also has ventilation slots. These are under the black stripe. However, the slots were so small that at first I thought the indicated ribs were not open.

There is also a proposed mounting option for a fan. If you take a closer look, you will find two small contact pins in the housing that are even intended for connecting a fan (5 V).

UNder the hood of the the NESPi
Under the hood: This is how the NESPi case looks with a built-in Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi NES case in practice

The installation of the Raspberry Pi is very simple. Before the board is mounted in the chassis, the USB and network plugs must be connected to the Pi. In addition, the plug for power and reset is attached to the GPIO pins.

The orientation of the plug is important here – this is connected the wrong way, it can cause damage to the Raspberry Pi 3. On the website of the manufacturer, there is a detail photo, which unfortunately is not included in the included instructions.

To use the power button, however, it must be mentioned that this should not be operated during operation, as it does not activate a shutdown sequence, but merely disconnects the Raspberry Pi 3 from the mains.

Although hardware damage is not to be feared, damage to the data system of the SD card can be the result of such an action. It is therefore important to ensure that the device shuts down properly before switching off.

Installing Retropie

Prepare SD Card

Download the latest RetroPie Images from the RetroPie site. To copy the image to the supplied MicroSD card, use Etcher. The program is available for Windows, Mac OSX and Linux.

Download Etcher and install it.

Open Etcher and select the previously downloaded RetroPie image (image does not need to be unzipped). Click on “Select Image”.

Etcher Installation Select Image

Then use “Select Drive” to select the MicroSD card as the destination. Etcher should automatically select the Micro SD card as the destination.

Etcher Installation Select Drive

Now click on “Flash!” To start the writing process. 

If Etcher indicates an error, reformat the Micro SD card. After the image has been successfully written to the microSD card, the following window appears:

Start RetroPie and configure the controller

Insert the microSD card into the opening on the right side of the NESPI housing.

NESPi housing illustration

Now connect the console to a monitor using the supplied HDMI cable and connect the SNES controllers to the console. Then plug the MicroUSB plug into the socket provided on the console. Raspberry Pi is now launching the RetroPie Image.

The first step is to set the key assignment for the connected controller.

When the following view appears, click and hold any button on your controller.

RetroPie Gamepad setup

After the connected controller has been detected, the following view appears. 

Retropie Gamepad setup success screen

Now follow the instructions on the screen to configure the buttons on the controller. After you’ve configured all the buttons, simply press and hold the A button until you jump to the next entry. Repeat this step until you reach the “OK” button. This OK completes the controller configuration.

You can set up your second controller later in the start menu of Emulation Station.

The key assignment of your SNES controller:

RetroPie controller key assignment


RetroPie supports shortcuts from your controller. The following functions can be performed:

Select+StartExit Emulator
Select+Right ShoulderSave
Select+Left ShoulderLoad
Select+RightInput State Slot Increase
Select+LeftInput State Slot Decrease
Select+XRGUI Menu

Copy ROMs (games) to RetroPie

For copyright reasons, no games are included with RetroPie. There are three ways to transfer the ROMs to the RetroPie (USB, SFTP and Samba shares). After transferring the ROMs, the emulation station must be restarted.

The game ROMs are very easy to find on the internet. It is recommended to use Google search to search for ROMs.

The emulation station is restarted by pressing the start button on the controller in the start screen, then on “Quit” and “Restart emulation station”.

Samba file sharing


Enter “\\ retropie” in the explorer. You can also replace “retropie” with the IP of the Raspberry Pi. Now you can copy the ROMs in the folder roms into the appropriate emulator folder.

RetroPie Samba files haring on  Windows

Mac OSX:

In the sidebar under releases of the finder, an entry should be retropie. Click on it to connect to the Raspberry Pi. Now you can copy the ROMs in the folder roms into the appropriate emulator folder.

Retropie Samba file sharing on Mac OS

Copy games with the USB stick

The USB stick must have the file format FAT32 or NTFS. Create a folder called retropie on the USB stick. Plug the USB stick into one of the USB ports on the console into the Raspberry Pi with RetroPie and wait about 20 seconds.

Now plug the USB stick back into the PC or laptop. In the retropie folder new folders should have been created. In folder retropie / roms a separate folder was created for each emulator. Copy the ROMs into the appropriate emulator folder.

Super Nintendo ROMS have the suffix .sfc and must be copied to the folder retropie / roms / snes.

Plug the USB stick back into the RetroPie console and wait about 10-20 seconds for about 4 games again. You can now pull out the USB stick.

Restart the emulation station by pressing the start button on the controller, then “Quit” and “Restart emulation station”.

After rebooting you should be able to select an emulator with the directional pad.


Undoubtedly, the NESPi case from Retroflag makes a great impression. The installation of the Raspi board seems very simple, and if you are looking for a high-quality alternative to the currently available cases in NES style, you can safely access them here.

If you just want to play well-known games on well-known consoles with well-known controllers, you can do so with great security without any configuration effort. If minor problems occur, it is usually sufficient to select an alternative emulator for the respective system in order to remedy it. Retropie is a great choice for retrogaming beginners on the Raspberry Pi 3.

The NESPi Case is now available Amazon!

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