Best Raspberry Pi Emulators 2021

by Jeremy

Source: Andrew Myrick / Android Central

It’s no secret that the Raspberry Pi is one of the most versatile series of computers available today. They don’t cost hundreds of dollars but can provide hours of fun and entertainment while helping to teach you about coding and the world of Unix. It’s incredible to realize how much power is on a board the size of a credit card (or even smaller). Truth be told, while some may tinker with the Raspberry Pi to block all the ads on their home Wi-Fi, many folks will want to get started because of retro game emulation.

Raspberry Pi Emulators Hero

Regardless of whether you’re using the Raspberry Pi 400 or even something a bit smaller like the Raspberry Pi Zero, retro game emulation is extremely fun once it’s been set up. Think about all of the hours playing those classic games from your childhood, and now you can relive the excitement with the best Raspberry Pi emulators.

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The top 3 apps

Some of the best standalone Raspberry Pi emulators

These are the best Raspberry Pi emulators

When it comes to the best Raspberry Pi emulators, there isn’t anything as robust and intuitive as RetroPie. The installation process is quick and easy, and you can easily upload your ROMs and get started in almost no time.

While RetroPie is a great option, some don’t need as many robust features, and that’s where Lakka comes in. This emulator offers a more simplistic interface with dynamic wallpapers support for many of the best controllers.

Both RetroPie and Lakka use RetroArch, but you can also install RetroArch directly onto your Raspberry Pi. There are more emulators than you can think of that can be implemented, so you’ll be able to emulate pretty much any game.

1. RetroPie

RetroPie Lifestyle

Source: Android Central

If you’re looking to create a retro gaming console with one of the best Raspberry Pi controllers and an emulator, arguably the first place you’ll stop is RetroPie. This is a fan-favorite for many since it has just about every emulator built-in, thanks to working in tandem with RetroArch and others to provide emulators. RetroPie’s interface is customizable, and there are more than enough customization tweaks to make your interface look and feel unique.

Getting RetroPie installed on your Raspberry Pi is pretty easy, and once you’re up and running, you can even use RetroPie Manager on the web to load your ROMs. This makes it so you won’t have to worry about plugging in a USB drive when you add a ROM to your RetroPie console. You can even “scrape” ROM information so you’ll get the correct cover art and descriptions for your games.

As for controller support, the sky’s the limit. You can use any of the best Raspberry Pi controllers with RetroPie. You can even customize the graphic and filters to make your display look like you’re playing on a CRT. You can even get the crispest graphics possible for a game that’s more than 20 years old.

The best for most

RetroPie Logo


Easy installation and excellent compatibility

RetroPie is the most robust interface for those who want a great Raspberry Pi emulator. You can even set RetroPie up to load your ROMs over your network instead of having to plug in a USB drive into your Pi every time you want to add a new game.

2. Lakka

Lakka Lifestyle

Source: Android Central

Although it may not be as well-known as RetroPie, Lakka is an excellent alternative. The interface itself is a bit different but still makes it easy to get up and run with your ROMs. It also uses RetroArch to bring compatibility and features to your Raspberry Pi for your retro gaming needs.

Lakka works with just about every retro console that you can think of, ranging from the NES to supporting Sony PSP games. It’s compatible with almost every Raspberry Pi model on the market, and since it’s using RetroArch, you’ll find some pretty nifty features like multiplayer, shaders, save states, and much more. Out of the box, you’ll find support for some of the best Raspberry Pi controllers, including the Xbox 360 controller and practically anything from 8Bitdo.

Despite not having nearly as many customization options as RetroPie, Lakka still gets the job done and is a great backup option for many. It’s completely free to download and easy to install, just like anything else that you’ll find on this list of the best Raspberry Pi emulators.

The next best

Lakka Icon


A more simplistic interface to emulate

If you don’t want all of the extra frills offered by RetroPie, then Lakka is the way to go. It works almost just as well as the other emulators and can be customized if you want to change how it looks.

3. RetroArch

While both RetroPie and Lakka make use of RetroArch for their feature sets and offer more elegant interfaces, there’s a reason why RetroArch isn’t just at the top of the list. It’s not the easiest to install, especially for beginners, because there can be a lot of lines of code that need to be entered to get things working correctly.

However, if you don’t want to fiddle around with either of the first two options, then it is possible to install RetroArch directly to your Raspberry Pi. It will run just like the same emulator on your Mac or PC, allowing you to fire up your games quickly. We recommend trying a few different games and ROMs out and then tinkering with the other display and performance settings to ensure that you’re getting the best experience possible.

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