Raspberry Pi Retroarch vs. Retropie: Which One is the Best for Classic Game

If you are stuck between Raspberry Pi RetroArch vs. RetroPie, we got you covered.

These two open-source software packages allow users to emulate classic consoles and arcade systems on their Raspberry Pi. 

RetroArch and RetroPie have saved us from downloading individual emulators that could only emulate one system.

However, new retro gamers find choosing the ultimate retro gaming software for their Raspberry Pi project challenging.  

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As hinted before, Retropie enables you to play multiple retro games when you install it on devices such as Raspberry Pi. However, the designers made Retropie with Raspberry Pi in mind, which is clear from the name. 

Though Raspberry Pi doesn’t come with Retropie, you can easily download it from the company website through the Raspberry Pi Imager program. Once you download it, flash it to the SD card you will use for RPi. 

When you install it on Raspberry Pi, you build it upon three major projects, EmulationStation (the UI for browsing and launching games), RetroArch (the actual emulation management), and Raspbian ( the main operating system for Raspberry Pi).

In addition to Raspberry Pi, it can run on compatible hardware such as ODroid C1/C2 and PC. However, it uses its operating system, so you require a device you won’t use to run anything else.

The software can help you emulate 51 systems, including Amstrad CPC, 3do, Apple II, Amiga, Atari 2600, Atari 7800, Atari Jaguar, and more. However, this may vary depending on the one you choose.

The ultimate one is a prebuilt, fully loaded RPi 4 offering more than 100,000 games. 


RetroArch is a front-end for game engines, emulators, and media players that offer a framework to run different cores to emulate any platform.

Unlike Retropie, which uses its operating system, RetroArch can operate on a wide range of operating systems enabling you to game on any device in your home. 

Some operating systems where you can use RetroArch include Mac, Windows, Linux, Android, iOS, and Wii.

That said, investing in Raspberry Pi is optional because as long as you have a computer or phone, you can access RetroArch. 

The software is available for download on the official RetroArch website, and you can find Android versions too. Emulators come added as core with their graphic setting.

Some popular platforms this software can emulate are SNES, PlayStation, NES, Atari numbers, Virtual Boy, and numerous others.

Raspberry Pi Retroarch vs. Retropie: The Differences

Operating System

The obvious difference between these two software is the number of operating systems they can work on. Rewtropie uses its operating system built specifically with Raspberry Pi in mind.

Meaning if you want to use Retropie for your gaming setup, it would be best if you purchase Raspberry Pi.

Though it is also compatible with other hardware such as ODroid C1/C2 or PC, you can run it only on a device you don’t plan to use for something else because it uses its operating system.  

On the other hand, RetroArch uses a wide range of operating systems enabling you to game on any device you already own in your home.

That way, you don’t have to purchase a Raspberry Pi. This is a great way to test RetroArch before spending time and money on the Raspberry Pi project. 

Connecting Raspberry Pi to your laptop

Connecting Raspberry Pi to your laptop

Core Installation

Retropie has a pre-installed core, so you don’t have to download each emulator. But remember, you will need to download ROM for a specific emulator to appear in Retropie. 

Besides, a pre-installed core is only sometimes up to date, which is a big issue with Retropie. Out-dated core interferes with the gaming performance and results in latency issues. 

The designers usually update the emulator on this software a week or two before release.

This enables you to test and identify update issues with your Retropie before installing it to your system.

RetroArch doesn’t come with pre-installed emulators, and this makes them the most up-to-date option all the time. 


Latency or input responsiveness has been a long-standing issue with emulators.

The Latency is simply a slight delay from pushing a button on the screen to initiate an intended action.

It can be a huge problem when playing games that require quick responsive time. 

RetroArch includes tools such as adjustable audio buffering and frame delay that can help fix this problem.

This is something that Retropie needs to adapt because nothing is more annoying than getting into a video game only to battle lag issues throughout. 

Raspberry pi Retroarch vs. Retropie – FAQs

Is RetroPie the Same as RetroArch?

RetroPie is not the same as RetroArch. Though they may have similar applications, they differ in how they operate and where you can preferably use them.

Retropie can be installed in Raspberry Pi to enable you to enjoy thousands of retro games, while RetroArch runs on a wide range of platforms. 

Is RetroPie based on RetroArch?

RetroArch is the actual emulation management and is part of the Retropie suite. The software uses two other projects, Raspbian and EmulationStation. 

What is the Best Emulation OS Raspberry Pi?

Retropie is the best option for Raspberry Pi OS. The designers made it specifically for this, and you should purchase RPi if you want to use it. 

Is There a Better Alternative to RetroPie?

There are alternatives to Retropie, such as Lakka, Pi Entertainment System (PES), and Recalbox. However, whether they are better alternatives depends on your preference. 

Raspberry pi Retroarch vs. Retropie – The Final Verdict

Picking between Raspberry RetroArch vs. Retropie can be challenging, especially if you are new to the gaming industry. However, we have made it simple.

From our discussion above, it is clear that Retropie is ideal when using Raspberry Pi. If you are using a different device, you will prefer RetroArch.