Create a simple, easy retro gaming system

There are so many systems available on PC when it comes to making a retro gaming system. First there is my favorite, the hard to do but immensely cool Hyperspin. You can see a video of my Hyperspin install below.

Next you have the slightly easier RetroArch. Lastly the excellent LaunchBox. However, the problem with all of these systems is they are difficult to set up and require newer hardware to work properly. You also have to use them within an operating system, adding further complications.

But there is another way to get your old games fix. It’s called Lakka. It’s simple to create, works on pretty much any old hardware and requires very little configuration.

Lakka Retro Gaming System

Seriously, this is the easiest way to build a retro gaming system there is. Controllers are plug and play, the hardware requirements are tiny and the system is quick and easy and will be familar to navigate to those who have ever played on a Sony console. I even have an install of this on an old netbook that I turned into an oversized Gameboy.

To create your own Lakka install, follow the steps below. All you need for this is an old pc or laptop, a USB stick, a USB gamepad and some game roms to play. I can’t help you find the roms, but there are plenty of resources available with a quick google.

Build a retro gaming system

  • To begin, go to the install Lakka page for Windows and click PC. Grab the 64Bit version unless you are using an old Atom netbook. If this is the case, grab the 32Bit version.
  • While Lakka is downloading, click next step & download Win32DiskImager. We will need this to create a Lakka usb stick for your install. Once it’s downloaded, install Win32 and open it.
  • Follow the instructions to create a Lakka USB stick and click next.
  • Make sure your donor computer is switched off, connected to a wired internet connection and that your USB stick is inserted. Boot the pc.
  • During boot, to load from the USB, you might have to press F1, F11,F12 or delete to go to boot manager. Keep an eye while it’s loading for which key to press to make sure you are loading your USB Stick and not from the hard drive.
  • If all is right, you should see the screen below.

Lakka booting screen

  • Run the installer. You can run Lakka directly from the USB, but it tends to be slow, buggy and not offer much space for games. So we are going to install it instead.
  • Warning! The disk will be erased, so make sure you don’t have anything you want to keep on there.
  • Choose quick install and choose your hard drive as the target drive.
  • Let the installer run. It takes literally a couple of minutes. You might miss it. If it goes back to the install screen, it’s finished.
  • Remove the USB stick and reboot the pc. You should be greeted by the screen below.

lakka opening screen

Congrats! You have a basic working install. Now to keep it easy, we will load games from the Nintendo Entertainment System onto the install. This is easy because as long as you have the roms, it will work. Some of the later systems, such as PSP, Playstation 1, Dreamcast and Panasonic 3DO need bios files to even think about working. Keeping it simple with systems such as the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, Gameboy, Master System etc takes away these troubles.

Configure your Retro Gaming System

  • Plug in a gamepad. Lakka will recognise it and auto configure it. You should now be able to navigate around the system
  • To load games, go to the PC they are on and go to Network. From there you should see Lakka as a network share.
  • Click Lakka and go to ROMS. Makes a folder called NES and drag and drop your ROM files from your PC into the folder.
  • Once loaded across, go back to your Lakka install.
  • Go to the 4th tab (it looks like a cross) and go to scan directory.
  • Go down to the NES folder, click into it and choose <scan this directory>.
  • Once it has run, come all the way back out to the main menu.
  • Go across the tabs at the top and a NES tab should have appeared. This has your games in it.
  • Choose the game you wish to play and launch it. Simple as that.
  • Repeat this process for all the other systems listed above.

If you do wish to dig deeper and build an install with PSP, Playstation 1 etc, check out the documentation for Bios etc. It’s not much harder and works pretty well. But it’s not something I’m going to go through here.

Well done, you just finished building your very own retro gaming system. Not that hard, was it? Below are a couple of shots of one of my setups, to show you what can be done. To change the look of your install, go to settings and then to menu. From there you can tweak the os to your heart’s desire.

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