Transform Any PC into a Retro Gaming Console (Batocera Guide) (2024)

Guides, Mini PCs

by Russ

Transform Any PC into a Retro Gaming Console (Batocera Guide) (1)

Chances are, you might have an older PC lying around the house. It’s not quite worth the effort to sell on your local marketplace, and nobody in the house wants it, either. How about we turn it into a retro gaming console instead?

In this guide I’ll show you how to install Batocera, a Linux-based custom operating system that will give your PC a console-like experience. Additionally, in this guide I’ll show you how to install PC games to play alongside your favorite retro classics.

Recommended tools

Solid State Drive: There are many ways to install Batocera onto a PC, but in this example, we are going to install it on a separate hard drive. The great thing about this setup is that it is self-contained, meaning that EVERYTHING (the games, emulators, and settings) are all self-contained within this hard drive. This method has three main advantages:

  • You won’t affect the main (Windows) installation in case you want to return to it
  • 2.5″ Solid State Drives (SSDs) are becoming increasingly cheap
  • You can move this hard drive to another computer in the future for upgraded performance

Among all of the SSD choices you have on the market, these are the three that I most commonly use. I recommend 1TB in size because they will cost about $50 and will give you plenty of storage for retro and modern games.

2.5" SSDs:Samsung 870 EVO (high quality)WD Blue 1TB (balance of quality/value)Crucial BX500 (budget)

Controller: For the most part, you will use a controller to navigate Batocera’s menus. I recommend the 8Bitdo Ultimate line of controllers, because they have a 2.4GHz USB dongle which will make connecting to your PC a breeze. There are a variety of options available, including an arcade stick:

8Bitdo Ultimate Controllers:2.4GHz wireless with dock ($50, my favorite)Pro controller ($70, also works on Nintendo Switch)2.4GHz wireless without dock ($30)Wired controller ($20)Arcade stick:8Bitdo Arcade Stick ($90, also works on Switch)

USB Keyboard and Mouse: In order to navigate the Batocera file system and add games, I recommend using a USB keyboard and mouse. If you already have a mouse and/or keyboard with a USB dongle, you are good to go! If you don’t, I recommend this one which is small and functions as both a keyboard and a mouse.

Recommended PCs

If you don’t have an older PC, here are some example mini PCs that will work well with this setup. I would expect to pay around $200 for a decent starter mini PC, and you can go all the way up to $500 and beyond. It will really depend on what systems you want to play. For more in-depth information, check out my mini PC playlist on YouTube, or my mini PC spreadsheet for a system-by-system breakdown.

$200-$250 price range:
Beelink EQ12
MinisForum UM350

$300-$350 price range:
Beelink SER5
MinisForum UM450

$400-$450 price range:
Beelink SEi12
Minisforum UM560

Recommended software

Here are the two software applications you will need — one is the OS itself, and another is a tool to flash Batocera onto your SSD.

Batocera: Download the latest “desktop” (x86_64) version here
Balena Etcher: to write Batocera to your SSD

Installation instructions

Be sure to consult the Batocera wiki page for the most comprehensive and up-to-date information. Another excellent resource is the Batocera Nation YouTube channel.

  1. Install the SSD into your PC, and go into Windows Disk Management to format the SSD so that it is clean.
  2. Download Batocera and Balena Etcher from the links above.
  3. Open Balena Etcher and find the Batocera img file, then choose to flash it onto your SSD. This will take a few minutes.
  4. Shut down your PC, plug in a USB keyboard, and turn on the PC while tapping on the DEL key to bring up the system BIOS
  5. In the BIOS, navigate to the Boot tab and change the boot order so that the UEFI/SSD is higher priority than Windows Boot Manager. This will boot into Batocera instead of Windows as its primary option. Tab over to the Save and Exit option, and save and exit.
  6. When your PC restarts, it should initialize Batocera and you are now in! From here, you want to add your games, and you can start playing from there. Check out the video above for some more tips and tricks when getting set up.

Adding Steam PC games to Batocera

Adding Steam to Batocera is surprisingly easy, thanks to the Batocera team’s recent efforts.

  1. While in the main Batocera interface, press F1 to bring up the File Explorer menu.
  2. On the left side, click on the “Applications” option
  3. Open the flatpak-config icon that appears in the Applications menu
  4. Within the suggested apps, you should see Steam. Click on it to install.
  5. For the best compatibility, also install Proton. Search for the word “Proton” within the flatpak menu, and then install these three applications: Proton (community build), Proton-GE (community build), and ProtonUp-Qt.
  6. Once these are installed, you can close flatpak-config and exit out of the File Manager. Press START to open the main Batocera menu, and select Game Settings > Refresh Games List. Now, in your Ports section, you should be able to boot into Steam.
  7. Log into Steam using your credentials. Once inside, go into Settings > Interface and choose “Open Steam in Big Picture Mode”. Restart Steam to have the SteamOS interface, and you can download games from there.
  8. For games that do not have a native Linux version, go into the game settings > Properties > Compatibility and choose Proton-GE. This will allow you to install and run Windows games using the Proton compatibility layer, which works surprisingly well.
  9. To boot your installed games directly from the Batocera menu, exit Big Picture mode to get into the main desktop Steam interface. Go to the Library section, then select all of your installed games. Right-click on them and choose Properties > Add Desktop Shortcuts. When you refresh your Batocera games list, you should now have a Steam section with your games listed.
Transform Any PC into a Retro Gaming Console (Batocera Guide) (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rob Wisoky

Last Updated:

Views: 6462

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (48 voted)

Reviews: 95% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rob Wisoky

Birthday: 1994-09-30

Address: 5789 Michel Vista, West Domenic, OR 80464-9452

Phone: +97313824072371

Job: Education Orchestrator

Hobby: Lockpicking, Crocheting, Baton twirling, Video gaming, Jogging, Whittling, Model building

Introduction: My name is Rob Wisoky, I am a smiling, helpful, encouraging, zealous, energetic, faithful, fantastic person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.