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

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

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.

Anbernic RG35XX Starter Guide

Anbernic RG35XX Starter Guide

Last updated: 02APR2023 (see Changelog for details)

In this guide I will show you how to get started with the Anbernic RG35XX retro handheld, and how to set up the new GarlicOS game launcher and greatly improve the device’s user experience.

Where to buy the RG35XX:
Anbernic website
Amazon (more expensive but faster shipping and easy returns)

GarlicOS is provided as a community build thanks to the work of developer Black Seraph. If you have the means, please consider leaving him a tip jar donation to thank him for his efforts. MinUI is created by Shaun Inman.

Continue reading “Anbernic RG35XX Starter Guide”

Anbernic RG353M Review & Guide

Anbernic RG353M Review & Guide

Another month, another Anbernic handheld, right? The new RG353M surprised me with some overdue component upgrades and a wonderfully compact and thin design. On top of that, it stands on the shoulders of all their other products to finally be a 4:3 retro handheld that does everything just right without any glaring issues.

Buy one here

Continue reading “Anbernic RG353M Review & Guide”

Introducing Castor – Split and Stream your PC!

Introducing Castor – Split and Stream your PC!

Castor is a new app that will allow you to stream from your PC to an Android device using a process known as paravirtualization. This means you can allocate a portion of you PC’s resources to create a virtual machine environment which can then be used for game streaming without disrupting your main PC’s functionality.

To access Castor, check out Black Seraph’s Patreon page. You will need to subscribe to the $10 tier for at least one month but can cancel after that if you’d like. While you are a member, consider grabbing Black Seraph’s custom firmware builds for the RG552, PowKiddy X18S, and various GPD devices.

Castor is made though a package of open-source and prorpeitary tools all compiled into one simple, user-friendly package. If you would like to see the modified GPL & MIT-licensed components of Castor, here is the GitHub page. This includes the mirror driver, patched Sunshine & the NAT-compatible Android Moonlight client.

Continue reading “Introducing Castor – Split and Stream your PC!”

Retroid Pocket 3 In-Depth Review

Retroid Pocket 3 In-Depth Review

The true successor to the infamous Retroid Pocket 2 is finally here, and so in this video we’re going to take a deep-dive look into all of its strengths and weaknesses. In particular we’ll focus on size, ergonomics, buttons, and performance when it comes to game emulation and streaming. Does it hold up to its promise of delivering an excellent gaming experience for under $150? YES.

Buy one here
My Retroid Pocket 2+ starter guide
Shaun Inman’s screen comparison tool

Continue reading “Retroid Pocket 3 In-Depth Review”

Anbernic’s New Official Android Frontend — Review and Setup Guide

Anbernic’s New Official Android Frontend — Review and Setup Guide

Anbernic has released a new frontend for their Android operating system, which will work on the RG353P and the upcoming RG353V. In this video I’ll walk you through the installation of their new Android build, and show off some of its features (and failures) within.

Buy an RG353P

Anbernic software link
My RG353P review and custom firmware showcase
Install Play Store on the RG353P

Continue reading “Anbernic’s New Official Android Frontend — Review and Setup Guide”

Beelink SER5 Review — $450 Ryzen 5600H Mini PC

Beelink SER5 Review — $450 Ryzen 5600H Mini PC

The new Beelink SER5 (Ryzen 5 5600H) packs a LOT of power inside a tiny form factor — it can run flawless GameCube and PS2 at 1080p, and much more — and it is very capable for non-gaming tasks too. I’m excited to test this one and show why I think it’s the best mini PC deal you can find under $500 right now.

More info here
or on Amazon

Continue reading “Beelink SER5 Review — $450 Ryzen 5600H Mini PC”

Anbernic RG552 Epic Retro Gaming Guide

Anbernic RG552 Epic Retro Gaming Guide

Last updated: 03JAN2023 (updated links to JELOS)

It’s no secret that the Anbernic RG552 is an expensive device. At its starting retail price of $227, it can be disappointing that it’s not powerful enough to run GameCube or PlayStation 2 at acceptable levels. However, there are some aspects of this device that really shine — namely its screen and overall feel when it comes to d-pad-centric gaming — and so in this guide I’m going to walk you through all the little tweaks and tricks I use to get the most out of this device.

At the end of the day, the Anbernic RG552 is my favorite console for RETRO (i.e. 32-bit and below) gaming, and with these tweaks, I think you might agree.

Buy one here (AliExpress)
or via
or via Amazon Prime (more expensive but fast shipping)

Continue reading “Anbernic RG552 Epic Retro Gaming Guide”

Review & Guide: AYANEO Air

Review & Guide: AYANEO Air

The AYANEO Air is the latest handheld PC to come to market, and it has some distinguishing characteristics: it’s ultra small for what it can do, and features a beautiful OLED panel with 1080p resolution. Let’s take a deep dive look at the device and see if it’s worth the $500+ asking price. Additionally, is it a “Steam Deck killer” or a “Switch killer”? I can never keep them straight.

AYANEO Air IndieGoGo campaign

Continue reading “Review & Guide: AYANEO Air”