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Back to: 8. Finish up the Arcade Console and Screen

Jump to: 10. Amplify Sound

Now that RetroPie is functioning and working with your Arcade, there is going to be a bunch of additional changes and configurations you may want to consider. In my case, some of the main concerns were making sure that the kids would not be able to accidentally get into some menus and mess up anything, but aside from that I wanted the arcade to just boot up right into the menu where I could select games from and have things looks somewhat nice and polished.

1. Add some games to the MAME emulator

First you want some games in your emulator so that you have something to see, navigate to, configure, etc. MAME ROMs are normally in a .zip file. Keep them that way and copy the entire .zip file to the RetroPie. I put them under the following directory:


Some games require sound samples, which I place in either:

/home/pi/RetroPie/BIOS/mame2003/samples or /home/pi/RetroPie/BIOS/mame2003-plus/samples, depending on which emulator I’m using for the game.

In most cases, I use the 2003-Plus emulator, but there are a couple of games that start with some weird warnings that I don’t get when I launch those games with the 2003 emulator.

2. Disable RetroPie options from main arcade menu

Aside from your different emulators to choose from (only MAME in my case), you will also see a RetroPie option. When you select this, you can configure all sorts of things in your system. I don’t want that option to exist in the main menu where my kids can easily get into. You don’t really need this option as you can always go to the Pi command line and run the script directly, from where you can configure anything you need.

To remove this option from the main Arcade menu, do the following:

ssh pi@retropie
sudo RetroPie-Setup/

In the menu, select the following:

  • Manage packages
  • Manage core packages
  • retropiemenu

Then choose to uninstall it. It will give you a warning but you can ignore it. When done, restart the system and gone is the RetroPie option.

3. Enable the MAME-2003-Plus emulator

Out of the box, RetroPie comes with the MAME-2003 emulator installed, but there were a few games that did not work well for me. Turns out, the MAME-2003-Plus emulator contains a lot of fixes and improvements and would allow me to play those games. To add the 2003-Plus emulator, do the following:

ssh pi@retropie
sudo RetroPie-Setup/

In the menu that shows up, select:

  • Manage packages
  • Manage optional packages
  • lr-mame2003-plus

Choose the binary install method. This may take several minutes. Once done, restart the system.

4. Mapping the buttons for the game

Within the MAME emulator, it is quite easy to configure your buttons for each game individually. In order to do that, first launch your game. Once you are in the game, take your USB keyboard and press the TAB button. This will bring up the MAME setup menu where you can configure buttons either for the entire emulator, or just for that game. I program each game individually because not all use the same buttons. Since I don’t plan on having a bazillion games, managing each game individually is not really a problem for me.

Select Input (this game), then choose however you want to use the buttons for your game. Due to the design of this specific Arcade1up, I am only concerned for P1 buttons and don’t care about P2-P4 mappings.

In some games, I program both the Select and A buttons for the same action, that way you can press either the left or right green “fire” button.

5. Enable/disable runcommand

The runcommand feature in RetroPie allows you do change some game specific requirements, for instance which emulator to use. Generally the emulator is based on which directory you place your ROM file in, but in the case of MAME, you still need to pick which MAME emulator. I set the default to 2003-Plus, but for a couple of games I needed 2003. In order to configure this, you need the runcommand to be enabled, but once you have all your games installed and running, there is no need for it anymore, unless you add a new game with different requirements.

If runcommand is enabled, each time you select a game from the MAME menu, a message will appear, giving you the option to press a key to enter a menu where you can change setting, or do nothing and the game will start. Obviously you don’t want this to show so that your kids would go in there and break stuff.

To enable/disable, do the following:

ssh pi@retropie
sudo RetroPie-Setup/

Then in the menu, select:

  • Configuration / tools
  • runcommand

Then in the menu, select what you want to enable or disable. I usually only ever alternate between the following 2 configurations:

6. Vertical Themes

The one thing that bugs me to no end is the proportion of horizontal themes vs vertical themes. By far, almost every theme is designed to work on horizontal screens, but very few have been designed with vertical screens in mind. There are a few, which look all right, but are not as great as some of the horizontal options.

You can install themes via the RetroPie setup script, or you can install them directly into your system.

Directly via RetroPie:

ssh pi@retropie
sudo RetroPie-Setup/

In the menu, select:

  • Configuration / tools
  • esthemes

Then find a few in there with the word “vertical” in the name.

The other option is to download themes directly, for instance from a gitlab repository. An example is the vertical theme from

ssh pi@retropie
cd /etc/emulationstation/themes
sudo git clone
cd es-theme-ssimple-ve
sudo mv theme.xml theme-P916.xml
sudo mv theme-P34.xml theme.xml

On your Arcade, you can select your theme from the UI Settings. To get there, press the “Start” button, which opens up the “Main Menu”. From there, select “UI Settings”. Then choose your “Theme Set”.

7. Remove Main Menu

As you noticed in the previous section, just pressing the “Start” button gives you a menu where you can start changing some settings. If you don’t want your kids to mess up anything, you can turn this off.

To do so, open up the “Main Menu”, then go to “UI Settings”. Choose either one of “Kiosk” or “Kids” UI Modes. It will then warn you and present you with a message showing you how to disable that option.

After that, the “Start” button will still show a Menu, but with only a couple of options.

8. Boot straight into the MAME emulator menu

To boot directly into the MAME emulator, you can select “MAME-LIBRETRO” under the “Start on System” feature in the “UI Settings” screen. See previous sections on how to get there.

9. Turn off Raspberry Pi boot messages

You can turn off all the boot messages that you see on the screen, when the Raspberry Pi is starting up and before it shows the RetroPie splash screen. In addition, you can also disable the color test that you see on the screen right when it boots up.

Add the quiet option at the end of the line in the following file: /boot/cmdline.txt:

console=serial0,115200 console=tty1 root=PARTUUID=fa7d04d7-02 rootfstype=ext4 rootwait loglevel=3 consoleblank=0 plymouth.enable=0 quiet

Then add the disable_splash flag in /boot/config.txt:

# For more options and information see
# Some settings may impact device functionality. See link above for details

# uncomment if you get no picture on HDMI for a default "safe" mode

# uncomment this if your display has a black border of unused pixels visible
# and your display can output without overscan

# Vertical screen Arcade1up

# Disable color test

# uncomment the following to adjust overscan. Use positive numbers if console
# goes off screen, and negative if there is too much border

10. Remove unused emulators

I removed all the emulators from RetroPie, except for the two MAME ones that I wanted. It reduced boot time a little bit as the system didn’t have to initialize all its emulators.

ssh pi@retropie
sudo RetroPie-Setup/

In the menu, select:

  • Manage packages
  • main – Manage main packages

Then for each emulator, select it and then choose the Remove option. Leave only “lr-mame2003” installed. The only other package I installed or left installed is at the bottom of the packages list, which is “splashscreen”. That way you can pick a splash image/video while the system is booting, which makes the process a little nicer looking.

11. Customize startup splashscreen

I changed the default RetroPie splashscreen. See the previous section on how to enable the splashscreen functionality. Then to configure:

ssh pi@retropie
sudo RetroPie-Setup/

In the menu, select:

  • Configuration / tools
  • splashscreen – Configure Splashscreen

Then pick from the menu what and how you want to change it. You can pick from a list of existing images or supply your own image or video.

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