The most popular open source media center solution, Kodi (and its various forks) runs on a variety of devices, from PCs to tiny Raspberry Pi computers, Android phones and tablets, and everything in between.
But when you’re done streaming video from the internet, browsing your own media library, or even looking at pictures, you might want to kick back and play some games. This usually means switch to a games console… but if you’re a fan of retro gaming, you can use the ROM Collection browser to start gaming through your Kodi box!
The following steps should work on any Kodi device (although on the Raspberry Pi (CA, UK), you’ll probably have problems launching your emulators, so avoid) and within a few minutes you can be up and running!
What Is the ROM Collection Browser?
Before we start, let’s take a look at the software we’ll be using. For a tutorial on the basics of how to set up a Kodi Media Center, check our guide.
The ROM Collection Browser is pretty much what the name suggests. It’s a tool for browsing a collection of ROMs (like LaunchBox for Windows), typically saved to your Kodi device’s storage. It is installed as an add-on, which means that it first needs to be downloaded.
Add-ons are a popular way of extending the functionality of Kodi devices. We’ve previously looked at a bunch of great add-ons for Kodi (which ROM Collection Browser featured in), and the process for installation is generally the same across the board (although this can depend upon where you’re installing the add-ons from).
Once installed, any ROMs you have downloaded to your Kodi can then be browsed, and launched with an appropriate emulator. All of a sudden, you have retro games on your TV, via Kodi!
Using Retro Gaming ROMs
Before you get started, we need to cover the situation around the use of ROMs. These are disk images of cassettes, floppy disks, CDs, or cartridges from retro computing and gaming platforms, that make it possible for the games to be run without the original media.
The problem you have here is that if you don’t own the originals, then you’re breaching the copyright — committing software theft, or piracy (which affects all computer platforms, even Android).
While this should be accepted as friendly — rather than legal — advice, if you don’t own the game, don’t download it!
Getting Started: Emulators and ROMs
Before installing the ROM Collection Browser — which is exactly what it says it is, a tool for browsing (and launching) your game ROMs — you’ll need to install the emulators you need onto your Kodi device. We’ll assume you know how to do this already, as the specifics differ from platform to platform.
If not, an emulator creates a software environment on your computer that emulates the hardware of the original computer platform. You’ll find an emulator for the retro gaming platform of your choice following a quick search of Google.
It’s a good idea to save the emulator in a folder on your Kodi box called Emulator (or Emulators if there is more than one) so you’ll find it easily later.
Ideally, you should also already have your ROMs downloaded and saved in a suitably-named folder.
Installing ROM Collection Browser
To get started, you’ll need to install the Kodi Official Repository, where a bunch of official add-ons can be found. Using a keyboard or your Kodi-compatible remote/app, navigate to System > Settings > Add-ons > Get Add-ons.
(Note that your Kodi may look different to the one picture as various themes are available.)
Browse the list until you spot Kodi Add-on repository, and select this, before scrolling down to Program Add-ons and finding the ROM Collection Browser. Select, then Install, and the add-on will download and install onto your Kodi system.
Once installed, you’ll see a pop-up notification in the corner of the screen, informing you that the installation is complete.
Setting Up ROM Collection Browser
After installation, return to the main Kodi screen, then Programs > ROM Collection Browser. You’ll be prompted to Create a Config File — click Yes, and then you’re given two choices to populate the database with information about the games you have in your ROM collection.
To get the information and game covers from the web, choose Scrape game info and artwork online. If you prefer to download your own game covers (or scan/photograph your originals for use here), select the Game info and artwork are available locally option, and specify the directories where the images and information is stored when prompted. If you like, you can use a combination of your own images and game details from the web.
In the next screen, select the platform for the ROMs you have downloaded. This choice should be based on the ROM you want to play first, and can be added to later. In the screenshots, you’ll see we selected Commodore 64. From your selection, you’ll be prompted by the File Manager to navigate to your emulator, so browse here and select the emulator you need.
Next, select ROMs, then find the ROMs directory, and click OK. You’ll also need to tell Kodi what the file extensions for the ROMs you’re using with your selected emulator are. For instance, for the Commodore 64, ROMs have the T64 and D64 file extensions, so are entered as *.T64, *.D64.
When you’re done with this, you’ll be prompted to add more ROM collections. If you have multiple collections of ROMs, click Yes and repeat the last few steps, until you’re done. When you’ve added as many ROM collections as you need, select No, then wait for the Import Games window. Choose the defaults, then Import Games. When this is done, you’re ready to start playing!
Browsing Your Retro Games
To use the ROM Collection Browser, at any time, all you need to do is open Programs > ROM Collection Browser.
You’ll see your games listed, and all you need to do is select the game and it will automatically launch in the corresponding emulator.
Have you added the ability to play retro video games to your Kodi box? Perhaps you’ve used a different method? Tell us about it in the comments.