Got your eye on a new PlayStation Classic, dreaming of 1990s retro gaming nostalgia? Well, you don’t need to wait for Sony to release a repackaged, compact version of the PS1. Forget the preorder and build your own “PiStation” with a Raspberry Pi 3.
What to Expect From the PlayStation Classic
Planned for release in December 2018, the PlayStation Classic is a miniature version of the PlayStation 1. Smaller by 45 percent, the device features a HDMI port and is powered by a micro-USB port. Shipping with a pair of PlayStation controllers (pre-Dualshock), the console ships with 20 preinstalled games.
As of this writing, there is no indication of whether you’ll be able to add your own game ROMs. The console has a launch price of $99 (£89 in the UK).
A Raspberry Pi 3 kit will set you back less than that. It will also be capable of running far more than 20 PlayStation titles, and you can even buy a PlayStation-style case for it. In short, the Raspberry Pi is a far better option than waiting and paying for a comparatively expensive PlayStation Classic.
Raspberry Pi PlayStation Emulator: What You’ll Need
Whether you’re missing the intense gaming wonder of the original PlayStation (released in 1995) or you never played the console first time around, you’re in for a real treat. Amazingly, the Raspberry Pi can run PlayStation emulators, meaning that classic games from between 1994 and 2006 are available to play.
For the best results, you will need:
- A Raspberry Pi 3 or 3B+
- Suitable microSD card (8GB or higher)
- Ethernet and HDMI cables
- Reliable power supply
- Retro game controller (keep a USB keyboard handy, though)
- Etcher software from etcher.io
- Your Raspberry Pi retro gaming suite of choice
You might also need a PlayStation-style case, and even a genuine controller. We’ll talk about those later.
Step 1: Install a Retro Gaming Suite
Although many retro gaming systems on the Raspberry Pi are based on RetroPie, it isn’t the only option. Other suites are available, such as RecalBox and Lakka. Our guide to retro gaming on the Raspberry Pi explains the differences. Obviously, you’ll need to choose one that supports Sony PlayStation emulators.
Once you’ve downloaded your chosen gaming suite disk image, you’ll need to write it to the microSD card. This process is straightforward, and is explained in detail in our guide to installing a Raspberry Pi operating system.
In brief, insert a usable microSD card into your PC. With this done, open Etcher, and click Select image, then browse to the (unzipped) disk image for your chosen retro gaming suite. Ensure the microSD card is selected under Select drive, then click Flash.
Wait while the image is written to your microSD card, then safely eject. Insert into your Raspberry Pi, and power up. Shortly, the retro gaming software will boot!
Don’t want to overwrite your current microSD card? That’s not a problem! Simply follow our guide for installing RetroPie in Raspbian.
Step 2: Configure the PlayStation Emulator
First, you’ll need to configure your controller. Several controller profiles can be used, so follow the on screen instructions to assign buttons, etc. You’ll need to do this so you can navigate the EmulationStation user interface, from where your games are launched.
Next, select the Menu button and choose the option to connect to a wireless network. (Ethernet is fine if you wish to skip this.) Simply select the SSID and enter the password (this is why you might need a keyboard). Once connected, the IP address will be displayed.
In the menu, find the Manage Packages option, and use this to install PlayStation emulators. Ensure at least one of the following is selected:
With all three installed, you’ll be more likely to enjoy success when launching PlayStation ROMs.
Before continuing, however, you’ll also need BIOS files. Check the PlayStation pages of the RetroPie Wiki for information on which BIOS files are needed for which emulator. By default, you’ll need either scph101.bin, scph7001.bin, scph5501.bin, or scph1001.bin.
However, like game ROMs, we cannot link to BIOS ROMs, so you’ll need to find them via your search engine. Once downloaded to your computer, copy them to the BIOS folder on your Raspberry Pi (see below).
Step 3: Install Retro Game ROMs
With the PlayStation emulator ready to use, you’ll need to copy some suitable ROMs to your Raspberry Pi. Due to copyright law, we cannot tell you where to find these—but your friendly neighborhood search engine should be able to point the way.
Once the ROMs have been downloaded to your computer, you’ll need to copy them to your Raspberry Pi. Saved to the right directory, the ROMs will trigger the addition of the PlayStation emulator to the RetroPie menu.
To copy the ROMs from your PC to your Raspberry Pi, do one of the following:
- Transfer files via USB drive
- Move data using a portable hard disk drive
- Copy ROMs to the Raspberry Pi’s /boot/ directory
- Transfer your ROMs using an FTP program with SSH support (such as FileZilla)
For full details on these options, check our guide to transferring data between a PC and Raspberry Pi.
Note that whichever option you use, you’ll need to copy the files to the correct directory, /psx/. The easiest way to do this is to copy data over SFTP. Note that to do this, you will need to enable SSH. The quickest way is to open the Configuration menu, and select raspi-config, which opens the Raspberry Pi Configuration screen. Here, select Interfacing Options > SSH and choose Enable.
Once you’ve done this, hit the Menu button and select Quit > Restart RetroPie and confirm the action. When the Raspberry Pi reboots, SSH will be enabled, ready for remote access.
NTSC vs. PAL ROMs
Several users of the PlayStation emulators have reported that they work better with NTSC (American version) ROMs, rather than the PAL (European) variant. As such, if you’re running into trouble, try the NTSC version of the game you want to play.
It’s worth noting that if ROMs you’ve added to RetroPie don’t appear, you’ll need to refresh EmulationStation. Do this by pressing Menu > Quit > Restart EmulationStation.
Step 4: Play Your PlayStation Games
You’ve got the emulator, the BIOS files, and the game ROMs. All you should need to do now is browse the EmulationStation menu, open the PlayStation screen, and select a game to launch it!
If you need to choose a different emulator, meanwhile, simply long press the game title to configure the launch options.
Within a few moments, you should be reliving the halcyon days of the PlayStation on your Raspberry Pi. Who needs a PlayStation Classic?!
Making Your Raspberry Pi Look Like a PlayStation
Once everything is installed, and the games are ready to play, you might want to finish the job properly. This is best done by grabbing a suitable case for your Raspberry Pi, disguising it as a mini version of the console you’re emulating.
So, just like the official PlayStation Classic, you’ll own a smaller version of the original PlayStation, only yours will be powered by a Raspberry Pi.
Various options are available:
- Etsy lists a PlayStation 1 case suitable for the Raspberry Pi 2 and later
- Find a similar case on the Megabit NES retro gaming store
You’ll also need an authentic looking USB controller. Several options are available, but for quality and value for money, this collection of five classic controllers with USB is unmissable.
Inside, you’ll find a PlayStation 2 style controller, perfect for enjoying a PlayStation experience on your Raspberry Pi. If you’re looking for a more authentic option, however, try a USB adapter for an original PlayStation controller.
Now You’re Ready to Play!
So many great games were released on the PS1, from Final Fantasy VII to Tekken 3. You can get started with those and thousands of others using a Raspberry Pi and a PlayStation emulator, as described above. When you’re done with that, why not get another fix of 1990s retro gaming by installing a Sega Dreamcast emulator on your Raspberry Pi?
Image Credit: kolidzeitattoo/Depositphotos