Linux Distros That Turn Your PC into Retro Gaming Console

Looking to spice up your system as a retro gaming console? These Linux distributions can help you do that.
Warp Terminal

Steam Deck is making news for all the right reasons. It is a fantastic piece of tech, powered by a variant of Arch Linux (SteamOS 3.0) developed by Valve.

While you can install any other operating system in it, it is best to have it as it is for convenience.

Unfortunately, Steam Deck or anything similar is not available everywhere. So, what if you can convert your system to a Linux-powered retro gaming console using a distribution?

Turn your PC into a Retro Gaming Console With These Linux Distros

Of course, with a retro gaming console, you canโ€™t expect to play the latest and greatest, but if you are looking for something interesting, this should take your eyes off the Steam Deck. Or, maybe if you already have a modern gaming console/system, you can play some retro games for a change.

Some distributions also support Raspberry Pi. So, it can be one of your Raspberry Pi project ideas if you want to put some good use to it.

1. Batocera.linux

A perfect open-source retro-gaming distribution that can work via a USB or an SD card. This enables you to convert any type of computer to your personal retro gaming machine in no time.

In fact, it is also one of the best Linux distributions for gaming.

In other words, it is a plug-and-play distribution that lets you play any of the retro games you own. It features a powerful emulator to help you run supported games along with numerous features to customize shaders, themes, etc.

You can check its official compatibility list to know the supported emulated games. You should find plenty of supported games to get started.

Note that it does not include any games, you will have to ensure that you own/have the game files that you want to run. For more information, you can explore its GitHub page.

2. Lakka

lakka linux

Lakka is a lightweight Linux distribution that can transform your computer/Raspberry Pi into a retro gaming console.

Note that it is the official Linux distribution of RetroArch and libretro ecosystem. Both combined give you a usable retro gaming experience.

It offers a nice, minimal user interface to let anyone comfortably use the distro. Like the previous option, you can install it on your USB flash drive or the SD card. The project says that it is under heavy development, but is a popular option for playing retro games.

3. RetroPie


One of the easy projects to put your Raspberry Pi for some good use.

RetroPie is a Linux distribution tailored for Raspberry Pi but also supports ODroid, and PCs to help you convert it into a retro gaming machine.

It is based on Raspbian, EmulationsStations, and uses projects like RetroArch to give you the experience of a home console with minimal setup.

If you like customizing your setup, it also allows a variety of configuration tools for advanced users.

For instance, you also use Kodi from within it by installing it from the menu. Of course, you might want to look at some media server tools if you want specifically for entertainment and movies.

You can grab the RestroPie image to get started on your system or install it on top of Raspbian, as you prefer.

4. Retro Home (Alpha Builds)

retro home

An unofficial Ubuntu-based Linux distribution for Raspberry Pi by the creator of Ubuntu MATE. It supports Raspberry Pi 2, 3, 4, and 400 as of now. You can also boot from USB.

It utilizes Ludo to present a minimal frontend to work with the emulators.

You can find the images in its GitHub releases section. Additionally, a script is available that builds Retro Home images. If you are curious to give it a try, you can check out its GitHub page to know more.

5. ChimeraOS

steam library chimera

For a change, if you want to play modern games along with the support for retro consoles from a single platform, ChimeraOS can help you out.

While it starts with a Steam picture mode to give you the convenience, you can also play games using GOG, Epic Games Store, and Flathub as well.

It should be an interesting option to try if you havenโ€™t already. Head to its GitHub page to know more.

Wrapping Up

You can always use game emulator programs, or directly play games using Steam, Lutris, or more (refer to our gaming guide if youโ€™re new to gaming on Linux).

However, it is always a different experience when you convert your entire system to a console-like experience using some of these Linux distributions. And, whatโ€™s more exciting than a retro game console powered by Linux?

Have you tried out any of the mentioned options? Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know in the comments.

About the author
Ankush Das

Ankush Das

A passionate technophile who also happens to be a Computer Science graduate. You will usually see cats dancing to the beautiful tunes sung by him.

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