Batocera vs. Lakka vs. Recalbox vs. Retropie: What gaming software works best for my Raspberry Pi?

Batocera vs Lakka vs Recalbox vs RetroPie

These days I've been playing with my Raspberry Pi. No, I haven't been playing games. Although also, yes. The fact is that I have tested where some operating systems are, such as KonstaKang's LineageOS – in Android and Android TV versions -, Emteria (Android), FydeOS (ChromeOS) and some distributions for games. There are at least four for the Pi: batocera, Lakka, Recalbox and RetroPie. Which one is the best? It is not easy to give an answer, and even more so considering that basically they are very similar.

I have a favorite, but in this life it doesn't usually rain to everyone's liking and for that reason I have decided to write this article. I was also encouraged by the post that He has written a few hours ago my colleague Darkcrizt about the news of Lakka 5.0. In the headline they are not in order of importance, but rather in alphabetical order. What we are going to do here is write down some of the differences between these four operating systems for gaming so that everyone can choose the one they prefer.

Batocera Linux: the easiest to configure?

Batocera Linux was created in 2016 by a former Recalbox developer, and that is why they are so similar. For me, it is the best option for those who want to use a separate microSD/USB on the Raspberry Pi. It is sometimes said that it is the best for beginners, and the reason is clear: it is practically install and start using. If this is not the case at all, it is because the ROMs must be added, but this is not difficult either; appears in any file manager that supports the Samba protocol.

I did have a problem with the sound, but I solved it with the information described in this PDF. Basically you have to try the sound profiles and options until you hear the music. For everything else, everything is very easy, especially for those of us who already know IT IS.

The performance is very good, improving that of its brother, which we will talk about later. I would summarize what Batocera is like by saying that he is a IT IS with a visually attractive theme, which works after installation from scratch and is perfectly configured, including the frames for some consoles. That, and it also includes Kodi.

Lakka: RetroArch on a USB or Hard Drive

I like Lakka a little less than everyone else on this list. It is based on LibreELEC, and It's little more than a RetroArch ready to go. Or it will be when ROMs and an Internet connection are added, necessary to download content and updates.

The main difference between Lakka and what RetroArch offers after installing from scratch is that it has some things already configured, such as The ROMs of each console appear in their section with their own icon. This can be done with RetroArch, but it has to be done manually.

Recalbox: the old rocker

Recalbox is the point from which Batocera started. It is also based on EmulationStation, which in turn uses RetroArch to move games. Having described Batocera somewhat more extensively, I would say that Recalbox is like a more classic version that does not have Kodi. And also that It is the closest thing to desktop ES-DE, with the main difference that the installation of cores or other extra components is done through scripts. The same as the last one on this list.

RetroPie: the "most official" option

RetroPie is the "most official" option of entertainment software for the Raspberry Pi. It is not official, since it does not come from the company that manufactures the famous plates, but it is the first thing that appeared and the most popular. Maybe because of his name?

Like Recalbox and Batocera, it uses EmulationStation for the interface and pulls RetroArch to move games. It hasn't been updated for a couple of years now., And that shows. The interface is not the prettiest of the three, and it could be better, much better. It shows the same as EmulationStation, unlike other options that have added much more aesthetic themes. The installation of cores and extra components is done using scripts.

I would like to clarify that these scripts are not commands that have to be learned. It has to be done through the general configuration and the software it launches is CLI type.

Installation and availability

The installation is exactly the same for all options:

  1. Let's go to the official page of each project:
  2. We download the image.
  3. We record it on a microSD or USB with tools like Etcher or Raspberry Pi Imager.
  4. It is inserted into the Raspberry Pi, it starts.

Among the differences, in some cases you have to follow a wizard to finish the installation. On the other hand, Recalbox and RetroPie are offered in the official Raspberry Pi tool (Imager).

Regarding its availability:

  • Batocera is available for PC, Steam Deck, Raspberry Pi >=4, Odroid Boards and all types of handheld consoles.
  • Lakka can be installed on PCs, all types of boards and handheld consoles, including the Switch (not Steam Deck).
  • Recalbox is available for PC, Raspberry and Odroid boards, and handheld consoles (not Steam Deck or Switch).
  • RetroPie can be installed on Raspberry Pi, Odroid boards and also on Debian-based systems as another program (more information).

Winner according to the publisher: Batocera

For me the winner is Batocera Linux. The motives:

  • It has Kodi installed by default, and everything works perfectly (unless we want to use a VPN on the same operating system).
  • It uses EmulationStation in its interface, but with a nice theme.
  • Some packages, such as themes, etc., can be downloaded from the operating system itself.
  • It has cores or software that is not available in RetroArch, such as GZDoom. It is different from the PrBoom that LibRetro uses, which it improves in some sections such as allowing a panoramic view of the action.
  • Frames installed by default. I know this may not be liked and even distracting, but they can also be disabled.
  • Performance above other options with a similar interface.

With all this, we hope you already know what suits your Raspberry Pi best. And if you don't know it yet, maybe it's best to try it for yourself. You're going to have fun.

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