My job has me on the road quite a bit. With travel comes the gadgets and gizmos to make your stay as comfortable as possible.
I tend to bring a portable router that supports OpenVPN so I can connect back to my home network and keep myself away from hotel networks, various chargers and cables and some sort of streaming media device that I can hook up to the TV in my hotel room (more on that in a sec).
I use to carry a Raspberry Pi with me pre loaded with the awesome RetroPie project but with the advancement in portable media streamers, there is no need to carry a second device in order to enjoy some retro gaming goodness.
Enter the Amazon Fire TV Stick. This unit is cheap, powerful, more than capable and most importantly, it runs a version of Android.
RetroArch is a frontend for emulators. It allows you to run retro games from a wide variety of computer and console systems. It offers a slick interface and provides a unified configuration so once you get your controls setup, they work across all of the emulated game systems. Even more importantly, they offer an .APK, which works on Android.
So we have 2 out of the 3 things that one needs to play some of those classic 8bit and 16bit games. We have a device and we have the software. What about some form of controller? Well, you can use the Fire TV stick remote, but I really wouldn't suggest it. The Fire TV stick does support bluetooth, so why not bring a bluetooth capable controller into the mix for the perfect trifecta.
If you have a bluetooth controller laying around then your good to go. If you don't, then let me recommend 8BitDo's SN30 Pro bluetooth controller. It's small, comfortable and responsive. I've been using it with RetroPie and my laptop for a while now. I highly recommend it.
Now that we have everything we need to get started, let's jump into it.
The first thing you are going to need to do on your Fire TV stick is enable Apps from Unknown Sources.
- Go to Settings > System > Developer Options > Enable “Apps from Unknown Sources”
This allows you to install software, in this case, RetroArch which isn't listed in the default app store.
Now we are going to need to get the RetroArch .APK onto the device itself. You could use your computer to move the .APK onto the Fire TV stick, but there are many steps and it can be cumbersome. There is a much easier way using Dropbox or Google Drive. We can achieve this by installing an app called ES File Explorer.
- Go to Search and search “ES Explorer” then install ES File Explorer
Now that we have ES File Explorer installed we can move the RetroArch .APK over and install it. You need to download the .APK from here and save it to your Google Drive or Dropbox. Once it has been synced to the cloud we can access it via ES File Explorer
- Open ES File Explorer
- Click on “Network” to expand
- Click on "Cloud"
- Pick your Cloud provider and login
- Browse to the Cloud account you just added
- Find the RetoArch .APK you downloaded
- Choose "Open File" and "Install"
Once you have installed RetoArch, you will find it under "Your Apps & Channels"
Before we fire up RetroArch for the first time we should add your bluetooth controller, if you choose to use one that is.
- Go to Settings > Controllers > Bluetooth Game Controllers and follow the steps to pair your controller.
Now it's time to start fire up RetroArch. Before you can actually play any games you have to update a few files and install the emulator for the console you want to emulate. In RetroArch these are called cores.
- Go to Online Updater
- Choose Update Core Info Files
- Choose Update Joypad Profiles
- Choose Core Updater
Now you will be presented with a list of all the cores (or emulators) that RetroArch supports. Choose which ones you want installed. All that is left to do is get some roms onto your Fire TV stick. The easiest way is to copy them to the cloud account you used earlier and follow the same steps via ES File Explorer to copy them over.
Once you have your roms in place head back into RetroArch and scan your rom directory and enjoy the games of yesteryears