Knowledge for the World

Where to find ROMs for RetroPie (free and legally)

Let’s find something to play!
  • by Ash (21)
  • 10 minutes

You've just set up your Raspberry Pi with RetroPie, it's plugged into the TV, you've got a controller in your hand when—GASP! You don't have any games to play.

If you're looking for a place to get free games legally, we've got you covered! This guide includes everything you need to download ROMs (game files) for the most popular RetroPie consoles.

Once you’ve got something to play, don’t forget to visit our guide on how to add ROMs to RetroPie.

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RetroPie ROMs come in many different file formats and varieties. Not only do they vary between consoles, but they often fall into different legal territories. The most common types of ROMs include copyrighted, abandonware, public domain, and homebrew.

Copyrighted

ROMs are owned and licensed by existing businesses or people. In many countries, downloading these ROMs is considered a crime. Some countries allow citizens to maintain a backup copy of games or titles they already own. It's best to research applicable legal regulations before pursuing any of these titles.

While you can also find ROMs on any torrent site, you should not download any copyrighted titles as this may be illegal.

Abandonware

includes content in a sort of legal "gray area". The businesses or people responsible for the copyright are either unavailable or no longer pursuing their licensing rights.

Public domain

ROMs are legally available to the public. These ROMs can be downloaded for personal use.

Homebrew

ROMs are created by individuals or small teams. Most of these ROMs were created recently, long after the prime of the respective console. For example, Little Sound DJ was released in 2001 to help musicians create chiptune music using original GameBoys (for more examples of modern GameBoy tech, check out our official list of GameBoy mods). However, it’s important to remember that just because something is homebrew doesn’t mean it’s free or legal to download without purchasing.

In this guide, we'll only cover public domain material and homebrew content with no copyright restrictions for personal use.

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This list includes a selection of ROMs available in the public domain space. We've highlighted major consoles, but more can be found on the website sources provided.

Sources: MAME and Zophar

ConsoleROMs
Arcade / MAMEAvailable ROMs
Gameboy / Gameboy ColorAvailable ROMs
NESAvailable ROMs
DreamcastAvailable ROMs
GenesisAvailable ROMs
SNESAvailable ROMs
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This list is comprised of free homebrew ROMs that are a-ok to download and play! Major consoles are listed in the table, but more are available on the provided website sources.

Sources: PDRoms

ConsoleROMs
Arcade / MAMEAvailable ROMs
Gameboy / Gameboy ColorAvailable ROMs
NESAvailable ROMs
DreamcastAvailable ROMs
GenesisAvailable ROMs
SNESAvailable ROMs