I confess that I have a plan to build my own little game arcade with a Raspberry Pi, and eventually I’ll get there. In the meantime, I frequently check out articles such as Adam Dachis’ article on How to Turn Your Computer into a Retro Game Arcade over on LifeHacker which often has alternative ways to do it, or links to good resources that I will need for the RaspPi3 project. The article dates back to 2011, but still has the main thrust:
While contemporary video games have come close to cinematic masterpieces, there’s often nothing better than the fun and simplicity of retro classics. If you’ve never jumped into the world of emulation, this guide will take you through the very simple basics and have you up and running right away. We’ll also take a quick look at ROM hacking so you can power up your emulation experience.
The approach generally is two-fold — get an emulator (something akin to a software version of the original hardware) and then get the games. The challenge in part is that there are LOTS of different types of emulators…some just for individual consoles/systems, others that mimic multiple consoles through plugins. At the time of writing, he had Nestopia for NES, SNES9X for SNES, Kega Fusion for Sega, and PCSX Reloaded or ePSXe for PS1. If you want more, he recommends checking out Zophar’s Domain.
For the actual games, the search is pretty quick even in Google — you search for ROMs (i.e. read only memory in computer parlance as the old consoles used cartridges that were on ROM storage) + the name of the game system you’re emulating. The popular sites mentioned include EmuParadise, CoolROM, UseNet or BitTorrent, etc.
While most of that is pretty straightforward, what I like most about the article is that it doesn’t stop there. It talks about configuring the keyboard, handling classic save points vs. digital “freeze” saves, options for controllers, and extensive links for Game Genie codes.
He also did an article for doing the same thing with Android or iPhone but the mobile market changes so rapidly for apps and operating systems, most of the advice is simply a retread of the PC one linked above and even has links for jailbreaking iPhones from the old days.
Still, this PC one is a pretty good overview.