Are there any emulators that run on the Pi without X?

If not, is there a specifically light-weight window manager that would be good with video game emulator?

  • If the emulator has an SDL backend, you might be able to get it working from the terminal using DirectFB. I've been trying to get Doom working that way, with limited success thus far.
    – DK.
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 7:55
  • @DK. - By the looks of it, the mention of SDL backend and DirectFB would be a great starting point for an answer, especially if you have an example (Doom) where you can detail what you did, what isn't working with it and hopefully (later) how you got it to work.
    – Mark Booth
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 12:27
  • @Mark - Turns out to be pretty simple. PrBoom (the Doom engine I'm using) screws up the screen unless you run it specifically with 16-bit colour; then it's fine. So, provided you can control the bit depth of the emulator, SDL should work just fine.
    – DK.
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 15:03

3 Answers 3


You can install Retroarch on your Raspberry Pi to emulate some video game systems. I've tried NES and SNES and they work fine, except for the sound, which is terrible. According to the installation instructions GameBoy, MAME and DOOM also work, but I haven't tested them.


Most emulators use the SDL library for graphics and sound, which happens to be able to use directfb or fbcon as a backend, skipping X11 altogether.

As far as how to do this specifically, I am not sure. This post may help, and googling for directfb on raspberrypi does produce some interesting results that may be of help. If not, as mentioned in another answer, Fluxbox is a great lightweight window manager; I would recommend it over most others.


As far as light WM go you can try Fluxbox ( http://fluxbox.org/ ).

In my gamming years one thing I would do was startx with a no window mangaer, and the game would be the only thing in my .xinitrc. Either start the game or XQF ( http://www.linuxgames.com/xqf/index.shtml ) and then XQF would start the game in full screen mode.

  • +1 for startx without a window manager. I do this very thing for my mythtv frontend, and it's been working fine for several years. Commented Nov 11, 2012 at 14:37

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