I am a law abiding citizen and so I find it hard to download ROMs, mostly out of fear. I just bought a raspberry pi, put the retro pie OS on it, hooked up my ps3 controller and tv to it only to realize, uh oh, no games unless they're obtained by less than admirable means. Soooo, are there roms out there that are legal? I really want to play mario, perhaps an open source mario game similar to mario but legal?
Thanks in advance
RetroPie can run .exe files under the PC ports option. You can get a lot of old freeware, abandonware, etc etc programs online.
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As far as I can tell, they can be .com, .exe, or .bat files. The only issue is that you'll have to set up the controller for each game as they're PC games, and the controls differ. However, I'm sure you can find some pretty legit abandonware games out there.
I'm fairly sure stuff like C64 roms and Atari roms are also in the 'abandonware' category, as well.
They're older games, but they check out, sir.
AND, you can get ports of Solarus, Stratagus, and the Adventure Game Studio, which means you can get a lot of free games people made for those.
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This stuff is all going to require a bit more setup and such, but if you want to go completely legit, those are some options. Some of the 'Ports' menu should already be installed or ready for install, like Cave Story (which is completely free).
There's also homebrew for stuff like NES, where a programmer or group of programmers will program and produce a new NES game ROM completely from scratch. This is someone effectively making a new game for the NES, and if they offer it for free, isn't technically illegal.
Nintendo might have some gripes but there's nothing inherently illegal about it – they're designing games for a video game system.
You can google 'NES Homebrew', 'SNES Homebrew', etc. Here's a few (just so we're on the same page, here – if you're 100% against anything even moral grey area, make sure it's a HOMEBREW, not a ROM HACK):
Also technically, as a US citizen, you have a right to having 'backup and archival copies of purchased software'. So, getting ROMs of games you already own is usually considered kosher, as long as you're not providing them to others. That being said, the law works in mysterious ways… but game companies aren't going to waste the resources to come after someone who has a ROM of a game they own, because no court would find them guilty.
Ultimately, Retropie can't make games magically appear for you. You have to go out and get them yourself. However, there are free and legal options in gaming. I can't help you too much with setup, but with a little research, perseverance, and a few mistakes and fuck ups, I'm sure you can get a totally legal and legit archive of decent games up and running on your Raspberry.