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Using the best RetroPie theme to show off your retro game library is what tops off the handheld gaming experience. There are a variety of RetroPie themes made for retro gaming consoles with small screens, but which ones are the best?

I was lucky enough to get the Retroflag GPi case in its first round of batches sold. As soon as I got my Retroflag GPi case, I got stuck into setting it up, uploading my favourite games and installing the best RetroPie themes for the device.

The large majority of available RetroPie themes are made for high-resolution screens with a widescreen aspect ratio. The screen on most handheld gaming devices, including the GPi case, are very small in resolution and squarer in aspect ratio.

The screen on the Retroflag GPi case has a resolution of 320 pixels wide by 240 pixels high and has an aspect ratio of 4:3. RetroPie themes made for large screens don’t look great on the Retroflag GPi case, or similar handheld gaming consoles with small screens. That’s where RetroPie themes made specifically for small screens come into play.

The best RetroPie themes for small screens

So what are the best RetroPie themes made for handheld gaming devices with small screens? Here are are some of the best RetroPie themes that I could find for small screen handheld gaming devices.

I’ll give descriptions for each theme and links for each one so that you can get them for your own handheld RetroPie gaming console.

Super Retroboy

Super Retroboy is a beautiful theme created by KALEL1981 that is made for small screens. Lots of love went into this theme, and it shows.

It certainly has the retro look and feel to match its name. The system list displays the system in a horizontal fashion on top of a retro-inspired grid landscape. The gamelist makes full use of the small screen real estate. The game list takes up the left half of the screen, while the game logo, screenshot/video and metadata make up the right side.

This theme works fantastically on the Retroflag GPi case. I highly recommend giving this theme a try on your Retroflag GPi case.

Super Retroboy | Dave McLean Net
Super Retroboy | Dave McLean Net

MiniJawn is a theme created by Pacdude that is made for small screens. Pacdude made the theme after getting the Retroflag GPi case for himself and decided to make his own RetroPie theme for it.

It’s a beautiful theme for small screens using bold/clear text and only displaying the critical information about each system and game.

MiniJawn | Dave McLean Net
MiniJawn | Dave McLean Net
MiniJawn | Dave McLean Net

The MiniJawn theme also has optional views for both the home/system screenshot and the game list. I like to use the default home screen, as I like to show the system as well as the system logo. But I personally do love the alternate game list view which only shows a few game names on the screen at the same time, and uses a screenshot to take up a good chunk of screen real estate.

MiniJawn | Dave McLean Net
MiniJawn | Dave McLean Net

TFT

TFT is a theme by anthonycaccese made with small screens in mind. It is the most minimalistic theme of the group of themes, but that doesn’t mean it looks any less fantastic on small screens.

The TFT theme definitely gets its background design inspiration from the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, using white squares on top of a dark background. It also uses big, bold text and displays a big vertical screenshot to show off each game.

TFT | Dave McLean Net
TFT | Dave McLean Net
TFT | Dave McLean Net

When it comes to popular RetroPie themes for small screens, it’s hard to pass on GBZ35 by RxBrad. Its uses bright, unique colours for each system on the system view list, and carries the same colours onto the game list.

The variety of colours look beautiful on a small screen. Though one critique for the theme could be the smaller size of the text compared to the other themes.

The GBZ35 theme also offers an alternate version of itself in the form of a dark theme. It’s great to have an alternate version as the darker version of the theme may look better on certain handheld gaming consoles.

GBZ35 Light | Dave McLean Net
GBZ35 Light | Dave McLean Net
GBZ35 Light | Dave McLean Net
GBZ35 Dark | Dave McLean Net
GBZ35 Dark | Dave McLean Net
GBZ35 Dark | Dave McLean Net

Finding 4:3 themes on RetroPie Github

You can view all of RetroPie’s downloadable themes at https://github.com/retropie/retropie-setup/wiki/themes. Sometimes it can be a bit hard to tell which themes are suitable for 4:3 ratio screens and which are not.

One easy trick you can use to find themes that are made for screens with a 4:3 ratio is to look at the preview thumbnails that come with each theme. If the theme’s preview thumbnail image has a 4:3 ratio, then it all set to go for 4:3 ratio screens.

Thanks to RxBrad for mentioning the trick to me. It’s a nice and simple way to navigate the RetroPie theme library for themes suitable for smaller screens.

To sum things up

There currently aren’t a huge amount of RetroPie themes specifically made for small screens. I think this will change in the near future with the Retroflag GPi case becoming so popular among retro gamers. But there are currently a few great themes created with small screens in mind that look fantastic on smaller screens.

Super Retroboy, MiniJawn, TFT and GBZ35 are among the top RetroPie themes for small screens and are the themes I like to change between personally on my Retroflag GPi case.

What RetroPie themes do you like for gaming consoles with small screens? Are there any RetroPie themes that are missing from the list that should be mentioned? Share some of your favourite RetroPie themes for small screens in the comments.

Buy the Retroflag GPi case today

Dave McLean

Dave McLean

Dave McLean is a graphic and web designer, with a passion for all things digital media. He's also a video gaming enthusiast, both retro and modern. He loves creating websites with WordPress and tinkering around with retro gaming setups using RetroPie.

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RxBrad
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A trick to find official small-screen compatible Retropie themes is to look at the official theme list at https://github.com/retropie/retropie-setup/wiki/themes, and find the ones with thumbnails that are 4:3 / non-widescreen.

Also, I might as well shamelessly plug my Freeplay theme (https://github.com/rxbrad/es-theme-freeplay), which also works well on small screens. One caveat: you have to set the Transition Style to “Instant” in the EmulationStation settings, or else scrolling on the carousel view can get pretty janky.