How to Completely Reset Your Controllers in Retropie

If you are using Retropie for your retro gaming, you’ll soon realize that more often that you’d like, you’ll find your gamepad or controllers unresponsive when you start a game, or even during gameplay. There are a number of factors that might damage your controller configuration, and make your controllers completely unresponsive in Retropie, precisely in EmulationStation.

Over the years, I’ve noticed a number of issues that can make your controllers completely unresponsive, no matter what the version of Retropie you are using, or the type of Raspberry Pi board you are playing with. Some of those issues happened over and over, and the only way to recover any type of functionality from your controllers, is completely resetting them on the system.

When is it necessary for me to fully reset my controllers in Retropie?

These are from my own experience, and not a definitive guide, but I’ve faced controller issues with some of the best controllers available, and had to fully reset my controller configuration on EmulationStation in order to be able to play again.

  • Lack of Power
  • Lack of power on your system is one of the major issues that will cause a controller to loose it’s configuration and become completely inoperable. Some of the power supplies you buy in kits such as Vilros or CanaKit do not provide enough power to the Raspberry Pi board. Every single thing you plug on a USB port of your Raspberry Pi will draw power, and controllers, USB drives and keyboards are some of the devices that will draw the most from your system, making Retropie show that little yellow bolt icon on the top right corner of the screen. If you see that icon, it means your board is not getting enough power to keep everything working together at the same time, and it’s on that moment that, depending on the controller you are using, you’ll have issues.

    In my experience, the XBOX One controller is the one that will suffer the most under these conditions, but Arcade fight sticks and any other “larger” controller that does not have it’s own power, such as the PS4 controllers, or is simple enough that it will not draw any, or very little power, such as many of the Chinese knock-off controllers that you can find on eBay and Amazon, you’ll have the controller loosing power in the middle of the game session, and you’ll not be able to play anymore.

    Bluetooth devices will also draw a ton of power from your system. If you are not using any Bluetooth devices such as controllers and keyboards, I recommend you turn off Bluetooth altogether, or limit the number of devices you’d use, for example, put a wired keyboard and mouse, but use one or two Bluetooth controllers only.

    You can also conserve power by turning off Wi-Fi, and if you are playing console games only, and you have a keyboard and/or a mouse connected via USB or Bluetooth, take those out too. This will free up a lot of power resources on your little Raspberry Pi system.

    Another item that can take some power from your system in general is the case. Yes, if you have one of those cases from RetroFlag, specially the NESPi case for the Raspberry Pi 3B/3B+, it will consume energy to run the extra USB ports, power and reset buttons and cooling fan. I’ve noticed the latest cases they released, such as the SUPERPi and the MEGAPi are a lot better with using the power resources from your system, though.

    Finally, get an Official Power Supply from the Raspberry Pi foundation. Those will provide the correct amount of power to your system to prevent most of the issues. In my experience, I’ve notice very little power issues while playing on both the Pi 3 and Pi 4 using one of those power supplies, even with all 4 USB ports being used and with a Retroflag case installed. You can buy those power supplies from Amazon. Vilros also have them, and they are cheaper on their site, but you’ll pay shipping, unless you get them in a Kit.

  • Type of Controller Being Used
  • Again, this is just according to my own experience, but I’ve noticed that the best, more complex controllers, sometimes have the most issues with Retropie.

    One of the best controllers in the world, in my opinion, is the XBOX One controller, and I use it all the time with the Raspberry Pi connected via USB cable, but I often have issues with it. It seems that the controller needs to draw a lot of power from the USB port of the Pi, and I usually have problems right after I reboot EmulationStation or when I enter a game, the controller shuts down, so I need to disconnect the USB cable and then connect it again, and then the controller works, but there are instances in which the controller completely shuts down and I can’t exit the game by pressing HOTKEY + START, so I must reset the Raspberry Pi manually to get back to the Retropie menu, and then that’s when I realize that the controller does not work anymore.

    PS4 controllers, although compatible, have a number of issues when playing in Bluetooth. If you are going to try to add a PS4 controller via Bluettoth, make sure you also have some simple controller plugged via USB, just in case the PS4 controller crashes.

    If I plug a different controller, I am able sometimes to configure that one and keep playing, sometimes it seems that the controller configuration gets corrupted and no controller works anymore. The only fix is doing a complete reset of the controllers, at the system level.

    And finally, if you have a complex arcade fighting stick, you’ll might have power issues. Most arcade controllers will have a separate power supply, but there are others that just plug to your USB port, without any external power, and those might present a problem, and not work at all. If you are using one of those controllers, make sure it has an external power supply for them, because it is very likely that the Raspberry Pi power supply will not be able to handle it.

I understand Now, but my controller is not working now, so how can I Reset My Controllers on Retropie?

There are two ways of doing this, depending on what’s your situation. There might be cases when the controller allows you to navigate fine and enter games, but once you’ve entered a game, the controller does not work anymore, and you can’t even exit the game by pressing HOTKEY + START. Other times, as explained, controllers will not even accept any configuration or will not navigate on the Retropie menu at all.

Let’s see what to do in both scenarios:

  • My Controller Works on the Retropie Menus, But I Can’t Play Any Games
  • This has been a very common occurrence we’ve seen a number of customers having. In my experience, it seems that it happens randomly, however we’ve been shipping Retropie images since 2017 that comes setup with a generic Dualshock style controler, and when people setup their controllers, for some reason, menus work but games don’t.

    Since December 2019 we’ve been shipping images where controllers are not setup out of the box at all, and you are prompted to setup your own controller upon booting for the first time into the image. That reduced quite a bit the number of people having controller issues, however, the issue might happen when the customer just did not setup the controller properly, and when he/she tries again, it happens!

    When you can move in menus with the controller, but it does not work in-game, here’s what to do:

    1. Go to the Retropie / Options menu and select the RETROPIE SETUP option.
    2. You’ll see that blue screen common to Retropie configuration screens. Select MANAGE PACKAGES.
    3. On the next set of options, go for “MANAGE CORE PACKAGES”.
    4. Then on the next menu, select “Emulationstation (Installed)”
    5. Within EmulationStation’s options, go to “Configuration / Options”
    6. Now, you can reset the controller. Select the first option on this screen: “Clear/Reset Emulation Station input configuration”
    7. Confirm with “Ok” on the next couple of screens to reset the controller configuration for Emulation. The screen will blink for a second and you’ll be back on this menu.
    8. Hit “Cancel” to go back a few times until you see the main menu and the option to “Reboot”. Do it so you can reboot back into EmulatonStation and be asked to setup the controller for the fist time.
    9. Setup your controller and now everything should be fine!

    When you can’t even move on Retropie menus, here’s what to do:

    1. First, you’ll need a keyboard connected to your Raspberry Pi. Try to use a USB one, and plug it to any available USB port.
    2. Now, provided you are seeing the Retropie menu, or the controller configuration screen but you can’t setup anything when pressing buttons on the controller, hit F4 on the keyboard to exit to the system prompt. You’ll exit EmulationStation and you’ll see a black screen with a linux command prompt.
    3. Now type:
    4. rm /home/pi/.emulationstation/rs_input.cfg

      Then follow it by typing and entering:


    5. This will open up the EmulationStation configuration screen, now just follow the step above, but using the keyboard!

    Any of these processes will fully reset all controllers from Retroarch/EmulationStation, and you’ll be able to set them up again and get back to playing!

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