How to install PICO-8 on GameShell

Last updated: June 2019

Originally written by @dddaaannn


PICO-8 is a fantasy console for making, playing, and sharing small games. PICO-8 is a commercial product by Lexaloffle Games LLP. Versions are available for Windows, mac OS, Linux, and Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi version runs on the GameShell, with some set-up.

As of Launcher v1.24, the Launcher now has a built-in PICO-8 installer to make this even easier! You will copy PICO-8 to your GameShell, then run this installer to finish set-up.

Follow these instructions to get PICO-8 and install it on your GameShell. It will run in the splore mode, which lets you browse, download, and play PICO-8 games.

Updating the Launcher

If you haven’t already, connect your GameShell to wifi, and perform a software update. You can do both of these under Settings. Locate the “Wi-Fi” and “Update” options, and use them to update to at least Launcher version 1.24.

You should see a PICO-8 option in the main menu. You will use this to install PICO-8.

Note: Launcher v1.24 also includes an alternate Launcher called “LauncherGo.” Only the original Launcher has the PICO-8 installer. Switch back to Launcher, if necessary.

Purchasing PICO-8

Go here to purchase your copy of PICO-8 if you don’t already own it: ($15)

Once purchased, visit the downloads page and download the Raspberry Pi version. This file has a filename similar to:

Tip: Your PICO-8 license includes versions for all platforms. Download the version for your desktop computer, make PICO-8 games of your own, and run them on your GameShell!

IMPORTANT: Renaming the file so the installer can find it

As of Launcher v1.24, the installer is expecting PICO-8 version 0.1.11g. It works with the latest version, but for now you have to work around this expectation.

Rename the file from to You can do this from your computer’s file explorer, or from the Mac or Linux command line:


Transfering PICO-8 to the GameShell

The Launcher’s PICO-8 installer looks for the zip file in a folder (directory) with this path: ~/games/PICO-8/ (The ~ means the cpi user’s “home” directory, containing the games directory where you put various game ROMs and such. The PICO-8 directory is inside there.)

Connect your GameShell to your wifi network and get its IP address:

  1. Turn on your GameShell.
  2. If necessary, connect the GameShell to your wireless network: Settings, Wi-Fi.
  3. In the main launcher menu, select TinyCloud. This displays the IP address of your GameShell, such as

You can transfer files to the GameShell using scp, a file transfer method based on ssh (Secure Shell). Some file transfer programs know how to do this, such as Putty SCP for Windows, WinSCP for Windows, or Transmit for Mac. Connect using the IP address, an account name of cpi, and a password of cpi.

On Mac and Linux (and also Windows with Putty SCP or the Windows Subsystem for Linux), you can use a Terminal to do this with a command-line interface and the scp command. To transfer PICO-8 to the ~/games/PICO-8 directory on the GameShell using the scp command:

scp cpi@

Enter the password cpi when prompted.

Running the Launcher’s PICO-8 installer

On your GameShell, use the Launcher to navigate to the PICO-8 icon, then select it.

If this displays instructions to copy PICO-8 to ~/games/PICO-8, then it didn’t find the file. Review the instructions above, and make sure the file is named even if you downloaded a newer version.

If this displays the “MD5 error,” then it’s working! It is displaying this error because it expected to find PICO-8 version 0.1.11g, but you provided the newer version. Tell it to continue anyway.

Welcome to PICO-8!

After it installs, PICO-8 starts in splore mode. From now on, the PICO-8 option in the Launcher will just launch PICO-8 like this.

Move right to find the “Featured” section. If necessary, press B on [update] to load the list. Move up and down to find a game, then press B to start it.

PICO-8 games use one or both of the A and B buttons. Some games will refer to these as Z and X, or C and V, because these are the default keys on a desktop computer. Games may also refer to them as (O) and (X), which are their “fantasy console” button icons.

To exit a game and return to the Splore game selection menu, press the GameShell MENU button, then select “Exit to Splore”. (You can also use the pause menu just to pause your game.)

To exit PICO-8 entirely and return to the GameShell Launcher, exit to Splore, then press MENU again and select “Shutdown PICO-8”.

Tip: Be careful not to select “Exit to Console” from the shutdown menu. This puts PICO-8 in its game developer mode. It’s a super fun mode, but you need a full keyboard to use it or get back out of it. Hold down the GameShell’s power button to reset if you get stuck here.

Enjoy the games, and come visit the PICO-8 community in the forum to learn more!



I don’t object to reposting the tutorial to the forum.

[Update: The original post has been edited to remove the offending content.] I strongly object to adding the insinuation that the reader should pirate PICO-8. I explicitly wrote that section to discourage piracy. Please remove this, or remove the post.

I realize that we’re playing a bit loose with copyright on old game ROMs for emulators. PICO-8 is not in the same category: it’s inexpensive commercial software being developed actively by a small software company. Pirating PICO-8 is not the same as sharing old abandoned ROMs. Pirating PICO-8 actively hurts everyone who supports it. If you like PICO-8, pay for it.


Thank you both!

PICO-8 is indeed a closed source, we respect it. It is obviously a GREAT project.

We are also looking for some open source “fantasy computer” or we can DIY one :relaxed:.

1 Like

Rerverted the first post with content, (as for @dddaaannn I don’t mind it to be here too, some people don’t go to the Wiki) and removed the flagged content (plus a little bit of reformatting)


Works like a charm! Thanks a lot. Was worth the 15 US-Dollars.

1 Like

PICO-8 won’t start for me from the launcher. I followed every step and have now the PICO-8 icon in my launcher. I even changed the icon to the PICO-8 logo but every time I want to start the program, it boots back into the launcher. The only way I can start PICO-8 is by entering this command via ssh:

echo >~/apps/launcher/Menu/GameShell/
SDL_VIDEODRIVER=x11 DISPLAY=:0 /home/cpi/pico-8/pico8_dyn -splore -draw_rect 32,0,256,240

EDIT: I just discovered that the located in ~/apps/launcher/Menu/GameShell/ was completly empty. I just added the following line to connect the .sh file to the actual program:

SDL_VIDEODRIVER=x11 DISPLAY=:0 /home/cpi/pico-8/pico8_dyn -splore -draw_rect 32,0,256,240

Love it!! Well totally worth the money!!

@ZELSK8 Glad you got it working! It looks like the “echo” statement got split into two lines in this forum repost, which would have the effect you described. As one line, it creates that file with “SDL…” as its contents, which is the intended effect. As separate lines, it would create an empty file (the first line), then separately start PICO-8 (the second line). :slight_smile:

The original doc has this correct. The error is only in this forum repost. Maybe someone with edit permissions can fix it?

If you are enjoying PICO-8, don’t forget to lookup the #pico8 hashtag on Twitter. One of the liveliest programming-focused communities out there.


and follow @lexaloffle on twitter too!


I’ve set the first post as a “wiki”, so you should be able to edit it.

Perhaps a n00b question, but after installing Pic8, how do you add games?

@Gryzor: If you are connected to the internet, you should be able to access a selection of popular games in the FEATURED panel:


plus all those available in the BBS ( in the last one. You may need to select UPDATE in the menu for them to refresh.


Ohh fantastic. I didn’t know because I’ve never used it! Going to buy it now…


1 Like

Ok, bought and installed, great guide and a huge thanks :slight_smile:

One more question - despite the reference to key input in the guide, I find that my YXAB keys don’t seem to do anything at all… how have people configured it?

[EDIT] oooops I missed the “button_keys 0 0 0 0 13 14 0 0 0 0 0 0 0” line…[/EDIT]

Oh, also, does it auto update or something, or do I need to keep an eye out on updates and unzip them manually?

Thanks again!

I’m not sure if anyone else will want this, but I wrote a small script to add volume controls to PICO-8.
Here’s the code:
and a video of it running:


Ooh nice! Will it autorun or does the user have to execute each time? I don’t have a in the pico-8 dir…

[EDIT]…but, here it is: /home/cpi/apps/launcher/Menu/GameShell/

[EDIT2] Hmm… followed the instructions to a t, but it doesn’t work…

My reads:

SDL_VIDEODRIVER=x13 DISPLAY=:0 python /home/cpi/pico-8/
SDL_VIDEODRIVER=x11 DISPLAY=:0 /home/cpi/pico-8/pico8_dyn -splore -draw_rect 32,0,256,240

Have installed pyxhook, is in home/cpi/pico-8, but nothing happens with the vol keys.

Not only a selection of popular, you can also see the most recent published in some category.
The only thing that would not work at the moment is the search as it need a keyboard.

1 Like