How to Set Up RetroArch: An In-Depth Guide

Videogames. There’s nothing quite like them. And although modern games have things older games will never have – realistic graphics, incredible sound design, detailed worlds, and true-to-life lighting and textures, there’s just something about retro games that makes them so enjoyable.

The only issue is that many of the retro games were not only released at various different times, but also on completely differently consoles.

Not only will this put you back a decent amount of cash just to get the consoles to play them on, but having the swap and change between a handful of consoles, controllers and setups isn’t convenient at all.

However, there’s a solution – RetroArch.

What is RetroArch?

RetroArch is the ultimate all-in-one gaming emulator, capable of running almost any original retro game you can imagine. And better yet, it works on Windows, Mac & Linux! Because of just how much it’s capable of doing, it goes without saying that RetroArch is a little difficult to set up. But it’s nothing to worry about.

The following article will go through how to set up RetroArch, so you can start playing all your old favorites from any computer or laptop. Best of all, all your games will be in the same place, so you can swap and change between them as much as you want.

So, let’s get you set up!

1. Download RetroArch

retroarch interface

To get started, go to the Libertro Home Page and click ‘Downloads’ at the top right. This will show you the latest RetroArch release that’s suitable for your system. Click on the relevant folder for you. After browsing, you’ll come across a 7-Zip archive that contains RetroArch.

If you haven’t already, go ahead and download and install 7-Zip in order to open this archive. After opening the archive, drag its contents to wherever you would like it on your system (i.e. in a folder on the desktop, or in system files). When this is done, launch RetroArch by double-clicking on “retroarch.exe”.

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2. Configure Controllers


Most people find the interface of RetroArch quite overwhelming, to begin with. But after some time, you’ll realize that it’s simpler than it comes across as. First things first, your mouse or touch-pad won’t work at this point. You have to use the arrow keys to browse the RetroArch menu.

Using the up and down arrows will scroll vertically through the list, whilst using the left and right arrows will allow you to jump between menus. Pressing ‘Enter’ will select your item, and pressing ‘backspace’ will let you jump back a step. Simple stuff so far!

But for those that don’t want to use a keyboard or computer, you’ll have to figure your controller. Some controllers will work straight away, but some may have issues and have to configure theirs. To do this, using your keyboard, select the two gears at the top of your screen that will get you to the ‘Settings’ menu. Scroll down to ‘Input’ and select ‘Enter’.

After this, scroll down to ‘Input User 1 Binds’ and then select ‘User 1 Bind All’. After selecting this, you’ll be able to configure buttons on your controller to work with RetroArch. For multiplayer use, the same method applies. You’ll just have to bind each controller one-by-one. RetroArch emulations are designed in a way that accurately mimics the original gamepads for each console, just to provide an optimum gaming experience.

3. Download Emulators

So now that you’ve installed, navigated and setup controllers with RetroArch, it’s a good time to learn a bit more about RetroArch itself. RetroArch isn’t exactly an emulator itself, rather a type of software that’s capable of even running a range of different emulators, called ‘cores’. You’ll have to download these ‘cores’ in order to run certain games.

This can be down from within RetroArch itself. To do this, head to the first column, and then scroll down until you reach ‘Online Updater’. After this, select on the first item in the following menu, which should be ‘Core Updater’. From this, you’ll be able to download a range of different cores. So, scroll through and download whichever one appeals to you!

It’s not always clear which core works for which particular systems, so you may have to do some experimenting to find that out. Choose one to start with and see if that works. If not, move on and try to find another.

4. Add ROMs to the Emulator

rom collection

After adding your chosen cores in order to run the games, you’ll need to download the ROMs themselves that contain the games. From RetroArch’s main menu, select the option ‘Add Content’. After this, choose ‘Scan Directory’, and then browse through your system until you find the correct folder that contains all the ROMs.

One this is done, if you head back to RetroArch’s home screen, you’ll see some new icons. These icons represent the controllers used for each system, that you have ROMs for. Selecting one of these controllers will bring you to a menu where you can select the relevant games for this console. After selecting a game, you can select the core to run it with. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be good to go!

This is how to set up RetroArch and play whatever games you like. So, browse the huge range out there, invite some friends over (or go solo), and start gaming!

5. Customize It

Because of the type of software RetroArch is, you can change and tweak it to suit you. You can change and update thumbnails, install new ROMs, and run ROMs from different cores.

When you get a chance, go through all of the settings and have a play around, see what works best for you, and what needs leaving as it is. But most importantly, enjoy all the gaming you can do! Now that you know how to set up RetroArch, the sky is the limit!

Have you used RetroArch? If so, how did you find it? Drop a comment below to let us know!


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