RetroArch is an open-source frontend for emulation software with cross-platform compatibility. It's used to emulate retro gaming consoles and software. Some settings can be universally applied using RetroArch so you don't have to repeat certain tasks—like controller setup.
You can install RetroArch on a wide variety of systems, like tablets, computers, the Raspberry Pi, and more. Once installed, you'll need to configure a controller (most USB controllers work fine). Choose which cores—another name for emulation software—you want to install, and load up your RetroArch system with ROMs.
The installation method depends on which system you're using to run RetroArch. The RetroArch download page has a list of compatible platforms.
Once Retro Arch is installed, you'll need to connect and configure a controller. Most joypads are automatically configured and won’t require additional setup. Cores—or emulation software—can be installed using the Online Updater in the main menu. All that's left is to load up your RetroArch system with ROMs to play.
A core refers to an emulation program. This could be for a retro console like the NES or a newer system like the GameCube. Cores can be added and updated from within the RetroArch menu.
RetroArch can emulate a wide variety of gaming consoles. It can support classic consoles like the NES, SNES, and Genesis. If your machine is powerful enough, you can emulate more modern systems like the PS2 and GameCube. Here's an official list of cores supported by RetroArch.
|Beetle PCE FAST|
|Beetle PSX HW|
|bsnes C++98 (v085)|
|Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup|
|FB Alpha 2012|
|FB Alpha 2012 CPS-1|
|FB Alpha 2012 CPS-2|
|FB Alpha 2012 CPS-3|
|FB Alpha 2012 Neo Geo|
|Game Music Emu|
|Genesis Plus GX|
|MAME 2003 Midway|
|MAME 2003-Plus - Experimental|
|Neko Project II|
|Neko Project II Kai|
|PCSX ReARMed [Interpreter]|
|SvMS Plus GX|
|Snes9x 2005 Plus|
|The Powder Toy|
Visit the RetroArch download page and download the installation files needed for your device. The installation method may vary depending on the platform you're using.
For example, Windows and Mac OS users can use executable files while Linux users may need to install with a command-line interface. You can find compiling information for each OS on the download page.
Installing RetroArch on the PlayStation 3 is as easy as putting the right files on a USB drive. Visit the PS3 RetroArch installation documentation for a full breakdown of the process. Both the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation Vita use SD cards to install the RetroArch platform.
The Xbox One can run RetroArch but requires a little more work to set up. The Xbox has to be in developer mode with remote access enabled. The RetroArch installation files are transferred using a web interface. There's a detailed explanation of this process on the libretro website here.
RetroArch uses two types of cheat methods: Emulator Handled and RetroArch Handled. Emulator Handled cheats are passed to and handled entirely by the emulator while RetroArch Handled cheats are applied to the emulator by RetroArch.
You can search for cheat codes for a given title or add custom cheat codes that aren't in the database. For a complete breakdown of how to use cheats in Retro Arch, visit the Cheat/Rumble Codes document from Libretro.
RetroArch doesn't have themes for the UI, but the existing menu can be changed with a handful of presets.
Under Settings, look for the Drivers section. This screen will have a Menu option. Changing this setting will change the appearance of the menu in RetroArch. You will have to restart RetroArch for the change to take effect.
Your RetroArch device needs an active internet connection for Netplay to work. Netplay will appear under the Main Menu. You can use this menu to host and connect to other players using Netplay. Both parties will need the same ROM in order to play together. Check out this page from the RetroArch website for a detailed explanation of Netplay.
RetroArch can be installed on the Amazon Fire TV Stick. You will need a wireless controller for navigation. Check out our guide on how to install RetroArch on the Amazon Fire TV Stick to get started.
RetroArch is a frontend package with multiple emulators. RetroPie encompasses RetroArch and includes additional emulation software. RetroPie can emulate older PC operating systems like AmigaOS. While both RetroArch and RetroPie are emulation platforms, RetroPie offers more by integrating RetroArch.