Retroarch: what is this emulator and how does it work

RetroArch is an open source application that uses a very attractive interface and powerful. It is known to allow the installation of emulators of the different retro and current consoles, as well as of roms, such as the well-known games of the different platforms.

RetroArch is based on LibRETRO, an API that allows the creation of games and emulators, it is a modular system that loads several cores, each of them will be its own core. 

RetroArch is cross-platform, it is available on many operating systems, including Android, also on other systems such as Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, also on the following consoles: PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, PSP, Nintendo Wii, Xbox, Xbox 360, GameCube e Nintendo 3DS.

The RetroArch app can load any console emulator come NES, Nintendo 64, Nintendo DS, Super Nintendo, PlayStation, PSP, ScummVM, Sega Master System, Mega Drive, Mega CD, Saturn, Raspberry Pi e ZX Spectrum. 

RetroArch is compatible with any controller, once connected it is configured automatically, it also allows manual configuration for a configuration from scratch.

What is RetroArch?

The RetroArch application is an open source project developed by The Libretro Team in 2010, since its operation it has broadened its horizons, so much so that it is multi-platform. Its operation is quite simple, you just need to know the basics to get the most out of the tool.

It emulates any classic console, so you can enjoy those game consoles that you missed because you are quite young. You can play NES, Super NES and other consoles with minimal setup on an Android phone.

The good thing about this case is that the games you play can be saved, as you have the option to save any game you are playing at that moment. RetroArch is quite comprehensive, also allows the installation of add-ons with which to record your games, to be able to share them on social networks, YouTube and other channels.

How to install RetroArch

The first and necessary thing is to install RetroArch on your mobile phone to be able to configure it to use it as an emulator manager. The application is available in the Google Play Store, weighs about 100 megabytes and it only takes a few minutes to install and then run it.

  • Download Retroarch Android

Once you open the RetroArch application, you will see a message in English asking you for the permission to read and write in the device memory, click OK to continue and “Allow”. 

The ROMs you can download from the different pages will go to the internal memory, although you can have them saved on your phone's external SD card if you prefer.

After giving permission, it will show you a screen with a blank interface, here you have to look for "Load Core", click on it and now it will show you the “Download Core” option. By clicking on it you have chosen the option to download a kernel, you do not need anything else to get started.

Once you enter "Download Core" it will show you different emulators, here you choose what you want to play, be it a SEGA platform, Nintendo or one of the many that come out. When you log into one of them, the download will run and its progress will be shown at the bottom of the RetroArch application.

Now once you get back to the screen that shows you "Load Core" you will see that it shows you the emulator downloaded in the application. If you click on it, it will start loading, but you will need to download the ROMs if you want to play this video game emulator.

The kernel will show you that you have loaded, this will help you to know which kernel you have active, once loaded click on the "Load content" option, this is the option that will make you load the games, in this case it will be known as ROM (compressed files of classic console games ).

ROM RetroArch

There are many ROM pages where you can download titles of any kind from retro consoles, just search on Google for example ROM and the name of the platform you will find in the first results the games to download in .zip format. Download the ROMs in the same folder, especially not to mess when you want to charge them with your device.

Once you have downloaded the specific ROM, go to the "Load content" option, click on it, browse until you find the video game downloaded from the specific page, for this you will see different directories. 

Once you get to the file, click on it to run it, now a screen appears again, the action to be performed is “Load archive” and RetroArch will start the ROM you have selected.

RetroArck touch screen how does it work?

RetroArch will start a basic setup in order to use the ROMs, you need to learn how to use it to play perfectly, it will only take you a few minutes if you want to get the most out of the emulator. 

Another option is to be able to use a physical controller, it is one of the things that some gamers have done over time, install one of the many that work on the phone with the Android system.

Despite this, with the screen you can go up, down, go left or right, the action buttons which are four, the buttons L1, L2, R1, R2, the selection and start, all work on any ROM you download.

Screen control is configurable, you can change the jump to a button you want, as well as make the triggers (L and R) to run, shoot, among other actions. It is recommended that you learn its full use in a test game, then over time you will get used to it.

How to rotate the RetroArck screen

RetroArch allows the rotation of the screen, will allow you to play more comfortably, sometimes tends to give errors, but this bug has been fixed with developer updates released in recent months. 

This has been fixed thanks to several user reporting, so now you can open the app and play any title from the emulators without having to close the app and go back to it to fix this bug.

If you have rotated it, the buttons will become more expanded, it is the best solution to be able to play much better as it has a higher resolution and the buttons are more detached if you use it vertically. The horizontal one gives us a better resolution if you have a screen at least 5 inches or larger.

How to configure RetroArch

When it starts RetroArch first you need to calibrate how often the screen refreshes, the brightness will decrease or increase depending on how you touch the screen. This option is found in “Video Options”, under the “Calibrate Refresh Rate” setting.

If you now want to adjust the screen size to full screen or pre-configured aspect ratio, go back to “Video Options” and click on “Aspect Ratio”. Here you need to select the required preference , the user's free choice will determine whether it is displayed full size or predefined by the RetroArch application.

An important section is the audio during the games you have downloaded, if you want there to be no cuts, this configuration is important. Look for “Audio Options”, once inside look for the High Latency Mode option and click to get the best performance with all the ROMs available for each of the emulators.

One of the last and no less important sections is to automatically configure the ROM startup in the emulator, click “Path Options” and go to ROM Directory, place the folder name where all the ROMs are downloaded, it usually goes to “Download” on your android phone.

The configuration of the controls is synonymous with making the most of the games you are playing those games you missed when you played them on consoles in the 90s. Here you can configure the screen keyboard or connect a controller via Bluetooth or USB.

  • Default configuration: it is the one you will have by default once you start the RetroArch application. Here you have to go to Input Options to insert one button into another, remember that each game has its own default controls
  • Configuration via Bluetooth or USB: If you have an Android compatible remote, you need to use this option if you want to activate it. Re-open “Input Options” and click “Auto Detect Configuration” and RetroArch automatically assigns the default, although you can change them if you want to make it more convenient to use in the Input Options once detected.

Read also: The best Android emulators for Windows PC

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