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RetroArch Tutorial

By Alejandro Rodriguez. Last revised May 24, 2020.

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About RetroArch for Windows

RetroArch's start screens RetroArch's start screen

RetroArch is a multi-system emulator that supports pretty much every video game system. Atari Lynx, Neo Geo Pocket Color, WonderSwan, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, NES, SNES, Virtual Boy, PC Engine/TurboGrafx-CD, PC-FX, Game Gear, Genesis/Mega Drive, Sega CD/Mega CD, Sega Master System, PlayStation 1, PlayStation 2, Saturn, PSP, and more! It's an open source emulator available for every operating system. This tutorial is for the Windows version (I have the Android version covered, too).

The drawback with RetroArch is that it wants to do everything and cook your dinner! It's loaded with an overwhelming amount of features and customization. It can make RetroArch more intimidating than helpful for beginners. However, that's exactly the reason why I created this tutorial. Hopefully, I can make RetroArch easy for everyone :)

RetroArch can be downloaded from its homepage: RetroArch.com. Click Download then Download Stable.

Installation

Unlike other emulators, RetroArch is installed via an installation wizard. The benefit of this is that installation is easier. And RetroArch can be fully uninstalled through Windows if you decide you don't want it anymore.

Here's how to install it:

  1. Download RetroArch, if you haven't already. Double-click on Install EXE to begin the installation.
  2. Windows' scare prompt Windows' scare prompt
    The first thing Windows does is scare you with the bright red “Windows protected your PC” dialog. Don't panic! Windows does this with any EXE you download from the Internet. It's a precaution for stupid people who don't know any better and download anything just to get Justin Bieber ringtones. You can trust RetroArch. Click More info then Run anyway to proceed with the installation.
  3. On the Welcome screen , click Next.
  4. On the License Agreement screen , put the check to agree and click Next.
  5. Install Location Install Location
    The Install Location screen is an important step. RetroArch doesn't default its installation to your programs folder like programs normally do. It defaults to your “AddData” folder. If you're not very computer-savvy, you may want to have RetroArch installed to an easier location to reach such as in your Documents folder. It makes things easier for you when you need to copy over the BIOS files and find your screenshots. Otherwise, if having RetroArch in “AddData” is ok with you then click Next.
  6. Components (optional) Components (optional)
    On the optional Components screen, this step is only important if you have an older computer. By 'older' I mean, probably from mid-2010's and older. Installing DirectX helps prevent video related issues. Even if you have a new computer, installing it doesn't hurt. Anyway, if you think your computer might need it then put a check in “DirectX 9.0c Runtime”. Click Next.
    • If you opted to install DirectX, the next step will begin the DirectX installation in a new install wizard. Just click Next, Next, Next for every screen. BUT, make sure at the last screen you remove the check that installs the Bing search bar. Pay attention for that small detail.
  7. On the Start Menu Folder screen , click Install.
  8. RetroArch shortcut iconWait patiently for RetroArch to install. And that's it! On the final screen click Finish. RetroArch is now a new program in your Windows Start Menu and a shortcut icon on your desktop.

Going back in the UI

Going back a screen in the UI

The main screen UI is straight-forward to navigate. You have the section buttons in the left panel and the content in the center panel. However, the UI doesn't make it obvious how you can go back a screen. You can do that in two ways: click the retro alien logo or press the Backspace key.

First-time setup (important!)

RetroArch doesn't come packaged with its 'cores' (its video game emulators). The authors of RetroArch are mindful of your computer's space. So upon installing RetroArch, it didn't bloat your hard drive with all 100+ emulators it offers! You get to choose which 'cores' you want to be installed.

RetroArch's Online Updater

You access the core updater screen by going to Online Updater > Core Updater, as shown above. Then select the systems you want.

That's all there is to it! Once you download a core it becomes available immediately. So if you download an SNES core then you can immediately proceed to play your SNES ROMs.

If you're finding the list of cores confusing, continue reading below.

Understanding the cores

RetroArch has around 20 Super Nintendo cores RetroArch has around 20 Super Nintendo cores

Browsing through RetroArch's massive cores list, you're going to see cores listed like this:

  • Game Boy Advance (Beetle GBA)
  • Game Boy Advance (gpSP)
  • Game Boy Advance (Meteor)
  • Game Boy Advance (mGBA)
  • Game Boy Advance (VBA Next)
  • Game Boy Advance (VBA-M)

So what does all that mean? I don't know how involved you are with video game emulation, but enthusiasts take emulation very seriously. RetroArch wants to satisfy everyone's OCD for perfection by offering a variety of cores for specific emulators. As a beginner, I'm sure this list will mean nothing to you. Just pick whichever one you want. Any core will run good enough for you.

The only cores that might matter to you are the ones listed like this:

  • SNES / Super Famicon (bsnes Accuracy)
  • SNES / Super Famicon (bsnes Balanced)
  • SNES / Super Famicon (bsnes Performance)

'Accuracy' is for higher-end computers that can handle a CPU demanding core. 'Performance' is for lower-end computers. 'Balanced' is in the middle of the two.

Deleting a core

RetroArch's interface makes it easy to accidentally download an unwanted core. The following directions are how you can delete a core.

  1. On the main screen, go to Load Core and select the core you want to delete - as shown here .
  2. At the lower-left, you should see the core you chose . Next, click Information.
  3. On the Information screen, select Core Information - as shown here .
  4. On the Core Information screen, scroll all the way down and you'll find an option for Delete Core. Select it to delete the core .

Required BIOS files

The following video game systems require these BIOS files in order for games to work. You don't need every single region. For example, if you only intend to play US games, you only need the US region BIOS.

  • PlayStation 1
    • scph5500.bin - required for Japan-region games.
    • scph5501.bin - required for North America/US-region games.
    • scph5502.bin & scph5552.bin - required for Europe-region games.
  • Sega CD/Mega CD
    • bios_CD_J.bin - required for Japan-region games.
    • bios_CD_U.bin - required for North America/US-region games.
    • bios_CD_E.bin - required for Europe-region games.
  • PC Engine CD/TurboGrafx-CD
    • syscard3.pce - general BIOS required for all regions.
  • Sega Saturn
    • mpr-17933.bin - required for North America/US-region and Europe-region games.
    • sega_101.bin - required for Japan-region games.
  • Arcade (MAME)
    • neogeo.zip - required for NeoGeo games (don't extract it!).

These BIOS files are CASE SENSITIVE. Depending on which website you downloaded them from, they may be named differently. Make sure every BIOS is named exactly as you see it above. Speaking of where to download BIOS files, you can grab all of them below.

  • RetroArch BIOS Bundle (3.45 MB). Contains all the BIOS files listed above. Download this file by right-clicking the download link and go to Save Link As. When saving, rename the “_ip” file extension to “zip”. If you don't see the file extension, try showing them.

Extract the BIOS file(s) from their ZIP file (except for 'neogeo.zip'). Place all of the BIOS files in RetroArch's “system” folder. Finding the “system” folder is where things can get a little bit tricky depending on how computer-savvy you are.

Finding the BIOS folder

So you've downloaded the BIOS files and extracted them from their ZIP file. Now you need to locate RetroArch's “system” folder to move them into. There are three possible scenarios for this process.

#1 - You changed the location during installation

When you installed RetroArch, did you select a different install location? (I recommended your Documents folder.) If so, then finding the “system” folder is easy. Simply navigate to the location you chose, look for RetroArch's folder, and inside you'll find the “system” folder. Move all of the BIOS files into there.

#2 - RetroArch's default location

If you just clicked Next, Next, Next during the installation, then RetroArch is in its default location in the “AddData” folder. Here's how to find it:

  1. Open the Windows File Explorer. The easiest way to open it is to click the folder icon in your home row of apps. If a folder icon isn't present, you can also do this: in the “Type here to search“ area type “file“ and you'll see a File Explorer app appear at the top of the search results - as shown here .
  2. In the left panel, look for Local Disc (C:). Click on it, then in the main panel click Users - as shown here .
  3. Next, double-click on the folder for the user you are currently signed in as.
  4. In your 'user' folder, currently “AddData” is hidden. We need to make hidden folders visible. Click on View then Options - as shown here . Then click the View tab then click the radio bullet for Show hidden files, folders and drives . Click Apply then OK.
  5. RetroArch's 'system' folder RetroArch's 'system' folder
    The “AddData” folder should now be visible . Double-click on it. Then double-click on Roaming > RetroArch > system.
  6. Finally, we've reached the system folder. Drag all BIOS files to this location. Don't forget to extract BIOS files from their ZIP files. And their filenames must be named exactly as I listed them in the BIOS files intro (they're case sensitive).

#3 - You can change the default folder for BIOS files

If navigating to “AddData” is frustrating you, know that the default folder for BIOS files can be changed to an easier location.

  1. From the main screen click Settings, scroll down, and click Directory - as shown here .
  2. At the Directory screen , the option to change the default BIOS folder is right there at the top. That's it! Now you can move all of your BIOS files to this new directory location.

Setting up the keyboard

These are the general keys:

  • Up/Down/Left/Right = Up/Down/Left/Right keys
  • B Button (Down) = Z
  • Y Button (Left) = A
  • X Button (Top) = S
  • A Button (Right) = X
  • Left Shoulder = Q
  • Right Shoulder = W
  • Start = Enter
  • Select = Shift

If you wish to reconfigure these keys or find the full list of keys:

  1. From the main screen click Settings then Input - as shown here .
  2. At the Input screen , scroll down a bit and select Port 1 Binds for player 1. Or Port 2 Binds for player 2, and so on.
  3. At the Port Binds screen , you can either select Bind Default All to automatically reconfigure all buttons or select the specific button(s) to change.

Custom keys per game

RetroArch allows you to configure custom keys on a per-game basis. This is done through the Quick Menu. During gameplay, press the F1 key for the Quick Menu then scroll down and click Controls > Port 1 Controls. The changes you make here are exclusive to the game that is currently running and will not globally change your keys.

Using gamepads

The beautiful thing about setting up a gamepad with RetroArch is that you don't have to do anything! RetroArch promises to automatically map the buttons for any gamepad you plug in. I don't know exactly how robust this feature is; if even older gamepads are mapped properly.

To use your gamepad with RetroArch, plug it in then open RetroArch. If you plugged it in while RetroArch is already open, you need to close and re-open RetroArch. During gameplay when you press any gamepad button for the first time, RetroArch will prompt you that it successfully detected your gamepad.

If you want to reconfigure the buttons on your gamepad, it's the same process I explained above for reconfiguring keyboard keys. And if you want gamepad recommendations, I have those in the gamepads page.

Loading a game

Use File/Command/Window to load games Use the File menu to load games

RetroArch's interface is misleading. It pushes you to load a game through its main window UI. However, you can also load games via the File menu and it's 1000% easier & faster. Here's how:

  1. Don't forget that first you need to download the cores for every video game system you want RetroArch to support.
  2. RetroArch can load games from their zip files. However, if your game is in a RAR or 7Z file then it needs to be extracted. ROM sites tend to use those formats to compress CD based games and other large games. You can use 7-Zip (it’s free) to extract them.
  3. When you're ready to load a game, click the File menu then Load Content.
    Load Content
  4. Navigate to the folder where your ROMs are located. Click on the game you want to play then click Open - as shown here .
  5. If you downloaded a single core for a video game system then the game will immediately begin to load. However, if you downloaded multiple cores for a video game system then RetroArch will ask you which core you want to load with your game:
    Select a core
    Click on the core you want to use then click OK.
  6. To close a game, press the F1 key for the Quick Menu then click Close Content. Or to close RetroArch altogether, press the Esc key twice.

Note: The File menu lacks a “Recently played games” list. However, that's found in the main window UI under History .

Entering full screen

By default, RetroArch will load games in a window. You can enter & exit full screen mode by pressing the “F” key on your keyboard. You can also access full screen via the “Window” menu at the top; click Window > Toggle Exclusive Full Screen.

The Quick Menu

The quick menu The Quick Menu

The Quick Menu is a handy menu that gives you all the game-specific options for the game you're currently running. Options such as save states, recording, controls, cheats, and more. Access it by pressing the F1 key during gameplay.

The Quick Menu is an essential part of the Android version of RetroArch. On the Windows version it's an optional menu that you don't have to use.

Loading Sega CD & TurboGrafx-CD games

First, you need to extract your Sega CD/Mega CD or TurboGrafx-CD/PC Engine CD game from its ZIP, RAR, or 7Z archive. If you have a RAR or 7Z file, you can use 7-Zip (it's free) to extract it.

Now I'm going to explain the different types of formats that people have prepared these games as. They consist of one or more BIN files (the game's data), audio tracks, and a CUE sheet. The CUE sheet is a simple text file with a programmatic list of the audio tracks. ROM websites deliver games in one of four formats:

  1. A binary BIN/CUE: As of the early 2020s, this is the new popular format being distributed from sites. It looks like this when you open it. All files are BIN files. When you look at the CUE sheet , the BIN files are organized as the audio tracks.
  2. A standard BIN/CUE: This is how video game ISOs (for any CD-based system) are normally ripped as. It looks like this when you open it. When you look at the CUE sheet , the audio tracks are listed even though there are no actual audio files present.
  3. An ISO/MP3: This used to be the most popular format for most of the 2000s and 2010s when the Internet was slower. Converting the audio tracks to MP3 significantly reduced the file size of Sega CD/TurboGrafx-CD games. It looks like this when you open it.
  4. An ISO/WAV: This is an ISO/MP3 with the audio tracks converted to WAV .

I need to point out that not all of the above formats are compatible with RetroArch. ISO/MP3 is not supported at all. ISO/WAV will load, but the CD audio will run fast as if in fast forward. Only BIN/CUE ('binary' or 'standard') will successfully run on RetroArch. If you do have games in ISO/MP3 or ISO/WAV, you need to look for other ROM websites to find them in BIN/CUE.

Anyway, with a BIN/CUE in hand, the next steps are easy:

  1. Copy over the proper BIOS to RetroArch's system” folder.
  2. Games must be extracted from their ZIP/RAR/7Z archives. 7-Zip (it's free) can extract RAR and 7Z files.
  3. Next, load your game. Click the File menu then Load Content. Navigate to the location on your computer where your game is.
  4. Select the CUE sheet then click Open - as shown here

Loading PlayStation 1 games

RetroArch's PlayStation 1 emulation is pretty awesome. Unlike ePSXe, you don't have to bother with a plug-in system. Just install the PlayStation 1 core and you're all set. However, RetroArch is a hassle when it comes to setting up games that consist of multiple CDs. They both have their pros and cons - it's up to you to decide what you think works best.

Here's how to get yourself up and running with PlayStation 1 emulation:

  1. The PlayStation 1 BIOS needs to be in RetroArch's system” folder.
  2. Games must be extracted from their ZIP/RAR/7Z archives. 7-Zip (it's free) can extract RAR and 7Z files. Sometimes ROM sites deliver PlayStation 1 ISOs in ECM format. To extract an ECM file watch this video.
  3. RetroArch only accepts PlayStation 1 ISOs that are in “BIN/CUE” or “ISO” format. Like below:
    A BIN/CUE and ISO
    If the PlayStation 1 ISO you downloaded came in a weird format such as NRG, IMG, UIF, DAA, CDI, XBX, B51, BWI, etc. - they are not supported.
  4. Download the PlayStation 1 core. On the main screen, go to Online Updater > Core Updater - as shown here . Scroll down the long list and click on Sony - PlayStation (Beetle PSX HW).
    • What's the difference between “Beetle PSX HW” and “Beetle PSX”? HW provides a GL and Vulkan renderer. It also offers more rendering options such as “PGXP Perspective Correct Texturing” (this is explained below). The regular Beetle PSX core uses software rendering.
  5. Next, load your PlayStation 1 game. Click the File menu then Load Content. Navigate to the location on your computer where your PlayStation 1 ISO is, then select the BIN or ISO file.
  6. Beetle PSX's options Beetle PSX's options
    By default, this core doesn't have enhanced 3D graphics enabled. After loading a PlayStation 1 game, press the F1 key for the Quick Menu. Scroll down and click Options. You'll arrive at the picture shown to the right. I highlighted the three important options that boost the graphics.
    • Internal GPU Resolution - This upscales the 3D graphics, making them gorgeous and sharp. Change this to 2x or 4x, or even 8x if your computer can handle it. See the difference this makes.
    • Dithering Pattern - This upscales the rendering of textures on 3D graphics. Change this to “Internal Resolution“. See the difference this makes.
    • (Left) PGXP Mode, (Right) Normal
      PGXP Operation Mode - 3D games suffer from jittery animation. Setting PGXP to “Memory Only” will attempt to correct it. This is best described with the animated GIF to the right. Notice the face of the lady. It's not 100% perfect, but the difference is dramatic.
    • PGXP Perspective Correct Texturing - PlayStation 1 games weren't designed to be in high resolution. As a result, you'll notice that surface textures are skewed and not quite straight. Enabling this 'correct texturing' feature fixes that! See the difference this makes. This texture correctioning is more obvious in full 3D games; this video shows clearer examples.

Note: Beetle PSX isn't very friendly with games that are hacks or fan translations. However, the other PSX core “PCSX ReARMed” is.

Loading Nintendo 64 games

Nintendo 64 emulation is great on RetroArch, too. The best part is that the 3D is enhanced and upscaled by default (unlike PS1 emulation where you need to enable everything). There are a few details I need to point out.

  • The best core for Nintendo 64 emulation is Nintendo - Nintendo 64 (ParaLLEI N64) .
  • Comparison of default vs 1280x960 Comparison of default vs 1280x960
    After installing ParaLLEI N64, you may want to tweak the resolution to upscale the 3D even further. During gameplay, press the F1 key for the Quick Menu and click Options. Look for Resolution (restart) select a higher resolution. After selecting another resolution, you need to close the game and restart it to see the change.
  • Not all the keys are configured by default. If you play Mario 64, you'll find that you can't move Mario. Go to the keyboard configuration in Settings > Input > Port 1 Binds. These empty buttons need to be configured. Particularly, setting up the left analog is important.

About Saturn emulation

I want to discourage you from using RetroArch for Sega Saturn emulation. ouYabause is far better. Even though RetroArch includes a core for ouYabause, it's CPU heavy and runs poorly. And save states don't work. It crashes when you attempt to upscale the 3D graphics. At least, this is the status of Saturn emulation at the time I'm writing this. Maybe in the near future, it will improve.

Shaders (screen filters)

Screen shaders (called 'screen filters' in other emulators) render your screen in a variety of ways to make it look sharper and beautiful. Here's how to enable it:

  1. You don't have to have a game running, but I recommend that you do so that you can quickly see the changes for the different filters that you enable.
  2. On the main screen, click Settings > Video - as shown here .
  3. Video options The Video options
    At the Video options, scroll down and look for the two fields I highlighted in the picture to the right: Bilinear Filtering and Video Filter. Enabling Bilinear Filtering is a nice touch that slightly blurs the screen. It makes those sharp pixels easier on the eyes in full screen mode.
  4. Video Filter is the fun part. This area is where you select the exciting screen filters that merge pixels together in different ways.
  5. Once your options are selected, return to your game and you'll see the new changes applied to the graphics.

Not sure which shader to pick? Keep reading.

The Shaders

RetroArch comes with around 15 shaders. I'm going to show you the ones I recommend. Once you click a thumbnail below, you can press the left & right arrow keys on your keyboard to quickly transition between all of these previews.

Disc swapping for multiple-CD games

This can either be easy or difficult depending on how computer-savvy you are. I'm going to go as slow as I can and hold your hand through this. First, I'm going to start by showing you the finished result of how everything needs to be prepared for games with multiple discs to work with RetroArch. If this picture below makes sense to you, then you can skip the following directions and simply mimic my picture.

A BIN/CUE game with multiple discs and an M3U file

Similarly, if the game files are ISOs (not BIN/CUE) it would look like this . What we're doing is creating a text file (an “M3U” file) that lists the names of the CUE or ISO files.

Creating an M3U file

  1. To make this process easier for you, I recommend enabling Windows to show all file extensions. You don't have to, but it makes things far less confusing. Here are some YouTube videos showing you how to do this.
  2. In the example picture above I'm highlighting the three CUE files as a 'just in case' step. I'm sure the ROM website you downloaded the game from setup these CUE files properly. But yet, just in case I recommend opening these CUE files in “Notepad” and double-checking to make sure the filename shown inside them match the actual filename of the BIN file.
    • If this is the first time you're opening up a CUE file, Windows will ask you which program to open it up with. Click on More apps and put a check in “Always use this app to open .cue files” - as shown here . Then click OK.
  3. Now for the fun part. Open up Notepad. In the lower-left in “Type here to search”, type “notepad”. You'll see Notepad appear in the search .
  4. In Notepad, type the filenames of each disc for your game. In my example using Final Fantasy 7, you would type this:
    Final Fantasy 7's three discs in an M3U file
  5. Next, save the file. Go to the File menu then Save As. Type the exact name of your game as the files have it (well, it doesn't have to be exact, but it's best to keep everything consistent) with a “.m3u” file extension at the end. In my example with Final Fantasy 7, since the game files are called “Final Fantasy 7 (Disc x).cue”, I'm calling the M3U file “Final Fantasy 7.m3u”. Just like this

Important notes

You now have an M3U file for disc swapping. From this point, you no longer load the game by selecting the CUE or ISO files. From now on, you load the game by selecting this M3U file you just made. You know you're successful when you load the M3U and RetroArch immediately presents you with this prompt:
RetroArch telling you which disc it's loading

Be careful! If you've already been playing the first disc without creating an M3U file, loading the M3U file will overwrite your memory card file and delete your save(s)! Because loading the new M3U file for the first time creates a new memory card file (one that's shared between all discs).

Swapping to the next disc

I'm going to show you how to swap discs with the Quick Menu. You could swap discs via the Command menu at the top, but I recommend doing this within the Quick Menu because the Command menu doesn't give you visual cues that you swapped discs correctly.

Loading the next disc
  1. When the game tells you to swap to the next disc, press the F1 key to access the Quick Menu. Scroll down and click Disc Control - as shown here .
  2. Follow the sequence in the picture to the right. Click Eject Disc > Current Disc Index.
  3. Select the next disc you want to swap to.
  4. Click Insert Disc. You'll return to the game. Press the Start button or whatever the game says to do when you've inserted the next disc.

Fast forward

Press the Spacebar key to enable fast forward. Press it again to disable it.

Is fast forward not fast enough or not slow enough for you? You can adjust the speed of fast forward in Settings. It's found by clicking on Settings > Frame Throttle > Maximum Run Speed.

Rewind

The Rewind feature is disabled by default because enabling it might slow performance. To enable it, while a game is running press the F1 key for the Quick Menu then scroll down and click Rewind > Rewind Support > ON. Henceforth, simply press the R key to rewind.

Save states

Save states is a feature that saves the exact spot you are in any game. You can recall your save state at any time. You can collect multiple save states through 'slots'.

What are Save Slots? Let's say the Save Slot is set to slot 0. You save a state at the beginning of level 5 in Super Mario Bros. Then you change the save slot to slot 1. Then you save a state at the beginning of level 7. Your save at level 5 is still preserved in slot 0, and you can access it when you change the save slot back to slot 0.

There are three different ways to access save states.

Keyboard shortcuts

  • Save state = F2
  • Load state = F4
  • Decrease current save slot = F6
  • Increase current save slot = F7

Via the Command menu

In Command > Save State Options you can save state, load state, and select between 10 different save slots.

Accessing save states via the Command menu

Note: With the keyboard shortcuts and via the Quick Menu you can switch between an infinite amount of save slots instead of being capped at 10 when using the Command menu.

Via the Quick Menu

During gameplay, press the F1 key to access the Quick Menu. From there all the save options are immediately in view : Save State, Load State, and Save Slots.

Capturing screenshots

Press the F8 key to capture a screenshot, or in the top menu go to Command > Take Screenshot. RetroArch will save it as a PNG image and toss it into the “screenshots” folder. RetroArch captures screenshots with the current shader/filter you're using.

Where's the screenshots folder? Follow the directions in finding the BIOS folder to locate RetroArch's root folder. There you'll find the screenshots folder.

Using cheats

RetroArch has a massive collection of cheats available! Here's how to use them.

  1. Make sure you have the cheat files downloaded. Go to the Online Updater and select Update Cheats - as shown here .
  2. During gameplay, press F1 for the Quick Menu then select Cheats > Load Cheat File (Replace) - as shown here .
  3. You'll arrive at the cheats list. Select the video game system for your game and select your game.
  4. Cheat options & enabling cheats Cheat options & enabling cheats
    RetroArch will take you back to the Cheats main screen. When you scroll down, the cheats for your game are now populated on this screen (shown in the picture to the right). Before you scroll all the way down, I recommend enabling Auto-Apply Cheats. That'll keep your cheats active after you close RetroArch and re-open the game at a later time.
  5. When you select a cheat you want to use, you need to click Enabled to turn it on .
  6. When you're done enabling all the cheats you want to use, click Apply Changes . Resume your game and enjoy the cheats :)

There's one caveat with using RetroArch's pre-downloaded cheats. They're hit or miss and may not work. These cheats are largely untested. You may have to add your own cheats. Read below to learn how.

Adding your own cheats

Adding your own cheats is a slightly involved process. You can't do it through RetroArch's UI. You need to create a text file and add the cheats using RetroArch's format.

  1. In RetroArch's root folder, go to the cheats folder . Locate the CHT file for the game you want to add cheats to. Double-click on it to open it in WordPad.
  2. The file will look something like this:

    cheats = 2

    cheat0_desc = "Unlimited Energy"
    cheat0_code = "FF00F7:0003"
    cheat0_enable = false

    cheat1_desc = "Unlimited Lives"
    cheat1_code = "FF00F8:0003"
    cheat1_enable = false

    The format should be self-explanatory. At the top you put the number of cheats. Each cheat needs to be numbered in order, starting at 0. Most of RetroArch's codes are ProAction Replay. For the sake of these directions, I'm going to add some Game Genie codes. After editing the CHT file in WordPad, my finished CHT file looks like this:

    cheats = 3

    cheat0_desc = "Infinite lives"
    cheat0_code = "AX3A-AA2N"
    cheat0_enable = false

    cheat1_desc = "Invincible line 1"
    cheat1_code = "98FA-298D"
    cheat1_enable = false

    cheat2_desc = "Invincible line 2"
    cheat2_code = "AF75-7BC1"
    cheat2_enable = false

    Save the file.
  3. Following the directions in using cheats, use RetroArch to select your CHT file and turn on your cheats. And don't forget to apply them.

Using saves from other emulators

This is a tricky topic. And I have this topic thoroughly covered in my Game Saves Tutorial. It's possible for certain in-game save files to be transferred over to RetroArch. Save states cannot be transferred. In-game saves & save states are different formats - don't get them confused.

  • Super Nintendo emulators: Through in-game saved RAM (*.SRM files), saves from emulators such as Snes9x, ZSNES, and BSNES can be transferred over to RetroArch. SNES SRM is the friendliest and most compatible save format; they work with any SNES emulator on any OS.
  • PlayStation 1 emulators: Through MCR memory card files (*.MCR), saves from emulators such as ePSXe can be transferred over to RetroArch. Just keep note that by default RetroArch doesn't collect saves into a single memory card as ePSXe does. Rather, it gives each game its own memory card.
  • Genesis emulators: These saves cannot be transferred.
  • All other systems/emulators: Transferring saves is hit or miss. Most emulators save their in-game saves as *.SAV files. Unlike SNES SRM and PS1 MCR, emulator authors didn't get together and settle on a global format for *.SAV, so that's why transferring them doesn't always work.

By now you probably have this question in your head: “'Transferring' saves? What does that even mean? How do you 'transfer' a save??” Good question! Here's how:

  1. The first thing you need to do is to locate RetroArch's 'saves' folder . Using the directions in the finding the BIOS folder section, you'll find the saves folder in RetroArch's root folder.
  2. Copy over the save files you want to be transferred to this saves folder. Make sure the save files have the exact same filename as the ROM. For example, if your game is called “Chrono Trigger (U).zip”, make sure the SRM is called “Chrono Trigger (U).srm”.
  3. Close & restart RetroArch. Load the game, go to the game's title screen, and select whatever option it has to continue a saved game.

Finding ROMs

In my links page, I have some good links to sites where you can download ROMs and ISOs. If you want to try to find more sites than what's in my collection of links, just Google around. For example, if you want to download Final Fantasy VII just Google “download final fantasy vii psx”.

Finding games for PS2/PS3/PSP/GameCube/Wii and beyond is trickier due to how large games are. These games are typically not available in ROM sites readily found on Google. However, people upload large games to cloud platforms all the time. You'll only find these links to such valuable resources on Reddit. You can find these Reddit links on Google with such keywords as “reddit download playstation 2”.