How to Download & Install Retroarch Emulator For PC

Download & Install Retroarch Emulator For PC
Written by Micah Phillips

For many video game players in the modern world, retro or classic games remain a favorite even though their systems have been discontinued or rendered obsolete. This is not to say that the games cannot be enjoyed. Owing to technological advancements, playing a classic video game on your PC is now easy. There are different platforms to play the games, but RetroArch is a favorite among many.

What is RetroArch?

RetroArch is a front-end program for emulators, media players, and game engines. The program combines emulators for many retro game systems such as;

  • Nintendo
  • Arcade
  • Sony PlayStation
  • SEGA

RetroArch enables one to directly download major emulator files referred to as “cores” and open most game console emulators from a central place. With RetroArch, you will not have the bug fear that comes with spending a lot of time switching between emulators. The software is available for Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android.

RetroArch offers a menu that allows you to browse your game library, set up a gamepad, and ultimately play any game from any system. RetroArch is for anyone who fancies using specific emulators for specific games, who want to customize visual game settings, but mainly for those who want to reproduce an old arcade game accurately.

The program unifies and houses settings of already existing multiple emulators.

RetroArch Features

  • Full customization.
  • Joypad auto-configuration option.
  • Shaders- helps you apply graphical filters to upgrade retro game performance.
  • RetroAchievements- Helps in setting up and unlocking game achievements.
  • Netplay- It enables you to play games online with other players.
  • Recording and streaming- Enables you to record and stream your game sessions.
  • Individual Emulator selection for each ROM- When a specific ROM does not work efficiently with an emulator, you can choose a different one as there is an exhaustive list and see if it functions better.
  • Next-Frame Response time- The feature eradicates the input latency from your hardware as it eliminates the lag between controller input and screen response.

Read: 30+ Best Android Emulator for PC 2021 (Windows, MAC)

The Ultimate Guide on How to Download and Install Retroarch Emulator on PC

Step 1-Downloading RetroArch

Before you can install your RetroArch, you will need to download it first. This can be done from the official RetroArch site. The latest version is recommended as emulators always improve to add compatibility for more games and remove performance issues.

On reaching the page;

  • Scroll and get to the Windows box, which presents options for RetroArch installation. If you wish to download the installer, click the installer link, and if you wish to download the install files, click the download link. The installer option removes most customizable options but will carry out most of the tasks for you. You should also choose the link depending on your system type (Is it a 32-bit or a 64-bit operating system).
  • After clicking on the appropriate or suitable download link, save the file.
  • The file is saved to the Downloads folder, but you can specify otherwise.

Step 2- Extracting and Installing RetroArch

  • The downloaded file is in a 7-zip format; therefore, you will have to extract it. To extract, you will require WinRar or 7-zip. The 7-zip download is free and can be done using the 7-zipwebsite.
  • Right-clickon .7zfile and click “Extract to RetroArch.”
  • After doing this, a progress bar should be displayed before the process completion, and a RetroArch folder created in the downloads folder.
  • Once the process is complete, choose a more permanent location for your program files storage. To do this, choose the location, cut and paste the RetroArch folder here. Keeping your RetroArchin your hard drive’s route is recommended. This is because there is always a possibility of issues occurring with administrator permissions, and these may cause failure in displaying fonts and assets. Mostly, extract to local C:\ drive.
  • The RetroArch is now ready to run. Go to the RetroArch folder, scroll until you find the executable file- retroarch.exe. Double click on it to launch the application. You can set up a shortcut as you will possibly use RetroArch a lot in the future.

Step 3- Controller Configuration

Usually, RetroArch will automatically configure your controller once connected or plugged in. However, sometimes the controller may require manual configuration, or you may not be happy with the default settings.

To configure the controller;

  • Navigate to the RetroArch’s Settings menu and select Input. This enables you to configure controls for any player or user.
  • Scroll and click on User 1 bind all. This will provide a graphic overlay to set up the controller and map your gamepad buttons.
  • Next, select the controller and follow the prompts. If you have additional controllers, repeat the process for all of them.

Step 4- Download the Emulators or Cores.

RetroArch is not an emulator but a front-end with the capability of running a large number of emulators. Within RetroArch, the emulators are referred to as “cores.” You will be required to download the appropriate ones for the games you want to play. The cores can be installed from within RetroArch using these steps;

  • Return to RetroArch’s first column and navigate to Online Updater.
  • Select Core Updater. Here, a list of the available emulators will be displayed.
  • Select the specific emulators you want, download, and click enter to install.

Step 5- Adding ROMs

To play the games, you need to have installed them first and saved them in a folder.

  • From RetroArch’s main menu, click Add Content.
  • Now select Scan Directory and browse the files system until you get to the ROMs folder. If your ROMs are grouped in folders according to consoles, you will need to scan every folder separately.

RetroArch will now add your ROMs automatically to the system, but to be certain that changes have been saved, you can manually save the configuration;

In the main menu, go to Configurations.

  • Click on Save Current Configuration.
  • Head to the main menu, quit RetroArch, and restart it.

Step 6- Loading a ROM

At this point, you have set up RetroArch, and you are ready to play. It is recommended that you customize your settings on a per-emulator basis instead of having a universal setting. With this, once you load a game, the filters specific to that emulator can be set up. Go to Settings, Click on Configuration, then switch on Configuration Per-Core.

To load you’re ROM;

  • From the right side of the main menu, you should see the system’s controller icon.
  • Select the icon to view installed games.
  • Choose the game you wish to play and click Run. If it is your first time playing the ROM, RetroArch will need you to choose a compatible core from your list. If you only have one installed, it will be the only one available.
  • In the next menu, click Run, and your game to play will now load.

RetroArch Related Questions

Q. What do I need to know about ROMs and Emulators?

  • An Emulator is a software that mimics the console hardware of past game systems to allow other hardware to run games that were initially built for other machines. ROMs are files of the games. Emulators are copies of the
    consoles, and ROMs are copies of the games.
  • There are emulators for all Retro game consoles, and some will support multiple systems or various operating systems.
  • The type of ROMs that can be played will depend on your machine specs.
  • RetroArch does not come installed with ROMs, but they are available from torrents and download sites.ROMs from untrusted sites may be packaged with viruses, so do some research and have updated antivirus software.
  • The distribution of ROMS for games that you do not own is considered illegal.

Q. What benefits does RetroArch offer over the regular emulation?

  • It is convenient as it unifies the settings of already existing emulators.
  • It offers a solution to run emulators on a variety of systems.
  • It offers an easy-to-use interface that aids in navigating different emulators and games that are running.
  • The controller menu is user-friendly.
  • It has a run-ahead feature that can improve game performance that uses individual cores.
  • It supports a vast range of input devices and allows for input profiles to be set across cores.

Q. What are the platforms that can run RetroArch?

Supported platforms include macOS, Windows, Linux, iOS, Android, PS2, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii, Wii U, GameCube, and 3DS consoles.

Q. What are the Retroarch system requirements?

The recommended requirements include;

  • CPU- Intel Core SeriesRAM- 512 MB
  • CPU speed- Info
  • Pixel and Vertex shader- 3.0
  • Video Card- It should support at the very least the 3.0 and/or the 4.0shader models.

The minimum requirements would include;

  • CPU- Intel Pentium 4
  • RAM- 32 MB
  • CPU speed- Info
  • Pixel and vertex shader- 2.0
  • Video Card- Should be able to support at the very least the 2.0 shader model.

Learn More: Top 5 iOS Emulator for PC: Run iOS Apps on Windows PC


Retroarch is a versatile and powerful all-in-one Emulator software program that will enable you to play a wide range of classic games. In addition, the unified settings it offers make configuration easy by allowing you to do it once. Setting it up to enjoy any game may be challenging, but with the above steps, once set, it will work like a dream.

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