A RetroArch retrospective and what to look forward to

I have been following the events on a few libretro related threads in reddit and I find it quite disappointing to see the amount of hatred directed to a project that has done nothing but do what end-users wanted for more than three years now. I also find it terrible (but interesting none the less) that the social media post is more active than the actual highlight.

Disclaimer: this represents my own experiences and my points of view with regard of the situations that surround our project.


A bit of my personal history with the project:

Let’s look back all the way to 2013. RetroArch was still called SSNES, a fairly small commandline program with just a few cores, a launcher that could be used to adjust options and that’s it. No bells or whistles, just a few nice cores implemented under one frontend with a common feature set. I hadn’t really been using emulators since the zSnes days other than a few tries with mobile emulators on my WinCE device.

I just had built a game-room / tv-room. So I setup XBMC and loved it. Soon I started looking for emulators that would work nicely with my setup. I installed Nestopia and some XBMC plugin that acted as a launcher with worked mostly fine. I liked the emulation but I also like the fact that I could set hotkeys to save, load, and it presented nice OSD messages on non-game actions and I could drive the whole thing with my gamepad only. I hoped other emulators would have the same features but I was let down almost instantly. Regardless I pursued my objective with a miriad of tools (Pinnacle Game Profiler, Xpadder, Joy2Key, batch files, Daemon Tools to name a few).

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F-Droid changes

We changed the signature used to sign our nightly builds to match the signature used on the Google Play version so you may need to uninstall and reinstall in order to get updated.
In most cases it should be possible to backup the configuration, it should be located in /storage/emulated/0/Android/data/com.retroarch/files/retroarch.cfg, reinstall, run RetroArch once and copy it over to the same location.

It’s an inconvenience but it had to be done at some point.

Getting Started with RetroArch

In the past month I have seen a few guides about configuring RetroArch, while good some fail to explain some concepts, so I thought why not, I’ll make a series of blog posts about configuring RetroArch, starting from the basics.


  • Core — a core is a program that runs in RetroArch (or another libretro frontend)
  • Frontend — a frontend in this context is a program that can run libretro cores (RetroArch, Minir, Kodi’s Retroplayer are examples of this)
  • Content — content is a game/program that is run by a core, some cores also require no content
  • Retropad — retropad is RetroArch’s input abstraction controller, it’s the interface between the physical controller and the core inputs
  • Save Files — save files are saves that are made from within a game, usually cross platform and should work across emulators in most cases
  • Save States — save states are snapshots of the content menory at a particular moment, these are not always cross platform and most certainly won’t work on a different emulator that the one used to create them
  • System Files — additional files that might or not be part of the romset that might be needed to get some content to work (usually referred to by the BIOS term)
  • Autoconf Profile — a configuration file that has button definitions for a particular gamepad

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