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Have You Played... RetroArch?

The all-in-one emulator

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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Hey, you know all those old console cartridges you have all the originals of and painstakingly took ROM backups up yourself? Turns out there’s a way to use ’em. Who knew?

I borrowed a 3DS to play the new Pokeymans just before Christmas. I got bored of Pokeymans almost instantly, but I did tumble down a Virtual Console rabbit hole, enjoying a revisit to the 16-bit age with all its side-scrolling and jump-and-fail and blip-bloop noises. I’ve been turning my nose up at that stuff for years, because a certain section of PC gaming became so swamped by retro-fetishists who couldn’t get Mario out of their system.

Distance allows me to enjoy it all again at last, and the lean simplicity of early 90s Nintendo and Sega does make for a welcome opposite from the bloat and chest-thumping of today’s big-budget gaming.

But how to play it all? RetroArch is the one that best did the trick for me. Rather than individual emulators, it’s an umbrella application that loads in different ‘cores’ depending on what platform/game you’re trying to run, as well as having trickery like auto-categorising per console and adding thumbnails, which pleases the OCD everything-in-its-right-place part of me.

It’s also got a nice fullscreen, Playstation 3/4-aping UI, so I’ve got it setup to auto-load on a teeny Intel Atom PC I’ve got rigged up to the telly as a dedicated retro box. So much easier, quicker and prettier than half a dozen different consoles and cable adaptors.

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Who am I?

Alec Meer


Ancient co-founder of RPS. Long gone. Now mostly writes for rather than about videogames.

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