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games, linux

RetroArch 1.18.0

RetroArch is without a doubt one of the most popular apps for gaming emulation. The weirdest thing about it is that its popularity stems from both a lot of drama and its features and the things the app is good at.

What is the app good at actually? To answer this question, you first need to know that RetroArch is not a gaming emulator in the true sense of the word. RetroArch is basically a front-end for various emulators, gaming engines, and even media players.

If that sounds a bit confusing, RetroArch is a frontend for various cores, which makes it a very convenient (albeit far from perfect) general-use solution. Meaning, it’s for users who don’t want a specific emulator, for a specific platform.

Despite what you might hear, RetroArch has a lot going for it in terms of features. For starters, it runs on all the major desktop platforms such as Windows, macOS, and Linux (most Linux distributions). It also runs on both Android and Apple devices, as well as on a select few consoles such as Wii, Vita, Wii U, PS, PSP, and PS3.

It also boasts an impressive amount of options when it comes to how games are both run and displayed. The more important (and advanced) features include a wide range of shaders (that can greatly impact the way games are rendered), Netplay, rewind support, as well as a built-in recording option (also useful for those who want to stream their gaming sessions).

That said, RetroArch is something most users (and for good reason) might call a jack of all trades, master of none. Some of its cores can prove to be better than their respective, standalone versions (Mednafen PS1 core could be a very good example of this). Other cores might not be so good, in the sense that a standalone, specialized emulator might have way better performance.

RetroArch is not what one might call a new project, and despite everything you can read about it online, the fact that it “stood the test of time,” is somewhat impressive.

Even though lots of improvements have been made over the years, there are some aspects that RetroArch cannot get away from. My biggest gripe (and I’m surely not the only one) with the app is its GUI. There’s no way around the fact that it’s just a mess.

When I say that, I don’t mean the way it looks. I mean the way you interact with the app is not what I would call a good experience. Sure, this is a complex app, and, sure, it’s advisable to first take a look at the Getting Started section. However, no amount of time, and no amount of getting-used-to will fix its problems.

In short, being able to play retro games in just one big package is a great concept, but RetroArch really needs a GUI overhaul. Then there’s the whole drama regarding various devs, at various points in time, and a wide range of not-so-good and questionable reasons. I won’t go into detail about this one, since anyone can do a bit of research online and read all about that, if that matters.

Or, you could read the useful information provided on the app’s GitHub repository, it’s up to you.