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Retroarch Not Working? Here’s a Bunch of Fixes


For a growing number of users, RetroArch is the ultimate hub of everything emulation-related. It doesn’t do RetroArch justice just to call it a “frontend” for every console emulator imaginable because all the great emulators can be integrated into it, downloaded, and loaded up as “cores” within seconds. However, such a vast platform with so much going on inevitably runs into problems. ROMs may fail to scan, emulators run too slowly, and controllers don’t get detected. Here we run through the most common RetroArch issues and approaches to get it working again.

1. PS1 Cores Not Working

Of all the cores on RetroArch, the PlayStation 1 cores are probably the trickiest to get working. It’s not too complicated, but there are a couple of things to bear in mind. Below you can find the critical adjustments required for the PS1 cores to function accordingly.

Here’s how to fix PS1 cores not working:

  1. First, you must download PS1, “SCPH5500,” “SCPH5501,” and “SCPH5502” BIOS files.
  1. Place them in the “system” folder in your RetroArch directory.
Retroarch Issue Placing Psx Bios Files In Retroarch

Note: the “SCPH” files need to be named as they are above; otherwise, they won’t work. Also, you must extract the PSX games and have the “bin” and “cue” files in the same folder to work correctly.

Depending on which core you’re using, you may need help with the renderer you’re using for your games. Beetle PSX HW, for instance, is the most popular and assertive PS1 core but requires enabling the Vulkan video driver, or it won’t work as it should.

Here’s how to enable the Vulkan video driver on RetroArch:

  1. Open “Settings” from the left panel and click on “Video.”
Retroarch Issue Opening Video Settings On Retroarch
  1. Pick “Output” on the next screen.
Retroarch Issue Opening The Output Section On Retroarch
  1. Select “Video.”
Retroarch Issue Accessing Video Section In Output Settings On Retroarch
  1. Choose “Vulkan” from the list.
Retroarch Issue Enabling Vulkan On Retroarch

Learn: the ultimate guide to SNES emulation on RetroArch.

2. N64 Cores Not Working

The two primary N64 cores in RetroArch are ParaLLEl N64 and Mupen64Plus. If you run your other RetroArch cores using the Vulkan video driver, you may encounter problems with both N64 cores. Namely, neither core works with the Vulkan driver by default.

Here’s how to fix Mupen64Plus on RetroArch:

  1. Open “Settings” from the left panel and click on “Video.”
Retroarch Issue Opening Video Settings On Retroarch 2
  1. Pick “Output” on the next screen.
Retroarch Issue Opening The Output Section On Retroarch 2
  1. Select “Video.”
Retroarch Issue Accessing Video Section In Output Settings On Retroarch 2
  1. Choose “gl” from the list.
Retroarch Issue Picking Gl As The Video Output On Retroarch

Note: Annoyingly, you can’t save this setting just for the N64 core and need to manually switch it whenever you use cores that use the GL and Vulkan drivers.

3. Game Slowdown and Audio Crackling

These two issues often go hand in hand, and you may have experienced them on some of the more demanding cores, like the Vulkan-based PS1 core Beetle PSX HW. Accordingly, the game suffers a “dragging” effect on both video and sound, making it highly unpleasant to play.

Here’s how to fix game slowdown and audio crackling on RetroArch:

  1. Right-click on the “Start Menu” and open “Power Options.”
Retroarch Issue Opening Windows Power Options
  1. Open the drop-down next to “Power mode” and choose “Best performance.”
Retroarch Issue Adjusting Windows Power Options To High Performance

With High performance selected, your CPU will stop unnecessarily throttling your games.

Tip: If the audio issue is due to Windows system, you can reset all audio settings in Windows.

4. Retroarch Not Scanning ROMs

When you want to add new ROMs or games to RetroArch, you should first ensure the databases are up to date to ensure that RetroArch has the latest information for detecting your ROMs. That way, the platform has access, and everything goes smoothly.

Here’s how to update RetroArch databases:

  1. Go to the “Main Menu” from the left panel and open “Online Updater.”
Retroarch Issue Opening The Online Updater On Retroarch
  1. Scroll to the bottom and click “Update Databases.”
Retroarch Issue Updating Databases On Retroarch

Note: If you try adding ROMs using “Scan Directory” or “Scan File,” remember RetroArch will only scan for the file types associated with your already-installed cores.

Another complication with scanning for PS1 games is having a cue file along with the main image file (BIN or ISO) for RetroArch to scan it. However, you can still fix it using the Niels Buus online tool, specifically developed to resolve the issue.

Here’s how to utilize Niels Buus to fix the cue file complication:

  1. Go to Niels Buus and upload your “bin” files.
Retroarch Issue Uploading Bin Files On Niels Buus
  1. Copy the content in the text area into a new notepad, and save it as a “cue” file.
Retroarch Issue Creating A Cue File
  1. Place it in the same folder as the main image file.
Retroarch Issue Placing The Cue Files Next To Bin Files

5. Retroarch Crashing Before Game Loads

There are so many reasons why RetroArch may crash that we’ve decided to pick the most common ones so that they apply to a broad spectrum of people. Firstly, you should update your graphics card drivers. This one applies mainly to people on mid-lower-end systems who may struggle with the fact that RetroArch runs on the OpenGL graphics API by default.

Here’s how to update graphic card drivers to fix RetroArch crashing before the game loads:

  1. Go to the “RetroArch” directory on your device and open “retroarch.cfg” with Windows “NotePad.”
Retroarch Issue Opening The Retroarch Configuration File
  1. Scroll down to “video_driver,” change the parameters from “gl” to “d3d,” then press Ctrl + S to save the changes.
Retroarch Issue Adjusting The Retroarch Configuration File

Note: You can’t use the slick XMB-style RetroArch UI anymore, but more importantly, you should be able to run games.

Another option for people on older operating systems or with older hardware is to download the MSVC versions of RetroArch instead of the default MinGW version.

MSVC2005 is designed for pre-Windows XP systems, while MSVC2010 is from Windows XP onward, but some people have reported that it helps them even when using Windows 10 on older machines, so it’s worth a pop.

Here’s how to download and install the MSVC version of RetroArch:

  1. Go to the Liberto download page, use the left side panel to find the desired MSVC version of Retroarch, and “Download” it.
Retroarch Issue Downloading Msvc Version Of Retroarch

6. Cores Not Downloading

If you’re trying to download the cores/emulators for all your favorite home consoles, such as Xbox, and it’s not working, there’s a chance that the core updater in RetroArch doesn’t link to the place where it sources its cores.

Here’s how to fix RetroArch cores not downloading:

  1. Open the Liberto Buildbot on a browser.
Retroarch Issue Opening Liberto Buildbot
  1. Navigate to the directory on the site that corresponds to your system until you open a folder labeled “latest.”
Retroarch Issue Opening The Latest Folder In The Directory
  1. Now copy the URL from this directory:
https://buildbot.libretro.com/nightly/windows/x86_64/latest/
Retroarch Issue Copying The Url From Liberto Buildbot
  1. Go to the “RetroArch” directory on your device and open “retroarch.cfg” with Windows “NotePad.”
Retroarch Issue Opening The Retroarch Configuration File 2
  1. Find “core_updater_buildbot_cores_url” and replace the URL with the one you copied.
Retroarch Issue Adjusting The Retroarch Configuration File 2
  1. Save the changes, and RetroArch should now be able to download cores for you.
Retroarch Issue Saving The Changes 1

Note: If you want, download cores directly from the same directory and stick them in the “Cores” folder in your RetroArch.

7. Quick and Easy Playlist Creation

RetroArch’s game detection and playlist update features are great for playing around a dozen ROMs. That, though, defeats its very purpose, to be a frontend for hundreds of games on different systems.

Unfortunately, when dealing with extensive ROM collections, scanning a directory filled with ROMs to detect the games automatically can take a lot of time. Does your collection span multiple systems with large ROMs (like the Playstation, Gamecube, or anything newer)? If so, the scanning can eat up your whole evening.

The additional problem is that RetroArch can only recognize a few popular formats, even if its cores support them. For example, good luck attempting to automatically search a folder filled with games for Sony’s first PlayStation in PBP format. After hours of waiting, you will still have an empty list in front of you.

RetroArch’s new desktop front lets you manually create and populate playlists in seconds. Here’s how it goes:

  1. Go to the “Main Menu” from the left panel and open “Show Desktop Menu.”
Retroarch Issue Opening The Desktop Menu
  1. Right-click the playlist section and choose “New Playlist.”
Retroarch Issue Creating A New Playlist On Retroarch
  1. Pick a name for your playlist and hit “OK.”
Retroarch Issue Choosing A Name For The Playlist
  1. Select your new playlist, right-click the center section, and choose “Add File(s).”
Retroarch Issue Adding Files To The Playlist
  1. Pick the desired games and hit “Open” to add to the playlist.
Retroarch Issue Choosing Specific Games
  1. Choose a core associated with the game, pick an available database, and click “OK.”
Retroarch Issue Adjusting The Playlist Entries

RetroArch will instantly populate your list with every file in the selected folder, which is much better than waiting all afternoon for its automatic scanner.

Do you know: You can install and play RetroArch on your Android phone too?

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are some cores unavailable on the Online Updater’s Core Downloader on RetroArch?

This issue surfaces for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the core might be unavailable on your platform; try a different device instead. Secondly, the name of the core might have changed; check the Libreto blog for such announcements. Finally, the core may have gotten disapproved or replaced for some reason.

How do I download controller profiles on RetroArch?

The latest set of controller profiles collected by RetroArch can be downloaded and updated from the software’s main menu. While on the app, go to the “Main Menu” and open the “Online Updater.” Then click on “Update Autoconfig Profiles” to get the latest pack.

Can I run contents without BIOS files on RetroArch?

Yes! Some cores can run with no BIOS files. However, BIOS files make Cores’ preferences more stable; For example, the PCSX ReARMed core BIOS files are necessary for better compatibility.

Farhad Pashaei
Farhad Pashaei

As a technophile, Farhad has spent the last decade getting hands-on experience with a variety of electronic devices, including smartphones, laptops, accessories, wearables, printers, and so on.

When he isn’t writing, you can bet he’s devouring information on products making their market foray, demonstrating his unquenchable thirst for technology.

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