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How to install Retroarch on Linux

Retroarch is a unique emulation application that lets users emulate a multitude of consoles. It supports dozens of them, from the Atari to Sega Genesis, to even the Nintendo Wii and the Commodore 64, through the help of “cores,” which users can download using the app.

The Retroarch application is prevalent with Raspberry Pi users. Most (if not all) “retro” operating systems you can load on the device comes with some modification of Retroarch. However, these devices aren’t the only place you can enjoy the amazing capabilities of Retroarch. As it turns out, you can install install Retroarch on Linux as well.  The app is available on a majority of modern Linux distributions. Here’s how to get it working on your system!

Ubuntu instructions

Ubuntu Linux has a recent version of the Retroarch emulation tool in their software repositories. However, this release of the program isn’t the newest possible version of the program, so it’s best not to install it in this way. Instead, if you’re using Ubuntu, you’ll be able to get the latest features, fixes, etc.

The easiest way to get the newest version of Retroarch for Ubuntu is to take advantage of the developer’s official PPA. To enable the PPA, open up a terminal by pressing Ctrl + Alt + T or Ctrl + Shift + T. Then, use the add-apt-repository command below.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:libretro/stable

With the software repository on your Ubuntu system, it’s time to run the update command. Using it will set up the new Retroarch software PPA.

sudo apt update

Next, you can run the upgrade command to install any pending software updates, so that Retroarch will run at it’s best.

sudo apt upgrade -y

Finally, it’s possible to set up the Retroarch emulation application on Ubuntu using the apt install command.

sudo apt install retroarch -y

Debian instructions

On Debian, Retroarch can be installed with a simple Apt-get command. That said, due to the nature of Debian, the version available to users is woefully out of date, meaning that significant fixes, updates, and new features are likely missing. Instead, if you plan to emulate older game consoles with Retroarch using Debian Linux, you should think about installing Debian Backports. It’s an easy thing to set up and once enabled, gives Debian users access to more up to date programs such as Retroarch.

To get Debian Backports, head over to this post. In it, I cover all about what Debian Backports is, and how to enable it. Then, once Backports is fully activated, install Retroarch with the command below.

sudo apt-get -t stretch-backports install retroarch

Not a fan of using Debian Backports on your system? Don’t worry! There are a Snap package and Flatpak package release of Retroarch available for installation, which is outlined further down in this article.

Arch Linux instructions

Those looking to use the Retroarch emulator on a computer running Arch Linux will be happy to know that there’s no need to jump through any special hoops. That’s because Arch is a “bleeding-edge” Linux distribution, and all of the software available is the most recent version possible.

Installing Retroarch on Arch Linux is done with the Pacman package manager in the command-line. To use it, launch a terminal window by pressing Ctrl + Alt + T or Ctrl + Shift + T. Then, enter the following command.

sudo pacman -S retroarch

Alternatively, the Retroarch emulator is also available in the Arch Linux User Repository. However, only install this version if you have issues with the traditional Arch release. For more information, click here.

Fedora instructions

By default, Fedora Linux users will not be able to install the Retroarch emulation app easily. The reason that it’s not available is that the developers that maintain Fedora have not included it in their software repositories. Thankfully, if you’re a Fedora fan and want to get this app, it’s not impossible to do. It just requires setting up a special third-party software repository.

To add the third party software source, open up a terminal window. Opening a terminal can be done by pressing Ctrl + Alt + T or Ctrl + Shift + T on the keyboard. Then, use the Wget downloader tool to grab the third-party software repo’s installation file.

wget https://github.com/rpmsphere/noarch/raw/master/r/rpmsphere-release-29-2.noarch.rpm

With the third-party release file downloaded to your Fedora Linux system, use the DNF command to install it.

sudo dnf install rpmsphere-release-29-2.noarch.rpm

Assuming activating the third-party software repository was successful, you’ll now be able to install the Retroarch emulation app on Fedora Linux with the DNF package manager.

sudo dnf install rpmfusion -y

OpenSUSE instructions

OpenSUSE doesn’t have RetroArch available in their software sources unless you’re a Tumbleweed user. For this reason, it’s a good idea to skip trying to install it through the Zypper package manager and instead follow the Snap package or Flatpak instructions down below.

Snap package instructions

The Retroarch app is available as a Snap package. To install it, head over to this post about enabling Snap packages on your Linux desktop. Once you’ve got Snaps set up, launch a terminal window and use the snap install command to get the app set up on your system.

sudo snap install retroarch

With the Retroarch Snap installed, finish the process by connecting everything to your system.

sudo snap connect retroarch:raw-usb && sudo snap connect retroarch:joystick

Flatpak instructions

Like most programs these days, the Retroarch emulator is on Flathub as a Flatpak. If you’re interested in installing the app from Flathub, you’ll need to first set up the Flatpak runtime on your Linux PC. For more information on how to set up the runtime, click here.

Once you’ve got the Flatpak runtime installed, the Retroarch emulator can easily be set up with the terminal commands below.

flatpak remote-add --user --if-not-exists flathub https://flathub.org/repo/flathub.flatpakrepo

flatpak install --user flathub org.libretro.RetroArch

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