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How to play N64 games with Retroarch on Linux

The RetroArch application can emulate almost any retro gaming console, old computer; you name it. The way the program can do this is by allowing the user to enable “Cores.” These “Cores” are plugins that contain everything that the user needs to run software for a specific game console, old PC platform or even specialized arcade cabinets.

Note: Addictivetips in no way encourages or condones the illegal downloading or distribution of ROM files for RetroArch. If you want to play Nintendo 64 games with RetroArch, please use your own game ROM files you’ve backed up to your PC, legally.

Get RetroArch

RetroArch must be installed before we continue with this tutorial. On Linux, there are many different ways that users can install the program on their system. To get it going, launch a terminal window, search for the package labeled “retroarch” and install it. Or, open up Gnome Software or KDE Discover, write in “RetroArch” as a search term and install it that way.

Alternatively, if you’re unsure about how to get the program working and need some guidance, check out our tutorial on how to install the RetroArch application on Linux!

Set RetroArch up to download Cores

By default, when users install the RetroArch application on Linux, the ability to download Cores is disabled. The reason this feature is turned off is pretty self-explanatory: the developers don’t want it to be easy to download plugins that may break copy-write laws or, they don’t want to deal with companies like Nintendo (and others) sending them letters, even if it’s within fair-use law. As a result, those looking to use RetroArch to play video games, including Nintendo 64 games will need to enable the ability to grab cores from the internet manually.

To allow RetroArch to be able to download Cores from the internet, you’ll need to edit the configuration file. The configuration file on most Linux distributions  is located in the ~/.config/retroarch/ folder. Access it by loading the configuration file up in the Nano text editor.

nano -w ~/.config/retroarch/retroarch.cfg

With the configuration file open and ready for editing, move to the bottom of the file. Then, press Enter to make a new line and paste the code below into Nano.


Save the edit to the RetroArch configuration file by pressing Ctrl + O on the keyboard. After that, close the Nano text editor with Ctrl + X.

Download the N64 Core

To download the Nintendo 64 core for RetroArch, start by launching the program. Then, hover over the RetroArch icon and use the Down Arrow on the keyboard to find the “Online Updater” option and press Enter to access it.

In the “Online Updater” area of the RetroArch application, use the Down Arrow to find “Content Downloader” and press Enter to open it. Then, use the menu to locate “Nintendo – Nintendo 64,” and press Enter to access the download options for N64.

Choose the “Nintendo – Nintendo 64 (Mupen64Plus)” core with the Enter key to start the download. Feel free also to check out the other N64 Cores available.

When the download is complete, the Nintendo 64 Core will be ready to use in RetroArch under “Load Core.”

Play N64 games with Retroarch

To start up a Nintendo 64 video game on RetroArch, do the following. First, launch the RetroArch application. Then, highlight the RetroArch logo in the menu with the mouse or Left Arrow on your keyboard.

After selecting the RetroArch logo in the app, press Down Arrow and make your way to the “Load Core” option and select it with the Enter key.

Scroll through the “Load Core” menu and find the “Nintendo – Nintendo 64 (Mupen64Plus)” option in the menu. Once found, press the Enter key to tell RetroArch to use it as the engine to play games with.

Note: you will need to manually select the Nintendo 64 Core each time you want to play.

Now that the Nintendo 64 core is set up for use with Retro Arch, press Backspace on the keyboard and go back to the main selection menu. Then find “Load Content” and select it with Enter.

In the “Load Content” menu, locate the “Start directory” option and press Enter to access this option. From there, use the file-browser to make your way to the N64 ROM folder on your Linux PC.

Once in the directory with RetroArch, highlight the video game you’d like to run with RetroArch and press the Enter key to start the emulation.

Want to exit the N64 ROM currently loaded? Press the Escape button on the keyboard. RetroArch should instantly close.

Access previously-played N64 games

To quickly access a Nintendo 64 video game you were emulating before, do the following.

Step 1: Launch RetroArch and move the Left Arrow to the Recent icon.

Step 2:  Use the Down Arrow to highlight a previously emulated ROM in the Recent list.

Step 3: Press Enter to start the game in RetroArch.

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