Microsoft’s Xbox console is essentially a PC, which means it’s relatively easy to download and install not only games but apps and other tools. Retro-game enthusiasts will be pleased to know that developers have made RetroArch available to install on modern Xbox consoles, so not only can you play the latest and greatest AAA titles on your Xbox, but you’ll be able to put on your rose-colored glasses and take a trip down memory lane with tons of emulators. The best part is that there is no modification of your Xbox necessary – RetroArch can be downloaded and installed to your stock, vanilla Xbox.
- Why Use RetroArch on Xbox
- What You Need to Run RetroArch
- 1. Install the Gamr13 App Store on Your Xbox
- 2. Install RetroArch on Your Xbox
- 3. Set Up RetroArch
- 4. Download Cores
- 5. Download Core System Files
- 6. Set Up the Correct Directories
- 7. Set a Hotkey on Your Xbox Controller
- 8. Prepare Your USB Flash Drive
- 9. Transfer Your ROMs
- 10. Prep Your USB for the Xbox
- 11. Launch RetroArch on Your Xbox
- Frequently Asked Questions
Why Use RetroArch on Xbox
RetroArch is a frontend for a wide variety of emulators. It has a number of features that you can tinker with. However, its main draw is that it allows all of your retro games to be accessed from a single app.
Also, with RetroArch, you won’t lose access to your Live account, your games or your achievements. In addition, because you’re playing on an Xbox, the Xbox controller works automatically with all of the cores within RetroArch, so you won’t have to waste time configuring controls for each emulator – you can get right into the game!
Previously, in order to emulate other video game consoles on your Xbox, you needed to put your Xbox into developer mode. Developer mode is intended for developers to use standard Xbox consoles to make their own games and apps. While putting your Xbox console into developer mode is totally safe, there is a major downside. In order to play games, you need to switch it back to retail mode, which requires a reboot of the console. While not a deal breaker, it is a significant annoyance. Fortunately, RetroArch allows you to run emulators directly from your Xbox’s dashboard, with no developer mode required. While there are standalone emulators that are available for your Xbox, in this tutorial we detail how to get RetroArch up and running.
All of this is possible thanks to the hard work of an independent developer known as gamr13. MakeTechEasier is not affiliated with gamr13 in any way, however, we felt that it was only right to acknowledge the hard work that went into this project. Gamr13 can be found on Twitter, Reddit, Discord and YouTube.
What You Need to Run RetroArch
- An Xbox console: the method of installing RetroArch is identical for Xbox One/One X and Xbox Series S/X. You just need to be connected to the Internet.
- A USB drive: this is where all of your ROMs and BIOS files will be stored. We recommend a USB 3.0 drive. As far as storage capacity is concerned, it will largely depend on what consoles you want to emulate, with newer consoles having larger ROM file sizes. However the bigger, the better. This way you’ll have the option of adding more games in the future.
- A PC: you’ll need to use a Windows 10/11 PC to format the USB drive and transfer all of your games.
1. Install the Gamr13 App Store on Your Xbox
You need a bit of prep work to download RetroArch.
- Launch the Edge browser on your Xbox console from the “My Games & Apps” section on your Xbox’s homepage. If you don’t have the Microsoft Edge browser installed, grab it from the Microsoft Store app on your Xbox.
- Using your Xbox controller as a mouse, point the Edge browser to gamr13.github.io.
- Download the gamr13 app store by clicking on the green “Download App” button.
- A pop-up will appear notifying you that the site is attempting to open the Microsoft Store. Allow it to proceed by clicking the “Open” button.
- The Store app will launch and you’ll be presented with the Gamr13.AppStore installer. From here, click on the button labeled “Install.”
- Once the installation is complete, you should see the Gamr13.AppStore on your Xbox’s dashboard. Go ahead and launch it.
2. Install RetroArch on Your Xbox
Inside the Gamr13.AppStore, you’ll see a bunch of stuff, but what we’re interested in is RetroArch.
- Click on the RetroArch icon and select “Install” from the drop-down menu that appears.
- This will take you back to the Edge Browser where you’ll once again be prompted that the site is attempting to open Microsoft Store. Click “Open” to return to the Store app.
- Install RetroArch by clicking the “Install” button.
- Once RetroArch has finished installing, you should see the icon on your Xbox’s dashboard. Launch RetroArch and give it a few minutes to set itself up.
3. Set Up RetroArch
Before you start playing your favorite retro titles, you need to do a bit of configuring.
- In RetroArch’s main menu, scroll down to “Online Updater.”
- On the following screen, you’ll see a bunch of update options. It isn’t necessary to run all of these, but we recommend selecting “Update Core Info Files”, “Update Assets” and “Update Controller Profiles” before you proceed. Updating these will make sure that you’re running the latest versions of all the emulators and enjoy an overall smoother experience.
- It will take RetroArch a moment to download, extract and apply each file, so just be patient.
4. Download Cores
RetroArch refers to emulators as “cores,” so from here on out that’s how we’ll refer to them. There are a bunch of cores available for a variety of game consoles. We recommend downloading several cores to see which ones you prefer. To download cores, select “Load Core.” The next screen will display the full list of available cores. Simply select the ones you want to begin downloading them.
5. Download Core System Files
Scroll up to the top of the page and select “Core System Files Downloader” to see a bunch of ZIP files that correspond with specific consoles (e.g. PSP, Gamecube). Selecting one will download the BIOS file for that system. It’s not entirely necessary, but having the BIOS file can result in better emulation performance.
6. Set Up the Correct Directories
Most of the time all of the proper directories are selected automatically. However, there are rare instances in which RetroArch has not selected the right ones. Unfortunately, if that’s the case you won’t be able to launch any emulators or play any games. To double-check that RetroArch has chosen the right paths:
- Select “Settings” from the menu on the left.
- In the main window on the right, scroll down to “Directory” and select it. On the subsequent screen, you’ll see a bunch of directories (e.g. C:\).
- Find the directory that has a string of characters after it; this is the RetroArch folder installed on your Xbox console and is usually the last directory listed.
- Select this directory, scroll down and select “Configs -> Use This Directory.”
- Go back and select “Core info,” select the RetroArch directory, then select “Info -> Use This Directory.”
- Go back again and choose “Databases,” select the RetroArch directory, then “Database -> Use This Directory.”
7. Set a Hotkey on Your Xbox Controller
There is one more thing you need to do before you can play your favorite retro games – assign a hotkey. You don’t need to map any buttons; all of the buttons are assigned automatically and accurately.
A hotkey is a button or combination of buttons on your controller that will exit the game you are playing and bring you back to the main menu of RetroArch. Without a hotkey enabled, you’d have to quit RetroArch and relaunch it from your Xbox’s dashboard every time you wanted to start a new game.
To set a hotkey:
- Highlight “Settings” from the menu on the left, then scroll down and select “Input.”
- On the following page, scroll down and select “Hotkeys”.
- Select “Menu Toggle Controller Combo” to go to the page where you can assign your hotkey combination.
- Choose whichever combination you think will work best from the options available. We prefer the combination Start + Select, as that is the default hotkey combo for RetroPie.
8. Prepare Your USB Flash Drive
At this stage, switch over to your Windows PC and take the following steps to prepare your USB flash drive.
- Plug your flash drive into your computer.
- When your USB shows up in the left-hand column of the File Explorer window, right-click it and select “Format” from the drop-down menu.
- This will open a new window that will enable you to change a bunch of parameters, but there’s only one you need to pay attention to. Under “File system” click the drop-down menu and select “NTFS.”
- Rename your drive in the box labeled “Volume label” if you like. We suggest something like “Xbox” or “Roms”.
- Click the “Start” button and your USB flash drive will be formatted and ready to go.
9. Transfer Your ROMs
- Open your newly formatted USB flash drive and create a folder called “GAMES” or “ROMS”.
- Inside that folder, create subfolders for each console you want to emulate on your Xbox. For example, if you plan on running Super Nintendo games, create a folder called “SNES.”
- Once you have created all of your console-specific subfolders, begin transferring your ROM files. It goes without saying but you’ll want to put your ROMs into the console subfolder that they are associated with. Therefore, Gameboy Advance ROMs would be placed into the GBA folder and so on.
10. Prep Your USB for the Xbox
Now that your ROMs are on your USB, there’s one more thing you need to do before plugging it into your Xbox console – navigate some menus of technobabble to ensure that your Xbox will be able to read your USB and actually play your ROMs.
- In the File Explorer window, locate the USB drive in the column on the left-hand side and right-click it, then click on “Properties” in the context menu.
- In the new window that appears, click on the tab labeled “Security.” Next, click on the button labeled “Advanced.”
- This will open up an entirely new window. Here, click on the “Add” button.
- Click on “Select a principal.”
- In the new window that opens, click on the “Advanced” button. This will launch yet another window.
- Click the button on the right labeled “Find Now.” In the search results field, find and double-click on “ALL APPLICATION PACKAGES.”
- On the next window that appears, click “OK” to close that window. You should now see the “Permission Entry for Your_USB” window. Click the “OK” button.
- You should now see a window labeled “Advanced Security Settings for Your_USB.” In the “Permission entries” section, ensure that you see “ALL APPLICATIONS PACKAGES” under the “Principal” column and “Read & execute” under the “Access” column.
- Put a check in the box labeled “Replace all child object permission entries with inheritable permission entries from this object” at the bottom of this window. Finally, click “OK.”
- A few other windows will pop up warning you of security issues and asking if you want to proceed. Select “Yes” and “Continue” to finish up.
- At this point, your USB is ready to be ejected from your PC and plugged into your Xbox console.
11. Launch RetroArch on Your Xbox
- With your USB plugged into your Xbox, fire up RetroArch.
- On the main menu, select “Load Content.”
- You’ll be brought to a new page that displays a bunch of directories. Scroll down to drive “D” and select it, as this is where you will find the contents of your USB.
- You should now see a folder called “GAMES” or “ROMS” depending on which you opted for. Select that and you should now see the console-specific subfolders that you created earlier.
- Select one of the subfolders to display all of your ROMs for that console.
- Select a ROM to pick the core you want to use to run that game. There are usually a few to choose from, so feel free to experiment.
- That’s it. You are now running emulators and retro games on your Xbox console. Have fun with them!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a difference in performance running RetroArch on my Xbox One versus my Xbox Series S/X?
The short answer is yes. You can follow the steps above to get RetroArch up and running on your previous generation Xbox. That being said, you will see a decrease in performance. The Xbox Series S/X has beefier components under the hood compared to the Xbox One/One X. This means that you’ll see better performance with the newer console, particularly with emulators that demand more grunt.
Based on our testing, the Xbox One does fine with 8-bit and 16-bit consoles like the Super Nintendo and the Gameboy Advance, while the performance of 32-bit consoles like the PlayStation 1 can be hit or miss. Therefore, if you’re aiming to emulate a more powerful console like the Gamecube, you’ll see the best performance from an Xbox Series S/X.
What are the best cores to use?
This is a tough question simply because RetroArch enthusiasts will have different preferences for any number of reasons. There are many forum discussions dedicated to this very question, so feel free to do your own research. However, if you want to start playing as quickly as possible, we have a few suggestions for some of the more popular consoles.
- Nintendo Entertainment System – Mesen
- Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance – mGBA
- Super Nintendo – SNES9X or bSNES
- Sega Master System, Genesis/Mega Drive, 32x, Sega CD – Genesis Plus GX
- Sony PlayStation – DuckStation
- Nintendo 64 – Mupen64Plus
Do I need BIOS files for the emulators?
BIOS files enable your ROMs to run more accurately. In most cases, you do not need to provide them in order to play a game, but some emulators do require them. For legal reasons, we can’t tell you how to get your hands on BIOS files. However, if you have them, you can create a folder called “bios” on your USB and chuck them in there. Then you can point the emulator within RetroArch that requires a BIOS file to the necessary file on your USB.
Image credit: Unsplash & RetroArch
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Can Xbox ban you for using RetroArch? ›
You won't be banned. Running ROM's and game images via RetroArch is a legal grey area depending on how you obtain such content, but RetroArch itself is not illegal.How to turn Xbox Series S into emulator 2022? ›
- Fire up your Xbox Series S or X;
- In the Microsoft Store, click on the Get button, followed by the Got It button;
- Quit out of the Edge browser;
- Open Gamr13's </> AppStore from your dashboard;
- Install the emulator(s), tools and games you want from the AppStore; then quit;
To access these, go to RetroArch's main menu, select 'Online Updater', and then select 'Update Cores'. You don't need to download a new version of RetroArch in order to be able to run new or updated cores!How do I get the best performance on my Xbox X Series? ›
- Make sure that your console is on the latest update: ...
- Make sure that your TV supports the 120 Hz refresh rate. ...
- Change your console display settings to 120 Hz: ...
- Enable FPS boost in the compatibility settings for the game:
You won't get banned for installing RetroArch.How do you use RetroArch on Xbox Series S? ›
- Install the Gamr13 App Store on Your Xbox.
- Install RetroArch on Your Xbox.
- Set Up RetroArch.
- Download Cores.
- Download Core System Files.
- Set Up the Correct Directories.
- Set a Hotkey on Your Xbox Controller.
- Prepare Your USB Flash Drive.
- Press the Xbox button on your controller to open the guide.
- Select Profile & system > Settings > General > Personalisation, and then select My home Xbox.
- Do either of the following to change the status of your console: To make this your home Xbox, select Make this my home Xbox.
A Guide to Modding for Your Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S
Some games feature mod marketplaces built into the game where you can install modifications. Fallout 4 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim have these marketplaces and are a great way to start modding. It's possible more games will make this option available.
XBSX2 is a fork of the current PCSX2 build, capable of emulating PS2 games on Xbox Series S hardware. It runs as a UPP app in developer mode, and you could install it on your Series X or S console if you wanted to, and have access to developer mode.Which core is best for RetroArch? ›
- Game Boy Advance – mGBA.
- Game Boy/Game Boy Color – Gambatte.
- Nintendo (NES) – Nestopia.
- Nintendo 64 – Mupen64Plus.
- PlayStation – PCSX-ReARMed.
- Sega Genesis/Game Gear – Genesis Plus GX (PicoDrive from Sega 32X games)
- Sega Saturn – Yabause (very strenuous performance-wise)
Which cores should I use for RetroArch? ›
- Arcade: FinalBurn Neo.
- Atari 2600: Stella.
- Atari 5200: Atari800.
- Atari 7800: ProSystem.
- Atari Jaguar: Virtual Jaguar.
- Atari Lynx: Beetle Lynx.
- Atari ST, STE, TT, Falcon: Hatari.
- Commodore Amiga: PUAE.
Some Cores need BIOS files in order to correctly emulate hardware and/or software as needed by the content. RetroArch and LibRetro do not share any copyrighted system files or game content. You must provide your own BIOS and content in accordance with your local laws as applicable.How do I increase my FPS on Xbox Series S? ›
To do so, head to the game in your game library, hit the options button, scroll down to "manage game and add-ons", click on it and you should see "compatibility options" on the next page (on the left-hand side). Click on that and you can use the tick box for FPS Boost if the game supports it.How do I get the best out of my Xbox Series S? ›
Ensure you have HDR enabled on your TV
Although you can happily use the Xbox One or Xbox Series X/S on a 1080p Full HD television, you will definitely get the best performance from plugging your console into a 4K HDR TV. Even the Xbox One S is capable of 4K HDR video playback, if not gaming per se.
Your Xbox Series S may be running slowly due to a full cache, a glitch with the clock timing, or simply a bad internet connection. In order to fix it, clear the cache and the persistent storage. You can also perform a network test to see if the connection is the root of the problem.What gets you permanently banned on Xbox? ›
Here are a few of the reasons that a device suspension or ban is issued: Xbox console tampering, such as physically opening an Xbox console and modifying the hardware to play illegitimate or unauthorized software. Online fraud, such as phishing, account theft, or other attempts to defraud Microsoft or other players.Is Xbox banning Cronus Zen? ›
The Cronus Zen is officially a banned device in Fortnite. Check out what a Cronus Zen is and other details.Can your whole Xbox get banned? ›
We don't take permanent bans lightly, and these types of suspensions are only issued after a thorough investigation determines that a severe violation of our Microsoft Services Agreement and Community Standards for Xbox has occurred on the service.
The Xbox Series S will not support games at 4K at 144fps, the Series S will also not run 1440p at 144fps as well. The Xbox Series S will only run 1440p at 120fps. I would also suggest using a different HDMI cable than what came with the Series S. The Xbox Series X will run 1440p at 144fps, also 4k.Can Xbox One S run emulators? ›
For software that emulates the Xbox One, see Xbox One emulators. The Xbox One is quite friendly when it comes to homebrew. For a one-time payment of USD$19, you can enable Dev Mode on your console and install and run any application package, including emulators.
Can you play Xbox Series S without HDMI? ›
The Xbox Series X|S console does not have an HDMI in port. You won't be able to connect your cable or satellite receiver to the console. Instead, connect your cable or satellite directly to your TV.Can I have 2 home xboxes? ›
You can only have one home Xbox at a time. If you sign in to multiple consoles, we recommend you choose your most frequently used console as your home Xbox. If you've upgraded from Xbox One to Xbox Series X|S, make sure to designate your new console as your home Xbox.Can you use your phone as a screen for Xbox Series S? ›
Thanks to Miracast, AirPlay, and third-party apps, mirroring your phone to an Xbox One or Xbox Series X|S is simple. Here's what you need to know.What can't the Xbox Series S do? ›
Without a disc drive, though, the Series S can't play physical games, including those for Xbox consoles you already own. Resolution: Both consoles output a 4K video signal, so watching videos on a 4K TV should be the same on either machine. But if you expect to play games in 4K, you should choose the Xbox Series X.How much FPS can a Xbox Series S handle? ›
One of the cool new features of the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S is the ability to play games at up to 120 frames per-second, providing a new level of smooth performance never before seen in Xbox history.Is it worth upgrading to Xbox Series S? ›
The Xbox Series S offers tremendous value wherever you turn, from its Game Pass offering to Xbox All Access. What's more, it is a worthy upgrade for those coming from the previous Xbox One consoles, with faster load times, better frame rates and performance boosts to your existing games.Can you play regular Xbox games on Series S? ›
Xbox Series X|S Backward Compatibility is free and allows you to play select Xbox 360, Original Xbox games, and Xbox One games you already own on Xbox Series X|S.Can Xbox Series S run old games? ›
Playing Original Xbox games on Xbox 360
Note Most backward compatible Original Xbox games can be played on Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S. However, some backward compatible Original Xbox games are only available on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S consoles and won't play on Xbox 360.
The Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S are able to play Xbox 360 and original Xbox games through emulation software that makes your console think it's a last generation machine for the purposes of playing classic games.What can Xbox ban you for? ›
Here are a few of the reasons that a device suspension or ban is issued: Xbox console tampering, such as physically opening an Xbox console and modifying the hardware to play illegitimate or unauthorized software. Online fraud, such as phishing, account theft, or other attempts to defraud Microsoft or other players.
Can Xbox ban you from playing games? ›
If you did something that violates the Microsoft Services Agreement, your account may have been suspended, or under extreme circumstances, your device may have been banned by the Xbox Live Policy & Enforcement Team.What's the longest ban on Xbox? ›
Forza's 8,000-year ban
That's what happened when the custom livery on a player's car in "Forza Horizon 5" earned them an 8,000 year ban. Assuming that their descendants still have an Xbox and a decent internet connection, they'll be able to play the game again after December 31, 9999.
http://enforcement.xbox.com should show you the length of your suspension. Generally suspensions go from 24 hours, to 7 days, to 14 days, and then permanent. Since it is a communication ban, then yes, you won't be able to communicate through your mic.Is Xbox ban permanent? ›
Permanent bans are never issued lightly, and only occur after severe or repeated violations of the Community Standards for Xbox. Because of the seriousness of these violations, and to keep other players safe, permanently banned profiles are blocked from accessing the Xbox network in any capacity.Can Microsoft track a stolen Xbox one? ›
We recommend that you report your stolen console to your local law enforcement as well as your insurance company. You'll need to provide the serial number for the missing console. To find it: Sign in to your account, and then select All Devices under the Devices category.Can Xbox ban you for refunds? ›
Abuse of the refund policy or Xbox Support to gain unauthorized refunds is fraud. It's for this reason that attempting to circumvent the refund policy is strictly prohibited and can lead to enforcement action.Can Xbox ban you for cheating? ›
When Xbox has determined that someone has cheated, the offending player receives a permanent ban from the Xbox network. Repeat or egregious violations may lead to additional action, such as prohibiting a device from accessing Xbox services.Does Xbox tell you if you are banned? ›
A notice from Xbox is automatically sent to your Xbox messages, which can be accessed on console, Xbox.com, and other devices that you use to connect to the Xbox network. In this message, you'll get a general notification that an enforcement action was issued with links to more info.Can you get rid of a permanent ban on Xbox? ›
Console bans are not eligible for case review. Permanent console bans are just that. Permanent.How do I check my Xbox ban history? ›
You need to look here http://enforcement.xbox.com this will tell you if you have been banned and how long for etc.
Is a game ban permanent? ›
Game bans are determined by the game developer; they can range from single day bans to permanent bans.How long is the infinite ban? ›
|Ban Number||Amount of Time|
Not true, only one report of code of conduct violation is needed, for the Enforcement team to investigate. It's a myth that getting lots of people to file reports, gets Enforcement action. There is no exact number to have your account permanently banned.What does a permanent ban on Xbox look like? ›
A permanent ban blocks the affected profile from accessing the Xbox network and services. This means it can't connect to the network to redownload previous content or make new purchases. Permanent bans are never issued lightly, and only occur after severe or repeated violations of the Community Standards for Xbox.How do you get rid of a ban on Xbox one? ›
1-800-4my-xbox. They will be the quickest option to reach out to Xbox Account Support to help remove a suspension.