As I’ve lurked the Internet, I’ve seen plenty of people misunderstanding what RetroArch is and libretro’s goals. So I decided to give an explanation for it. If you are into emulation or have a more recent homebrew capable device, you might want to stick around.
Let’s get one of the more prominent misconceptions out of the way first: RetroArch is not an emulator. RetroArch is a front-end for easy standardized configuration for back-end programs you might run through it. It does this through the API: libretro. What the team does is develop the API and front-end. Sometimes, if there’s a worthwhile emulator someone wants to incorporate, they’ll cut it down and integrate the libretro API, making it into one of those back-end programs, AKA “cores”. There are a few different advantages to doing this:
• No need to develop a front-end for your program, allowing you to focus on the core of your program.
• RetroArch is everywhere, which makes porting a lot easier as you only need to port the core.
• The user only needs to learn one interface.
Now, emulators and other cores running under RetroArch generally won’t be directly improved by the libretro team. If you’re looking for an improvement to a particular core, you’ll have to turn to the developer of the core, not the libretro team. Either that or you can work on it yourself; all the officially supported cores are open source.
RetroArch is everywhere. You can find it for your smartphone, tablet, laptop, HTPC, Raspberry Pi, homebrew capable handheld or console, and so on. RetroArch supports plenty of customization options, such as filter and overlays, but if you’re looking for something a bit more specialized, you might want to look elsewhere. What I mean by that is: if you want a program to take advantage of an unique feature of your device, it probably won’t support it. It’s a general “jack of all trades” that will give you easy access to Cave Story and many emulators, but will probably never fully utilize your 3DS’s iR sensor or similar specialized features.
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