ROMs, Playlists, and Thumbnails

Storing game ROMs

Game ROMs should be placed within the roms folder as configured in RetroArch. It is recommanded to keep ROMs zipped, except for CD images. The preferred format for CD images is BIN+CUE, except for PSP games which have a preferred format of ISO.

Many users sort their ROMs into subfolders named after the system which the ROMs belong to. This results in hierarchy such as:

      Atari - 2600/
      Sega - 32X/

You are free to organize your ROMs as you prefer.

Playlists, or Collections, are the lists of games that can be generated automatically by the RetroArch playlist scanner, generated by a third-party playlist utility or script, or edited by hand in a text editor.

RetroArch Playlist Scanner

RetroArch incoporates a ROM scanning system to automatically produce playlists. Each ROM that is scanned by the playlist generator is checked against a database of ROMs that are known to be good copies.

Designating which core to use

Generally speaking, RetroARch will detect and use the correct core for use with the ROMs that are used as part of a playlist. Under some circumstances, it may be useful to manually set a particular core for one of its playlists. This can be accomplished within the Playlists submenu in the RetroArch settings.


Generally, RetroArch's scanner is configured for ROMs that have been validated by No-Intro or Redump DAT files but many other source databases are also in use.

System Source Repository
The 3DO Company - 3DO Redump > Trurip > TOSEC libretro-dats
Atari - 2600 No-Intro
Atari - 7800 No-Intro
Atari - Jaguar No-Intro
Atari - Lynx No-Intro
Bandai - WonderSwan No-Intro
Bandai - WonderSwan Color No-Intro
Cave Story (English or Japanese)
DOS Total DOS Collection libretro-database-dos
FB Alpha - Arcade Games FB Alpha v0.2.97.42
GCE - Vectrex No-Intro
Id Software - Doom Unknown
Lutro Unknown
Magnavox - Odyssey2 No-Intro
MAME MAME 0.37b5, 0.78, 0.139, 0.159
Microsoft - MSX No-Intro
Microsoft - MSX 2 No-Intro
NEC - PC Engine CD - TurboGrafx-CD Redump > Trurip > TOSEC libretro-dats
NEC - PC Engine - TurboGrafx 16 No-Intro
NEC - SuperGrafx No-Intro
NEC - PC-FX Redump > Trurip > TOSEC libretro-dats
Nintendo - Famicom Disk System No-Intro
Nintendo - Nintendo DS No-Intro
Nintendo - Game Boy No-Intro
Nintendo - Game Boy Advance No-Intro
Nintendo - Game Boy Color No-Intro
Nintendo - Nintendo 64 No-Intro
Nintendo - Nintendo Entertainment System No-Intro
Nintendo - Super Nintendo Entertainment System No-Intro
Nintendo - Virtual Boy No-Intro
Quake Unknown
Phillips - Videopac+ No-Intro
ScummVM Gruby's ScummVM Adventure Pack libretro-database-scummvm
Sega - 32X No-Intro
Sega - Dreamcast Redump > Trurip > TOSEC libretro-dats
Sega - Game Gear No-Intro
Sega - Master System - Mark III No-Intro
Sega - Mega Drive - Genesis No-Intro
Sega - Mega CD - Sega CD Redump libretro-dats
Sega - Saturn Redump > Trurip > TOSEC libretro-dats
Sega - SG-1000 No-Intro
Sony - PlayStation Redump > Trurip > TOSEC libretro-dats
Sony - PlayStation Portable No-Intro libretro-database-dos
SNK - Neo Geo Pocket No-Intro
SNK - Neo Geo Pocket Color No-Intro
SNK - Neo Geo CD Redump libretro-dats
Uzebox Unknown

Playlist file format

Each playlist is a plain text file with an extension of .lpl.

Each entry in a playlist must be composed of 6 lines:

/storage/roms/n64/Legend of Zelda, The - Ocarina of Time (USA).n64
Legend of Zelda, The - Ocarina of Time (USA)
Nintendo 64 (Mupen64Plus)
Nintendo - Nintendo
  1. The path to the ROM. This can either be an 'absolute' path or a path relative to the current working directory.
  2. The display name (you can use any name here)
  3. The path to the core, this libretro core will be used to launch the ROM. You can use the word DETECT in place of the core path here. Once this is done you can set the core to be used for this playlist via the RetroArch GUI.
  4. The displayname of the core, not really useful, we keep it there because the history list is also using this format
  5. Link to the database entry. The fact that there is a CRC value here means that this playlist entry was originally created by the playlist scanner. In some other cases it is done by serial number. You can omit a link to the database for a manualy created playlist entry by using the word DETECT here instead.
  6. The name of this playlist, ending in the extension .lpl

Note: the paths used in this example will be different from system to system. This example uses Unix-style forward slashes / in the paths, as with Linux, OS X, and Android systems. Windows users should use backslashes \.


RetroArch can display three types of thumbnails for games in playlists:

  • In-game snapshots
  • Title screen snapshots
  • Boxart

An in-game snapshot displayed with a Sega - 32X playlist.

RetroArch Thumbnail packs

RetroArch provides packs of thumbnails suitable for use with many emulated systems. These thumbnail packs are recommended for most users and can be installed connecting to the internet and using the built-in thumbnails updater, available from the online update menu within the RetroArch settings interface.

Custom Thumbnails

Users who wish to use their own thumbnails can do so by naming PNG image files according to the RetroArch naming convention.


The thumbnail file should exactly match the game's title as listed in the playlist with an important exception. The following characters in playlist titles must be replaced with _ in the corresponding thumbnail filename:


File locations

Thumbnails should be in the RetroArch Thumbnails directory within a subfolder named exactly the same as the playlist, except without .lpl at the end. Within this folder, place the correctly-named Thumbnail within a subfolder named either Named_Boxarts, Named_Snaps, or Named_Titles as appropriate for boxart/cover art, in-game snapshots, and title screens, respectively.

Changing Thumbnail type

Regardless of whether you download the RetroArch thumbnail packs or use your own custom thumbnails, you can use the RetroArch GUI to set which type of thumbnail to display. In order to change this setting, go to Menu Settings, and change the Thumbnails option to reflect the type of thumbnail you wish to display.