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RetroArch CLI

RetroArch can be used from its robust graphical interfaces as well as a powerful command-line interface (CLI). Getting familiar with the command-line helps you understand the design principles of RetroArch.

Note: please be aware of whether your system uses DOS/Windows style paths with backslashes \ or Unix-style paths with forward slashes: /.

Some cores like ScummVM (which also has an inbuilt GUI file browser), do not require any content file name passed as a command line argument. This is determined by the core info files with the line supports_no_game = "true". In this case, after you have loaded the core and if it is not starting directly, select 'Start Core' that will appear inside the main menu.

On macOS: invoking the RetroArch CLI executable


Example: loading a ROM and libretro core (Unix-style path)

retroarch -L /path/to/libretro/ game.rom

Example: loading a ROM and libretro core with flatpak

retroarch -L /path/to/libretro/ game.rom
flatpak run org.libretro.RetroArch/x86_64/stable -L /home/MYUSERNAME/.var/app/org.libretro.RetroArch/config/retroarch/cores/ Tetris.nes

Example: loading a ROM and libretro core with Steam

 steam -applaunch 1118310 -L "/path/to/steamapps/common/RetroArch/cores/" "/path/to/Tetris.nes"

Content filenames require no spaces, as there is an issue with Steam passing through command line arguments containing spaces.

Verbose logging output

To get a better idea on what's going on, use the --verbose flag. If you want to report a bug, it is vital that this log is included.

Using a config file

By default, RetroArch looks for a config in various places depending on OS:

  • Linux/macOS: $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/retroarch/retroarch.cfg, then ~/.config/retroarch/retroarch.cfg, then ~/.retroarch.cfg, and finally, as a fallback, /etc/retroarch.cfg.
  • Windows: retroarch.cfg in same folder as retroarch.exe, then %APPDATA%\retroarch.cfg.

To override this, use retroarch --config customconfig.cfg. If you have some special options you want to store in separate config files, you can use retroarch --config baseconfig.cfg --appendconfig specialconfig.cfg. Be sure to pass --menu as well if you aren't loading content directly from the command-line, or RetroArch will close immediately after launching. See man-page and/or --help for detail.

Other essential CLI flags

retroarch --help

Use the --help help flag to display RetroArch's built-in CLI documentation. You'll probably discover some features you didn't think about.

retroarch --features

If you're unsure if a particular feature is compiled in, execute retroarch --features