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Getting started: Input and controls

RetroPad Concept

RetroArch controls map real-world controller buttons to a virtual controller called a "RetroPad". A RetroPad does not exist in real life, it's a concept only within RetroArch. A RetroPad has an ABXY layout like a SNES gamepad plus four shoulder buttons and dual analog sticks like a Sony DualShock.

You don't have to map all of the RetroPad buttons to a real world button. If your real controller has less buttons than a DualShock, then the virtual RetroPad also has less buttons, that's perfectly fine.

RetroPad Conceptual Diagram

Gamepad setup

RetroArch is intented to be easily controlled with a gamepad. RetroArch and libretro provide ability to configure a gamepad once for many cores instead of having to configure each core individually. However, RetroArch also provides the freedom to configure specific cores and even individual games differently if the user wants.

Gamepad autoconfiguration

Many gamepads should work out of the box via the RetroArch autoconfiguration profile database. If the gamepad can be autoconfigured the OSD will inform you of the autoconfiguration event.

Manual RetroPad binding

Not all gamepads have autoconfigs. If that is the case for your gamepad, please refer to the Manual RetroPad binding section below.

Keyboard controls

RetroArch provides a remappable set of bindings between a keyboard and the RetroPad abstraction as well as between a keyboard and RetroArch's hotkeys. Please refer to Default RetroArch keyboard bindings in this doc as a reference.

Cores with direct keyboard input

Please be aware that some cores, for example arcade emulator cores and vintage computer emulator cores, can also be configured to directly read the keyboard or controls that use a keyboard interface. If you are using a core configured for direct keyboard access, it is recommended that users unbind the RetroArch keyboard-to-RetroPad and hotkey bindings or use the Game Focus mode to disable those bindings while using the keyboard device. Otherwise, keyboard input may result in multiple conflicting simultaneous actions by the core.

Tip

Controls with keyboard interfaces can also benefit from defining a Hotkey Enable button in RetroArch which is required to be held down in order to activate the other hotkeys.

Manual RetroPad binding

If your gamepad does not have an autoconfiguration or if you would like to change its default RetroPad binding, use the Input settings menu.

Screenshot of input binding

  • Navigate to Settings
  • Navigate to Input
  • Navigate to Input User 1 Binds
  • Select User 1 Bind All
  • Press the buttons as required

Tip

If you have several different controller types you may want to use the User 1 Save Autoconfig followed by User 1 Bind Default All options after binding in order to achieve hotplug functionality

Controls for multi-player

If you want to set-up local multi-player with games that supports it:

  • Navigate to Settings
  • Navigate to Input

Here you will find the option to set binds for multiple users, "Input User 1 Binds", "Input User 2 Binds" and so on.

So lets set-up User 1's controller:

  • Navigate to Input User 1 Binds
  • Select User 1 Device Index

From here using the left/right buttons, select which currently plugged-in controller will be assigned to what player. While here you should also bind the controls to this player by pressing them on the assigned controller, Select User 1 Bind All to do this.

After you finish, go back, select Input User 2 Binds and repeat for user 2.

Hotkeys

Hotkeys are combinations of buttons you can press in order to access options such as saving, loading, and exiting games. Hotkey binds can be configured at SettingsInputInput Hotkey Binds. If you map Enable Hotkeys to a button, it will require that button to be held in order to trigger any hotkeys.

Remapping controls for individual cores or content

Core Controls Remapping alters how the core receives input rather than how the gamepad is coded, for example you can tell an individual core to switch button A and B on the RetroPad for gameplay, but you can still use "A" to select in the RetroArch menu and "B" to go back. This is opposed to changing the gamepad bindings in RetroArch itself which would swap "A" and "B" in the core but would also make "B" select and "A" back in the RetroArch menu.

How to remap the controls for a single core or game:

  • Start content with the core for which you want to remap controls
  • Go to Quick Menu and then Controls
  • Configure the buttons the way you want
  • Select Save Core Remap File
  • OR, if you want to save this remapping for the current game only, select Save Game Remap File

Default RetroArch keyboard bindings

Keyboard gameplay controls

User 1 Keyboard Default RetroPad Mapping User 1 Keyboard Default RetroPad Mapping
Up Arrow RetroPad Up Z RetroPad B
Down Arrow RetroPad Down X RetroPad A
Left Arrow RetroPad Left A RetroPad Y
Right Arrow RetroPad Right S RetoPad X
Q RetroPad L1 - -
W RetroPad R1 - -
Shift RetroPad Select - -
Enter RetroPad Start - -

Keyboard GUI and hotkey bindings

Hotkey binds can be configured at SettingsInput → 'Input Hotkey Binds'. If you map Enable Hotkeys to a key, it will require that key to be held in order to trigger any hotkeys. This can be useful in avoiding keyboard mapping conflicts between RetroArch and cores cores that use the keyboard for input.

Tip

Hotkeys can also be mapped to RetroPad buttons.

Menu In-game
Key Action Key Action
Up Arrow Move cursor up F1 Menu toggle
Down Arrow Move cursor down F2 Save state
Left Arrow Move cursor left F4 Load state
Right Arrow Move cursor right F7 Increase current state slot
Page Up Scroll one page up F6 Decrease current state slot
Page Down Scroll one page down F8 Take screenshot
Enter Select Item F9 Mute
Backspace Return to the previous screen F12 Show on-screen keyboard
Shift Help F11 Grab mouse
Del Remove highlighted input bind + Volume Up
Space Reset to default - Volume Down
/ Search Spacebar Fast forward toggle
Esc Exit RetroArch L Fast forward hold
R Rewind O Movie record
P Pause P Frame advance
H Reset E Slow motion
M Next shader F Fullscreen toggle
N Previous shader F5 Switch GUI
I Netplay toggle play/spectate