Turn your Steam Link into a retro playstation with RetroArch


What can you do with a Steam link that is not streaming PC games to your computer? Well one option is to use it for retro games instead! Want to play your favorite classic games through your TV without digging up an old computer or console?

Here’s how to get started with retro gaming on a Steam link.

Is Steam Link suitable for retro games?

Super Turrican running on an NES emulator on Steam Link

We’ve looked at so many different solutions to relive the video games of the past. Retro games — playing old games on modern hardware — relies on emulators, and as long as they can run on your computer, you can enjoy old games stored in image formats. ROM.

Retro gaming can be enjoyed on everything from a high-end desktop PC to a low-cost Raspberry Pi. So why would you use a Steam link?

Well, like the Raspberry Pi, this is another relatively inexpensive option. With two USB ports, an Ethernet connection, built-in wireless capabilities, and the ability to add your own apps, Steam Link is pretty versatile. (We’ve already seen how Steam Link can run Kodi.) All you need is the right version of the RetroArch emulation suite, a formatted USB drive, and a game controller!

Note: As with all device hacks, this is done entirely at your own risk. We cannot take responsibility for a bricked Steam link!

Step 1: Find and format a suitable USB drive

To install RetroArch on a Steam Link box, you will need to start with a USB key. Since RetroArch software is quite compact, it does not have to be a high capacity USB device. However, you will need to format it, as Steam Link searches for a specific file structure.

Native formatting tools are suitable here; you can use FAT32, or EXT4 format. Do not worry about assigning a label to the reader, because it is not necessary.

Format your USB key

Once the drive is formatted, open it in your file manager. Here create a directory called steam link, and inside of it another labeled applications.

Step 2: Download RetroArch for Steam Link

Then grab the RetroArch download. You can grab it from this Google Drive share, but if you want to make sure you have the very latest copy, keep an eye out for this thread in the Steam Community Forum.

Once downloaded, unzip the content, copy retroarch.tgz to the USB stick. Specifically, save the file in the / steamlink / apps / phone book.

It’s also a good idea to enable SSH on your Steam Link box. To do this, create a new file path: / steamlink / config / system /. In it, create a blank text file and name it enable_ssh.txt.

Enabling SSH means that when you start your Steam Link, you will be able to control it remotely, using using PuTTY or other tools on Windows, or if you are using macOS or Linux, through the terminal. It also means that you can use an SFTP client, like FileZilla.

SSH access requires that you log in with the username root, and the password steamlink123.

When you have copied and created this file, safely eject the USB drive from your PC.

Step 3: Install RetroArch on your Steam link

Place the USB stick in your Steam Link box and turn it off if the device is already on. This means turning it off on the mains; Steam Link’s power menu does not offer a full power cycle option. This is necessary because you need the Steam link to play from the USB stick; it will only do this from a cold start.

RetroArch installed on the Steam link

When Steam Link starts up, the data from the USB stick will be read and RetroArch will be installed.

When completed, RetroArch will be listed as an app next to your Linked PCs. If you have Kodi installed before, that will also be listed here.

It is essential at this stage that you remove the USB stick from your Steam Link. Subsequent power cycles will reinstall RetroArch, undoing anything you are about to do.

Step 4: Configure your game controller

To use RetroArch, you will need to configure a controller. If you don’t have one on hand, a keyboard should suffice for now; using a USB controller is a good idea, unless you plan to play text adventures!

Configure your controller

Although the Xbox 360 USB Controller will work immediately, you cannot own this device. Configure your own controller using the keyboard; Browse Parameters> Input> Input of user connections 1 and find User 1 Link All.

Select this option and start mapping the buttons on your game controller, when the tool prompts you. Once done, you can navigate using only your game controller. Note that these mappings will be replicated to all emulators in the system.

Step 5: Add Game ROMs to the Steam Link

With RetroArch now installed on your Steam Link, you’ll be ready to play classic games from yesteryear. All you need to do is copy the ROM files of the platforms you want to use on Steam Link.

Before you do this, however, know that you are alone here. We cannot provide links to ROM files due to legal restrictions. You should also note that any ROM files you use should be the ones of which you already have a physical copy.

Once you’ve located them, copying them to the Steam link is pretty straightforward.

With RetroArch running, the first thing you’ll need to do is copy the ROM files to the Steam link. One way to do this is to copy them to a freshly formatted USB drive and load them from there. However, the best option (as noted above) is to use an FTP application with SSH support, such as FileZilla.

Download retro game ROMs from your Steam link

Open the Site manager and create a New website, by entering the IP address of your Steam Link, as well as the username and password detailed in step 2 above. Click on Connect, then go to / home / apps / retroarch / roms / folder on the Steam link.

When you are done, locate the ROM files on your computer and copy them to the roma case.

This shouldn’t take too long (depending on the size of your ROM collection!), But when done you can navigate to Add content> Analyze directory to search for games. Once the directory is scanned, the games should be available to play, with platforms indicated by a corresponding icon.

To launch a game, select it, then when prompted, choose the appropriate “kernel” (the emulator). Most platforms have multiple emulators available, and one may be more suited to a particular game than others. Once selected, a kernel can be downloaded and will be ready to use with your favorite retro games!

Enjoy retro games on Steam Link

Launch a game in RetroArch on Steam Link

Don’t let your Steam Link collect dust. Not only can it stream games from your PC to your TV, but you can also play retro games right from the device itself. And with these installed alongside apps like Kodi, you can have a compact home media entertainment system in your living room at a very cheap price!

If you are a newbie to Steam, be sure to check out our Steam Account Security Guide.


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