How to Set Up and Configure RetroArch PS1 Emulation to Play PlayStation Games

Emulation is all the rage in PC gaming. Not only does it allow you to relive the glory days of retro titles on your PC, it also often allows you to enhance your experiences with those games. Going back to play an old game – especially from the PS1 era – can often shock those who are surprised at how much better these titles look through nostalgia glasses.

Using RetroArch PS1 emulation, you can upscale and tweak these games to something that looks a lot closer to what you remember – and better.

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RetroArch isn’t an emulator in and of itself – think of it as a hub for emulators and media accessible under a single, unified interface. Emulating games on PC usually means a full emulator and different program per platform, but RetroArch can actually emulate quite a large number of systems, all within a single program.

RetroArch’s emulators, called “cores,” are generally ported emulators from other developers in the scene. Some emulators, however, are actually made just for RetroArch, and because of this they may even be better than modern standalone emulators on the scene.

This is the case for leading RetroArch PS1 core, Beetle PSX, which we’ll be teaching you how to install and use in this article.

For optimal RetroArch PS1 emulation, you’ll want the following:

  • A modern gamepad with dual-analogs. I recommend a PS3 pad for that authentic control experience or an Xbox One pad for better support. If using a non-Xbox pad, make sure you have an XInput driver/wrapper enabled.
  • A modern Windows PC for best performance (and the most accurate guide) though RetroArch is cross-platform enough for this guide to work on other platforms.
  • A PS1 bios file corresponding to the games you want to play. Playing NA Crash Bandicoot, for instance, may require an NA PS1 bios. We won’t provide you with a bios file here, so rip from your own PS1 or download at your own risk!

Expanding slightly on the note of BIOS files, once you have those, you’ll need to place them within the “bios” folder of your RetroArch installation folder. If you don’t know where this is located in your file system, go to “Options -> Directory.”

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As long as you have an XInput-enabled gamepad, you won’t need to do too much to have a good RetroArch PS1 emulation experience. However, there are a few things you’re going to want to tweak for an optimal experience. First, head over to “Options -> Input.”

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Now, use Left/Right on your D-Pad to select a Menu Toggle Gamepad Combo. I recommend setting L3 + R3 as your shortcut..

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If you’ve followed up to to this point, your controller is ready to use, and you’ve acquired the PS1 bios file(s) that you’ll need to play your games. Some games may work without a BIOS, but for full compatibility we highly recommend one.

Now, let’s get to the juicy stuff: installing the emulation core.

First, head to the Main Menu, then select Online Updater.

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Within Online Updater, select Core Updater.

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Scroll down to Playstation (Beetle PSX HW). You can also choose the non-HW version, but I recommend using HW instead. Select it to install it.

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Once installed, head back to the Main Menu and Load Core.

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Find PlayStation (Beetle PSX HW) and select it! This will load the Core into RetroArch.

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You’ve installed the core. Now, how do you get your games into RetroArch proper?

Head back to Main Menu and select Load Content.

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Choose Collections.

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Select Scan Directory.

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For this to work properly, you need to have all of your PS1 game files stored in one folder on your PC. If you don’t, get them organized and take note of where they are in Windows Explorer to find them in RetroArch. Mine, for example, are located on my secondary Hard Drive within “Emulation/PS1/Games.”

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Select “Scan This Directory” to scan your games and get them added into RetroArch.

Now that they’re here, you can head back to the Main Menu. If you scroll over to the right, you’ll realize there’s a new menu made to hold your PS1 games. I’ll launch Crash Bandicoot – Warped from here.

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You’ve done it. You’re in the game and ready to start playing. But wait – the graphics look blown up and pixelated! How can you fix this?

Hit the gamepad combo you set for opening the menu in the game earlier. For me, this is L3+R3.

In the Main Menu, there’s now a “Quick Menu” option. Select it.

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Within Quick Menu, you’ll see a lot of different options. Let’s cover the relevant ones.

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The “Save State” options allow you to save a game’s state – pretty much exactly where you are. There are multiple slots for you to save in, and you can use these to skip normal saving or just before a difficult segment you want to keep trying. It’s up to you. Or you can forgo them entirely!

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If your analog sticks aren’t being picked up, you may be playing a PS1 game that doesn’t support them. To fix this, head to Controls and set “User 1 Analog To Digital Type” to Left Analog.

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Scroll down to Options.

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Make sure “vulkan” is selected or use “opengl” if your GPU doesn’t support it. Vulkan is the best option, though, and should provide full access to the extra features offered by RetroArch PS1 emulation.

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Restart if necessary. Under “Quick Menu -> Options” there are a lot more graphical options to set. Here are the relevant ones and what to do with them.

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  • Software framebuffer/adaptive smoothing – Keep these on.
  • Internal GPU resolution – Native is 240p, 2x is 480p, 4x is 720p, 8x is 1080p, and 16x is 4K. These aren’t exact, but they’re pretty much what you should expect out of quality – we recommend using 8x if your hardware can handle it, or even 16x if you want to forgo the need for AA and have the hardware power for it.
  • Texture filtering – Multiple settings, but xBR and SABR are the best and shouldn’t require too much performance.
  • Internal color depth – Change this from the 16bpp default to 32bpp for a bump in color depth at minimal performance cost.
  • Wireframe/full VRAM – Leave these alone.
  • PGXP Operation Mode – Turn this on to take advantage of some of the benefits of RetroArch PS1 emulation. Set it to “memory only” for the least visual glitches. Memory + CPU does look good in some games but can break others.
  • PGXP Vertex Cache and Perspective Correct Texturing – Turn these on.
  • Widescreen Mode Hack – This will result in some visual glitches on the outer borders of your screen but should look good in most games. Personal preference.

Other options are there, but they either don’t pertain to graphics or are far too complex to get into here, like shaders.

Comment below if you have any remaining questions and tell us what you will be playing.

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