Guide to Running RetroArch (Playstation Emulator) on Ubuntu 14.04

This has been tested with Ubuntu 14.04 but should also work with 13.10, 14.10, and 15.X.  These directions are geared towards running Playstation (PSX) games on RetroArch, which uses the Mednafen PSX driver internally to emulate the playstation with incredible accuracy, but the same general steps can be used to run SNES/NES/N64/Genesis as well.

Final Fantasy VII elevator scene

Install RetroArch via PPA

Run the following commands in a terminal console. This will allow your system to periodically update RetroArch in the future as more updates are available. The “libretro*” line also installs all the sub-packages for LibRetro cores — cores are the distinct libraries that run all the different game consoles.

mkdir ~/emu
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:libretro/stable
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install retroarch libretro*

Source: StackOverflow Page

Basic Configuration & PlayStation BIOS

You will need to find and download these files and put them inside your ~/emu folder. Throughout this guide I’ll be using the ~/emu directory to put everything, but you can choose a different folder if you like.

(rename all to fully lowercase)

If you cannot find all of them, you can also use scph1001.bin and rename it to scph5501.bin, scph1000.bin to scph5500.bin, and scph1002.bin to scph5502.bin. Please note it is copyright infringement to copy/share these bin files, so be careful.

Launch retroarch one time to create an empty configuration file:


Now press ESC to quit. Open the retroarch.cfg file as follows:

gedit ~/.config/retroarch/retroarch.cfg

Find the lines containing “system_directory” and “content_directory” and change them to this, to point to your emu directory:

system_directory = "~/emu/"
content_directory = "~/emu/"

Save and close the file. Now move ALL BIOS bins, roms, and CUE/ISO files to your ~/emu directory.

A word about CUE and ISO files

Unfortunately RetroArch cannot open ISO files directly, only CUE file. If you have a CUE file, great, you can skip ahead and continue. If you just have the ISO or BIN for the Playstation game, you have to create a CUE sheet for each disc.

Let’s say I have FF7_DISC1.BIN file inside ~/emu, which is Disc 1 of Final Fantasy VII. Navigate to ~/emu, and create a plain text file called FF7_DISC1.CUE. Copy/Paste this to it:

  TRACK 01 MODE2/2352
    INDEX 01 00:00:00

The filename in between the “quotes” should match exactly your BIN file. What this file does is basically determine where the CD audio tracks begin and end; in the case of Final Fantasy VII there is no CD audio so it’s just 00:00:00. You should be able to do this for most games the same way. But if a game does have CD audio and you want that to work, you will have to find the CUE sheet for the game.

Playing the Game

You’re almost finished! Now launch retroarch again from the terminal, or use Ubuntu’s omni search to launch it.


RetroArch menu screen

The menu system is simple and keyboard controlled with arrow keys, press F1 to show toggle it. Use your arrow keys Up/Down and press X to go into a menu and Z to go back. Careful not to press ESC unless you want to exit the application!

  1. Choose “Load Content (Detect Core)” (Press X)
  2. Navigate to the game you want to load (you should be inside ~/emu and you should see your CUE file.)
  3. Press X to load it
  4. Choose PlayStation (Mednafen PSX) and press X
  5. The game should now be playing!

Configuring the Controls

You can use the keyboard and/or a joypad to play. By default, the keyboard mapping for playstation games is:

× (Cross) = z
◼ (Square) = a
◯ (Circle) = x
△ (Triangle) = s
L1 = q
L2 = ?
R1 = w
R2 = ?
Select = right shift
Start = enter
Up/down/left/right = arrow keys

For the best experience, simply pick up one of these affordable USB controllers to play:

To customize the keys to your liking, for example if you have a Joypad plugged in and auto-recognized by Ubuntu:

  1. Open the menu (F1)
  2. Choose Settings
  3. Choose Input Options
  4. Choose User 1 Bind All
  5. Now it will go through and ask you to press each button so it can record it.
    1. These are universal RetroPad controls, so they will use generic names like “B button (down)” which means the bottom button — the X button on a Playstation controller. Likewise, Y button (left) means the Square button.
  6. Press Z a few times to back out, and press F1 to hide the menu.

Other Useful Controls:

F8 = Take Screenshot
f = toggle fullscreen

If you have questions, leave them in the comments below.