[SWITCH] Play Retro Games with RetroArch emulator, with CPU Overclocking!

Introduction

The recent RetroArch update for the Nintendo Switch – often called RetroNX – adds a major feature to the already excellent multi-emulator Homebrew Application. The latest release adds CPU overclocking to the mix, meaning that the Tegra X1 SoC can be overclocked from its default 1000 Mhz clock to a staggering 1754 Mhz! Therefore, difficult to run cores like the Mupen64Plus, which is being used for Nintendo 64 games, now perform at nearly full speed, making the Nintendo Switch (almost) the perfect emulation device. This guide will show you how you can install the updated RetroArch.

RetroArch Requirements:

  • Hackable Switch unit
  • Custom firmware (Atmosphere/ReiNX/SX OS) with the Homebrew Menu installed
  • microSD Card
  • USB Type-C Cable

Once you’ve made sure you got yourself a hackable Switch with a CFW already installed you’re ready to follow this guide!

Getting the necessary files

To start with, head over to the RetroArch website and download the latest build for the Switch. Make sure to grab both the RetroArch.7z as well as the RetroArch .NSP files. We need to install the .NSP file to get the N64 core up and running, as this core requires more RAM than the HB Menu allows an app to use. By forwarding the emulator to the Switch’s home screen using the .NSP, we effectively bypass this limitation.

After downloading these files, power off the Switch and insert the microSD card into your PC. Copy the files from the RetroArch.7z folder (retroarch, retroarch.jpg and switch folder) to the root of your SD card, replacing any existing files.

Next, depending on the CFW of your choice, you have to copy the RetroArch.NSP file to:

  • SX OS: Root of SD, sxos folder or sxos>nsp folder
  • Atmosphere/ReiNX: Tinfoil>nsp folder

Installation

Now you’re ready to insert the microSD card back into your Switch and bootup the Switch using any RCM Payload Injector to get to the CFW. From the homescreen, open up the Album and, again, depending on the CFW you’re using locate the RetroArch.NSP file.

For this tutorial we’ll be using SX OS as an example. To locate and install the RetroArch.NSP file, scroll to the Installer section of the SX OS Menu and find the RetroArch Icon.

retroarch

Now simply hit “A” and install the RetroArch.NSP file to either the internal NAND storage or external microSD card. For Atmosphere and ReiNX users, you have to open up the Album and then go to Tinfoil and install the RetroArch.nsp we copied before.

retroarch

Configuration

After the installation is completed, you can return to the home screen and the RetroArch icon should have been added to the grid. Now, simply open up the RetroArch app and you will be greeted by the Main Menu interface, which looks a lot like the Switch Settings menu. To get straight to the overclock settings, search for “CPU Overclock” on the right hand side of the main menu. Once you’ve clicked on the CPU Overclock option, you can choose between six different CPU profiles, ranging from downclocking the CPU to 714 MHz all the way up to a massive overclock of 1785 Mhz.

retroarch cpu overclocking

After dialing in the max overclock, we have to fine tune a final setting before we can actually play our favorite games at (almost) full speed. Go back to the main menu and now select “Settings” in the left column. Open up the “Video Settings” and enable “Threaded Video”. This option will give the PS1 and N64 emulators just a bit of an extra performance boost.

Playing a Game

Before we can play our games, we have to select the core on which the game runs. In the case of Nintendo 64 ROMs, this is the Mupen64Plus core. To enable this core, go back to the Main Menu and go to the option “Load Core”. Then, scroll down until you see “Nintendo – Nintendo64 (Mupen64Plus)” and select this core.

Finally, we can locate the ROMs of the games we have placed on our microSD card. In my case, I’ve created a folder called “ROMS” on the root of my SD. Go back to the Main Menu first and click on “Load Content”. Then select the forward slash symbol (/) and select the folder you’ve placed your ROMs in. You will see the games compatible with the previously selected core listed here. Since I have transferred Super Mario 64 and Mario Kart 64, these ROMs show up for me.

Once you’ve selected the game you want to play, RetroArch will boot this game with the selected core (Mupen64Plus in this case). Now you can finally enjoy the best N64 games straight from your Nintendo Switch, enjoy!

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