How to Set Up RetroArch for N64

The Nintendo 64 has always been a tricky system to emulate, but thanks to RetroArch and the ongoing improvements with emulators, N64 emulation is more accessible as it’s ever been.

First of all here’s what you’ll need before we begin:

  • RetroArch Installed – Download from https://www.retroarch.com/
  • Some N64 ROMs in a folder (These can be either be the game ROMs or an archive file which are holding the game ROMs)
  • To play the games, you’ll need a controller, I’m using an Xbox One Bluetooth Controller. For this guide I will assume you also have a controller ready to use

Step 1 – Download N64 Core

The first step is to boot up RetroArch.

We then need to download an N64 emulator core. So, go to ‘Load Core’, then ‘Download a core’. There are currently two options in RetroArch for the N64, Parallel 64 and Mupen64Plus, we’re choosing Mupen64Plus as it has a reputation for having good all round compatibility.

RetroArch N64 - Download Core
Download The N64 Core Mupen64Plus

Once you’ve downloaded the core go back to the main menu and scroll down to ‘Online Updater’. Here we are going to select ‘Update Core Info Files’ and ‘Update Databases’ to ensure everything is as up to date as possible relating to the emulator core. (This is especially useful if you had already downloaded Mupen64Plus previously).

RetroArch N64 - Check For Updates
Check to see if any updates are available for the N64 Core & databases

Next, quit and restart RetroArch

Step 2 – Scan for N64 Games & Create a Playlist

We are now going to get RetroArch to scan your N64 games to make them easily accessible.

On the main RetroArch menu, select ‘Show Desktop Menu’ this will display the desktop window where it is easier to access some more of the set up options.

RetroArch N64 - Desktop Menu
Open the Desktop Menu as it’s far easier to navigate

Next, locate your N64 games via the File Browser tab and then right click and select ‘Scan Directory’. Go back to the Playlists tab and you will now see a Nintendo 64 playlist has been created along with your games.

RetroArch N64 - Scan For N64 ROMs
RetroArch Desktop Manu Scanning For N64 ROMs

Step 3 – Set Default N64 Emulator

We now want to let RetroArch know which emulator core to use when playing N64 games by default, so right click on the N64 playlist, go to ‘Associate Core’ then select Mupen64Plus.

Set The Default N64 Core To Mupen64Plus

Step 4 – Download Box Art Thumbnails

N64 RetroArch Set Up Step 5
Downloading Box Art

If you want to download thumbnails including the box art which is visible in RetroArch frontend you select games, then simply go to the Nintendo 64 playlist that has been created, right click and select ‘Download all thumbnails’ then for ‘This Playlist’.

It is advisable here if you have a lot of games imported, then it can take some time to download all of the thumbnails, so you may decide to do this later.

Now we’re ready to play!

Step 5 – Choose A Game To Play

Close down the desktop menu and go back to the RetroArch frontend. Scroll across to the right and you will see the N64 playlist that has been created along with your games.

To boot a game, select a game and press ‘Run’ to start the game.

RetroArch N64 - Choose A Game
Now Choose A Game To Play!

Step 6 – Upscaling Resolution & Additional Options

Press F1 to suspend the game and go back to the RetroArch menu, you will find here lots of useful tools and features, such as save states, control options, video shaders and emulator options.

Since this is emulation, we can benefit from increasing things such as the render resolution and anti aliasing in the games.

If you select options, you will find a huge list of options relating to the emulator. We won’t go into detail here, but as a quick win, you can easily upscale and improve the appearance of your N64 games by increasing the resolution  and also apply anti aliasing. 

As a quick example, I’m going to increase the resolution, for my screen as well as increase the native resolution factor to 4x, then increase the MSAA anti aliasing to 8.

One option I will suggest changing is the RDP Plugin, change this to Angrylion to ensure best compatibility. I found for example with Mario Kart 64, using GLideN64 as the plugin meant I could not see what options I had selected on the title screen, Angrylion resolved this issue, so could help with a number of other glitches too.

RetroArch N64 - Upscaling & Options
Upscaling & Additional Options

We’ll just need to quit RetroArch and reload for the changes to take effect. Now when you reload your game, you’ll see a noticeable difference in the graphics.

N64 - GoldenEye 007
GoldenEye 007 In All It’s Upscaled Glory!

And that’s it, you’ve got all you need in place to enjoy all your favourite N64 games from RetroArch!

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