Setting up Retro Arch Playlists

Retro Arch is, in my opinion, one of the greatest developments for retro gaming.  It’s no surprise that many developments such as Retropie uses much of the Retro Arch development to run.  It’s great for controller mapping and it’s great for assigning stable emulators to ROMs to get the best possible performance out of the hardware you have chosen to use.

When you are not using the likes of Emulation Station though, the native Retro Arch interface can be a tad overwhelming and off-putting if you simply want to get those ROMs and ISO’s up and running as quick as possible.  After all, nothing should stand in the way of your retro-gaming!

The first menu in retro arch is your settings which if you haven’t already, you should explore.  If you’re on an early install, play around with some settings and find out what they do.  It’s better to do this on an early installation so that there’s not too much damage done should you mess up the installation.


The next few menus are only shown once you’ve added some ROMs.  So,

  • Go to Load Core
  • Load the Genesis core
  • Go to Add Content
  • Browse to the folder you’ve placed the Genesis ROMs
  • Scan the folder

You will now see a Genesis playlist in the Retro Arch menu when you navigate to the right.

The key thing you need to know here, is that this information has been made available in this menu because the ROMs you have added to the ROMs folder match ROM names in the games database that Retro Arch uses.  Also the Genesis emulator and ROMs are mature having been in the Libreto Core for several years.


This is not the case with Mame emulation or to an even greater extent Dreamcast emulation.

Let’s use Dreamcast emulation for this example, as this is the playlist that I first set-up manually.

  • Navigate through your retro arch folder structure to: Contents -> Resources -> playlists
  • Make a copy of one of the playlists.
  • Rename it to “Sega –”.
    This name matches the Dreamcast name in the retro arch database and will therefore be recognised by retro arch.
  • Now use this format to build your playlist (Just make sure you remove the “<– comment! –>”)…

/storage/roms/dc/armada.cdi  <– this  needs to match your path to your dreamcast ROM and ROM name –>
Armada <– This is the name that will show in the menu –>
/tmp/cores/ <– This is the path to the dreamcast emulator –>
Reicast <– This is the emulator name –>
DETECT <– This is the database entry code, so if you know the id  of the entry then that’s good, but if you don’t just keep DETECT –>
Sega – <– this is the name of the playlist –>
/storage/roms/dc/cannonspk.cdi <–repeat as above for the next ROM in the playlist –>
Cannon Spike
Sega –

NOTE! It’s important you don’t put blank lines in this file as each line is allocated, so for example, if the second line was blank in the above extract, Retro Arch would think that ROM doesn’t have a title.

NOTE! It’s also important that you save the file in UNIX format.  To ensure this is the case, use Notepad++ and check the following settings


You can get to this by going to Settings -> Preferences -> New Document.
Then check the Unix/OSX radio button.  Once you close this window it should say “UNIX” in the bottom bar.

Once you’ve saved your playlist, upload this to Contents -> Resources -> playlists and reboot Retro Arch.

On start-up scroll to the right and you will now see your Dreamcast playlist menu.


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