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The Steam Deck won’t launch until late this holiday season, but the handheld gaming PC may already have its killer application.

While Nintendo is focused on Metroid Dread, and Microsoft will have Halo, Valve will have a third-party program that isn’t even a game called RetroArch. This is a front-end interface for downloading emulators that can play backup versions of classic console games like the Nintendo Entertainment System or the original PlayStation.

RetroArch has been available as a download for Windows and other platforms for years. But by adding it to Steam, it makes it likely that the tool should work on Steam Deck. This should make it simple for anyone to quickly begin playing classic games on the device.


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Without something like RetroArch, Steam Deck owners likely would have had to resort to sideloading apps from the internet. While many gaming fans would jump through those hoops, any sort of friction would leave some less savvy users behind.

RetroArch on Steam has emulator cores for Nintendo 64, Game Boy Advance, Neo Geo, and more. And you can download those individually as downloadable content through the Steam store. The open-source dev team Libretro maintains these libraries, and it plans to update them over time.

Of course, if you’re an emulation enthusiast, you’ll likely skip RetroArch entirely for the most up-to-date and advanced emulators. But this ensures that everyone will have a simple option available on Steam Deck or other devices with Steam.

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