Fire TV RetroArch Gaming Guide


If you're looking for information on playing games, particularly RetroArch, on your Fire TV, I created a new web site that includes the RetroArch guide as well as a lot of other stuff. I hope you like it. For the most current information go to:




www.gamingonfire.com






Brief Update 12/11/2016 to add Fire TV Stick 2016

I noticed a lot of people finding my blog post on Fire TV gaming, mostly looking for information on playing RetroArch, but also other topics.  I thought I would dedicate a static page to this subject that I could just periodically update.

Hardware

Since Amazon is kind of terrible about hardware naming, I thought I would clarify Fire TV hardware options.

Current Products:
No Longer Available:

ES File Explorer

Probably the easiest way to sideload apps is the ES File Explorer.  Once you've installed ES File Explorer you have lots of options.  My preferred option "Remote Manager."  Opening remote manager will make your device an FTP anonymous server and you can then do everything from your computer.  This is far and away the fastest option.  From your PC, you can use something like WinSCP as an FTP client, or really whatever you're comfortable with.

RetroArch

Download

Download the RetroArch for Android APK from the main source (click to highest version and select Android).  As of the time of this writing, the newest release is RetroArch 1.3.6 (direct link).

Install

Once you've copied the APK to a folder on your Fire TV (I copied it to the "downloads" folder), you can open the APK to install it.  A lot has changed since I posted a year ago.  Fire OS has been upgraded (now version 5.0.5), and it handles sideloaded apps much, much better.  You shouldn't have issues running RetroArch once it's installed.

In addition to the Amazon updates to Fire OS, Retroarch has changed quite a bit in the last year.  It is more powerful and somewhat more user friendly.  It still kind of assumes that you're reading up and know what you're doing.


Setup


File Locations

The first time you start RetroArch it unpacks everything and creates its basic configuration file, retroarch.cfg.  Close RetroArch ("Quit RetroArch) from the main menu), re-enable Remote Manager in ES File Explorer, and you can edit retroarch.cfg in "/Android/data/com.retroarch/files" (or /storage/emulated/0/Android/data/com.retroarch/files if you're using another tool).

One of the things I did in my retroarch.cfg is switch some file locations from their normal locations to locations that I could access without root.  You absolutely don't have to do this, but if you want to tinker, and you don't have root, it's a good idea.  Basically I looked for paths:

/data/data/com.retroarch

and changed them to:

/storage/emulated/0/Android/data/com.retroarch

You don't want to change them all, or you'll break RetroArch, but a few that you might change include:
  • joypad_autoconfig_dir – if you want to be able to tinker with controller autoconfig settings easily.
  • libretro_directory – if you want to be able to install cores and later delete them
  • playlist_directory – manually edit playlists
  • content_history_path – so you can manually edit
  • input_remapping_directory
Some things, like the autoconfig files, will need to be redownloaded after you relocate their directory.  You can do this in the RetroArch menu.

Controllers

The first thing you're going to want to do is make sure your controller inputs work.  They *should* automatically work.  With the Amazon Fire Game Controller, they default to a Nintendo type configuration, with B/A and Y/X mapped in reverse compared to the controller labels:

Look where B and A are on the NES controller

Note the Y/B/X/A positions on the SNES controller

Gameboy, Gameboy Color, and Gameboy Advance have the same B A configuration as the NES
The Back key on the controller maps to "Select," the Menu key on the controller maps to "Start," and the Play/Pause key pulls up the RetroArch menu from with a game.  Navigating RetroArch with the buttons swapped from standard Fire TV behavior is super annoying, so once you're up and running.  In retroarch.cfg change:

menu_ok_btn = "8"
menu_cancel_btn = "0"

to

menu_ok_btn = "0"
menu_cancel_btn = "8"

After that change you will find navigation much, much more pleasant.

If, for whatever reason, your controller doesn't map properly, you'll need to do it manually.  In the settings menu, select inputs, User 1 Binds, and Bind All.  This will cycle through all the buttons you can map and you can push the button on your controller to map them.  It goes a little fast, so be ready when you start it.  You might need to do it a second time once you've seen all the options.  Finally, you will want to go into the "Hotkeys" menu to set a button for the RetroArch menu, otherwise you won't be able to get back to RetroArch from your game.

Once you have your controller like you like it, you can actually customize the layout for each core you have installed by loading that core and going back to the input setup.


Overlays

Another thing you'll want to do is turn off overlays.  Since this APK is intended for all sorts of Android devices, many of which are touch devices, it defaults to turning on overlays for touch based controls.  Just go to setting and overlays and switch that off.

ROMs

I created a standalone directory on my Fire TV Stick for my ROMs.  From the ESFile FTP session, it's just called /ROMS, from Fire OS's perspective it's located at /storage/emulated/0/ROMS.

Cores

Really Retroarch is a tool for running various different emulator core.  You'll find that there are a plethora of options, and some are better and some are worse for various reasons.

NES (Famicom/Nintendo Entertainment System)

For NES I'm using Nestopia, which has been around for years.  It seems to be the best option right now.  I still have my original NES.  It's my second console love after my Atari 2600, so I always am always going straight for the NES emulator.  I mean, Zelda, Mario, Metroid, etc.

Sega Master System, Genesis, etc.

If you want to play 8 or 16 bit Sega games, Genesis Plus GX seems to be the go-to emulator.  I was never a big Sega guy growing up, but this emulator seems to support everything from the original SG-1000 to the Genesis and Game Gear.

Gameboy/Game Boy Color

For GB/GBC I'm using Gambatte, which was far and away the best GB/GBC emulator in the testing I found from about 18 month ago.

SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System)

Right now I'm using SNES9x.  There is also a SNES9x Next, but the best data I could find, which was 18 months old, showed it not testing as well for compatibility as SNES9x.  Still doing more research here.

N64 (Nintendo 64)

I've installed Mupen64Plus, but the  Fire TV Stick just doesn't have the horsepower.  I would love to try it with a other generations of Fire TV, even though my N64 is sitting right under the TV with GoldenEye and Ocarina of Time calling to me...

MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator)

MAME is, well, really cool.  It emulates all SORTS of arcade games.  Because of this, your success with running it on the Fire TV platform is probably going to vary a lot depending on the machine that's being emulated.

Minecraft PE

Minecraft PE is one my son's favorite Kindle games.  Unfortunately, it's not available on the Fire TV Stick 2014.  It is available for both generations of Fire TV.  Since I only have a stick, I haven't played Minecraft PE on the Fire TV platform.

Terraria

Terraria ranks up with Minecraft PE as one my son's favorite Kindle games, and it's available on all Fire TV platforms.

Hungry Shark Evolution

Hungry Shark Evolution is another favorite Kindle game of my son's, and is available on all Fire TV platforms.



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