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How to bind controller buttons in Retroarch on Linux

Retroarch is a pretty good piece of software, and it can detect a whole lot of controllers and often automatically binds the controls to them. However, Retroarch does not always bind every single controller. In this guide, we’ll go over how to bind controls to your controller in Retroarch manually. We’ll also cover how to bind keyboard controls if you prefer to customize your Retroarch keyboard configuration.

To start the process of binding controls in Retroarch, the Retroarch application needs to be installed on your Linux PC. To install Retroarch (if you do not have it set up already), please follow this in-depth guide on the subject. Or, search for “retroarch” in the terminal and install it the way you typically set up programs.

Binding Retroarch controls to a controller

The option for binding custom controls to controllers in Retroarch is quite simple. To start, launch the app by searching for “Retroarch” in your app menu. Once the app is open, follow the step-by-step instructions below to learn how to bind your controller settings.

Step 1: Look in the Retroarch main app window and use the Left / Right arrow keys on the keyboard, or use the mouse to select the Retroarch settings menu option.

Step 2: Once you’ve selected the Retroarch settings menu, you will see a whole host of options to choose from. Look through all of the options and select “Input” with the Enter key or the mouse.

Step 3: After clicking on the “Input” menu option, you will be in the Retroarch controller settings area. At this point, plug your controller into your Linux PC via USB, or connect it via Bluetooth, etc.

When the device is connected, Retroarch should see that it is connected to your PC, and will display a notification in the bottom left-hand corner of the app.

Step 4: With the controller plugged in, look through the “Input” menu in Retroarch for “Port 1 Controls” and select it via the Enter key or the mouse. Selecting “Port 1 Controls” will take you to the binding area for the first controller plugged in.

Step 5: Inside of the “Port 1 Controls” area, scroll down till you see “B Button (Down).”  Select this menu option to bind the B button to a specific button on the controller.

Step 6: After binding the B button, go through the menu and choose all of the other controls to bind the Retroarch controls to your controller. Alternatively, look for the “Set All Controls” option and select that to more quickly bind your controller buttons.

Once you’ve gone through and bound each button to the controller, the process is done. From here, you can go back and bind controllers 2, 3, and 4. Or, exit the controls area to enjoy gaming in Retroarch!

Binding Retroarch controls to a keyboard

If you do not have a controller, you may wish to re-bind the keyboard controls for Retroarch. Follow the step-by-step instructions down below to learn how to do it.

Step 1: Open up the settings window in Retroarch by selecting the settings icon via the mouse or the keys on your keyboard. This settings area handles all changeable settings for Retroarch.

Step 2: Once inside of the settings area for Retroarch, you will see a long list of menu items. Look through the list of options for “Input.” The input area is where you can tweak Retroarch controls.

Step 3: After selecting the “Input” area, you will once again see a whole lot of options to choose from. Scroll through this list and look for “Port 1 Controls.” Port 1 is reserved for the first controller connected, as well as the keyboard controls.

Step 4: Look for “B Button (Down)” and click on it with the mouse. The B button is the first configurable control option available. After clicking on it, you will be prompted to bind a button. Press the button on the keyboard you wish to bind.

Step 5: Go through the list of available controls and bind each one to the keyboard. Keep in mind that keyboard controls will not be as accommodating as a controller, and you may run into issues binding certain things (like the analog sticks).

Note: if you do not want to manually click on each button to bind them, look for the “Set All Controls” option, and click it. Retroarch will take you through each control and help you bind it.

Once all controls are bound, you’ll be ready to play games in Retroarch with your keyboard!

Backing up controller configs

If you’ve taken the time to bind your controller settings, you may wish to save the bindings. Luckily, there’s a really easy way to back up your keyboard bindings: creating a backup of your Retroarch configuration.

To create a backup of Retroarch configs, follow our guide on how to create automatic backups using Deja-Dup. It can create a simple, easy backup that will save everything on your Linux PC, including your Retroarch configuration.

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