Emulation on Steam Deck is already getting much more convenient

When the Steam Deck was released in February I was already excited about this as an emulation device. I spent hours of my testing time playing games like Metroid Prime and Persona 3 on the Deck after setting up retro console emulators, which was just a little cumbersome (biggest inconvenience was having to use a trackpad to hover around interfaces). that were actually built for desktops). It wasn’t bad if you already knew about emulators, but it was definitely more work to release your emulated games than anything in your Steam library.

Now, just over a month into the Steam Deck’s life, emulation has become considerably easier to set up – my emulated games now live in my Steam library side-by-side with my PC games, and I can launch them with a single click.

Several tools have emerged recently to make emulation setup on Steam Deck easier, but the one I used to simplify my setup was EmuDeck, which appealed to me with its simple five-step setup. Could it really be that easy? Actually, yes, quite a lot.

EmuDeck does a few things. It installs another application, Steam Rom Manager, which can automatically download skins for your games and add them to your Steam library so they are easily accessible. It also automatically installs a variety of emulators and configures them with controller keyboard shortcuts and other settings. I especially like that it sets up some universal hotkeys like save/load a game state that I would otherwise have to do on all emulators.

Launching a retro game is now as simple for me as pressing the ‘A’ button on the SteamOS interface. The emulator launches right into this game without me having to see the emulator interface.

EmuDeck has been so successful that its creator is constantly updating it with new features, and I hope it will become an even more powerful tool over time. It’s currently leaning towards simplicity over customization (it currently doesn’t let you choose which emulators you want to install, for example). But the updates arrived so quickly that any YouTube videos you find on EmuDeck are probably already out of date. Fortunately, it’s so easy to set up, the brief guide on the EmuDeck website it’s all you need.

I spent so many years fiddling with emulators and configuring this or that esoteric configuration to make a certain game work the way I want, it seems like cheating to launch games directly through Steam without even seeing the emulator menus. I hope I’m still opening the emulators every now and then to tweak things to my liking. But if you were equally excited about the Deck’s emulation potential and wary of the setup involved, EmuDeck more or less eradicates those headaches.

There are also some interesting tools coming up for deck emulation that don’t simplify things that far. EmuDeck also connects to an app called EmulationStation Desktop Edition where you can keep all your emulation stuff separate from your Steam library. YouTuber ETA Prime provides a good walkthrough here:

In the long run, I think EmulationStation DE will be a better emulation experience than simply launching games via Steam, as its interface is built specifically for retro game libraries and will likely provide easier access to futzing with individual emulator settings.

It’s amazing how quickly things have changed since the Deck was released, even without the emulator developers themselves having access to Steam Decks to optimize the hardware. I can’t wait to see how much has changed a year from now.

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