A few years ago, I wrote a fairly lengthy guide on how to set up Retroarch on the Amazon Fire TV. It's been a few years now and I'm still occasionally contacted about the guide - so I figured I'd write a post about how I am emulating games in 2021.
To cut to the chase, I'm using the new Chromecast with Google TV to emulate my favourite classics and it's actually pretty decent at doing so.
If you're on the fence about one of these devices, or are looking to see if it's feasible for emulation, I'd say to go for it. The device as a whole is nice and it brings together the best of various Home Theatre PC elements that I've been trying to bridge for a while. My only regret is that I didn't jump on the Android TV wave a lot sooner!
My previous method for emulating games was to use Kodi, the Internet Archive Game Launcher, and Retroarch to download games on a per-session basis. I did test this on the new CCwGT and can confirm that this does work, but it has some limitations. The first being that the devices 4GB (even less when you account for system and apps) gets filled very fast and you're limited to one PS1 or N64 game being cached at a time. The second is that the download times for larger games took would take a while.
It's well-known that you can use a USB-C hub with this device and plug a hard drive in, but if you're doing this for the sake of the Internet Archive Game Launcher then you may as well just acquire and store ROMs on the hard drive and load games directly from that, which is what I am now doing.
There seems to be an abundance of questions online about what USB-C hubs are compatible with the Chromecast with Google TV, so here's what I am using:
- Anker PowerExpand+ 7-in-1 USB-C PD Ethernet Hub
- Toshiba 750gb External USB 3.0 SSD
- RAVPower 40W 8A 4-Port USB Plug Charger
- 8Bitdo SN30 Pro+ Wireless Bluetooth Gamepad
- Stock USB C cable
I've been using these peripherals for a while now and things are going excellently! I haven't noticed any overheating or performance drops on the system itself. I was worried as a lot of posts online mentioned needing 60W minimum to smoothly power this, but I was able to use a USB-C hub and hard drive with the stock wall-plug (I'm not sure if it's a UK thing). I did end up purchasing the RAVPower plug due to being overly cautious.
Now for the gaming itself! I have all of my ROMs stored on the attached hard drive (formatted to FAT32, don't forget!) and am using Retroarch from the official Play Store with relevant cores for each console. Your mileage on what cores perform best may vary, but generally I've found that most of the cores that people recommend for the Amazon Fire Boxes have similar performance on this Chromecast.
I launch my games directly from Retroarch rather than opting for a Kodi-based visual cover-art experience. Don't get me wrong, I would like to set this up but it's proven too much of a faff to get this workflow setup perfectly. I lost my patience!
My controller is the 8Bitdo SN30 Pro+ Wireless Bluetooth Gamepad, which has been working flawlessly (both wired and wireless), the controller defaults to Xbox 360 mappings, which can be remapped in Retroarch. I've been able to sit at least 2 metres from my Chromecast device whilst playing, as I spoke to somebody who claimed they had bluetooth drop-outs.
The performance of the games itself have been successful, I don't think you should use this device for emulation if you're expecting a power-house that can run Street Fighter on N64, you'll be disappointed by the lagginess, but if you're looking for the casual sofa-to-TV emulation experience, I'd definitely recommend the Chromecast with Google TV.