Save State - How to Save Games in Retropie / Emulation Station

How to Save Games on RetroPie

So you've got your brand new RetroPie gaming kit setup, but you've got no idea how to save your games. No one wants to be starting afresh each and every time they jump onto their Pi for some light gaming. I've put together this handy guide that will show you how to use the internal save feature (similar to using a consoles onboard storage to save games) as well as how to save your game using RetroPi's save states function. We'll even take a look at the filesystem of the RetroPi OS using SSH/FTP from a Windows PC, and we demonstrate how to change a few settings to make your life easier when playing games on the Pi.

Retro Pi is an operating system designed for the Pi that uses the Retro Arch front end of the libretro API to emulate a compilation of gaming consoles, and they are all managed the same way internally via retro arch. Indirectly, this that we can use a particular emulator as an example and the information you learn will apply to all the different emulators on your system!

The normal save game function is similar to what you would have expected on any games console. When you hit milestones inside the game, you are prompted to save your game to the console's storage device. When you restart the game, you can load up your progress from that point. Most of the emulators have this feature, and you don't need to do anything special to be able to utilize it! All you'll have to do is hit the save point (which is different from different games), and your Pi will write a save game data file to the Emulator's directory (in the file system). More on the particular directory later, though, let us veer into save state functions!

The save state feature in emulators is a juiced up save game feature. Instead of hitting a particular milestone within the game, you can pinpoint the exact frame/point of time you're at, then save that referenced point to the Pi's storage. It's much better and faster than relying on often vastly spaced milestones for saving your game. To manage the save states, RetroArch generates a table of numbered slots. These slots correlate to each unique save state you create for each emulator. There's no practical limit to how many of these you can create either. Be very mindful of which save-state you select, though, by default it will be slot #0 and if you overwrite a save state you cannot undo it!


Video by Core Electronics

In order to manage your slots/save/load features of the state feature, you'll need to become familiar with a using a couple of button-combos on your Pi controller. If you're using an 8BitDo SNES Controller (in fact, any controller will work using these mapped keys), by default, Retro-Arch will have set these hotkey combos as the following:

  • Select + DPad Left = Decrease Save State Slot #
  • Select + DPad Right = Increase Save State Slot #
  • Select + Left Shoulder = Load from Current Save Slot 
  • Select + Right Shoulder = Save to Current Save Slot



Status Messages

So you can see that save states are handy as all get out, but they can be a little bit worrying, especially if you lose a hard earned save game file due to mindless saving overwrites. We'd recommend you use a combination of each of the methods outlined above to ensure that you get a reliable save game file.