Valve’s Steam Deck has taken the handheld gaming world by storm. The reason not only lies with its capabilities to play your Steam Library on the go but Steam Deck is one hell of an emulation machine rivalling some of the best handhelds out there. With Linux at its heart, it is easier than usual to set it up for emulation. Before attempting this tutorial, we assume that you have some basic knowledge of how emulation works and how to keep your expectations in check (as Switch is still a current console)
Emulation is always derived by the intention to preserve one’s game library and console exclusives play a major part in it. And there is no title bigger than the Pokémon franchise for Nintendo. With Scarlet/Violet released recently, everyone’s eyes are on the Yuzu/Ryujinx platform to see how the game performs via emulation (The game running natively Switch has some major performance issues) and they didn’t disappoint. Based on user feedback, the title seems to work extremely well on emulators.
This article is about setting up the emulators for switch on steam deck but you can follow this tutorial for PC version too (as most of the steps are near identical). Before getting started we are going to list a few things that you may need to make the process far easier than usual (they are not compulsory)
- A pre-formatted SD card inside your Steam Deck
- Some software on your steam deck to extract rar/zip files like Peazip
- A laptop or a PC with Windows
- A functional SD card reader
All of these are items are needed only once but they will help you a lot in the long run
Step 1: Steam Deck
First thing you need to do is to format your SD card. Go to settings->system and select “format SD card”. This will format your SD card inside steam deck and it will be accessible on both PC and the Steam Deck this way.
Next step involves downloading Emudeck 2.0 on your steam deck. For this you need to put your steam deck into “Desktop mode”. Press the Steam button, power option and then select “Desktop mode”. This is where you will be doing all the work. From the desktop mode open any web browser of your choice and go to the URL https://www.emudeck.com/ and download the app. Make sure to move it to the desktop (as per developer’s recommendation) and run it. It will download all the necessary files itself and you don’t need to do anything special. Just follow the on-screen instructions. Installing Emudeck will give you two options to choose from. Easy and Custom. Easy will select all the options for you as per developer’s recommendation. We recommend using custom to make the installation more personalized. From there, you can select your SD card and all the emulators you want to download. For this tutorial we are going to focus on only two, Yuzu and Ryujinx (keep an eye out for our other tutorial on how to use Retroarch on steam deck). For the scope of this tutorial, we recommend skipping Retro achievements.
Step 2: Setting up the emulators
In this step, we are going to set up Ryujinx/Yuzu via emudeck. Ryujinx/Yuzu update frequently so it is recommended that you update them from emudeck via “update emulators and tools” option on daily basis. This keeps your emulator builds at the latest possible release and should help iron out bugs that get fixed over time.
Installation of Ryujinx requires two main things. Prod keys and switch official firmware. You can extract your own “prod.keys” from your Switch (it needs to be modified) or you can do a simple Google search (it is illegal to host these currently on any platform, so attempt to obtain your own from your modified Switch). The Prod.keys files need to be updated regularly with future firmware releases. The Switch’s firmware files can be dumped from your switch or one can look for 3rd party hosts. You need to extract the files of firmware in a folder (you can do it on a Windows computer and transfer it to your Steam deck via SD card or extract it directly on your steam deck via Peazip) and then install it from Ryujinx options. It is mandatory. Next, you need to place the keys inside “emulation->bios->ryujinx->keys” folder. The method remains same. Either transfer the file via SD card from your pc or simply download it directly on your steam deck.
Yuzu needs both things too but installing firmware is a bit different and difficult. Yuzu doesn’t allow installation of firmware via options. You need to copy all the files of firmware (.NCA format) to the yuzu->Nand->system->contents->registered folder. For Yuzu you will need additional keys.txt file. We can’t share this file because of copyright issues but you can dump it yourself from a hacked switch or simply search it on Google. Both keys.txt and prod.keys will go inside keys folder (you can open the folders by running yuzu and click file option. From there you can go to system folders) or use dolphin file manager on your steam deck to directly copy the files inside yuzu keys folder.
Once you do these things, you are all set to run both emulators. We recommend using both emulators as some games work well on one and some on the other. For Scarlet and Violet, we recommend Ryujinx as it is more accurate, faster and does resolution scaling a lot better than Yuzu for now.
Step 3: Configuring your emulators
We recommend using Vulcan libraries for both emulators as it works way better than the current OpenGL alternative. Steam deck can run the game really well with default emulator settings so we recommend that you try tinkering with anti-aliasing and resolution scale on your own. Tone down the settings if you get jittery performance. In our tests we managed to play Scarlet with an almost 30fps lock with Ryujinx on default settings
Step 4: Getting the game
As mentioned earlier, you need to get your own copy of the game and dump it. You will get the game in XCI format (one of the most popular switch backup formats for retail carts). Then you can transfer your game dump from your pc to steam deck via SD card and place it anywhere on your steam deck. You will need to direct your emulators to the file to run it or you can add the directory (from settings) and it will always appear on your emulators main window
Step 5: Updating the game
Switch games updates are always in a ‘. NSP’ format and needs to be installed. Both Ryujinx and Yuzu allow you to install .NSP files. For Ryujinx, simply right click on your game in the main window and install title update. For Yuzu, you can do it from file-> Install NSP option. It will update your game to the latest version
Step 6: Adding mods/patches
We don’t recommend using any mods or patches on steam deck for scarlet (at least for now) but if you are following our guide for PC, you can add mods for various QoL changes. For Yuzu, simply download Yuzu mod manager and extract it to your yuzu installation folder. Run it and it will automatically download all the mods. Installing mods on Ryujinx is a bit complicated and we will cover it in another article in detail
Emulation is always a very fascinating topic. It always brings a lot of interesting arguments from both sides. Emulator enthusiasts believe it preserves game library for good even when the games are long abandoned by their publishers. It allows us a deeper look into how a system works and how it can be improved with the help of a powerful PC. Naysayers think it allows piracy on a wide scale and infringes upon copyright material. We believe emulation is good as long as the code doesn’t involve any copyright material and you actually buy the game to play it. In this regard, the Steam Deck is a dream come true for our team. With a Steam Deck in tow at our HQ, expect a lot more dedicated coverage of what is possible from this nifty, Linux-based handheld that packs a surprising punch.
Disclaimer: Techdrake is not associated with Yuzu/Ryujinx in any way neither do we condone any piracy. This article assumes you own a copy of game and using your own game files obtained using your own console.
[…] deck. For this tutorial you need to set up emudeck on your steam deck by following our tutorial here. Then install Retroarch using emudeck and update it. Emudeck also offers standalone version of […]