Emulating PS1 games is always a fascinating topic regarding Sony’s legal battle against emulators in the past and how they lost it. PS1 has the most diverse game library, with some of the games unmatched to date. When it comes to Jrpgs, nothing can beat Sony’s first machine (arguably). Emulation for PS1 has come a long way in recent years and has been perfected with Duckstation. It has seen a major upgrade and has been incorporated into Retroarch (in addition to the standalone version), making it accessible on a lot of devices, including Steam Deck.
We are back with another tutorial on how to emulate PS1 games on steam 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 Duckstation. We also recommend installing it, as the standalone version of Duckstation is much more cleaner and easier to set up.
Duckstation by Stenzek is THE best Playstation 1 emulator to date. It is available on a lot of devices, including Windows, Linux, Android and Xbox. There are a lot of PS1 emulators available since the early 2000s, but emulating PS1 accurately is very difficult due to the polygons used in all of the PS1 games (remember that pointy solid snake?). Another factor is sound emulation, which is broken across various games in multiple emulators (epsxe being the worst culprit). That is where Duckstation comes in. With its polygon fighting (no more wobbly characters) and accurate upscaling, Duckstation has 100% compatibility with all PS1 games. It can upscale the games up to 8k without breaking a sweat. Sound and graphics are preserved even when upscaled. And it has one of the best UI available there (you can add custom box art to your games too).
To use Duckstation on your steam deck, you will need to have PS1 bios files (or the games won’t work at all). PS1 bios are Sony’s property and distributing them is illegal, so you’ll have to extract your own from your PlayStation 1 or a simple Google search will do. The bios files are usually bin files (Scph5001.bin) and need to be placed in an appropriate folder. If you are following our previous guide, you need to place the bios file inside “home/deck/emulation/bios/Scph5001.bin“. This is extremely important.
Once you’re done with placing the bios, you are all set to start playing your PS1 games (we hope you have your own copies dumped for backup purposes). Duckstation is compatible with iso, bin and cue formats. On the emulator menu, you can change general settings to your likes. We recommend keeping the rendering resolution at 1080p and Vulkan as a backend gpu renderer.
Now we come to the best part about Duckstation. The PS1 cpu was not powerful enough to run all games at stable frame rates (hello Chrono Trigger), resulting in massive frame drops and choppy gameplay. Duckstation by default uses the same cpu clock as PS1 but also gives you the option to override it. In simple words, “you will be overclocking your PS1“. It helps in a lot of games, especially the ones with locked frame rates (Silent Hill, Parasite Eve). But it can also break other games. So we recommend experimenting with it on a per-game basis.
To add cover to your library, you need to download covers from Google and then right click on the game in Duckstation. It will give you an option to select game cover. Simply direct it to the jpeg you have downloaded. It is a one time process for each game.
Duckstation comes with a lot of modern features. Save states, resuming game, separate memory cards for each game, retro achievements and the list goes on. Duckstation also allows you to use custom textures, but we don’t recommend using them on steam deck for now.
This follows the exact same principle as above. You need to download Retroarch using emudeck and update it. Retroarch is basically a front-end for many emulators. We like it for its convenience to have all of our retro games in one place. Retroarch also allows you to make playlists of consoles with proper box arts (it downloads the box arts itself as compared to Duckstation as long as the games’ file names match its database).
To set up Retroarch, you need to run it once and go to “Online Updater” on your home page. From there you will need to update “assets, core info files, controller profiles, database and overlays“. Then go to settings and select “Input“. Go to “hotkeys” and change “menu toggle” to whatever button combination you like. Go back to the home page and select “configuration“. Select “Save current configuration“. You need to do this setup only once for Retroarch, no matter which emulator you will use in the future. Quit Retroarch.
Run retroarch again and go back to “Online Updater“. Go to “Core downloader” and select “Sony PlayStation – Swanstation/Duckstation“. This is the same emulator with a different name so no need to worry.
Quit Retroarch as we are going to place bios files in the proper folder. If you are following our guide and using emudeck, the path for the bios file is the same as above. Retroarch will create some more folders inside the Bios folder. Look up a folder named “System” and copy your bios file inside it (if you can’t find a folder with the name, create one). So the file structure should be “home/deck/emulation/bios/system/Scph5001.bin“.
We are all done. The only thing remaining is how to configure your Duckstation core inside Retroarch. It has the exact same settings as the standalone version, so the only question is how to access them. We are going to use the easiest method. Go to “Load Content” and select your game file (bin/cue/iso) from either sdcard or internal storage. When the game boots, use the combination you setup for “Hotkeys menu toggle“. Once inside the menu, you can access all of the Duckstation settings and they will apply to every game (as these are core specific settings).
We recommend that you use the exact same settings as the standalone version. Retroarch has another nifty option. Making playlists. You can always make your own playlists, so you don’t have to go through finding the games every time you want to play. We are going to cover “Making playlists in Retroarch” in another tutorial, so keep an eye out for our future articles.
If you are still having any difficulty setting up Duckstation for your steam deck, do let us know in the comments. Please don’t ask for copyright materials like game dumps or bios files. We at Techdrake don’t condone piracy in any way, but we also believe in the preservation of video games via emulation.