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How to Turn Kodi into a Game Arcade Center


Kodi aims to be the ultimate gateway to all kinds of entertainment. Until recently, that meant movies, series, and music. In its current release, it supports game emulation, allowing you to play most titles from older systems, computers, game consoles, and arcades.

Kodi allows not only “local” media playback but also Internet streams, so why should it be restricted to “local” games installed on your computer – especially when the Internet Archive has backups for virtually all games from the older systems that Kodi will support through emulators?

The Internet Archive Game Launcher, or IAGL for short, is an add-on that can link the existing Kodi emulator support with the available ROMs on the Internet Archive! Once you add IAGL to Kodi, you’ll gain access to tens of thousands of titles for older systems, available as ROMs in the Internet Archive. All are playable through Kodi’s new emulator support – with a little help from RetroArch and its multiple emulator cores.

Good to know: the Wayback Machine is one of the best time capsules of the Internet. Learn how you can host your own web archive with Archivebox.

Install RetroArch

Although Kodi includes support for some emulators, some of them may not be available on your operating system. Besides, this functionality is still considered “beta,” so it also supports collaborating with RetroArch, “borrowing” its emulator cores.

Until Kodi matures in this regard, it’s better to use it in combination with RetroArch for the best results, so start by installing RetroArch. The app is quite popular, so you can probably find it in your distribution’s software center/app store. If you are using a Debian / Ubuntu-compatible distribution, install it with the following command:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:libretro/stable
sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade
sudo apt install retroarch*
The installation process for Retroarch.

Find instructions for installing it in other distributions at its official site.

When you are asked about additional dependencies before the installation of RetroArch, choose to install libretro-overlays, libretro-shaders, and retroarch-assets-xmb, as they can significantly enhance the user experience.

Install Kodi

Continue by installing the second part of the equation, Kodi, if it is not already installed on your computer. On Debian / Ubuntu-compatible distributions, enter the following in a terminal:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:team-xbmc/ppa
sudo apt update
sudo apt install kodi kodi-vfs-rar kodi-vfs-libarchive
The installation process for Kodi.

Download the IAGL Repository ZIP File

Visit Zach Morris’s GitHub page and download his repository zip file. (You will find it on the page under the “Releases” header.)

The Github page for Zach Morris' repository.

Update Everything in RetroArch

Run RetroArch and from its first menu select “Online Updater.” Although you can selectively download emulation cores, demos for some systems, etc., we recommend you upgrade everything.

A picture highlighting the update files for Retroarch.

To download the cores for Retroarch, click “Core Downloader,” then press Enter on the systems that you want to emulate.

A picture showing Retroarch's Core download process.

This will eliminate the chance that you’ll be missing support for emulating a specific system or nice accompanying extras, like screenshots and cheats, when you get to play a game.

Take a look at the rest of the settings and change them as you would like. You can use our in-depth guide on how to play PlayStation games with RetroArch as a start.

Enabling “Unknown Sources”

Run Kodi and go to the Add-ons menu. Click on the button with the package icon that appears in the top left.

A picture showing the Addon Install icon in Kodi.

Select “Install from zip file” from the options.

A picture showing the option to install addons from zip files.

Kodi will let you know that, for security reasons, you are not allowed to install add-ons from unknown sources and provide a shortcut to the option that allows this security measure to be disabled. Select the “Settings” option to go to the settings.

A picture showing the disabled prompt for zip file addons.

Click on “Unknown sources” to enable installation support from unknown sources. Answer “Yes” to the security warning that appears.

Enabling Kodi's third-party addon support.

Tip: learn how to play SNES games on Retroarch.

Adding the IAGL repository

Press Esc to return to the Add-ons menu and repeat the previous steps by clicking the package icon and selecting “Install from zip file.”

A picture of Kodi's third-party addon installer.

Kodi will ask you to select the Zip file you want to add. Locate and select the file you downloaded earlier from Zach Morris’s GitHub page.

A picture of Kodi's file picker menu.

Installing the Add-on

In the previous step, you added Zach Morris’s repository to Kodi. Now you can add the Internet Archive Game Launcher add-on from this repository. Go back to Add-ons, click the button with the little open box again, but this time choose “Install from repository.”

A picture of Kodi's repository addon installer.

From the list of available repositories that appear, select “Zach Morris Add-ons.”

A picture of Kodi's repository selection menu.

Click “Game add-ons,” then “Game providers.”

A picture of the Game providers category inside Morris' repository.

Click the Internet Archive Game Launcher add-on, which takes you to a page with information on the add-on. Click on “Install” in the lower right to add IAGL to Kodi.

A picture of the IAGL addon page.

Click “OK” when Kodi presents a list of extras needed by the add-on for it to operate properly. At least one of them, YouTube, will ask you to complete a basic setup wizard after it is installed. However, its setup is almost fully automatic, so you won’t usually have to do anything apart from acknowledging its installation.

Almost There With IAGL

Return to the main menu of Add-ons, where you will find both the YouTube add-on and the one we are primarily interested in, the Internet Archive Game Launcher. Its installation doesn’t mean it’s ready to use – you’ll have to tweak some settings before you reach a point where games are playable.

A picture of Kodi's addon menu.

Double-click the IAGL icon and accept the terms of its license by clicking “Agree.”

A picture of the Internet Archive's TOS.

Configuring Your IAGL Install

IAGL will ask if you want to run through its semi-automated setup wizard. Click “Yes.”

A picture of IAGL's setup wizard prompt.

The wizard will start by asking if you want to link an Archive.org account to IAGL, allowing you to run almost all of the available games from the Internet Archive.

A picture of the setup wizard asking for archive.org credentials.

The wizard will also ask you for the emulator that you want to use. Click “External Launch Command.”

A picture of IAGL's emulator prompt.

Select “Linux” as your System Type.

A picture showing the System Type prompt for Retroarch.

Click “retroarch” to link your system’s Retroarch binary to Kodi.

A picture showing the Retroarch binary link.

Click “retroarch.cfg” to load your Retroarch configuration file.

A picture showing the location of the retroarch.cfg file.

Select “Yes” when the wizard asks if you want to enable Netplay.

A picture showing Retroarch's Netplay features.

Provide a name for your new Kodi user.

A picture showing the Kodi player name prompt.

Select “Yes” to let IAGL manage Retroarch’s cores.

A picture showing IAGL's Retroarch link.

Lastly, the wizard will ask if you want to save all IAGL files in a custom directory. Click “Use default cache location.”

A picture showing the default save location for IAGL.

Increase the Cache Size

At this point, you have a working IAGL install. However, its default settings require you to constantly re-download ROMs from the Internet Archive. You can avoid this as well as minimize wait times and bandwidth by increasing IAGL’s cache size.

Press Esc to go back to Kodi’s Add-ons menu, then right-click the IAGL icon.

A picture showing IAGL's context menu.

Select the “Settings” option.

A picture highlighting the Settings option.

In the General category, locate the Cache Size (MB) parameter that will be initially set to “Zero (Current Game Only).” This setting means that only the active game will be kept on your disk.

A picture highlighting IAGL's cache size.

Change the parameter “upwards” by allocating some space on your disk for the storage of the games you play through IAGL.

A picture showing the cache size prompt.

The size you choose depends on how much space you can spare, the games you prefer to play, and the systems you like to emulate. You can cram more than 50 Amiga games in 50MBs of space, but you’d need from two to 20 times that amount for a single multi-CD PlayStation game. The general rule of thumb is, “the more space you can spare for caching, the better.”

Time to Play

Return to Add-ons once more and select “Internet Archive Game Launcher.” You won’t need to tweak more settings, as everything will theoretically be set up, and the Kodi and IAGL combination will offer you instant access to the Internet Archive’s ROMs collections.

A picture showing IAGL's default screen.

Organized Lists

This is where the fun begins! Scroll through the listings and search between different systems – from Amstrad to Amiga and from classic arcades to the Sega Saturn. Although the compatibility and availability of the libretro emulators vary between different Linux distributions, the largest selection of the games in IAGL will be instantly playable.

A picture showing IAGL's console list.

Game Selection

IAGL lists the titles of each system by title, year, category, etc. When you find a game you want to play, choose it by clicking on it with your mouse or selecting it with the cursor keys and pressing Enter to launch it.

A picture showing IAGL's game list.

If you have something like an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation joypad already set up on your system, Kodi and RetroArch will probably have picked it up, and you’ll be able to use it to both navigate the menus and play games. Use the d-pad or left thumbstick to move, A (Xbox 360 joypad) or X (PlayStation joypad) to select something, B (Xbox 360 joypad) or Circle (PlayStation joypad) as back/cancel.

Launch the Game

After selecting a title and clicking on “Launch,” IAGL will automatically download it from the Internet Archive and “forward” it to the appropriate RetroArch emulator core. In minutes, if not seconds, it will be running on your screen. If you increased your cache settings as suggested, the next time it will start instantly, as it will be available locally.

A picture showing IAGL's game launcher.

Also take note of the two useful additional options accompanying launch: one of them allows you to watch a trailer to decide whether you want to try a game. Usually, downloading and running a small-ish ROM file is quicker than watching a trailer, so this option is more like “fan service” that makes retro games feel a bit new. You can also manually download a game so that it’s available locally – if it has not already been downloaded and stored in the cache – to avoid having to download it when you try to launch it in the future. That’s more useful if you’re behind a slow or metered Internet connection, allowing you to pre-download the games you’d like to play next.

FYI: while Kodi can be a great retro system emulator, Linux can do more than play old games. Learn some of the best kid-friendly Linux games.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why am I having trouble finding IAGL in Zach Morris’s repository?

This issue is most likely due to an incompatibility between Zach Morris’s repository and your current Kodi binary. At the moment, the latest version of Morris’s repository will only work with Kodi 20.1. Fix this by either upgrading Kodi or loading an older version of the IAGL repository.

Is it possible to link your Archive.org account after the IAGL wizard?

Yes. Go back to the Kodi home screen and select “Add-ons.” Right-click the IAGL icon, then select “Settings.” This will bring up a window that will show the options for IAGL. Click the “Download Options” category, then “Enable archive.org login.”

Why is IAGL returning a “Failed to play game” error?

While this can be due to a number of issues, the most common cause for this problem is a missing emulator core. To fix this, open Retroarch, click “Online Updater,” then click “Core Downloader.” Select the system that IAGL failed to emulate.

Image credit: Unsplash. All alterations and screenshots by Ramces Red.

Ramces Red
Ramces Red

Ramces is a technology writer that lived with computers all his life. A prolific reader and a student of Anthropology, he is an eccentric character that writes articles about Linux and anything *nix.

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