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ares logo

License: ISC

ares is a multi-system emulator that began development on October 14th, 2004. It is a descendant of higan and bsnes, and focuses on accuracy and preservation.

Official Releases

Official releases are available from the ares website.

Nightly Builds

Automated, untested builds of ares are available for Windows and macOS as a pre-release. Only the latest nightly build is kept.


*nix building

Minimum required packages:
g++ make pkg-config libgtk-3-dev libcanberra-gtk-module libgl-dev libasound2-dev
Additional Audio Drivers

ares supports additional audio drivers besides the ALSA drivers included above. Installing these additional packages will allow them to be selected in Settings > Drivers:
libao-dev libopenal-dev


By default, GTK3 is used, but support for GTK2 is available. You will need to install the additional package libgtk2.0-dev as well as specifying the command line option hiro=gtk2 at compile time.

SDL2 for input

If you would like to use SDL for input (e.g. for using a controller), you will need to install the libsdl2-dev and libsdl2-2.0-0 packages and perform a clean build of ares. You should then be able to select SDL for input in the Settings > Drivers menu.

Building with clang

clang++ is now the preferred compiler for ares. If clang is detected on Windows/macOS/BSD, it will be selected by default. On Linux and other platforms, g++ remains the default if present. To build with clang, it is necessary to install both the clang and lld packages. If you would like to manually specify a compiler, you can use the following option: compiler=[g++|clang++]

Windows building

To build on Windows, using MSYS2 is recommended which can be download here. Follow the instructions on this page to install and setup an appropriate MINGW64 environment. Running the command:

pacman -S --needed base-devel mingw-w64-x86_64-toolchain mingw-w64-x86_64-SDL2

from the MSYS2 MSYS terminal should setup everything you need to compile ares. Note that in order to compile, you will want to be in a MINGW64 terminal window after install and setup is complete.

Building with clang

clang is available through Visual Studio (or Build Tools for Visual Studio) through its installer and can be used to build ares. You will still need to supply GNU make in this instance. MSYS2 also offers a clang environment. You will want to make sure you select the clangw64 option during installation of MSYS2 which should provide and additional CLANG64 pre-configured environment. Install the clang toolchain package from the MSYS2 terminal:

pacman -S mingw-w64-clang-x86_64-toolchain mingw-w64-clang-x86_64-SDL2

Once complete, open a CLANG64 terminal window and proceed with building ares.

Debug Symbols

When building with clang, by default symbols will be generated for debug builds using an MSVC compatible format (CodeView) for use with Windows debugging tools. In order to generate GDB compatible symbols, specify the following option: symformat=gdb

Librashader Support

ares has introduced support for the librashader library, which is a preprocessor, compiler, and runtime for RetroArch 'slang' shaders. If you are not interested in working with librashaders, you can pass the following option to the make command to skip these requirements using: librashader=false

Building the librashader library on Windows requires Rust. Follow these steps to prepare your system and build the librashader library:

  1. Download and execute the rustup-init.exe installer from:
  2. Open a new Windows terminal and run the following commands:
    rustup toolchain install nightly
    rustup default nightly
  3. With Rust successfully installed, you will need to update your PATH environment variable within your MSYS2 environment. In an MSYS2 shell, open $HOME/.bash_profile and append something like the following (note you will need to replace both instances of %USER_NAME% with the real user name you used to install Rust):
    if [ -d "/C/Users/%USER_NAME%/.cargo/bin" ] ; then
  4. Open a new MSYS2 based shell for the compiler you are using (MinGW64|CLANG64|UCRT64), execute rustup to validate the path is set properly within your MSYS2 environment.
  5. In your MSYS2 compiler shell, cd into the ares/thirdparty/librashader directory
  6. Execute the build script, build should complete successfully:

This only needs to be done once, or anytime the librashader library is updated. Once built, ares will build with librashader support by default requiring no additional flags.


Check out the source code by running this command:

git clone

From the root of the project directory run:

make -j4

-j# indicates number of parallel build processes, and shouldn't be set higher than N-1 cores on your processor. Specifying this option can significantly decrease the time to build this project. There are multiple build types available and it defaults to an 'optimized' build. Build types can be specified using: build=[debug|stable|release|minified|optimized]

Build options can be found in the following two make files: nall/GNUmakefile desktop-ui/GNUmakefile

To start compilation from the beginning, run the following prior to compiling:

make clean

Building specific cores

If you would like to build a subset of cores, you can specify the cores="core1 core2" option. Currently available cores:

a26 fc sfc n64 sg ms md ps1 pce ng msx cv myvision gb gba ws ngp spec

Build Output

There is a single binary produced at the end of compilation which can be found in desktop-ui/out. On OS's besides Linux, the Database & Shader directories are copied over here as well. On Linux, running make install after compilation will copy these directories and binary into suitable locations (see desktop-ui/GNUmakefile for details). Alternatively, these directories can be copied from ares/Shaders/* and mia/Database/*.

Command-line options

When started from the command-line, ares accepts a few options.

Usage: ./ares [options] game(s)

  --help                 Displays available options and exit
  --fullscreen           Start in full screen mode
  --system system        Specify the system name
  --shader shader        Specify GLSL shader name to load (requires OpenGL driver)
  --setting name=value   Specify a value for a setting
  --dump-all-settings    Show a list of all existing settings and exit
  --no-file-prompt       Do not prompt to load (optional) additional roms (eg: 64DD)

The --system option is useful when the system type cannot be auto-detected. --fullscreen will only have an effect if a game is also passed in argument.

Example: ares --system MSX examples.rom --fullscreen

Specifying multiple games allows for multi-cart support. For example, to load the Super GameBoy BIOS and a game in one command (to avoid a file prompt), you can do:

ares "Super GameBoy.sfc" "Super Mario"

The --no-file-prompt option is useful if you wish to launch a game from CLI without being prompted to load additional roms. For example, some Nintendo 64 games optionally support 64DD expansion disks, so this option can be used to suppress the "64DD Disk" file dialog, and assume any secondary content is disconnected.

High-level Components

  • ares: emulator cores and component implementations
  • desktop-ui: main GUI implementation for this project
  • hiro: cross-platform GUI toolkit that utilizes native APIs on supported platforms
  • nall: Near's alternative to the C++ standard library
  • ruby: interface between a hiro application and platform-specific APIs for emulator video, audio, and input
  • mia: internal ROM database and ROM/image loader
  • libco: cooperative multithreading library


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