HomeWhere to download the MAME and how to configure this emulator

Where to download the MAME and how to configure this emulator

In this guide, we will see where to download the MAME and configure this famous emulator that allows you to play the games of the cabinets present in the bars and arcades.

Despite the increasingly amazing new generation computer games with super graphics, the world of old retro games draw a lot of attention from users trying to remember the long hours spent in arcades playing street fighter, ghosts’ n goblins, double dragon, or in front of the old Nintendo consoles, such as the NES or the SNES.

Thanks to computers, we can relive those moments and replay these titles thanks to one of the best arcade game emulators, MAME.

MAME, the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator, is a free and open-source arcade emulator designed to emulate most arcade machines that we could find in bars and arcades several years ago. 

It had its official debut on February 5th, 1997, and its main feature is that it allows you to access and play thousands of classic games that have been very popular over the past decades.

Its goal is the preservation of titles considered historical in popular culture. It features its own executable and is supported by a  database that supports reading and interacting with titles from various console brands.

This emulator comes, in addition to its own executable, with a complete game database so that the emulator is able to recognize practically any rom, as well as to offer us a very simple and organized interface with game search and classification functions, something very important if we consider that, currently, there are more than 35,000  different games compatible with mame.

If you are thinking of setting up a full arcade emulator on your computer, in this article, we will explain how we can make MAME work, from downloading to copying ROMs, BIOS, and other additional extras that enhance the gaming experience.

Guide to download and configure MAME emulator for PC

An emulator is a software tool or application that allows other types of software to run, such as games or applications designed in principle for other platforms. In this way, we can find, for example, Android emulators on a PC or console emulators on a computer.

Thanks to emulators, we can run other programs if we need the same software or hardware. In this case, with MAME, we can easily play video game consoles from our computer without having to have the console itself.

Minimum requirements to be able to use MAME

The truth is that for an emulator, the MAME requirements aren’t too demanding. Of course, we must keep in mind that, when emulating various platforms, some are more demanding than others, so we can have problems if our computer is very old. If we have a more or less new graphics card, we shouldn’t have any problems.

Although MAME can run on 200MHz CPUs, if we really want games to run smoothly, we need to make sure we have at least the following requirements:

  • Pentium 4 processor or equivalent at 2800 MHz.
  • 2 GB of RAM.
  • DirectX compatible graphics card.
  • Operating system- Windows XP or later.

Where to download the MAME

As we said, MAME is a  free and open-source emulator, so although some pages allow you to download it for a fee, the emulator download is completely free, and we can do it from the following link. The recommended download from this website is the 64-bit version.

For legal reasons, this emulator comes as is, with no games, BIOS, skins, or anything else. When we download this emulator, we are downloading only the executable, the game database, and little else. 

We have to look for games on other web pages (there are even full rom packages with 35,000 games available), as well as the BIOS (arcade physical machine processor code dump) that many games need in order to run.

How to install MAME

This emulator is downloaded in the form of a file of approximately 60 megabytes. When we have it on our computer, we should open and extract it with any zip program (we recommend 7zip because it is completely free). We will choose the path where we want to extract this emulator, and that’s it.

When the extraction of the entire emulator is finished, we will have a new folder of about 400 megabytes on our hard drive. Inside we will find everything you need to make our arcade emulator work on Windows.

If we run the “mame64.exe” file, the emulator will open, and we will be able to have a first contact with the program; even if we do not yet have the games copied, we will not be able to do much at the moment except to see its main interface and configure it, If we want.

How to add arcade games (ROMs) in MAME

As we said, when we download the emulator, we are not downloading any games. Being quite old arcade games, most of the web pages that collect retro games will allow us to download both single games and game packs. These games can also be found in the Emuparadise database, so they’re not very complicated to find and download, and they’re not illegal either.

What is totally illegal is to download the BIOS  required to run many of the arcade games. To download these BIOSes, we will have to google, as indicated in the MAME documentation, although they are not very difficult to find either.

Unlike the ROMs of any other retro-console emulator, we need to load them into the emulator in ZIP format.

If we change the name of these files, the emulator will try to locate them in its database, and it will not recognize it and, although it can open it, it will not appear in the list with its real name. Furthermore, these ROMs must always be compressed since if we try to decompress them, we will also find a series of files that would further ruin the games’ identification in question.

When we have downloaded the games we want to add to our emulator, the next step will be to copy them to the Roms folder that appears in the main MAME directory. In this directory we will copy all the games and when we open the emulator, it will load them automatically.

If we try to play a game that needs a BIOS, we will see a message warning of the missing BIOS.

We have to search for the BIOS on the internet, and when we download them, we will always copy them to the Roms folder, just like any other game.

When the ROMs and BIOS are in the ROMs directory, we can open the MAME emulator again to be able to start playing any game of that BIOS.

The MAME controls

MAME allows us to configure all the controls of the emulator so that users can adapt it to their needs. However, by default, it comes with a number of controls that we need to know if we want to be able to move around the menu without problems:

  • Tab- opens the menu.
  • ~- Activates the options and settings screen overlay.
  • Q- Pause the game.
  • F3- restart the game.
  • F6- activate cheats.
  • Shift + F7- Create a quick save state.
  • F7- load quick save status.
  • F12- Take a screenshot.
  • Alt + Enter- Toggle full screen on or off.
  • Esc- exit the emulator.

How to add a preview image to every MAME game

If we’ve come this far, we should already have our fully functional MAME emulator and could play any game in this emulator, as long as we have the corresponding game BIOS in the ROMS directory.

However, for users who like to have everything customized to the maximum, there is still a small extra step- to configure so that a preview image appears for each game, very useful for recognizing the game from the photo.

As we have seen, when we select a ROM, on the right, we see a box with an image indicating ” No image available. “

MAME allows us to assign an image to each game so that when we select it, in addition to the name, we can see the logo or a screenshot of it.

To do this, in the main directory of the emulator, we will have to create a folder called  “snap,” which will be the folder where we save these images. Inside we will have to save the images that we want to associate with each game with the name of its ROM. So, for example, if we have a screenshot of Metal Slug X (whose ROM is called “mslugx.zip”) that we want to put into the game, the image that will go inside the ” snap ” folder must be called “mslugx.jpg “Or” Mslugx.png.”

We will now be able to see the image appear together on the right when we select the game. It doesn’t affect the gameplay or configuration, or performance of our arcade emulator at all, but it makes the experience much more complete.

Since it is very difficult to manually add images for all games, there are packages with these screenshots on the Internet that will help us prepare our emulator with images for all ROMs. Of course, we have to keep in mind that 35,000 images is a lot, so it will take up considerable space on our PC.

How to hide the picture box

If we do not want to add images for all games, the unavailable image box can be hidden from the right panel in the MAME emulator so that it is not displayed. To do this, all we will do is open the configuration by pressing “Tab” and select Configuration options> Customize user interface, and we will change the option in the section “Show side panels”.

Now, when we return to our emulator, we will be able to see the new interface, focused only on emulating arcade games.

The MAME emulator has many more options that allow us, for example, to individually configure the operation of each gaming machine as some ROMs may have problems working in specific configurations. We can also see in the settings an option called “Plugins” that will allow us to enable or disable a series of plugins in the emulator, such as, for example, the cheat engine for games, the classic tricks.

MAME also hides many advanced options and development features for more geek users. We recommend that you consult the official documentation of this arcade emulator, but if what we are looking for is to download the emulator, games, and BIOS and start playing, we do not need this manual.

Download MAME games

MAME games are available in packages. The latest versions of these ROM packs take up around 65GB and basically include all the most classic arcade games, not including modern games or those that need a hard drive.

If we want to enjoy the latest MAME games, it is necessary to download, in addition to the ROMs, which is known as CHD. These are pictures of arcade machine hard drives that include the most modern and large game data for you to play. For example, the latest Street Fighter needs your CHD. The whole CHD arcade package takes up around 500GB. Also, most of them have redundant data or don’t work.

While there is no official site to download MAME games, we can download the ROMs for free and legally via the Internet Archive site. Or we can find the individual games on Planetemu or Emuparadise.

Types of ROMs and packages

When we go to download the MAME ROMs, we will find a series of terms that will surely bring us some confusion. The first thing that should be clear to us is that the PARENT  ROMs are the original ones, the romset of the original game. On the other hand, we have the CLONE ROMs,  which are different (modified) versions of the original ROMs. The change could have been made by a fan and look like a completely different game (hack) or simply imply a change in the legal notice (bootleg).

When choosing the ROM package, we can find the following types:

  • Non-joined sets– the complete romset. Each ROM has their own parent ROM included no matter if they are the original games or a clone. Any game can run on its own without relying on any other original ROMs. Obviously, this game pack takes up more space.
  • Set united– inside each zip, there are all the ROM parts and all the clones. It saves a lot of space, but removing a zip will completely remove the ROM and all its clones. This is the most convenient package if we don’t want complications.
  • Split Sets– This pack brings us the original roms on one side and the other’s clones. Inside the clones are only the modifications, but not the PARENT files. To reproduce a clone, we must also have the ZIP of the PARENT ROM.

What packages do I need to play on MAME

Depending on the type of MAME arcade console we are going to build and the games we are interested in, we can look for one or the other packages and therefore dedicate more or less space on our hard drive. When we talk about  ROMs, we are talking about arcade games, while when we talk about software lists we are referring to other platforms, such as PCs and consoles, which can also be played on MAME.

For example, if we play arcade games, we will  need:

  • Emulator.
  • EXTRA (optional- covers, screenshots, canopies, etc.)
  • Multimedia (optional- short videos, music, etc.).
  • ROM (mandatory).
  • CHD (optional, if we want great and new games).

In case we want to play the old arcade games, what we will need is:

  • Emulator
  • EXTRA (optional- covers, screenshots, etc.)
  • Multimedia (optional- short videos, music, etc.).
  • ROM. If possible, an “unmerged” package to have only the games’ zip files that interest us.

If we  play  to  console games on MAME, we must have:

  • Emulator
  • EXTRA (optional- covers, screenshots, etc.)
  • Multimedia (optional- short videos, music, etc.).
  • ROM.
  • ROM Software List.
  • List CHD software (optional, for great and new games).

If we are only interested in  some old console games, then it will be enough:

  • Emulator
  • EXTRA (optional- covers, screenshots, etc.)
  • Multimedia (optional- short videos, music, etc.).
  • ROM.
  • List of ROM software (download only the ZIPs of the desired games).

Finally, if we want to reproduce all MAME, we will have to download everything and reserve about 3 TB of space on the hard drive to be able to save everything:

  • Emulator
  • EXTRA (optional- covers, screenshots, etc.)
  • Multimedia (optional- short videos, music, etc.).
  • ROM.
  • CHD.
  • ROM Software List.
  • CHD Software List.

How to start a classic bar game on MAME

When you run the MAME, a list of ROMs available to play will appear. You just need to press enter to choose the game.

You will usually just type “OK” or press the left and right buttons to move between screens on the new screen.

As soon as you are in the game’s main screen, pressing the number 5 on the keyboard works as “insert coin”, remember that you emulate an arcade machine, you must have credits to play, pressing enter will not start the game.

To choose a player, press the number 1 or 2. The controls, in general, are quite simple, but you can review and change them even while you are playing. You can also configure a joystick to play more comfortably.

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About Author

Samuel Afolabi is a lazy tech-savvy that loves writing almost all tech-related kinds of stuff. He is the Editor-in-Chief of TechVaz. You can connect with him socially :)

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