Linux Arcade System

Jarret B

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May 22, 2017
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How about turning your Linux system into an arcade system? Making your computer into an arcade system can make for some interesting fun. Actual arcade games that everyone had to pump quarters into all day and get nowhere, you can now do it at home without the need for quarters.

Debian (Linux Mint)

To install the Multiple Machine Arcade Emulator (MAME), you need to perform the following commands:

1. sudo add-apt-repository ppa:faco/mame
2. sudo apt-get update
3. duso apt-get install mame
4. mame -createconfig

NOTE: If Step #1 gives an error then run 'sudo apt-get install software-properties-common'. Once done, try Step #1 again.

In a terminal when you type the command 'mame -createconfig', it creates a default configuration file in '/home/username/.mame'. MAME should be installed and ready to go with a few configuration changes and at least one game ROM for the emulator to load when it is started. Check below for the section 'Configuration Changes'.

Redhat (CentOS 6)

To install SDLMAME, you need to perform the following steps:

  1. download the file
  2. sudo rpm -Uvh rpmforge-release-0.5.3-1.el6.rf.i686.rpm
  3. sudo yum install sdlmame
  4. sdlmame -createconfig

NOTE: If you have a different OS version or even 64-bit, go to and then follow the folders pertaining to your OS and architecture. The file name in Step #2 will change according to the file you download.

SDLMAME should be installed now and will require a few configuration tweaks to make it run properly as well as a game ROM to load when started. Set #4 creates the config file called 'sdlmame.ini' in the HOME folder. Continue on with the section 'Configuration Changes'.

Configuration Changes

Once installed, the default configuration settings must be changed to allow for better play.
Let's start with setting up the folders needed. In your users HOME folder, create a folder called 'mame'. Inside the 'mame' and the '.mame' folder create the following folders:


Inside the mame.ini file is the Core Search Path Options. These can all stay the same, but the 'rompath' needs to be set to '/home/username/mame/roms'. Also, make sure the path to the INI file is correct. About half way down the INI file is a section for 'OSD VIDEO OPTIONS' or 'VIDEO OPTIONS'. A setting here for 'video' has an option set for 'opengl'. Change 'opengl' to 'soft'. Without this setting any ROM using vector graphics will not display correctly.
Once all edits have been made to the INI file, make sure it is saved and then exit the text editor. Figure 1 shows the MAME.INI for MAME and Figure 2 shows the SDLMAME.INI for SDLMAME.

Figure 01.jpg


Figure 02.jpg


NOTE: Remember that id SDLMAME generates errors about files missing it is most likely due to an incorrect ROMPATH.


Hopefully everything has been set up correctly so far. If it has been then all you need is a ROM. A ROM is the Read-Only Memory, or the chip, inside the original arcade game. The ROM chip held the commands that made the game. Most of these have been copied to ROM files and can now be played on a MAME system – which includes SDLMAME. Before we start into the ROMs themselves, you will need a few BIOS files. Certain games relied on the code present on separate chips. The links to the BIOS chips are as follows:

MAME BIOS Pack (includes Neo Geo)

Download all of these and place them in your 'roms' folder. You do not have to uncompress them, except for the MAME BIOS Pack. The MAME BIOS Pack is a compressed collection of BIOS files which each are in their own zip file.
Once you have the BIOS files, you are ready to start getting ROMS. To download a ROM, you must have the legal right to use it. The ROM must be either free or you have some claim of ownership or right to use it. I compiled a collection of ROMs from the top 10 Arcade Games, Top 10 Classic Arcade Games and the Top 10 Grossing Arcade Games. Since some are on multiple lists, there are only a total of 18 Arcade Game ROMs. The game and a link are as follows:

1. Star Wars (rev 2)
2. Tempest (rev 3)
3. Pac-Man
4. Ms. Pac-Man
5. Galaga
6. Donkey Kong (both files are needed)
Donkey Kong (Set 1)
Donkey Kong (Set 2)
7. Dig Dug
8. Asteroids
9. Defender (Red Label)
10. Tron (all four files are needed)
Tron (8/9)
Tron (6/25)
Tron (6/17)
Tron (6/15)
11. Centipede
12. Space Invaders
13. Street Fighter II – Champion Edition'_-_Champion_Edition_(World_920313)/16389
14. NBA Jam
15. Mortal Kombat
16. Mortal Kombat II
17. Street Fighter II – World Warrior
18. Gauntlet

The list contains the 18 popular games and BIOS files to run them. There are many more ROMS around the Internet. Some ROM files can be less than a megabyte (which run fine). Some ROMs are more than a megabyte, like the Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter games, which can run a little slow.


The basic controls to get you started with MAME and SDLMAME are as follows:

5, 6, 7, 8 Insert coin (can be for each player 1-4)
1. 1, 2, 3, 4 Start button for Players 1-4
F3 Game reset
F7 Load saved game from slot 1-10
Left Shift + F7 Save game to slot 1-10
F10 Speed throttle to speed up game
F12 Saves image of game to snapshot folder
ESC Exit game
Arrow keys Move Player 1
Left CTRL Fire 1 (Player 1)
Left ALT Fire 2 (Player 1)
SPACE Fire 3 (Player 1)
Left SHIFT Fire 4 (Player 1)
Z Fire 5 (Player 1)
X Fire 6 (Player 1)
R, F, G, D Move Player 2
A Fire 1 (Player 2)
S Fire 2 (Player 2)
Q Fire 3 (Player 2)
W Fire 4 (Player 2)
TAB Menu for specific game

By pressing the TAB key after a ROM is loaded you can change the Input for MAME and SDLMAME or just for the loaded game.

Starting the Emulator

MAME is started by typing 'mame' in a terminal and pressing enter. You will be taken into a menu system where you can use the arrow keys to find a ROM or you can type the ROM name. The ROM name is the name before the '.zip' on the ROM you downloaded.
SDLMAME is started by typing 'sdlmame ROM-name' from a terminal. The ROM-name is the name before the '.zip' in the filename. For example, to load Tron you would type 'sdlmame tron'. Since SDLMAME is completely command line you can download a front-end Graphical User Interface (GUI) to make it easier to load ROMs.
I hope you enjoy the classic arcade games. Happy Gaming!
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