There are lots of emulators out there for playing lots of old video game consoles and computer systems but the most famous and most well-developed one is MAME – the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator. MAME is a non-commercial labor of love started back in 1997 to preserve classic arcade games and is still being developed and played by an active community. Currently MAME emulates over 7000 games – about half of which are original titles and half of which are clones or foreign builds of the original titles.
There are a number of MAME front-ends and alternate builds that provide additional features not provided in the native MAME code - my favorite is MAMEUIFX, mostly because it provides high-score save support for games without NVRAM support (generally older games). I also run Hyperspin on my MAME cabinet as a front-end for MAME and other emulators but that is for a later post. So let's start off this trip down memory lane with a simple but timeless classic - Galaga.
1. Click HERE to download the MAMEUIFX installation file (mameuifx32_0137.exe). Double-click and follow the prompts to install - put it in its own folder because it expands into a number of files and folders. I recommend leaving the box checked to create a desktop shortcut. Once MAMEUIFX is installed you can delete the original installation file.
2. Click HERE to download the Galaga ROM file (galaga.zip) and save it into the "roms" folder in your MAME installation folder. Do NOT unzip the file - leave it as a .zip file.
3. Run MAMEUIFX32 and after the MAME screen opens up hit F5 to refresh the list of games. If you have a PC joystick you can also plug that in and use that to control your games; otherwise you will just have to use the keyboard.
4. You will probably start off in the "All Games" folder on the left of the screen which shows a ton of games - none of which you have yet. So click on the folder right below that titled "Available" and you will see Galaga as your one available game in the big middle screen.
5. Double-click “Galaga" in the middle screen to run the game. When the intro screen to the ROM shows up just type OK (or hit the left-right keys) to proceed. Then another menu showing technical specs on the game shows up - hit any key to skip by this and then the actual game screen appears (FINALLY!).
6. In MAME the "5" key indicates inserting a coin in the Player 1 slot and the "1" key is the Player 1 start button. So.... push 5 to pop in a virtual quarter and then push 1 to start a 1-player game and you are off to the races!
7. The left and right controls of the joystick are controlled by your left and right directional keys and the fire button is the left Ctrl key. All these buttons can be customized to other keys if you wish but we won’t get into that right now.
8. If your game is over you will need to hit 5 to put in another quarter and then 1 to start another game (or 2 if you want to play a 2-player game - but that will cost 2 virtual quarters!). If you are ready to quit playing just hit the Esc key. An exit confirmation screen will appear and you just need to hit Enter to quit (or Esc again to cancel the quit and keep playing).
Enjoy and let me know what you think or if you have any questions!