How to install MAME and enjoy this arcade game emulator on Linux

MAME on Linux

These days I have been reminded of those arcade games of the '80s and' 90s. After some time scoring goals and winning matches, I have looked to see if there was any information here on Linux Addicts and I was surprised that there was not, so I decided to write an article about how to install MAME on Linux and how to fix some problems with ROMs (games).

Installing MAME on Linux is very simple. In fact, it has been around for several years now. available in the official repositories of many distros, so installing it is just a command away. If any distribution does not have it available by default, we can also add an unofficial repository or install its Snap package. Below you have explained the different options and some trick for games that do not start.

How to install MAME on Linux

From the official repositories

The first thing we must test is if it is available in the official repositories of our distribution. In Ubuntu and derivatives the command is as follows:

sudo apt install mame

From the unofficial repository

If when entering the message it shows an error, we probably do not have the emulator available in the repositories of our distribution, so we will add an unofficial one with the following command:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:c.falco/mame

After adding the repository, we will write this other command:

sudo apt update && sudo apt install mame

From your Snap package

MAME is also available as a Snap package. If our distribution is compatible with these Canonical packages, installing it is as simple as typing this other command:

sudo snap install mame

How to add ROMs to MAME

Once MAME is installed, what we will have will be an emulator without any games. The games we have to add them manually, but it is something very simple. The "difficult" thing is to find them: for reasons that everyone can understand, we cannot provide any link to pages that offer these ROMs, but finding them is as simple as accessing our favorite search engine and searching for something like "mame roms". Dozens of web pages will appear and all of them will allow us to download ROMs for MAME and, in some cases, for other emulators.

Where put the ROMs it will depend on the operating system and the version downloaded. If we have installed it from a repository, be it official or unofficial, we have to put the ROMs in the path ~ / mame / roms, where "~ /" is our personal folder; if the "mame" folder is not there, we create it manually. As we read in snapcraft.io, the path for the Snap version is ~ / snap / mame / common / roms. If we want to put the ROMs in another path, we have to edit the file mame.this for the software to search the new path.

Related article:
GNOME Video Arcade: interface for MAME

My ROM does not start. What I can do?

The worst thing about MAME, without a doubt, is that not all ROMs work on all versions of the software. There are cases, especially if we use the "mobile" version, in which we have to look for updated ROMs, but this problem does not usually occur in the desktop version. What can happen is that we try to run a game and it does not work because we are missing a file. There are two possible options, one easier to solve than the other.

The first and most likely is that a game does not work because we don't have your BIOS available. BIOSes are small files necessary for, let's put it like this, software to be compatible with certain games. For example, NEO-GEO games don't usually work if we don't add their BIOS. The best way to solve this problem is, once again, go to our favorite search engine and search for something like "all mame bios". There are files that gather all or almost all the necessary BIOSes and all we have to do is get one and unzip all the ZIPs in the same folder «roms» where we put the games.

Another problem that we can find is that a game does not start because it is missing a file. This is more difficult to fix. One option is to find another ROM to see if it works directly. If not, we can do the following:

  1. We search the internet for the files that the error message says are missing.
  2. We unzip the ZIP of the ROM that does not work.
  3. We compress the game back into a ZIP containing what the original game contained and the files that we searched for and downloaded in step 1.
  4. We put the exact same name as the original ZIP (for example, aof.zip for the game Art of Fighting).
  5. We put it in the "roms" folder and pray that everything goes well.

Do you already know how to install MAME on Linux? What are your favorite classic games?


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  1.   Michael Mayol said

    It is always a pleasure to read about MAME, thanks for writing about this great emulator.

    As I have been using it since its beginnings and I follow its evolution quite a bit, I suggest you add ...

    QMC2
    https://qmc2.batcom-it.net/

    That it is cross-platform and it is a much easier way to enjoy MAME on Linux

    Another is Retroarch combined with KODI and the IAGL Internet Archive Game Launcher plugin which is to say "The Internet Archive Game Menu" that not only has MAME games; and that in Android tablets and mobiles is more recommended due to the saving in storage space.

    I hope to read future parts or future versions of this article picking up these alternatives.

  2.   Michael Mayol said

    It is always a pleasure to read about MAME, thanks for writing about this great emulator.

    As I have been using it since its beginnings and I follow its evolution quite a bit, I suggest you add ...

    QMC2
    https://qmc2.batcom-it.net/

    That it is cross-platform and it is a much easier way to enjoy MAME on Linux

    Another is Retroarch combined with KODI and the IAGL Internet Archive Game Launcher plugin which is to say "The Internet Archive Game Menu" that not only has MAME games; and that in Android tablets and mobiles is more recommended due to the saving in storage space.

    I hope to read future parts or future versions of this article picking up these alternatives.

    1.    alexb3d said

      QMC2 is a marvel, it is native to Linux and the development is a bit stopped but it works perfectly, for the classic interface it is ideal.

      RetroArch is the option I use (without additives like kodi), it greatly improves the emulation in precision and speed.

      and the latest JRomManager to manage the roms.

  3.   alexb3d said

    Install the QMC2 frontend, it's navito on Linux and it's a marvel.

  4.   genin said

    Does anyone know to enable MAME cheats on Linux? It is assumed that now you have to take a .zip file that contains the cheats in .xml format and put it in the CHEAT folder either in the one in / usr / local / share / games / mame / cheat or in the one in / usr / share / games / mame / cheat or the one in / usr / share / games / mame / plugins / cheat, upon activation by modifying the ui.ini file in /home/username/.mame.
    The problem is that I modify the ui.ini by adding the cheat line and the value 1 to activate it, but when opening the MAME it self-modifies it leaving it as it was and thus it is impossible to activate the cheats.
    Any ideas or alternative way to activate them?