For the uninitiated, there’s an amazing piece of software out there known as the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator, or MAME. As the name suggestions, MAME is designed to emulate the hardware of old arcade machines, so that you can run their software on modern PCs. The compatibility of MAME varies from game to game and system to system, but for the most part it can play anything that came out in the 80s and 90s.
There’s a problem however. MAME was originally developed as a DOS application, and has been heavily Windows focused since its inception. Various ports of it exist for other platforms now (including mobile devices such as the iPhone), but the optimal platform for MAME is still Windows. Thankfully, you’re not out of luck if you’d like to run it on a Mac.
MAME is open source, so theoretically you can compile it for any platform you’d like. In practice however, meeting all the dependencies and configuring your complier is outside of the scope of the average user. Because of this, people have made precompiled binary packages.
If you’ve Googled around enough to find this article, you’ve probably heard of MacMAME and MAME OS X by now. Unfortunately, these programs are both woefully out of date. MacMAME hasn’t been updated since 2006, and MAME OS X hasn’t been updated since 2009. MAME OS X has a pretty nice interface, and still does a pretty dutiful job of emulating games, so if all you’re trying to do is play Pac-Man, go give it a try. If you start running into issues / slow downs however, you’ll need to use a more recent version of MAME.
The version of MAME you want to download is known as SDLMAME [Temporary Mirror]. SDL, or Simple DirectMedia Layer is a cross platform framework which provides OpenGL with access to a system’s hardware, and is required for SDLMAME. Thankfully, it’s also free and open source, and can be downloaded from their website.
Once you download the Mac Runtime Library, mount the .dmg file. Open a Finder window and browse to /Library/Frameworks, then copy the SDL.framework folder into it. That’s all their is to it. You can unmount and delete the SDL .dmg file now.
Oh no! What’s this!? This isn’t a .dmg…! It’s… it’s a folder! Full of things that most certainly aren’t applications!
Relax! MAME and SDLMAME are a type of software known as “Command Line Applications”. Unlike your favorite web browser, text editor, or email client, MAME doesn’t have a graphical user interface. For now, put the folder some place you’ll remember, such as your User folder, or your Documents folder.
Now we need to open up the aforementioned command line. Go to your Applications folder, then the Utilities folder, and launch Terminal. How to use the terminal is outside of the scope of this application, but all you really need to know at this point is how to move between folders. type “cd foldername” to move into a folder, “cd ..” to move up a folder, and “ls” to list the files and folders in a folder.
Use your newfound Terminal skills to move to the SDLMAME folder you downloaded earlier. You’ll notice an filed called mame64. This is what we’ve been working towards this whole time. Type “./mame64″ to launch MAME.
If you see this screen… Congratulations! MAME is working! It just isn’t configured yet. Continue onto Part 2 of this guide for how to properly configure MAME.