MAME on the Mac in 2011 -- best method?

Discussion in 'Mac and PC Games' started by Vercingetorix, Sep 19, 2011.

  1. Vercingetorix macrumors regular

    Jan 17, 2007
    Atlanta, USA
    So I want to set up MAME for the first time in a bunch of years. I've got a new iMac running Lion. Looking into it, all my options appear to suck. As I see it, I can:

    A) Run MAME OS X, which is easy to set up, appears to run okay, but which has been permanently orphaned at version 0.135. Since I've got to go back and go through the hassle of acquiring ROMs again, I'm worried about ending up with mismatched ROMs, which is by far the most annoying thing about MAME.

    B) Run SDLMAME, which is supposedly kept updated. But then you have to either deal with the inconvenience and learning curve of launching it from a Unix shell, or use a front-end, and if there's a user-friendly OS X front-end for SDLMAME which doesn't suck out loud, I can't find it. I'm by no means scared of, but that just sounds like a lot more hassle than I'm willing to go through so my son and I can play Centipede and Space Invaders.

    C) Punt and run MAME in Parallels, if the performance is up to snuff. (I haven't checked yet.)

    Any other options I haven't listed? What do you guys do?
  2. gooch3265, Sep 19, 2011
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2011

    gooch3265 macrumors member

    Sep 14, 2011
    Victoria, Australia
    I have been using MAME OSX.

    Could not get my head around SDLMAME.

    MAME works fine under Fusion 4. Haven't tried it with Parallels. Should also work fine on Bootcamp.
  3. msalman macrumors member

    Jun 12, 2009
    I tried running MAME on Lion few weeks ago but lion didn't let me. It was complaining that it's not for an intel based computers.

    I did use MAME on Parallels, 2 years back when I didn't not about MAME OS X version, and it seemed to run fine back then. I haven't tried since then.
  4. Vercingetorix thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 17, 2007
    Atlanta, USA
    MacMAME is the old PPC version; that's definitely not an option on Lion. MAME OS X still works fine under Lion. My only concern is that since it's permanently stuck several versions back of the current MAME, it might be a constant hassle to deal with mismatched versions of ROMs. Since I'm basically starting out from scratch, I'd much prefer to go with a MAME port that's currently maintained. On OS X, that apparently currently means SDLMAME -- but if there's well written how-to to get that set up, I can't find it.

    Tried MAMEUI (the current mainstream MAME Windows port) out under Parallels today, and it seemed to run okay. It's unsatisfying but that's what I may go with if I can't come up with anything else.
  5. Hansr macrumors 6502a

    Apr 1, 2007
  6. Vercingetorix thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 17, 2007
    Atlanta, USA
    I found MAME_Tunes to be absolutely impenetrable. I couldn't even get it to scan my directory of old ROMs to see what I had at all. I found this how-to, which looked potentially useful, but I still couldn't make any headway at all. And the app itself was so unintuitive, so annoyingly poorly translated into English, etc., that after 20 minutes or so of failure I just threw my hands up in the air and said, it's not worth it. I downloaded another frontend, but it looked like garbage too.

    I don't doubt that SDLMAME is the way to go, theoretically, but I don't think there's a frontend that doesn't suck, and I am just too lazy and time-constrained to get into launching games in the terminal with command switches and everything.

    Really a bummer that MAME OS X has been orphaned. Because it was pretty close to perfect.
  7. Vercingetorix thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 17, 2007
    Atlanta, USA
    Finally had a chance to try QMC2 out. It works, I'll give it that. It is not hard to set up. But man, it's a Linux application. It's ugly. It's unintuitive. It is to MAME OS X as browsing the web on a Palm Treo is to using an iPad.

    After looking at all the options, I guess what I'm going to do is A) keep using MAME OS X as my primary emulator, and B) maintain an SDLMAME/QMC2 setup on the side so I'll be ready for the inevitable day when something breaks MAME OS X for good -- an OS X update, mismatched ROMs, whatever.

    There are no really good options for MAME on a Mac these days, unfortunately.
  8. zeasar macrumors regular


    Jun 15, 2008
    Norn Iron
    I ran into the exact same problems facing OP, here's what I found so far.

    Mame OSX is very out dated and a lot of the roms dont work. (I can confirm 1 rom tht works, and that is 1 more than all other options I tried.)

    Tried SDLMAME with all the gui frontend i can find, M+ installs and looks fine but cant find any rom or bios files on hd. QMC2 has a nasty installation process, leaves redundant files in (both) the application support folder(s) when I tried to deleted it. Other GUIs dont even cut it.

    I guess I would have to bootcamp it in the future, mame on mac is pretty dead right now.
  9. kaioshade macrumors regular


    Nov 24, 2010
    Use SDLMame, so much better than the others.

    It really is not that bad to open terminal, go to the directory, and type ./mame
    No frontends, no hassle, just enjoying the roms. Make a config file, edit that to your hearts content and enjoy. Use my dualshock3, with absolutely no problems.
  10. lostless macrumors 6502

    Oct 22, 2005
    Im running MAME UI 32 for windows through crossover games. Runs perfectly as if I'm running the windows version and no need to reboot. I find the latest MAME OSX slow for many games.
  11. Vercingetorix thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 17, 2007
    Atlanta, USA
    Wanted to revisit this thread with some of my experiences a couple months down the road. An SDLMAME update came out; I installed it; I changed the path to the executable in the fronted I was using (QMC2). Should have been a no-brainer. But for whatever reason, changing that path absolutely froze up the frontend -- locked up as soon as it opened. I looked around and discovered that there was an "updated" version of QMC2. Got it, downloaded it -- and wow, is it awful. Much worse than it even was before.

    So, for anyone who comes across this thread looking for a MAME solution, here's the bottom line as of now:

    1. The only remotely "Mac-like" way to use MAME on a Mac is MAME OS X, which was orphaned several years ago. It'll still work fine, as long as you can find versions of the ROMS for the games you want to play that are compatible with it. But ultimately this is a dead end.

    2. SDLMAME is frequently updated and works great. But all of the front ends that claim to run on a Mac are absolute garbage. Don't waste your time or soil your machine with any of them. Kaioshade a couple of posts above is right; it only took a few minutes to figure out how to set up a config file and launch SDLMAME from the terminal, and once you get that set up, it really isn't much more difficult than launching a frontend. Believe me, the only thing the available frontends add to the process is the ability to click a mouse. They actually increase complexity rather than reducing it.

    It really is a shame.
  12. daze macrumors 6502


    Mar 11, 2006
    San Jose, California
    This was very helpful. Thanks for putting this information together.
  13. ScottishCaptain macrumors 6502a

    Oct 4, 2008
    A few things...

    1) SDLMAME is now part of MAME. It's the same thing that you get when you download the source code from, if that wasn't already apparent. Whenever MAME is updated, SDLMAME is updated too because they're the same thing. "SDLMAME" is really just the SDL backend for MAME that they use on non-Windows platforms (Windows builds of MAME use their own Direct X based backend instead). So don't get confused when you can't find SDLMAME as a separate product- for all intensive purposes, SDLMAME *is* MAME now.

    2) MAME OS X was abandoned a long time ago. Someone on Github recently (read: within a year) hacked up the MAME OS X source to compile with a more recent version of MAME (after the MAME guys switched to C++... The old versions of MAME were C only, and when MAME OS X was abandoned it was right around the time they transitioned from C to C++).

    You can find that version here:

    It is not really that stable, but it kinda works. You'll have to compile it yourself. God help you if you want to make any sense of the XCode project though, it's a complete mess.

    3) If you can wait for a while, the OpenEmu project is coming along quite nicely. OpenEmu is a flexible multi-engine emulator GUI for OS X (native Cocoa), which you can get the source code for on Github:

    Their primary webpage is:

    And they have a twitter account over at:

    They don't support MAME right now, but a MAME core is planned for the near future since a lot of people have been demanding it (and there's already partial support in OpenEmu for arcade related things). More then likely, once the MAME core is done and working under OpenEmu- this will represent the cleanest and easiest to use solution for playing MAME under OS X.

    4) MAME works fine under Parallels and VMware Fusion (tested personally). If you do this, then you can use MAME's Direct X backend (instead of SDL) which gives you their snazzy HLSL CRT emulator to make your stuff look all retro. The only problem I've found with running it inside a VM is that it does introduce a very, very tiny amount of lag. Most people won't notice, but if you're a hardcore shmups freak who froths at the mouth when anyone mentions a CAVE game, then you probably will notice so virtual machines should be avoided.

    There are of course other GUIs for SDLMAME (which are simply launchers that pass SDLMAME the appropriate command line arguments) like QMC2 and M+. YMMV though, most of these have whacked dependencies on libraries like GTK or QT which is a total pain in the butt to deal with under OS X. Honestly, if you don't want to wait for OpenEmu to support MAME, and you don't want to run a VM, your best bet is to just compile MAME yourself from the sources (which gets you a copy of SDLMAME). Yeah, you'll have to run it through but who cares.

  14. voodoostyle macrumors newbie

    Aug 6, 2013
    Sorry to bump an old thread but I was looking for a bit of help on SDLMAME. I've managed to boot it using Terminal and the ./mame64 command prompt and have downloaded a few roms and put them in the rom folder.

    Here is the problem.
    Each game comes up with a box saying 'selected game is missing one or more CHD or Rom images'

    I take it this means the roms are out of date with this latest version, I presume this means that I have to update them using something like clrmame (which doesn't work on the mac??)

    Does anyone have any help/ideas? would be great if so.

  15. Washac macrumors 68020


    Jul 2, 2006
  16. voodoostyle macrumors newbie

    Aug 6, 2013
    Thanks for the response, I've downloaded MAME OSX and put my roms in the roms folder in ~/Library/ApplicationSupport/roms as zip files

    When I try and open them through MAME OSX it loads up to 60-90% (depending on specific rom) then says that 'some files are missing.'

    Any ideas?
  17. Washac macrumors 68020


    Jul 2, 2006
    Top of the MAME window you have ALL, GOOD and FAVOURITES

    Not used it for a while but from what I recall you have to Audit the Roms you have, Menu bar top of your screen File/Audit All Games. Then from what I also recall it puts games into the GOOD section, they will all work OK, games in the ALL section will be good and bad as in will not work because they are broken (missing files etc).

    Hope that helps

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