MAME (originally stood for Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) is a multi-platform emulator that its main focus is accuracy and preservation. As the MAME Team once said, getting the games to work is a side effect.
Originally MAME could emulate just arcade games since there was an emulator that had the same focus as MAME that did consoles and computers known as MESS. MESS merged into MAME after the latter was about to be discontinued but a few passionate members saved the project and many arcade chips shared with console chips. Now MAME can emulate arcades, consoles, computers, slot/fruit machines, other gambling machines, LCD handhelds such as the Game & Watch and what Tiger worked on, even other types of equipment such as chess machines, popcorn machines and Android phones. Basically anything that has a processor inside.
While MAME does push for accuracy, there are issues with the games and not everything is accurate or indeed playable. A majority of the 2D arcade games that MAME emulates accurately however there are still games that aren't emulated well due to copy protection, a hard to emulate feature or just missing parts of an arcade machine that have yet to be found. An example, the System 32 have graphical glitches in some games and it is unknown why it glitches. Many have also taken years to emulate properly such as the Galeco games, PGM2, the copy protection in Taito games such as Operation Wolf, games by TAD/Seibu Kaihatsu (that weren't Cabal, Blood Bros or Dynamite Duke) and some still do not work such as Seibu Cup Soccer. For 3D however it is an entirely different case. Many 3D games require computers that are really powerful and some so far can not run the games at full speed, they are also not as emulated so they might have bugs, graphical glitches or crashes. Some like the Hyper Neo Geo 64 are very hard to emulate due to the design of the machine.
MAME is a command-line program meaning that it can be tricky to set up however there is help available. There are frontends such as QMC2 and forks of MAME such as MAMEUI to make it easier to set up. If you want to play, it is recommendable that you have the latest version due to ongoing improvements. If you are sprite ripping however there is a build of MAME where it dumps the tile viewer into BMP files however it is an old version (version 0.129) from 2009 so finding ROMS that work are harder and compatibility is much lower than the recent versions.
Since MAME can change the ROMS over time and new versions use the new ROM dumps, you would have to update them.
Currently supported systems
Naming all the systems that MAME can emulate is very long so the focus on here are the consoles, computers and the arcade side of MAME rather than the other electronics that it can emulate and ones that are emulated well enough.
- Acorn Archimedes
- Acorn Electron
- Amiga CD32
- Apple II
- Apple Macintosh
- Amstrad CPC
- Arcade - Up to the Chihiro system used in OutRun 2 for 3D and the PGM2 for 2D in terms of games that boot up/work. While MAME does have dumps from later arcade machines, they are not working and might take years to do so. The latest arcade games that MAME supports and works are the CAVE shoot em ups such as Akai Katana.
- Atari Lynx
- BBC Micro
- Casio PV-1000
- Commodore 64 - MAME can also emulate its unreleased update the Commodore 65.
- Dragon 32
- Fairchild Channel F
- FM Towns
- Game Boy
- Game Boy Advance
- Game Master
- Magnavox Odyssey²
- Master System
- Mega Duck
- NEC PC-FX
- Neo Geo
- Nintendo Entertainment System - Also the Play-Choice 10 and the VS arcade variations.
- Philips CD-i
- SAM Coupe
- Sega Genesis - Also the Mega-Tech and the Mega Play arcade variations, they aren't fully working due to an issue.
- Sega Saturn - Also its arcade counterpart, the STV.
- Super A'Can
- Super Cassette Vision
- Super Nintendo Entertainment System - Also its arcade counterpart.
- Tatung Einstein
- TRS-80 Color Computer
- TurboGrafx-16 - Also the Tourvision arcade where it is similar to the Play-Choice 10 or the Mega-Tech.
- ZX Spectrum
Some like the Apple II are considered the go to emulator because of its accuracy and in a few cases, MAME is your only option in emulating these systems. Many of the consoles and computers that MAME emulates however is recommended to go for other emulators due to compatibility, sprite ripping features or easier to use such as the NES, SNES or the Genesis. Some like the Nintendo 64, PlayStation 2, Gamecube and the Xbox are at a very early state.