So you wanna play MAME on OSX?

October 10, 2012 10:05 am

Sadly for us retro fans, playing MAME on later versions of OSX with recent rom sets isn’t quite as simple as it sounds. It’s not difficult, just not “double click an app to play” simple.

For me, to play the latest versions of MAME, I use three things. SDLmame, SDL Libraries, and a front-end app like QMC2.

The SDLmame binary is an up-to-update compiled version of MAME that you can download and drop in any folder. Mine sits in /Applications/Games/<latest SDLmame version> If you’re using a recent Mac, and I mean like back to 2008 or something, you can grab the 64-bit binary, as OSX and Macs have been 64-bit happy for a while.

But the SDLmame alone is not enough. SDL Libraries are the key to making the above binary work, as they provide a layer that handles all the joystick, video and audio at the hardware level. This is just a folder that you install by dragging it into /Library/Frameworks in the root of your drive, so it’s available to all users. You can put it in ~/Library/Frameworks if you so desire. This may interfere with compiling Xcode stuff if you dev, so beware.

With the SDL frameworks you can use pretty much any joystick, so I use my PS3 Mad Catz fight sticks for me and the boy.

And finally, if you’re not a terminal happy cmd-line geek, and I’m not, you’ll need a front-end app. All a front-end app does is allow you to check buttons and select options, which is then written as the config file and variables are passed to the MAME app when launching a game. Personally, I’d go with QMC2 as it’s as nice as it gets, regularly updated, and works cross platform too, so I’ve had it running on Ubuntu just as well.

Download the disk image, install the package. You’ll need to dig around in the config to enable joysticks and tweak a few options if you need, but it’s ready to go off the bat. Select the location of your SDLmame folder, select your roms folder, off you go.

I have found that I need to trash the qmc2 folder in ~/Library/Application Support/ after some updates, so if you do have a problem, bin that and start again.

That’s it really. Not difficult to get set up, and you can stay up-to-date with the latest MAME versions.

Oh, and you’re on your own for roms…

by Jake

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  • Pablo Woods

    Hi, great blog. I am trying to get this up and running but everytime I go to start up one of the roms on sdlmame I get the following message “selected game is missing one or more ROM or CHD images” Do you have ny idea what the issue could be?? cheers in advance!

  • http://systemerror.co.uk Jake Smith

    Could be that the version of the ROMs is too old for the newer MAME binaries… I’ll just leave this here — http://archive.org/details/MAME_0.149_ROMs

  • Sunday Grind

    FATAL: selected executable file is not UME ?

    *le sigh

  • http://systemerror.co.uk Jake Smith

    Fun! Basically QMC2 is saying that the binary you’ve selected isn’t a MAME binary. Did you download the MESS binary by accident? Run the right QMC2 app? I know, stupid questions, but the stuff “should work”.

    Try deleting the qmc2 folder in Application Support and redownload/relink the binary to try again.

    Let me know how it goes.

  • Sunday Grind

    Thanx for the help
    I downloaded MAME OS X and was playing games within minutes of installing.

  • http://systemerror.co.uk Jake Smith

    MAME OS X is great, and I love the CRT filters, but if you’re using some newer rom sets, it may have issues.