Welcome to NonMAME!

NonMAME documents the best open-source emulator for any given system, with priority given to MAME due to its comprehensive scope. This primarily involves arcade, computer, console and handheld systems.

This site represents an enormous undertaking involving tons of research with developers, discussions with the user community, and countless hours of testing. NonMAME seeks to broaden understanding of extant emulation resources in the hopes that MAME developers and users alike may find benefit.

Bearing in mind that a great deal of information posted here comes from our readers, we strongly encourage any and all comments, questions, suggestions for better emulators etc. You can reach us via email here.


What's New
  • 04/15/17: Updated supported systems in Model 3-Based Hardware (Arcade) section.
  • 04/14/17: Added Nintendo 3DS, Wii U and ZN-Based Hardware: Primal Rage II (Arcade) sections.
  • 08/22/16: Changed Saturn recommendation to RetroArch (Mednafen Saturn Core).
  • 05/06/16: Added several systems to the "Driven to Maturity section that had been missing since the site reorganization last year.
  • 02/07/16: Changed Dreamcast recommendation to RetroArch's Reicast core.
  • 09/14/15: Updated Nintendo 64 section with a reference to CEN64 thanks to a suggestion from one of our readers.
  • 08/21/15: Added Xbox 360 section to include Xenia, a new and promising Xbox 360 emulator (do we see a pattern here?) and updated the Dreamcast section in accordance with recent Reicast developments.
  • 08/07/15: Added Xbox section to include XQEMU, a new and promising Xbox emulator.
  • 06/01/15: Removed Breakout from the Discrete Circuitry-Based Hardware: Miscellaneous section per the MAME .162 release, which supports this game now.
  • 05/29/15: With release .162, MAME officially consolidates arcade and non-arcade system drivers as UME previously accomplished unofficially. We believe this is a great step forward in many respects; and it demonstrates the maturity and increasing sophistication of this important preservation effort. Furthermore, the move to re-license MAME as a full open-source effort should also prove beneficial in gathering more developer attention and code/knowledge sharing among a wider base. With this consolidation, all site material has moved from ConsUME back to NonMAME where we started. We are aware of some confusion that has arisen as a result, and we sincerely apologize. If it's any consolation, please be aware that nothing else about the resources available here have changed!

Site Information

Evaulation criteria for the best emulator of a given system is as follows (in order of importance):

  1. Open-source status and availability: Only emulators that are open-source and run natively in Linux (the OS behind the NonMAME baseline reference system noted below) will be documented
  2. Accuracy: The ability to emulate the functions of the target system as faithfully as possible
  3. Speed: The ability to deliver an emulated experience at the same speed as the original hardware given the limitations of the NonMAME baseline reference system noted below
  4. Features: Support for certain functions that aren't core to the original experience such as gamepad rumble, shaders, networking, etc.
  5. Usability: The ease in which the emulator may be accessed by the "average user" assuming minimal computer knowledge
  6. Survivability: The emulator's long-term potential, commonly measured by the frequency in which the emulator is updated

MAME driver status documented for each system matches actual MAME nomenclature as follows:

  • Non-existent: There is no driver for this system.
  • Preliminary: An early driver exists. This often represents skeleton drivers under which most software will not run, though some systems may actually launch and load software on a limited basis.
  • Imperfect: Progress has been made, but the driver is far from complete. Software may run under the driver, though some titles may run slowly or with problems.
  • Good: Most software should run with little or no problems. With a bit more improvement, the driver will reach parity with its "competitors", and if the system is not represented on arcade hardware, it will be documented in the "Driven to Maturity" section. The optimal situation, of course, is for no systems to exist in the main section of NonMAME - meaning that MAME supports all systems as good or better than all other emulators - but don't hold your breath!

Specifications of the current baseline reference system used in testing is as follows:

  • Linux Mint 18.1 x64
  • Intel Haswell (four 2.5ghz CPUs)
  • 8GB RAM
Latest MAME version tested: 0.184

Driven to Maturity

The following are non-arcade systems which MAME emulates as good as, if not better than, any other emulator according to our evaluation criteria. Given that there are tens of thousands of systems in MAME, with potentially hundreds of thousands to come, only systems that have known "competition" to MAME will be cited here. This is an experimental section and may be removed if people misunderstand its intent. Please note this does not mean any of these systems are "perfectly emulated" either - emulation is never truly perfect!

Please join us in extending thanks to the MAME team for their hard work and dedication to this effort, without which such accurate emulation would not be possible.

  • Acorn (Series) (Computer)
  • ADAM (Computer)
  • Alice32 (Computer)
  • Altair 8800 (Computer)
  • Amstrad CPC (Computer)
  • Apple II (Non-IIGS) (Computer)
  • Apple IIGS (Computer)
  • Aquarius (Computer)
  • Arcadia 2001 (Console)
  • Archimedes (Series) (Computer)
  • Atari 400/800 Series (Computer)
  • Atari 2600 (Console)
  • Atari 5200 (Console)
  • Atari 7800 (Console)
  • CD-i (Console)
  • Central Data 2650 (Computer)
  • ColecoVision (Console)
  • CPS Changer (Console)
  • CreatiVision (Computer)
  • Cybiko (Handheld)
  • Dreamcast Visual Memory System (Handheld)
  • FM Towns Marty (Console)
  • Game Boy (Handheld)
  • Game Boy Advance (Handheld)
  • Game Gear (Handheld)
  • Genesis (Console)
  • Instructor 50 (Computer)
  • Intellivision (Console)
  • JR-200U (Computer)
  • Lynx (Handheld)
  • Macintosh (Non-PowerPC)
  • Master System (Console)
  • MC-10 (Computer)
  • MO Series (Computer)
  • MSX Series (Computer)
  • MZ (Series) (Below 2000) (Computer)
  • MZ-2000 (Computer)
  • MZ-2500 (Computer)
  • Neo Geo AES (Console)
  • Neo Geo CD (Console)
  • Odyssey2 (Console)
  • Othello Multivision (Console)
  • PC-6001 (Series) (Computer)
  • PC98 (Series) (Computer)
  • Pico (Handheld)
  • PIPBUG-based Systems (Computer)
  • PocketStation (Handheld)
  • RX-78 (Computer)
  • Sega Computer 3000 (SC-3000) (Computer)
  • Sega Game 1000 (SG-1000) (Console)
  • Sega Super Control Station (SF-7000) (Computer)
  • Studio II (Console)
  • SuperGrafx (Console)
  • SuperVision (Handheld)
  • TO Series (Computer)
  • TurboGrafx 16 (Console)
  • TurboGrafx CD (Console)
  • TV Games Computer (Console)
  • VC 4000 (Console)
  • Vectrex (Handheld)
  • Videopac+ G7400 (Console)
  • WonderSwan (Handheld)
  • X1 (Computer)
  • X68000 (Computer)
  • ZX Spectrum (Computer)

32X (Console)
MAME Driver Status: Preliminary
Best Emulator: RetroArch (PicoDrive Core)

PicoDrive represents a solid, open-source 32X emulator which appears to be roughly on par with Steve Snake's closed-source Kega Fusion. In fact, PicoDrive only has troubles with a few titles that are no problems for Kega Fusion. That said, while NonMAME mainly focuses on accuracy, Kega Fusion's status as a closed-source emulator tilts the balance slightly in favor of PicoDrive. While PicoDrive is an excellent standalone emulator, RetroArch offers an even better overall experience across more platforms.

For anyone curious, RetroArch (RA) is an open-source framework comprised primarily of multiple emulator "cores" commonly ported from independently-written standalone implementations and sometimes enhanced by the RA development team. RA serves as a reference implementation of "libretro", itself a generic API that allows RA not only to be core-agnostic but to extend beyond emulation purposes as a flexible and powerful instrument of its own right.

RA is rapidly gaining widespread popularity, owing primarily to multiple factors including a) its availability on many host platforms; b) its support of many "best of breed" emulators (including MAME) under a single framework; c) its streamlined interface which eschews keyboard/mouse navigation in favor of controllers and other simpler means of input; and d) its impressive support of cross-platform "shaders" which lend authenticity to its visuals when used properly.

That said, RA's primary contribution isn't the preservation of old technology for historical purposes (this site's focus); but rather on broadened awareness and usefulness of such technology to a wide audience across an expanded range of platforms such as personal computers, tablets, and whatever the future may hold. RA does achieve certain preservation goals indirectly however, since emulation of the individual target systems stands a greater chance of being preserved as part of a collective framework than on their own, as history has certainly shown. This is of course similar to MAME in concept, though RA's design differs in several fundamental and obvious ways.

Unfortunately, RA's MAME core does not appear to support software lists fully (only some systems such as the NES work), so their usefulness is somewhat limited for the time being. Along the same lines, RA-wide support for proper MAME "split-ROM" format, along with chds, would also boost its usefulness and further its accuracy goals.

Regarding the MAME driver, Kale stated in his blog dated 12/23/2012:

"Again, timings are annoyingly strict on this one too, and there might be SH-2 core bugs in a bunch of spots (Sangokushi or Virtua Racing Deluxe, for example). Games on this system are mostly written in pure ASM code, unlike most of the other SH-2 based systems, so there's an higher change of core bugs happening. It's otherwise usable, although it needs a very high end CPU if you want to play anything. A bunch of games (like WWF Raw) does illogical stuff like writing to the ROM region on the copyright screen. Enabling the ROM to be writeable makes the background logo to appear (and I think it should), if it's a joke it's a very good one..."
MAME Edge Case Examples:
  • Star Wars Arcade (doesn't start)
  • Virtua Racing Deluxe (graphics problems)
  • X-Men (black screen before entering game)

3DO (Console)
MAME Driver Status: Preliminary
Best Emulator: RetroArch (4DO Core)

4DO builds upon the elder FreeDO's codebase, though with many new features, improved accuracy, etc. Many 3DO games apparently run just fine under 4DO - check here. While 4DO is an excellent standalone emulator, RetroArch offers an even better overall experience across more platforms.

For further information regarding RetroArch, see our 32X section.

MAME Edge Case Examples:

  • All (software doesn't boot)

Alto (Series) (Computer)
MAME Driver Status: Preliminary
Best Emulator: Salto

The Xerox PARC-developed Alto was the first computer to feature a Graphical User Interface (GUI); and "inspired" Steve Jobs to develop the Apple Lisa, the precursor to the Apple Macintosh. Needless to say, the Alto ranks among the most historically significant computer systems.

Salto attempts to emulate the Alto and Alto II systems; and while error-prone, runs well enough to provide the user with a reasonable facsimile of the Alto's environment and features. Note that you need to launch the emulator with the disk image as a command-line argument or it will do nothing. Once in the Alto Executive (its operating system), pressing "?" (or typing "neptune" - the Alto's file manager) will return the contents of the disk; and to run a program, simply type its name.

While MAME .154 added an Alto II driver, it doesn't appear to be capable of loading any software - so for now at least, Salto is the best available alternative.

Amiga (Series) (Computer)
MAME Driver Status: Preliminary
Best Emulator: FS-UAE

There's really no need for anyone to consider any other Amiga emulator - the Universal Amiga Emulator (UAE) rocks. It's been in development for many years and has a huge user/fan base worldwide, due in part to the fact that the Amiga computer itself was quite an incredible system. FS-UAE is a project aimed at providing a modern UI to the emulator, primarily for Linux systems. While it focuses on games (perhaps understandibly so), FS-UAE is as full-featured as other UAE forks, such as WinUAE.

Regarding the MAME driver, Kale stated in his blog dated 12/23/2012:

"To be honest the driver isn't that bad. Yes, there are various bugs that are probably silly (I've fixed a bunch in the past month) and some SWs fails loading...basically your usual hit or miss situation, IF you know two tricks: (a) sometimes you have to press the mouse left button in order to advance some screens (especially trainers) and (b) in order to disk swap properly, you have to first unmount your previous image then load the new one, both just like a real Amiga. Hopefully somebody will step up and improve the situation at some point..."

MAME Edge Case Examples:

  • Many (software doesn't boot)

Atari ST (Series) (Computer)
MAME Driver Status: Preliminary
Best Emulator: Hatari

There are many mature Atari ST emulators in existence, including it's nearest "competitor" "Steem Engine", but this one is more accurate; supports other systems in the series such as the STE, TT and Falcon; and just feels less "hacky".

The MAME driver is far from mature so it will be a while before it comes up to speed. From Kale's blog dated 12/23/2012:

"Nothing boots at all (apparently disk format used isn't yet supported) and no input seems to work on OS screen. (screenshot main BIOS screen). EDIT: according to Mike Abson of MESS forum, .ipf format is actually supported and a bunch of games loads fine, still with no inputs however."
MAME Edge Case Examples:
  • All (software either doesn't boot or lacks controls)

Commodore 64/128/PET/VIC-20 (Computer)
MAME Driver Status: Good/Imperfect
Best Emulator: VICE

The open-source VersatIle Commodor Emulator (VICE) is the best Commodore 64 emulator to date. While "CCS64" is equally accurate, it isn't free, and it doesn't emulate the PET, VIC 20 or 128 as VICE does.

Despite the "good" status of the MAME drivers, they are far from mature so it will be a while before they come up to speed. From Kale's blog dated 12/23/2012:

Vic-20/Vic-1001: Very slow driver, and inputs are pretty unresponsive most of the time (and no joystick support, so you can't possibly start some games). Some games (like A.E.) also sports offsetted gfxs. Nowhere near as usable, no... EDIT: for the joystick support, it was because you needed to actually type -joy1 joy in the command line. I've changed that to be default behaviour.

C-64: More or less same performance issues as Vic-20, but it improved greatly with recent commits (just one month ago it was borderline unusable). Carts seems working with a fair share of issue, datassette and floppy devices trims even more the compatibility ratio. If you're lucky and get anything to boot, games are somehow working with some video timing glitches.

C-128: It's currently under development by Curt, it's the very definition of a WIP driver, with two screens attached (!) and booting behaviour varies, between chars in the wrong screen, chars in the right screen or no chars at all. It's also very slow and keyboard inputs are inconsistant (i.e. pseudo-randomly works or not), so just like Vic-20 it's not really usable.

MAME Edge Case Examples:
  • Commodore 64: Aztec Challenge (fire button doesn't register)
  • Commodore 64: Bionic Commando (doesn't go in-game)
  • Commodore 64: Boulder Dash (fire button doesn't register)
  • Commodore 128: All software (no video)
  • Pet: All software (doesn't load)
  • VIC-20: A.E. (video problems)
  • VIC-20: Bandits (video problems)
  • VIC-20: Atlantis (video problems)
  • VIC-20: Cannonball Blitz (no video)
  • VIC-20: Capture The Flag (video problems)

Discrete Circuitry-Based Hardware: Miscellaneous (Arcade)
MAME Driver Status: Non-existent-Good
Best Emulator: DICE

As is the case with most standalone emulators, this one popped out of nowhere with little fanfare. The Discrete Integrated Circuit Emulator (DICE) is a proof-of-concept for accurate and fast emulation of discrete circuity - a feat which had been under strong doubt prior to its first release.

Among other games, DICE supports Pong and Space Race which, for you history buffs, have the distinction of being Atari's first two video games (though the former isn't listed here due to the MAME Pong driver being equally good). DICE also supports Breakout (not listed here due to it running equally well in MAME), famously co-designed by Steve Wozniak, who would go on to co-found Apple Computer.

For anyone curious about emulation history, Pong's addition to MAME was actually a "second coming" after having been initially dropped; this was because the original driver represented a highly inaccurate simulation of the game. Here is a more detailed explanation of the initial decision to drop it, courtesy of "Who Wants to Know?":

"The driver for 'Pong' was pretty much an ad-hoc attempt at simulating the circuitry of the original machine, and it wasn't following any tracable path from the original circuitry to the driver (in other words, the writer 'played it by ear,' so to speak). The 'pseudo-CPU' used for timing purposes was a kludge, also. Because MAME's mission is accuracy, and since the Pong driver wasn't sufficiently accurate, the driver was dropped. I've been informed that, should one actually attempt to properly simulate the circuitry (like using the video clock as a timebase), then it would be accurate enough for inclusion in MAME. However, simulation of discrete circuitry involves a jump of thinking over regular emulation programming (involving as it does the simulation of electric components normally overlooked in regular emulation--diodes, transistors, etc.--as well as the emulation of any ICs that may still be present.), and we don't know of anyone who has made such a faithful attempt yet."
Software Not Supported in MAME:
  • Anti-Aircraft
  • Attack
  • Clean Sweep
  • Crash 'N Score
  • Crossfire
  • Gotcha
  • Hi-Way
  • Indy 4
  • Jet Fighter
  • Pin Pong
  • Quadrapong
  • Rebound
  • Shark JAWS
  • Space Race
  • Steeplechase
  • Stunt Cycle
  • TV Basketball
  • Wipe Out

Discrete Circuitry-Based Hardware: Monaco G.P. (Arcade)
MAME Driver Status: Preliminary
Best Emulator: HBMAME

This classic was Sega's final game to rely primarily upon discrete analog circuitry - an oddity for a game made in 1979, some three years after microprocessors were introduced to the market. As this was among the most complex games of its kind, don't bet on seeing it working in MAME anytime soon (though a skeleton driver does exist as of MAME .153).

Software Not Supported in MAME:

  • Monaco G.P.

Dreamcast (Console)
MAME Driver Status: Preliminary
Best Emulator: RetroArch (Reicast Core)

Reicast is currently the best open-source Dreamcast emulator available, sadly amidst "superior" closed-source options available under Windows that support the Atomisware and NAOMI arcade platforms. Reicast is the "next generation" of nullDC, expanding upon its host platform availability to include mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. While wider availability is generally a good thing, this has resulted in cutting accuracy corners from the NullDC codebase to achieve the speed goals necessary to run on these platforms. Advancements in mobile hardware should in theory lead to the removal of such "hacks"; however lack of developer resources and interest has lead to long delays in project updates - so don't hold your breath. All that said, the addition of a Reicast core to RetroArch seems to have renewed interest in Dreamcast emulation, particularly with the RetroArch team themselves.

The RetroArch core offers an even better overall experience across more platforms than its standalone counterpart, so check it out! The adventurous may want to try redream, a newer multi-platform Dreamcast emulator that, while not yet quite as advanced as Reicast, holds a great deal more promise for future developments.

The MAME driver has been coming along nicely, though most games don't boot very far, and those that do run nowhere near the speed of the original system. Still, any MAME progress is great to see.

Game Boy Color (Handheld)
MAME Driver Status: Imperfect
Best Emulator: RetroArch (Gambatte Core)

Gambatte is the most accurate of the many Game Boy Color emulators in existence, reflecting the author's self-proclaimed obsession with cycle-accuracy; and while it is an excellent standalone emulator, RetroArch offers an even better overall experience across more platforms.

For further information regarding RetroArch, see our 32X section.

Lately we've also seen some impressive showings from the likes of higan and Mednafen, and if MAME doesn't get there first, it would be great to see one of these take over since they are not exclusive to the GBC; however, there are still quite a few edge cases where only Gambatte delivers. For example, a recent test using Racketboy's list of GBC edge cases has yielded the following results:

higan has problems with 3D Pocket Pool, Alone In The Dark: The New Nightmare, Cannon Fodder, Donkey Kong Country, Dragon's Lair, Perfect Dark, Scooby Doo: Classic Creep Capers, Toki Tori and Tomb Raider.

Mednafen has problems with Alone In The Dark: The New Nightmare, Cannon Fodder, Shantae and Wendy: Every Witch Way.

Gambatte runs all of the above titles, and all the others on Racketboy's list, with no problems.

Incidentally, another Game Boy emulation test can be found here.

Regarding the MAME driver, Kale stated in his blog dated 12/23/2012:

"Not tried too much, but there are a fair deal of gfx/timing bugs on this one (example: Montezuma's Return on THQ logo). It seems otherwise more or less in a working state, just not extensively tested."
MAME Edge Case Examples:
  • Cannon Fodder (no intro video)
  • Montezuma's Return (video problems)
  • Perfect Dark (no speech or in-game sound)

GameCube (Console)
MAME Driver Status: Non-existent
Best Emulator: Dolphin

Dolphin is by far the best emulator for this system with scant few alternatives.

We attribute Dolphin's rapacious progress to its vast open-source development community, which is comprised of many talented programmers and reverse engineers; as well as the accessibility of the code and the loose yet coordinated development model that seems more prevalent than that of any other emulation project we know, with the exception of MAME itself. This is the way emulation projects should be run, especially those involving such modern systems as the GameCube and Wii. As time passes, projects established with the lofty goal of emulating a complex next-generation system will need to employ Dolphin's successful and proven model if any success is to be made.

IBM Mainframes (Computer)
MAME Driver Status: Non-existent
Best Emulator: Hercules

Hercules emulates several IBM Mainframes; namely, System/370, ESA/390, and z/Architecture systems. Hercules has a huge (3000+) user community, as these systems were quite special to many people. Note: A GUI is available for Windows users, and a separate one for Linux users.

Jaguar (Console)
MAME Driver Status: Preliminary
Best Emulator: RetroArch (Virtual Jaguar Core)

Virtual Jaguar is solid, open-source Jaguar emulator with relatively few compatibility issues, and while it is an excellent standalone emulator, RetroArch offers an even better overall experience across more platforms. Note that it does not run the game "Power Drive Rally" (one of the few decent Jaguar games) properly yet; and while Project Tempest seems to run this game properly, the latter is closed-source and Windows only, and hasn't seen a release in over 10 years.

For further information regarding RetroArch, see our 32X section.

The MAME driver is far from mature so it will be a while before it comes up to speed. From Kale's blog dated 12/23/2012:

"Only a 40-50% of the games boots on this if they doesn't trip weird bugs (like the one in Tempest 2k, where it overwrites the cart ROM region for whatever reason), and even if they does, there are many issues with the annoying video device/blitter."

Laserdisc-Based Hardware (Arcade)
MAME Driver Status: Preliminary
Best Emulator: Daphne

Given that MAME does yet not emulate many laserdisc-based systems, largely due to indecisions regarding the disc preservation method/format, Daphne is your best bet. Of course, you still need both the chipsets and the laserdiscs (not to mention a supported laserdisc player) to play these games. Alternatively, ROMs and MPEG2 files may be used.

Software Not Supported in MAME:

  • Astron Belt (Hitachi)
  • Astron Belt (Pioneer)
  • Badlands
  • Badlands (Prototype)
  • Bega's Battle (Revision 1)
  • Bega's Battle (Revision 3)
  • Dragon's Lair (Beta 1)
  • Dragon's Lair (Beta 2)
  • Dragon's Lair (Enhanced 1.1)
  • Dragon's Lair (Enhanced 2.0)
  • Dragon's Lair (Enhanced 2.0) (Prototype Mode)
  • Dragon's Lair (Enhanced 2.1)
  • Dragon's Lair (Enhanced 2.1) (Prototype Mode)
  • Dragon's Lair (European)
  • Dragon's Lair (Italian)
  • Dragon's Lair (Revision A)
  • Dragon's Lair (Revision B)
  • Dragon's Lair (Revision C)
  • Dragon's Lair (Revision D)
  • Dragon's Lair (Revision E)
  • Dragon's Lair (Revision F)
  • Dragon's Lair (Revision F2)
  • Dragon's Lair II: Timewarp (Version 2.11)
  • Dragon's Lair II: Timewarp (Version 3.00)
  • Dragon's Lair II: Timewarp (Version 3.14)
  • Dragon's Lair II: Timewarp (Version 3.15)
  • Dragon's Lair II: Timewarp (Version 3.16) (European)
  • Dragon's Lair II: Timewarp (Version 3.18)
  • Dragon's Lair II: Timewarp (Version 3.19)
  • Dragon's Lair II: Timewarp (Version 3.19) (European)
  • Dragon's Lair II: Timewarp (Version 3.19) (Spanish)
  • Esh's Aurunmilla
  • Esh's Aurunmilla (Alternate 1)
  • Esh's Aurunmilla (Alternate 2)
  • Galaxy Ranger (Hitachi)
  • Galaxy Ranger (Pioneer)
  • Goal To Go
  • GP World
  • Interstellar
  • Road Blaster
  • Space Ace (Enhancement 1.0)
  • Space Ace (European)
  • Space Ace (Remake - 1991)
  • Space Ace (Revision A)
  • Space Ace (Revision A2)
  • Space Ace (Revision A3)
  • Star Blazer
  • Super Don Quix-Ote
  • Super Don Quix-Ote (Shortened Scenes)
  • Super Don Quix-Ote (Shortened Scenes) (Alternate)
  • Thayer's Quest
  • Thayer's Quest (Alternate)
  • Thayer's Quest (Swearing ROM Hack)

Macintosh (PowerPC) (Computer)
MAME Driver Status: Preliminary
Best Emulator: PearPC

PearPC is the first Macintosh PowerPC emulator available for Wintel machines. The emulator is in very early stages and is relatively difficult to install and use; however, PowerPC enthusiasts should find it worth the undertaking.

Model 3-Based Hardware (Arcade)
MAME Driver Status: Preliminary
Best Emulator: Supermodel

This emulator had been moribund for over five years until 2011, when it had about a years' worth of rapid development before slowing down once again. Regardless, anyone who loved the Model 3 age of Sega needs to check this out.

Software Not Supported in MAME:

  • Daytona USA 2: Battle On The Edge
  • Daytona USA 2: Power Edition
  • Dirt Devils (Australia) (Revision A)
  • Dirt Devils (Export) (Revision A)
  • Emergency Call Ambulance
  • Emergency Call Ambulance (Export)
  • Emergency Call Ambulance (USA)
  • Emergency Call Ambulance (USA) (Prototype)
  • Fighting Vipers 2 (Japan) (Revision A)
  • Get Bass
  • Harley Davidson & L.A. Riders (Revision A)
  • Harley Davidson & L.A. Riders (Revision B)
  • L.A. Machineguns: Rage Of The Machines
  • Le Mans 24 (Revision B)
  • Lost World, The (Japan) (Revision A)
  • Magical Truck Adventure
  • Ocean Hunter, The
  • Scud Race (Australia) (Twin)
  • Scud Race (Export) (Twin)
  • Scud Race (Japan) (Deluxe)
  • Scud Race Plus
  • Scud Race Plus (Revision A)
  • Sega Bass Fishing (Japan)
  • Sega Bass Fishing (Japan) (Deluxe)
  • Sega Rally 2
  • Sega Rally 2 DX
  • Ski Champ
  • Spikeout
  • Spikeout: Final Edition
  • Star Wars Trilogy
  • Star Wars Trilogy (Revision A)
  • Virtua Fighter 3 (Revision A)
  • Virtua Fighter 3 (Revision C)
  • Virtua Fighter 3 (Revision D)
  • Virtua Fighter 3: Team Battle
  • Virtua Striker 2 (Step 1.5)
  • Virtua Striker 2 (Step 2.0)
  • Virtua Striker 2 '98 (Step 1.5)
  • Virtua Striker 2 '98 (Step 2.0)
  • Virtua Striker 2 '99
  • Virtua Striker 2 '99 (Revision A)
  • Virtua Striker 2 '99 (Revision B)
  • Virtua Striker 2 '99 (Step 1.5)
  • Virtua Striker 2 '99 (Version 99.1)
  • Virtual On 2: Oratorio Tangram (Revision A)
  • Virtual On 2: Oratorio Tangram (Revision B)
  • Virtual On 2: Oratoria Tangram (Version 5.4g)

Neo Geo Pocket / Neo Geo Pocket Color (Handheld)
MAME Driver Status: Good
Best Emulator: RetroArch (Mednafen NeoPop Core)

Mednafen's "resurrection" of NeoPop represents a solid, open-source Neo Geo Pocket emulator with relatively few compatibility issues; and while it is an excellent standalone emulator, RetroArch offers an even better overall experience across more platforms.

For further information regarding RetroArch, see our 32X section.

Sadly, this system was removed from the "Driven to Maturity" section recently since it was discovered that the MAME driver doesn't support saving to battery-backed RAM as RetroArch's Mednafen NeoPop core does. This can be seen in games like Metal Slug - 2nd Mission (upon completing any level).

MAME Edge Case Examples:

  • Metal Slug - 2nd Mission (doesn't save progress)

Nintendo 64 (Console)
MAME Driver Status: Preliminary
Best Emulator: RetroArch (Mupen64Plus Core)

It's certainly been a long and winding road towards accurate Nintendo 64 emulation. Even today, no emulator outside of the MAME driver is terribly accurate, though a few can at least run a wide variety of N64 titles (if you can forgive the high-level emulation employed to do so). The best of these are Project64 and Mupen64Plus. Considering the negligible title compatibility differences between these two, the fact that the latter runs on more platforms including Linux lends greater potential for the target system's preservation than the Windows-only Project64. Its inclusion as a RetroArch core furthers this argument.

To improve the situation further, the greater RetroArch development team also added N64 three-point texture filtering and native-resolution rendering, as described here. More importantly however, they wrote a new video driver called "Parallel", which uses the CXD4 and Parallel Reality Signal Processor (RSP) plug-ins. This lends even greater authenticity at a speed cost; however those fortunate enough to run the RetroArch Vulkan driver have a good chance of running highly-accurate N64 emulation at full speed.

For further information regarding RetroArch, see our 32X section.

As the emulation community is becoming more aware in recent years, emulators such as Mupen64Plus use a plug-in system that allows independent developers to write their own interchangeable video, audio, controller, and RSP modules. Plug-ins are widely acknowledged as inferior to more modern and accuracy-focused development approaches that emulate the target system as a single platform. Many developers of such projects have realized that it's better to write improvements directly into the emulator's main codebase, to enforce a discipline of everyone looking at the same piece of code to more rapidly improve its accuracy. Hopefully Mupen64Plus architecture will change in time accordingly.

We should also mention CEN64 as it holds great promise for cycle-accurate N64 emulation; though dramatic speed and sound improvements are necessary before it's used for non-scholastic purposes at the moment.

The MAME driver primarily written by MooglyGuy is more accurate than GLupeN64; however it is also unplayably slow and does not run many titles yet. Given time and speed improvements the MAME driver will be a far better alternative of course, but this may be years away - so don't hold your breath. From Kale's blog dated 12/23/2012:

"Performance varies greatly on this one according to what happens on screen (it ranges between 20% to 100% and above). Compatibility isn't great, most games either crashes or throws black screens. Former might be due of some silly floating point assert within the gfx system, it's certainly something that's shared (examples: Bangai-O, Fushigi no Dungeon 2, Sin & Punishment, all with the same assert type). Only the BIOS is supported in 64DD, no work has been done for the disk drive emulation."

Nintendo 3DS (Handheld)
MAME Driver Status: Non-Existent
Best Emulator: Citra

MAME does not support this system.

Nintendo DS (Handheld)
MAME Driver Status: Non-existent
Best Emulator: RetroArch (DeSmuME Core)

DeSmuME is a solid, open-source Nintendo DS emulator with relatively few compatibility issues; and while it's an excellent standalone emulator, RetroArch offers an even better overall experience across more platforms.

For further information regarding RetroArch, see our 32X section.

Nintendo Entertainment System (Console)
MAME Driver Status: Imperfect
Best Emulator: RetroArch (Nestopia Core)

Surprised? Man, is competition fierce in the Nintendo department. With so many great emulators to choose from (Mednafen, FCE Ultra, Nestopia, VirtuaNES, RockNES X and NNNesterJ to name a few) it can make your head spin. What's worse - the NES supports over 100 "mappers" within their cartridges and none of these emulators support them all. What's a mapper? Chris Covell's NES Tech FAQ describes it well:

"The 6502 CPU has only a 16-bit address bus. That means it can only access up to 65536 bytes of either ROM or RAM at one time. And the NES is designed to access half that much ROM. As programmers want to have more complex games, they need a way to spread a game across more than 32K of ROM. Thus, memory mappers are devices which switch different banks of program code into the 32K window of ROM which the CPU can access.

After increasing the address space, the more modern memory mappers really improved the amount of character graphics available to the game, and how it can combine them. The first mapper that changed graphics did it 8K at a time. However, the later mappers allowed games to swap in much smaller sections of CHR ROM, to allow for more animation in the backgrounds. Plus, of course, many game companies came out with their own mappers which had IRQ timers, and allowed tricks to be performed with the PPU. Several mappers also had additional sound chips, to add to the complexity of the music in (really only Famicom) games.

So, in summary, memory mappers allowed programmers to overcome the limitations inherent in the NES/Famicom."

Incidentally a few excellent places to find information on mappers and the games they support are here and here.

Overall, Nestopia represents the best NES emulation experience available. While sites like these show other emulators as being slightly more accurate based on obscure tests not involving actual production ROMs, the practical difference is negligible - try to find an actual game that demonstrates any of these emulators are more accurate than Nestopia! Further, with emulators such as puNES being closed-source and Windows-only (or at least not included in RetroArch), Nestopia is a better bet for long-term NES preservation. While Nestopia is an excellent standalone emulator, RetroArch offers an even better overall experience across more platforms.

For further information regarding RetroArch, see our 32X section.

As mentioned, the MAME driver is coming very close to Nestopia in terms of accuracy and compatibility. Recently etabeta posted that he's hacked around issues with the MMC-5 mapper (famous for "CastleVania III" and many Koei games), though a PPU rewrite is still necessary to fix this properly and address many of the issues noted below. Kale stated in his blog dated 12/23/2012:

"...PPU mid-frame changes doesn't work too well (off by a bunch of scanlines, generally), and sometimes you get garbled gfxs. It can load Famicom disk images too. Needs some serious reg-testing and somebody that is willing to rewrite the whole video system from scratch (according to Etabeta)."

MAME Edge Case Examples:

  • Aoki Ookami to Shiroki Mejika - Genchou Hishi by Koei (doesn't work)
  • Bandit Kings of Ancient China ~ Suikoden - Tenmei no Chikai (doesn't work)
  • Battletoads (third level shows no video)
  • Gunsight ~ Laser Invasion (graphics problems)
  • Metal Slader Glory (flickers)
  • Shin 4-nin Uchi Mahjong - Yakuman Tengoku (doesn't work)
  • Skull & Crossbones (video and control problems)
  • Uchuu Keibitai SDF (graphics problems)

PC-FX (Console)
MAME Driver Status: Preliminary
Best Emulator: RetroArch (Mednafen PC-FX Core)

Mednafen PC-FX represents a solid PC-FX emulator with relatively few compatibility issues; and while it's an excellent standalone emulator, RetroArch offers an even better overall experience across more platforms.

For further information regarding RetroArch, see our 32X section.

Regarding the MAME driver, Kale stated in his blog dated 12/23/2012:

"[The MAME driver is] very preliminary, it shows a very basic OS screen with bad colors and nothing more (it uses a complex YUV calculation). There are issues with V810 CPU irqs, they makes the framework to crash if two happens at the same time (it's also a shared issue with Virtual Boy). Not a single line of CD-ROM device code is written at all, but it's a super-set of the one also used by PCE/PC-8801 anyway (so using this system as a base for rewriting it might be a good idea)."

PCW / PcW16 (Computer)
MAME Driver Status: Preliminary
Best Emulator: JOYCE

JOYCE is the only Amstrad PCW and PcW16 emulator available outside of MAME.

Personal Computer (Computer)
MAME Driver Status: Preliminary
Best Emulator: DOSBox

If you want to run your old PC games or other software, this is your best bet - barely. In reality, it was difficult for us to recommend DOSBox partly because it is loaded with gross hacks, many of which are intended to pass important I/O functions through to the host platform. You could certainly not go wrong trying other alternatives such as PCem, Bochs or QEMU. PCem is arguably the best of these, and is actually more advanced and accurate than DOSBox in many ways such as its broader diversity of CPU and video card selections. However, it currently falls short of our recommendation since it doesn't quite reach to the late 90s era PC hardware as DOSbox does (yet), and its Linux port is in a very preliminary state with no GUI functions available etc.

The MAME driver has made rapid progress lately, especially with respect to 80486-based systems, and is well on its way to matching the efforts above. Kale stated in his blog dated 12/23/2012:

"Right now the x86 CPU is very solid, so the PC/AT can run and install every available Windows up tomewith a i486 and several *nix distros. As for the video/sound, some ISA cards are emulated, but there are still a fair share of bugs with them (most known one is the horizontal pel shift bug in VGA that happens in Alien Breed and Sensible World of Soccer. It's basically used for horizontal scrolling, but values doesn't make much sense as per now). Some SWs also behaves weird (for example: Heroes of Might & Magic hangs once that you go in end turn phase). Will see to iron out these issues in the next months..."

PlayStation (Console)
MAME Driver Status: Preliminary
Best Emulator: RetroArch (Mednafen PSX Core)

PlayStation emulation has been fraught with controversy, from the commercial fiasco/disaster that was Bleem to the unapproved hack/project "PSXeven". Others such as ePSXe, Xebra and pSX have taken turns holding the best-choice mantle for many years; however they are all closed-source. Furthermore, while ePSXe is compatible with a wide range of titles, it's a far less accurate emulator to Mednafen, and focuses on pointless features such as "upscaling" to resolutions far beyond what PlayStation game developers originally used during the system's lifecycle, distorting the visuals and ruining the experience of playing on the actual system.

While Mednafen exhibits a few issues (for example, "Monkey Hero" and "Transformers - Beast Wars Transmetals" are apparently unplayable due to timing issues), the emulator is open-source, supports features such as in-game "cd changing" unlike most other alternatives, wisely doesn't use plug-ins, and is by far the most compatible and accurate PlayStation emulator to date. In fact, it came out well beyond others in an exhaustive accuracy test. RetroArch's Mednafen core offers an even better overall experience across more platforms.

For further information regarding RetroArch, see our 32X section.

While the MAME driver has shown significant progress lately, further accuracy improvements are needed; and as the driver lacks dual-shock support due to major MAME limitations, it may be a while before the PlayStation will be cited in the "Driven to Maturity" section.

PlayStation 2 (Console)
MAME Driver Status: Non-existent
Best Emulator: PCSX2

There's really no other viable option for this platform. While it's fully open-source with Windows and Linux versions, unfortunately there isn't a 64-bit version; this limits future compatibility and creates problems for users of some Linux distributions since they will either need solid multi-arch support (Ubuntu's is quite problematic, for example) or must create a chroot environment to get it to work (see here for further details).

For assistance getting PCSX2 to work in general, see bositman's PCSX2 Configuration Page.

PlayStation 3 (Console)
MAME Driver Status: Non-existent
Best Emulator: rpcs3

MAME does not support this system. We cannot compile this emulator on our test system so it is difficult for us to oberserve its capabilities first-hand.

PlayStation Portable (Handheld)
MAME Driver Status: Non-existent
Best Emulator: RetroArch (PSP1 Core)

Written by Hrydgard of Dolphin fame, PPSSPP is an excellent open-source emulator. While far from perfect, development seems to be moving along at a steady pace. RetroArch's PSP1 core is a fork of PPSSPP, and offers an even better overall experience across more platforms.

For further information regarding RetroArch, see our 32X section.

While nowhere near as mature, JPCSP is perhaps worth a look if only for the fact that it's written in the ubquitous Java and seems to do a fairly decent job given the language.

PokéMon Mini (Handheld)
MAME Driver Status: Preliminary
Best Emulator: PokeMini

PokeMini is the best known emulator for Nintendo's smallest handheld system, even supporting interesting original hardware features such as rumble. The MAME driver seems close; however there are video problems, and neither sound nor rumble is supported. On the downside, PokeMini only currently recognizes ROMs in ".min" format which requires extensions to be changed manually from other, more widely-used extensions.

Saturn (Console)
MAME Driver Status: Preliminary
Best Emulator: RetroArch (Mednafen Saturn Core)

Though new to the scene, Mednafen's Saturn emulator is already more stable and accurate with relatively fewer compatibility issues than its nearest "competitor" Yabause; and while it's an excellent standalone emulator, RetroArch offers an even better overall experience across more platforms. It's biggest flaw seems to be its lack of support for MAME's CHD format which we'd love to see, especially given its recent rise in popularity. With that said however, Mednafen generally supported nearly all games we tested with only minor issues, such as its inability to go in-game in "Worms". We consider this a giant leap forward for open-source (read: non-SSF) Saturn emulation after over a decade of inferior attempts. Kudos to Ryphecha of Mednafen for the hard work and dedication it must have taken to make this happen - and we look forward to future improvements.

d For further information regarding RetroArch, see our 32X section.

The MAME Saturn driver has had its share of improvements as well, and apparently some games are now fully playable. However, a majority of games will not be playable until support for the Saturn CD block is added. Kale stated in his blog dated 12/23/2012:

"Current SW compatibility is more or less at the level of the Yabause emulator. The major problem with this system is not that it's too hard to emulate, but rather, the lack of vital information available. For example: there's no info regarding VDP1 opcode timings, that definitely makes a difference on several test cases like Night Striker or Grandia. We also don't emulate the SCU DSP at CPU level, and a bunch of games definitely relies on that by keeping it enabled (so it hangs with the current hook-up, example Magical Hoppers). Some later Sega games like Daytona USA CE or Virtual On also uses some exploit in the system to draw their 3d list, no hell of an idea about this one. Last one that I do recall as a nasty test case at the moment is the Game Basic software: it tries to do an illegal DMA (from BIOS ROM to VDP1), so the (visually appealing) demos won't display any gfx."

Sega CD (Console)
MAME Driver Status: Preliminary
Best Emulator: RetroArch (Genesis Plus GX Core)

Genesis Plus GX represents a solid, open-source Sega CD emulator which appears to be roughly on par with Steve Snake's closed-source Kega Fusion. It even emulates "Pier Solar and the Great Architects" while its closest open-source "competition" PicoDrive doesn't. While Genesis Plus GX is an excellent standalone emulator, RetroArch offers an even better overall experience across more platforms.

For further information regarding RetroArch, see our 32X section.

The MAME driver has been making progress but is far from mature. As Kale observes in his blog dated 12/23/2012:

"Stock Mega CD (the Japanese one) doesn't load anything for now (it was working before), you need to use megacd2j if you want to play a JP game. Compatibility ratio is otherwise hit or miss, due of the timings that have a huger impact on this than regular MD."

Super Nintendo Entertainment System (Console)
MAME Driver Status: Imperfect
Best Emulator: RetroArch (bsnes Accuracy Core)

We need to be careful with hyperbole when writing about brilliant emulators - there's so much good stuff out there we imagine it would be easy for you, our readers, to feel jaded by review after glowing review. Having said that, it's impossible for us NOT to rave about bsnes (as part of "higan", its parent project).

With so many decent SNES emulators that have been developed over the years there's a lot of competition for sure, yet bsnes easily beats them all, demonstrating that system emulation can improve dramatically even after the target system has received years of attention and scrutiny. bsnes accuracy is VERY close to 100%, with a 65816 CPU core that is - are you sitting down? - accurate to the clock cycle. We're not kidding - bsnes basically IS a SNES in software. Show us any other SNES emulator - heck, show us any other emulator period, that can lay that sort of claim (of course there is a speed cost, but it's really not that noticeable if you are running bsnes on anything made within the last several years). As if that weren't enough, bsnes features BS Satellaview and SuperFX support, and is frequently updated unlike some of its competition.

The only true runner-up to bsnes is SNESGT. While not quite as accurate, this emulator is also highly compatible, and according to bsnes author byuu himself, SNESGT actually supports some BS Satellaview games that bsnes doesn't. byuu writes, "[SNESGT] uses various game-specific workarounds that [bsnes] cannot to achieve even greater BS-X compatibility [than bsnes]."

As incredible as bsnes is, the emulator is plagued with two serious downsides. First, byuu has recently forced his users to load ROMs through a "library" rather than permit direct access to the files, contrary to all other emulators. This "feature" has been widely and universally panned (at least outside the higan forum) for good reasons, not the least of which is that it introduces unnecessary usage difficulties. Also, bsnes does not recognize the SNES' "native" split-ROM format that MAME supports. This is unfortunate as it hinders interoperability for users of both emulators, though it doesn't necessarily make bsnes less attractive on its own. There's hope byuu will change his mind about these decisions someday, but nobody's holding their breath. It's a shame, because these issues could be easily remedied.

Note that while bsnes is by far the best choice for SNES emulation these days, RetroArch offers an even better overall experience across more platforms, AND it allows for direct ROM loading, solving the compatibility problem associated with the aforementioned "library" concept (though not yet supporting the native split-rom format). Also: we chose the "accuracy" core over others - while this is known to run slower on older systems, our reference system had no problems with it. Users who experience sound stuttering or low framerates are encouraged to try either the bsnes "balanced" or "performance" cores, both of which are included in RetroArch.

For further information regarding RetroArch, see our 32X section.

MAME development has been progressing slowly but steadily, and there's even efforts underway towards writing a cycle-accurate 65816 core which could rival bsnes; though it isn't yet finished, and the driver remains lacking BS Satellaview and decent SuperFX support. Kale stated in his blog dated 12/23/2012:

"Compatibility ratio is decent as per now, it's not yet at [higan] level and some extra chips aren't yet supported (example: SA-1). The major problem with this is still the main-sound timings, we're still cycle stealing too much or too little, depending on the situation. It needs a major rewrite of the CPU emulation (that should also take open bus into account). Also, video emulation isn't too good either, but the whole thing is currently annoying enough to debug, last time I've fixed a very simple bug (Robocop 3 missing sprites, caused by incorrect VRAM wrap-around) it took me about 3/4 hours. Too much."

Triforce-Based Hardware (Arcade)
MAME Driver Status: Preliminary
Best Emulator: Dolphin

While older Dolphin builds run "Virtua Striker 2002" just fine, the latest apparently don't. Also, "Mario Kart Arcade GP 2" currently requires an entirely separate build from the "Triforce Branch" of the source tree.

Software Not Supported in MAME:

  • Mario Kart Arcade GP 2
  • Virtua Striker 2002 (GDT-0001)
  • Virtua Striker 2002 (GDT-0002)

Virtual Boy (Handheld)
MAME Driver Status: Preliminary
Best Emulator: RetroArch (Mednafen VB Core)

Mednafen VB represents a solid, open-source Virtual Boy emulator with relatively few compatibility issues; and while it's an excellent standalone emulator, RetroArch offers an even better overall experience across more platforms.

For further information regarding RetroArch, see our 32X section.

Regarding the MAME driver, Kale stated in his blog dated 12/23/2012:

"Fairly decent, for something that has very obtuse documentation available. Framebuffer isn't yet emulated properly (don't know how/where to clear them) so a bunch of games doesn't work (the ones you don't want to play anyway, like WaterWorld), and the V810 core has various bugs (so sometimes crashes or sports weird bugs, like a lack of collision for some spots in Galactic Pinball), but I think it's fairly usable otherwise. A good trick is to enter into Video Options and use either one of the two screens, the system can be pretty intensive and doing it gives a performance boost."

Wii (Console)
MAME Driver Status: Non-existent
Best Emulator: Dolphin

While not exactly coming out of the blue, Dolphin's advanced support for the Wii took everyone by surprise. It'll require a little work to dump the BIOS from your Wii for accurate audio support, and your computer will need bluetooth capability to support the Wiimote, but Dolphin makes it possible to play your Wii games at full speed on most modern computers. Perhaps the most exciting thing about Dolphin is the constant improvements that are made almost every day. For futher information regarding Dolphin, see the writeup in the GameCube section.

Wii U (Console)
MAME Driver Status: Non-existent
Best Emulator: Decaf

MAME does not support this system. Another emulator that shall go unnamed is not cited here due its closed-source status, and the developer's unfortunate interest in profiting from emulation rather than contributing knowledge to the community and to system preservation in general. Decaf is therefore a far better Wii U emulator now and in the long run.

Xbox (Console)
MAME Driver Status: Preliminary
Best Emulator: XQEMU

While others have tried and failed to emulate the original Xbox, XQEMU seems to hold promise as it leverages QEMU's proven technology in its attempt to emulate the console's sophisticated hardware. Note that while not much actually works yet, it's already further along than other projects that have floundered for years.

Xbox 360 (Console)
MAME Driver Status: Non-existent
Best Emulator: Xenia

Quite surprisingly, this emulator seems pretty advanced for its young age, and should quiet anyone believing "last-generation" emulation isn't possible on today's hardware. Still, Xenia has a long way to go before documenting the Xbox 360's demanding hardware with any degree of accuracy, and preserving its legacy for future generations. Time will tell how far it gets. We cannot compile this emulator on our test system so it is difficult for us to observe its capabilities first-hand.

ZN-Based Harwdware: Primal Rage II (Arcade)
MAME Driver Status: Preliminary
Best Emulator: Arcade

In 2017, an emulator author released MAME4RAGE2 which emulates the arcade game "Primal Rage II" by adding timing hacks to MAME's official ZN1 (Sony PlayStation) code. Unfortunately, we could not compile the MAME4RAGE code as it is based on MAME 0.168 and therefore requires dependencies that are deprecated and no longer installed on our test workstation. However, "Arcade" supports this game and will compile against the latest MAME codebase.

The MAME development team has stated they do not plan to support this hack officially, offering the reason that hacks are discouraged. This is somewhat of a surprising stance given that there are already plenty of hacks in MAME that were created to bring systems to a working state. With that said, hopefully the MAMEdev team will support the game without hacks in the future.

Software Not Supported in MAME:

  • Primal Rage II