25 Best MAME Games Of All Time
The primary objective of the retro gaming community is to preserve vintage games and classic titles, which is why it’s crucial to explore the top MAME games. MAME is the most widely used emulator for both Mac and PC users, and it’s a must-have for every nostalgic gamer.
Below are the finest MAME games we’ve selected from the plethora of options available. While new console or PC games are always welcome, nothing beats the feeling of nostalgia that comes with playing good old arcade games. If you have the emulator application installed on your computer, chances are you’ve already played most of the titles we’ve listed, but you may have missed one or two. Give them a try!
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What is MAME?
One of the main advantages of MAME is that it is open-source (GNU General Public License) and completely free, offering support for more than 7000 games. While MAME comes with a basic user interface, serious retro gaming enthusiasts can enhance their experience by installing a front-end. This GUI/game launcher allows for managing game libraries across various platforms.
Some highly motivated individuals take it a step further by building their own arcade cabinets using CRT monitors, wooden boxes, joysticks, and other components. They then install MAME on a Raspberry Pi or a similar device, creating their very own arcade system at home.
Donkey Kong (1981)
This game was always going to be at the top of our list of the best MAME games. In my opinion, there is no other worthy winner.
The original Donkey Kong arcade game is simply spectacular. It reflects the ’80s, symbolizes the golden age of gaming, and is evidence that Nintendo was headed for great things.
Donkey Kong is one of the earliest examples of the platform game genre, making it a great reason to preserve it for future generations. In this game, Mario (previously known as Jump Man) must jump over barrels to rescue Pauline (originally named Lady – a dull name choice!) from the clutches of Donkey Kong.
Released by Nintendo in 1981, this game is undoubtedly an homage to King Kong. It takes place at a construction site where Donkey Kong has kidnapped Mario’s girlfriend, Pauline. Your objective is to rescue her from the villainous ape’s grasp while avoiding obstacles, jumping over them, and climbing ladders to reach the next level.
Obstacles are in different forms like rivets, barrels, fireballs, and cement tubs. Until you reach the Rivet level, where the kidnapper is finally defeated, the Girder, Elevator, and Conveyor Belt stages will see Kong grabbing the girl and taking her higher up the construction site. This is the game where the beloved Italian plumber made his debut.
What a game! It was tense, tricky, and completing the final stage made you feel like the greatest gamer alive. This game also introduced the K.O Hammer, one of my favorite weapons to use in multiplayer Smash Bros. games.
Space Invaders (1980)
Do you enjoy the addictive simplicity of classic arcade games like Galaga, Galaxian, and Asteroids? You have Tomohiro Nishikado and his innovative imagination to thank for it. In 1978, his game Space Invaders revolutionized the world of arcade machines.
Despite being simple and less advanced than some other games on this list, it remains one of the greatest titles ever made. Just imagine sitting at an arcade cabinet and playing until your wrists ache.
Many other games, including those previously mentioned, have drawn inspiration from its mechanics, which involve moving your base from left to right and shooting down waves of aliens.
The gameplay is fantastic, but the enigmatic background sounds that become more urgent and rhythmic as the situation intensifies are also captivating. If an alien ghost were to haunt our nightmares, it would probably sound like that.
With over $13 billion in revenue, Space Invaders is also the most successful game of all time in terms of arcade revenue. It was also the first game in the fixed shooter genre, paving the way for other classics like Galaga – Demons of Death.
Pac-Man Plus (1982)
The original Pac-Man game is a classic maze chaser that was initially released in arcades and later on Atari 2600. It was incredibly popular and even became the mascot for Bandai-Namco. The game earned over 14 billion dollars from sales on arcade and consoles.
Pac-Man is an icon of the 1980s video game culture that still influences game developers worldwide, especially those who grew up during that time.
Pac-Man Plus remains true to the original gameplay, where you play as a yellow character that eats Pac-Dots in a maze while avoiding ghosts. The objective in each level is simple; eat all the dots while avoiding the four colored ghosts that pursue you. Each ghost has a unique pattern and will try to corner you in different ways.
Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (1991)
In my opinion, the best fighting game ever made is the original Street Fighter II: The World Warrior. Despite the many Street Fighter titles that followed, this game remains my favorite.
Released in the early 90s, The World Warrior was a huge success and is widely regarded as one of the best arcade fighting games of all time. It introduced a new combo system, six-button controls, special moves, and a diverse character roster that improved upon its predecessor, Street Fighter I.
Street Fighter II was instrumental in popularizing the fighting game genre, and many players have fond memories of competing in its 1 v 1 battles. Its catchy soundtracks added to its appeal, and although I’ve played the game on various platforms, nothing beats the arcade version.
If you can’t have an arcade cabinet in your home, you can still relive the nostalgia by setting up MAME.
Mario Bros (1983)
Long before players were tossing Bowser around in Super Mario 64, the original Mario Bros. arcade game was gobbling up pocket change faster than Kirby on a sugar rush.
This game was created by gaming legends Shigeru Miyamoto and Gunpei Yokoi, the developer behind the Gameboy. It stars Mario and Luigi in a sewer, where they must fend off enemies, collect coins, and stay alive.
Mario Bros. is a precursor to Super Mario Bros. and features the two plumber brothers fighting underground sewer monsters in New York City. This is well before they teamed up to save Princess Peach from the clutches of the evil Bowser in the Mushroom Kingdom.
In Mario Bros., players cannot defeat enemies by jumping on top of them unless the enemies are facing away from them. Additionally, enemies won’t immediately drop down after being jumped on.
They first roll over, and players must then knock them off the floor they’re lying on. If too much time is taken, the enemies will get back up on their feet.
Golden Axe (1989)
Do we really need to introduce Golden Axe? It’s a classic hack ‘n slash game with character designs inspired by Conan the Barbarian. Created by Makoto Uchida, the mastermind behind Altered Beast, Golden Axe is set in a fantasy medieval world called Yuria, filled with wizards and warriors.
The game’s main villain is Death Adder, an evil wizard who wields the powerful “Golden Axe” to oppress the kingdom. You can play as one of three unique characters, each with their own weapons. The Amazon and barbarian both use swords, while the dwarf wields an axe.
You can jump, cast spells, and even ride on strange creatures. Golden Axe is a timeless classic that’s sure to provide hours of fun.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989)
If you were a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated TV series or comics during your childhood, you will definitely enjoy this vintage arcade game. It allows you to play alone or with a friend in two-player mode.
Some versions of the game even support four-player cooperative gameplay, with each person controlling one of the four turtle brothers.
The plot is straightforward: the evil Shredder has kidnapped April and Splinter, and it’s up to you to save them. By combining directional movements with attacks, you can perform various special moves. The turtles can execute jumping spin attacks with their weapons or roll on the ground for a sweeping kick.
You can play as Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, or Raphael as you rescue April and Splinter from Shredder. Each turtle has different abilities and fighting styles, and you can even team up with a friend for co-op play!
This classic game is based on the TV series, and all of the usual bad guys are waiting for you to defeat them. It’s time to smash your way to victory!
Snow Bros. (1990)
Adding to the list of the best MAME games is Snow Bros., a game released in 1986 that can be played by two people. The game features Nick and Tom, who must defeat their enemies by covering them in snow and then rolling them off the screen.
Snow Bros. is packed with entertaining elements, including collecting potion bottles. Red and yellow bottles increase the speed and range of snow attacks, respectively.
Blue bottles increase the amount of snow that can be thrown, while green bottles grant wings to the characters, allowing them to fly around and take down villains.
Sunset Riders (1991)
Western games are not often included in the list of the best games for a system, but Sunset Riders is a prime example of the genre. This side-scrolling run and gun game is incredibly addictive.
Way before Red Dead Redemption and Gun, Sunset Riders took players on an Old West adventure where they played as bounty hunters. The game is a simple side-scrolling shooter where you hunt down outlaws for money.
There are different levels of outlaws, and the higher the level, the bigger the bounty. You can choose to play as one of four bounty hunters- Steve, Billy, Cool Bob, and Cormano Wild.
At the beginning of each stage, the game displays a poster of a big outlaw that you will face at the end. Each bounty hunter has a different weapon, ranging from revolvers, rifles to shotguns.
Dig Dug (1982)
Dig Dug is reminiscent of the GBC version of Holy Magic Century, although Dig Dug achieved greater commercial success and is now considered one of the best MAME games available.
This maze game allows you to carve your own path through the earth while also providing the opportunity to dispatch enemies in creative ways. You can create pitfalls by tunneling underneath your foes or drop rocks on their heads to crush them.
Additionally, you can even use an air pump to inflate enemies until they burst like balloons. If you manage to eliminate multiple enemies with a single rock, you’ll earn a small combo that multiplies your points. Two rock kills result in a bonus drop that can be consumed for additional points.
As someone who enjoys maze-based games, Dig Dug reminds me of early computer games I played on the Amstrad as a child. To progress through each stage of Dig Dug, you must defeat all enemies by trapping them under rocks or inflating them until they burst.
This is a side-scrolling shoot ’em up game that takes place in outer space, where your objective is to eliminate every alien that threatens the human race. The design of the boss appears to have been influenced by the movie Alien, with its elongated head and sharp tail.
In addition to dodging incoming projectiles, you must also be aware of the terrain below, as crashing into alien structures can be fatal. The gameplay is somewhat similar to that of Defender, but without the need to rescue humans.
By default, your autocannons fire rapidly but do little damage. You can charge up a powerful wave blast by holding down the fire button, but it takes time to charge. You pilot the R-9 Arrowhead spacecraft in your mission to annihilate the Bydo, an alien race bent on destroying humanity.
Your ship can be equipped with a variety of powerful weapons and force fields, making you the most formidable pilot in the galaxy. It’s worth noting that the “Force” power-up that you can obtain in the game to shield your ship was inspired by dung beetles.
You can impress your friends with that little factoid! This game is known for its extreme difficulty, but it has received critical acclaim as one of the best shoot ’em ups ever created, even today.
Galaga: Demons of Death (1981)
Although Galaga may resemble Space Invaders, it features unique gameplay elements such as enemies using tractor beams to attack you. This fixed shooter game was released even before the NES, yet it remains entertaining to this day.
As a fixed shooter, your movement is limited to a single horizontal axis, but the gameplay is designed to compensate for this limitation, with enemies not rushing at you too quickly. If you get caught in the tractor beam, you will lose a life.
However, you can immediately spawn another fighter and attempt to shoot down the boss Galaga as it dives at you. Successfully defeating the boss will merge your previous fighter with the new one, resulting in a larger model with two guns.
Galaga is easy to learn, but its addictive gameplay involves defeating the Galaga forces and the Galaxian flagship by shooting them down in each stage, with enemies coming at you from all sides.
Altered Beast (1988)
The plot of retro games used to be so cool, like in Altered Beast where you play as an undead warrior handpicked by Zeus himself to save Athena from the underworld.
She has been abducted by Neff, a demonic king who has taken over Hades. To rescue her, Zeus chooses a Roman Centurion who has demonstrated his prowess in gladiatorial combat. The warrior is granted superhuman abilities by the father of all Greek gods.
In this game, your foes will primarily be demons and zombie-like undead creatures that can be defeated with punches and kicks. You will also encounter mini-bosses, such as the twin-headed wolves, which drop orbs that increase your size and strength.
Collecting three of these orbs will allow you to transform into a powerful mythological creature with unique abilities.
Frogger is an action game that was released in 1981, developed by Konami and manufactured by Sega. In North America, it was published by Sega/Gremlin.
The objective of the game is to guide a group of frogs to their respective homes by crossing a busy road and a treacherous river. This means maneuvering through oncoming traffic and dodging sharks, turtles, and other obstacles in order to reach the safety of your floating lily pad.
The catch is that you can only move forward one space at a time, which makes the game incredibly challenging and frustrating. You might even find yourself screaming in frustration as you play!
Cadillacs and Dinosaurs (1993)
This game, which came out in 1993, was accompanied by an animated series and both were based on a comic book. It follows the classic 2D beat ‘em up gameplay, with four distinct characters to choose from, each with their own unique fighting style.
During battles, dinosaurs will sometimes appear and attack both you and your enemies. In addition to using your fists, you can also pick up various objects like rocks, guns, and pipes.
And let’s not forget, this game features Cadillacs and Dinosaurs!
Out Run (1986)
This Sega-made racing game is a thrilling experience that comes with a specialized cabinet in arcades. Players get to sit on a miniature car with speakers behind them, simulating the sound of a Ferrari engine.
Despite its age, the game still feels fast and players can easily reach speeds over 300kmph on an open stretch of road, shifting gears manually. It was one of the fastest racing games in the mid-80s and was a real crowd-pleaser in arcades.
The objective is to travel as far as possible along the road and score points based on distance. Colliding with traffic or other racers will result in spinning out, after which the car resets automatically.
Desert Assault (1991)
Desert Assault, which is known as Thunder Zone in Japan, is a classic arcade game developed by Data East in 1991. The game involves up to four players who control soldiers armed with machine guns and other weapons, battling their way through a terrorist arsenal to take control of the Persian War.
This game combines real-life events from the Gulf War with the action-packed entertainment of 1980s Hollywood films. The objective is straightforward: destroy anything that stands in your way to accomplish your goal of blowing up targets. The gameplay emphasizes the importance of switching between weapons to adapt to different situations.
At times, players may require a high volume of fire, which can only be achieved with a machine gun. Other times, using a flamethrower may be necessary to clear out fortifications. Occasionally, players will also encounter vehicles like jeeps and jet skis that they can operate.
Contra is a series of video games created by Konami that mainly consists of shoot ’em up games with run and gun-style gameplay. The first game of the series was released in February 1987 in Japanese arcades and has since spawned multiple sequels for different platforms.
In Contra, you play as a lone soldier whose objective is to eliminate any enemy that moves, whether it be tanks, jeeps, helicopters, heavily-armed soldiers, or any other foe that stands in your way. Luckily, you have access to a vast arsenal of powerful weapons that you can use to achieve your goal.
There are four types of weapons available in Contra: lasers, heavy machine guns, shotguns, and flamethrowers.
At the start of the game, you have a basic machine gun that you can upgrade into other weapons by collecting power-ups. These power-ups are obtained by destroying pillboxes, soldiers, and flying capsules throughout the levels.
The Dwayne Johnson movie where he fights alongside a massive mutated gorilla is actually based on an arcade game from the 1986 called Rampage. The game is centered around a sci-fi storyline where a group of animals were accidentally transformed into mutants. Each person who transformed into these monsters experienced different accidents that led to their mutation.
For example, one man consumed an experimental drug and transformed into a giant gorilla. A woman fell into a lake contaminated with radioactive waste and mutated into a reptile. The story goes on with similar accidents leading to various mutations.
As a player, you take control of one of these monsters and embark on a destructive rampage, leveling entire cities to rubble. Nothing stands in your way as you destroy buildings, cop cars, light poles, bridges, and anything else in your path.
In 1987, Konami released a delightful vertical shooter game called Ajax. The game puts you in the cockpit of either a fighter jet or a helicopter, and your mission is to save the Earth from alien invaders. However, be careful when choosing your craft, as the experience is not the same for both.
If you choose the helicopter, you’ll have access to a variety of weapons, including Bomb, 3-Way, Vulcan, Triple, and Laser. However, you can only use one of these weapons at a time, except for the Bomb, which remains with you throughout your attack. On the other hand, if you prefer to fly the fighter jet, your only weapons will be bombs and a machine gun. So, fire away and save the Earth from the alien threat!
Alien vs Predator (1994)
Capcom has a fantastic game called Alien vs. Predator that is perfect for fans of side-scrolling beat ’em up games who want to relive the glory days. This Mame game is designed to be played by three players, and you can choose from four protagonists: Major Dutch Schaefer, Lieutenant Linn Kurosawa, Predator Warrior, and Predator Hunter.
The game’s plot takes place in San Drad, California, which has been overrun by Aliens. Schaefer and Kurosawa team up with the two Predators to eliminate this threat. You’ll fight against waves of Aliens in various environments using different combat styles and weapons, depending on the character you choose. Our favorite weapon is the flamethrower, and we love that you can take weapons from defeated enemies.
In the year 2084, robots have rebelled against humanity, just as Detective Del Spooner predicted. In this third game on our list of MAME games, your objective is to rescue the last remaining human family while avoiding the attacks of the Robotrons.
Each level is called a wave, and during some of them, a family member will be in danger of being eliminated by various types of robots.
You must stay alive while also playing the role of rescuer, which adds a sense of urgency to the exciting button-mashing action.
Published by Williams Electronics, the enemies in the game take the form of Brains, Enforcers, Grunts, Tanks, and Hulks. Enforcers are constructed by Spheroids, while Tanks are created by Quarks. Armed with only a blaster, you can earn points by rescuing humans and destroying your steel-hearted enemies.
Captain America and The Avengers
If you’re a fan of the comics and movies but have yet to play this classic game, now is the time to do so. This side-scrolling action and shooter game features four playable heroes: Iron Man, Vision, Hawkeye, and, of course, Captain America. Depending on the armor you choose, you’ll be able to use Avenger Attacks, including repulsor rays, solar beams, arrows, and the shield.
Your objective is to defeat the villainous Red Skull and his henchmen across five stages. When you collect special power-ups, you’ll receive additional assistance from Namor the Sub-Mariner, Wasp, Quicksilver, or Wonder Man.
So, suit up and join the fight to save the world! This game is a must-play for any Avengers fan, and you won’t be disappointed by its challenging gameplay and fantastic graphics.
Do you remember all those times when your parents told you not to play with your food? Maybe they didn’t tell you that some of the elements on your plate were actually villains in a computer game and that they were scarred for life because of it, but that’s the truth of the matter!
If you’ve played Mario’s Cement Factory or Mario & Yoshi, you’ll be familiar with the gameplay of this classic game. You play as a chef who must walk over buns to create burgers, trapping ingredients inside to make a complete meal. If you manage to catch an enemy inside, they’re eliminated from the game.
I can’t recommend this game highly enough. It’s a real classic and a great title to get the ball rolling. Don’t miss out on the fun!
Track & Field (1983)
Looking for some old-school sporting fun? Look no further than Track & Field, an Atari 2600 classic that features many of the games you see in the Olympic Games.
You know, the ones that look like fun but are actually quite challenging, like the hammer throw, javelin, high jump, and hurdles.
To advance to the next event, you must qualify in the current one. You can even play with a friend, taking turns to try your hand (or feet) at the various events.
While the crowd may look like balloons with hair, and the tracks may seem simple, Track & Field is gaming royalty and an arcade classic. I’m willing to bet this game gobbled up quarters faster than Pac-Man in a dot-eating contest! So why not give it a try and see if you have what it takes to be a virtual Olympian?