MAME has too many desktop GUIs, we pick our favorite ones.

Best MAME Frontend Apps for Windows

Best MAME Frontend Apps for Windows

MAME might be the most popular emulator for PC available. It plays pretty much any arcade game thrown at it that is more than 10 years old. It has been around for decades and continues to be the first choice for playing your old retro games. This is mainly because of the continuous development and the amazing team behind it. It has over 4k stars in Github and commits are happening pretty much every day.

The problem with MAME is not the emulator itself but the amount of variants available. If you are new to the emulation world or to MAME specifically, you will feel confused by how many versions are available and by how many frontends you can use. This is great for advanced users, but newcomers will find themselves looking for something modern, simple and that can play a few arcade games in their free time.

What is a MAME Frontend?

MAME itself is (or can be) what you call “headless software”, meaning that it doesn’t have a UI (user interface) to show to the user. This is on purpose to allow developers use MAME to run games from whatever UI they build.

In this article we will cover some of the best and most used frontend for the Windows desktop environment.

MAME Windows GUIs

BletchMAME

https://www.bletchmame.org/

BletchMame is a very promising clean and simple UI for Windows. It’s very new, seeing its first release on September 2019.

Their description says: “Unlike existing front ends (which function as launchers, keeping MAME’s internal UI), BletchMAME replaces the internal MAME UI with a more conventional point and click GUI to provide a friendlier experience in a number of areas (such as profiles, input configuration and a number of others).”

Pros

  • Minimalistic
  • Fast search option

Cons

  • Early in development
  • Very basic
  • Bad HiDPI support

EmuLoader

https://emuloader.mameworld.info/

Emuloader isn’t just a MAME emulator frontend. It supports a wide variety of emulators and can work as the single Frontend for all of your emulation needs.

Pros

  • Feature rich
  • Lots of filtering options
  • Fast search
  • Customizable
  • Slow to startup

Cons

  • Not a native UI
  • Bad HiDPI support

QMC 2 / MAME Catalog 2

https://qmc2.batcom-it.net/

QMC2 is a fully fledged MAME GUI that runs on Windows, Linux and even MacOS. It’s developed in QT4 and has many features like styling support, ROM checker and validator, fast search functions and caching.

Pros

  • Very powerful ROM manager
  • Stable and feature rich
  • Works well with HiDPI screens

Cons

  • Messy UI
  • Bad filtering options
  • Too much clutter

MAMEUI

http://www.mameui.info/

This may be one, if not the most popular UI for MAME on the desktop. MAMEUI is a very stable tool that allows users to find, filter and customize the list of MAME games. It’s similar to QMC in its layout but has a fairly different feature set.

Pros

  • Feature rich
  • Lots of filtering options
  • Supports all kinds of art
  • Works fine on HiDPI screens

Cons

  • UI hasn’t been updated in years

IV/Play

http://www.mameui.info/

Pronounced “Four Play”. This is a very minimalistic launcher targeted to Windows 10 that keeps a simple and narrow feature set. It shares some keyboard shortcuts and features from MAMEUI and supports Windows jump lists to quickly start playing a game.

Pros

  • Very fast
  • Basic and native Windows UI
  • Works well in HiDPI screens

Cons

  • Not many features
  • Requires to read the documentation to find keyboard shortcuts

Alternative MAME Frontend Applications for Windows

There are many other alternatives not covered by this list and while some of them have beautiful themes and arcade oriented layouts, there aren’t many options for modern desktop apps.

HBMAME https://hbmame.1emulation.com/
MxUI http://www.emucr.com/2018/03/mxui-v12.html
mGalaxy http://www.mgalaxy.com/
Pegasus Frontend https://pegasus-frontend.org/
RomShelf https://www.romshelf.com/

Conclusion

After reviewing more than 10 different Front Ends and GUIs for Windows it’s clear that there’s a lack of innovation in apps. No shortage of features or utilities in most of these apps, but they generally old, from a Windows 2000 era.

On the Mac, some modern UIs were created, OpenEmu being one of the cleanest attempts, which may not offer the large amount of features as some of the Windows counterparts but it has one of the best “pick up and play” emulator experiences on the desktop.

At the end, regardless of what client/Gui you end up using, since the game is actually run by MAME the gaming experience will always feel the same.

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