Emulation 101:
Classic Gaming
on the PC

   - Keita Iida


Atari 2600

Atari 5200 /

8-Bit Computers


GCE Vectrex


Multi Platform


Emulation Links


Arcade emulation is the most recent emulation phenomenon. Work first began by authors of single coin-op game emulators in 1996 and later by multi-game programmers, this area has recently exploded with a great number of fine emulators. Dave Spicer is considered the pioneer of "many-games-in-one" emulation with his Dasarcade and Sparcade emulators, but it was overtaken by several emulators. The face of emulation changes on a constant basis, and any program that doesn't keep up with periodic changes is destined to be left behind. A few months -- or even weeks -- is considered an eternity in today's advancing emulation arena.

MAME is far and away the most popular multi-arcade emulator. It has become such a phenomenon that even major magazines and websites have begun to take notice. With dozens of programmers working as a team, it's constantly evolving. And every few months, gamers everywhere are treated to an updated version that supports many more games than before. MAME currently plays over 700 different ROM images, and it won't be long before it goes over the millenium mark!

Just about all of your favorite classics are playable. Everything from Dig Dug, Crazy Climber, Asteroids, and even obscure titles like Make Trax are perfectly emulated. And what's more, there are versions of this program available for every modern computer format that you can think of. If you're going to use one arcade emulator on a consistent basis, it's highly probably that MAME will be the one.

Retrocade is a relative newcomer in the arcade sweepstakes, but it's no slouch. Already supporting upwards of sixty games upon its initial release, it's well on its way to becoming a bona fide challenger to the coin-op emulation throne. It's currently only available for DOS, but even this version has a slick graphical interface that's intuitive to use. And when comparing games that both MAME and Retrocade, it's generally faster on the latter. With support for more games and versions planned for many more computer types, the future's bright for the new kid on the block..

Although MAME and Retrocade are the two overwhelming favorites among classic arcade emulation players, it's by no means the only worthwhile ones. Numerous specialized multigame emulators, such as Vector Dream and Cinematronics Emulator (both of which emulate vector-based arcade games) do a much better job of running games that they support than MAME or Retrocade do. Then there are the dedicated, single-game emulators that usually are perfect. If you're crazy about any single given game, it might be worth your while to search out one of the smaller emulators that may support the game that you're craving to play.

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