In 1997, the MAME emulator became available as an online download. At that time it was a groundbreaking program. MAME in the late 90s had thousands of arcade roms running on one emulator.
The retro emulator
What made this program so astounding was that it brought all the games from an arcade, and allowed people to turn their computer into a free arcade.
When this program was developed, MAME allowed people to play thousands of games for free. Nowadays MAME is used to not only introduce a new generation to arcade games but with over 4,500 entries, it serves as a time capsule of sorts. MAME is also one of the oldest emulators on the internet.
Back in the day when a game developer released a game, it went to an arcade, and that was the only place people could play. If you lived far from an arcade, you were unable to play video games. Nowadays, the same video game is available on a minimum of five consoles, and you can buy it online.
Because of these slight differences in how people played games, MAME is a good way for people to look at how gaming has evolved. The emulator itself runs fine, but it has a lot of quirks to it. For example, roms have to be placed in a special rom folder in the MAME folder, and the rom has to be in a zip file. If roms are not placed exactly like this MAME will be unable to read it.
Another quirk is whenever the game opens, you have to press the five key repeatedly. This is done to tell the rom that you have 'coins' to play the game. Another interesting feature is that there is a pause, and a save state feature. However, the save state feature only works 80% of the time.
Where can you run this program?
Currently MAME is only available on computers that have Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, or BSD family as its operating system.
Is there a better alternative?
Kind of. The only other program that is an emulator for an arcade is MESS. The Multi Emulator Super System had about 15 arcade game roms, but MAME absorbed MESS in 2015.
Although the games are somewhat dated, this serves as a great resource to see what the origins of gaming looked like. With each download, you also have a little piece of history with you, because arcades are a thing of the past.
Should you download it?
Yes. With over 4500 games in the collection, you are bound to find a game or genre that you fall in love with.