If you were inspired by our M.A.M.E. Mac mini arcade project to try a build a true to life arcade cabinet or if you just want to give retro gaming a go, then you'd likely be looking for an emulation software to help you get started. The software we used in our arcade project was OpenEmu and we show you how to get it up and running.

What is OpenEmu

OpenEmu is a free(you can donate if you like their software) and open source graphical front end for many software emulators (which in turn are also open source). OpenEmu makes it exceedingly easy to get you up and running your favourite older generation titles from a multitude of systems such as Atari, Nintendo, Sega and even arcade systems.

OpenEmu features

OpenEmu allows for simple set up. You need to simply download the installer, choose the emulators you want to freely download, and drag and drop your saved titles to the program window. It automatically, organizes the titles into the various systems that they were created for and makes it easy for you to configure keyboard, gamepad, and joystick controller inputs.

Getting OpenEmu

OpenEmu comes in two flavours. Press Pack and an OpenEmu Experimental Press Pack. The only difference as far as I can tell is that the Press Pack is lacking support for the M.A.M.E. which is arcade machine emulation software.

What is M.A.M.E.

For simplicity's sake, I'll define M.A.M.E. as an archive of the vintage software that runs arcade systems from yesteryear. The developers try their best to recreate the software systems that ran/run on arcade based computers and do so strictly via CPU emulation for that purpose. The developers avoid using GPU acceleration for the emulation because actually running of the software is simply an aside to the purpose of their mission. As a result, if you want to run some older arcade games, aside from having an authentic arcade CPU board, your best option would be the M.A.M.E. project.

Here's how to get the full M.A.M.E. enabled version of OpenEmu.

  1. Head to OpenEmu.org.
  2. Click the dropdown button next to the Download Now button.
  3. Select OpenEmu Experimental Press Pack.

  4. Done.

Running OpenEmu for the first time

Upon launching OpenEmu the first time, you'll have to allow your Mac to run software from unidentified developer and choose the emulators you want to download and run.

  1. Open Finder.
  2. Navigate to Downloads.
  3. Double-click the OpenEmu application.
  4. You'll be presented with a warning about an unidentified developer, click OK.

  5. Launch System Preferences.
  6. Click Security & Privacy.
  7. Click the General tab.
  8. Click Open Anyway next to the notice that OpenEmu was blocked.

  9. Click Open when prompted if you are certain that you want to start OpenEmu.
  10. OpenEmu will now launch.

Next we go through the first time OpenEmu startup wizard.

  1. Click Next on the welcome screen.
  2. Select or de-select any and all emulator cores you want to be able to download and use.
  3. Click Next.

  4. Done.

Installing games

Installing games is as easy as a drag and drop of the game files you own. Games will magically be placed into their correct system heading automatically.

  1. Open Finder.
  2. Find your game ROM.
  3. Drag your game ROM into the OpenEmu window.
  4. Done.

Configuring inputs

As with everything else in OpenEmu, configuring your input devices is supremely easy.

  1. In OpenEmu, go to Preferences.
  2. Tap Controls.
  3. Choose the system you wish to edit controls for. Having a similar shaped gamepad makes it that much easier.
  4. Click the control you want to edit and then tap the button, or keyboard input you want to map it to.

  5. Complete all of the inputs as you desire.

Playing games

  1. Find the system for which you installed the game.
  2. Double-click the title.
  3. Play.

Games? What games?

I purchased an X-Arcade Tankstick with trackball from Xgaming and that purchase gave me over 200 arcade games that I can legally enjoy. M.A.M.E. also has an archive of free to download and play full fledged arcade ROMS. On top of that you can also find a number of homebrew developers that have built and still build new games for the various emulated home consoles.

Final thoughts

I love gaming. Yes even gaming on Mac (maybe especially so). I'm already set up for VR gaming on my MacBook pro connected eGPU. But I'll always have a soft spot for the older arcade titles from my youth. That's why I love OpenEmu. I can simply get right into the action with need of worrying about configuration. What emulator do you use for your retro gaming? Let us know in the comments!