18 April 2018

Testing Out MAME Retroarch

Mini Update November 2018: Since Retroarch/MacOS is still not ready for prime time, this is about testing out Retroarch, MAME official is still my favorite.

So I have been testing out Retroarch for quite some time, and only as of the most recent Nighty 1.7.2 builds, I realized that it is time to switch from MAME to test out Retroarch. Here I will explain why I believe that Retroarch - even with old MAME Cores - can provide the best retrogaming experience so far.

UPDATE 24 April 2018: Retroarch 1.7.2 is out as a stable build, so grab it here.

If you have never dealt with Retroarch - look into ETA Prime's brand new video on installing Retroarch that also works on Macs: 

If your Mac has an NVidia Card, I recommend that you try out the CG version of Retroarch because it has an abundance of shaders on board. 

Here is an overview of the Retroarchs pro's and con's:

+ The brand new Runahead feature of Retroarch 1.7.2 also works on MAME and is a game changer. With a Runahead of two frames, the very snappy Arcade games, such as 1942, Pacman, Gyruss and the like, for the first time are as snappy as expected. If you are in games such as 1942, just try it in RetroArch with the 2 frames Runahead feature - and you will be blown away by its immediate snappyness.
Here is the explanation of the Runahead feature: 
Note: For this crucial feature, you must install a Nightly Build of Retroarch on your Mac.

+ If you like to experiment with different shaders, Retroarch is paradise. In fact, you could be lost in the sheer amount of different shaders. In any case, it is safer to load the pre-defined Shader Presets.  My favorite shader is called x4br-hybrid-crt.cg (it is also available in OpenGL). This shader brings a very attractive combination of xbr Scaling with crt-type scanlines. The results are very pleasing to me, a kind of slight modernization, but still with sufficient retro feeling.

Wonderboy In Monsterland with x4br-hybrid-crt Shader - best of both worlds (click to enarge)
+ Retroarch is already very strong in reckognizing joysticks from scratch. My PS4 joyapd via USB works extremely well. Combined with the Runahead feature, hardly to beat for me.

+ The MAME 2010 Core finally is ready for productive use. It has internal Highscore support out of the box, and most games just work very nicely.

Here is what you need to know about the drawbacks of Retroarch compared to native MAME:

- The MAME current Core of Retroarch does not compile in MacOS, and neither does the Linux Core work on my machine. MAME 2010 works very well, so you miss out on all enhancements in MAME since 2010. If you are, like me, with Arcade Classics, you probably do not miss an awful lot.

- With the different MAME Cores, Rom management becomes a challenge. You will have to deal much more with Rom problems, and Roms that work on one core by far do not always work on another Core.

- In overall, Retroarch has a steep learning curve, but if you ask me, it's worth it for perfecting your Arcade game experience.

Update since my tests: Unfortunately MAME 2010 proves to be buggy, I would love to explain in more detail, but can't. Some games crash after some time. So all in all, it is too early for me to move.


  1. Very interesting post and I've decided to give it a try. Well I have tried Retroarch before without real success. This time, with the help of some Youtube videos, I was able to get it run. Retroarch has a lot of potential but regarding MAME I prefer running the games directly with MAME. What's good is that the sound issue is gone with Retroarch. I've always had glitches with sound in SDLMAME on my Late 2012 i7 iMac. Like Donkey Kong, the sounds seems to be de-synchronized from time to time.

    With your past posts I was able to get the HLSL shaders worked and it gives such goods results!

    Thanks a lot for your advice

  2. Many thanks JF - much appreciated. I had no sound glitches as you described with original MAME, but the new Runahead feature changes everything in gaming for me. Cheers!


Any comments are welcome!