I built my first retroPie system a few months ago using a Raspberry Pi 3 and three USB controllers. I spent a bit of timing looking for MAME games that were easy to get into and didn’t require much experience or masses of time. So here is a run down of my favourite MAME games so far in no particular order …
Gauntlet 2 (Atari 1986)
I first played Gauntlet 2 on my Atari ST with my brother. As long as one of you stayed alive you could respawn and keep the game going forever. Fueled by tactical Pot Noodle breaks we played this game for hours. Gauntlet is great as a multiplayer and supports up to four players. The controls are easy to pickup and you can choose how well to co-operate with the other players. It’s no surprise this is one of the most popular games for 4-player “coffee table” game systems.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time (Konami 1991)
“Turtles in Time” is sideways scrolling beat-em-up. It supports up to four players with a basic control system that doesn’t require you to memorise complicated button combinations. You can play each of the four turtles each with their own distinctive weapon. In the UK we had “hero” forced on us as “ninja” was considered far too subversive. Now we can all gorge ourselves in retro-ninja goodness.
Robocop 2 (Data East 1991)
If you want a sideways shoot-em-up and you are partial to a bit of Detroit law enforcement then this game is worth a look. You control Robocop in sequences that loosely follow the plot of the film. Robocop 2 is similar to its predecessor but allows another player to join in. Most of the action is sideways scrolling but some levels are viewed from behind RoboCop and provide a gun sight with which to shoot your targets. The sprites in this version are improved and Robocop looks much better.
Alien Syndrome (Sega 1987)
Released shortly after the film “Aliens” hit the cinema, Alien Syndrome let you blast your own fair share of alien xenomorphs. It’s a top-down run-n-gun action-fest were you have to rescue human hostages against the clock. It’s slightly trickier than it first looks as you frantically blast anything that moves trying to find the last hostage as the seconds tick away.
Joust (Williams Electronics 1982)
I wasn’t familiar with Joust until I read “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline as the the game plays an important role in the plot. In the game you are a knight who flies an ostrich who must defeat other knights flying buzzards. Sounds crazy? It is. Crazy fun! A second player can join the fun and you can decide to either play cooperatively or against each other. I suspect the creator of “Flappy Bird” had played Joust due to the obvious similarity in the control mechanism. If this game does not feature in the film adaption of “Ready Player One” I will not be happy.
Double Dragon (Taito 1987)
Another 2-player classic from my Atari ST days. Back then we played Double Dragon with a joystick. I never really learnt the moves and just randomly thrashed the poor “Quickshot” joystick while attempting to look like I knew what I was doing. This was the first non-sporting game I had ever played where I got to swing a baseball bat.
Galaga (Namco 1981)
This is one of my favourite arcade games of the Space Invaders variety. I played it a lot at a camp site in the south of France on a family holiday during the 1980s. It took 1 Franc coins and the guy running the site would sometimes give us a handful for free.
The game follows the Space Invaders format but the aliens dive bomb your ship. Special alien ships can use a tractor beam to capture your ship but if you manage to rescue it you get a two ships joined together for double the fire power. It briefly featured in the 1983 film “War Games”.
Alligator Hunt (Gaelco 1994)
Alligator Hunt is a shoot ’em up arcade game released by Spanish company Gaelco in 1994. Aparently after reptilian-looking aliens invade earth the only people to stand in their way are two kids on skateboards. It can be played by two players.
Track & Field (Konami 1983)
Track & Field was released in 1983 by Konami. It can be played with two player and generally involves mashing a button as fast as possible to complete various sporting challenges. Lots of people may associate it with the ZX Spectrum. It makes for a refreshing change from the other titles in this list as it is one of the few games that doesn’t require killing or blowing anything up.
Streetfighter II (Capcom 1991)
Streetfighter II is probably one of the most iconic fighting games ever created. 1991. You get a selection of playable characters, each with their own unique fighting style. There are various special combinations of button presses but if in doubt just move and press buttons randomly.
All of these games are simple enough to dive in and start playing without much in the way of instructions.
Here is a video that combines this list of MAME games and demonstrates some example gameplay :
A word on RetroPie, MAME games and ROMS
RetroPie is free software and can be downloaded from the Official RetroPie website. Feel free to buy kits and bundles but the software itself is free so be aware of what you are paying for.
Emulators require games to be added. These files are referred to as “ROMS”. RetroPie does not include any game ROMs.
The MAME emulator within RetroPie uses ROMs from the “mame 0.78 reference set”. ROMs from another version may not work correctly.