We explain how to use a software emulator to maximise gameplay, turning your current Windows 7 computer into a classic arcade machine. You can enjoy Frogger, Yie Ar Kung-Fu and other great games of old.

Remember the heady days of yesteryear, when gaming was in its 8bit binary-graphics glory? Watching several pixels go at it hammer and tongs on a mono-hued display in ill-lit arcade parlours was the height of excitement in the late 70s and early 80s.

With the obscene amount of power now available from the average PC, you could probably engineer a Moon landing. Spend £500 on a mid-range machine and you’d expect to get at least a 2GHz dual-core processor, 4GB of memory and a 512MB graphics card under the hood. Such a system is capable of rendering next-generation graphics, with thousands of photo-realistic pixels in millions of colours, on HD displays with surround-sound audio. Old-school arcade gaming looks positively retro by comparison.

Despite this, arcade games emulators on Windows PCs are hugely popular. After all, a good game is a good game. Many of us are rediscovering arcade classics and indulging in a bit of nostalgia. But the younger generation are using arcade emulators and discovering these 8bit treats for the first time. It doesn’t matter how many polygonal pixels a game has; if it has playability in spades, people will return again and again.

Nostalgia-fest retro gaming is a big deal. Thousands of online emulators are available that turn PCs into arcade machines. You can even download multiple arcade machine (Mame) emulators that can play console classics on your Windows 7 PC.

At first glance, the number of emulation options is staggering. This is because most have been lovingly crafted by committed open-source community projects over several years. Installing the correct emulator can be a frustrating experience for the majority of users, who just want to dip into arcade gaming.

Luckily for you, PC Advisor is on hand to take you through the process, helping you to turn your Window 7 PC into an arcade machine. We’ll provide tips and tricks for using an emulator, so you’ll be blasting away in 8bit glory in no time.

Step 1. Emulators and retro games are usually found online in compressed folders so they can be downloaded quickly. You’ll need software to extract the files: try the free 7-Zip, which supports a range of file formats. Make sure you choose the correct version for your PC (32bit or 64bit).

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Step 2. You can visit the official Mame site and download the emulator found there, but this version doesn’t have a graphical user interface. Instead, we used MameU132 from emulator-zone.com for this walkthrough. This software has a simple interface and is very easy to navigate.

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We explain how to use a software emulator to maximise gameplay, turning your current Windows 7 computer into a classic arcade machine. You can enjoy Frogger, Yie Ar Kung-Fu and other great games of old.

Step 3. Double-click the MameU132 folder on your desktop to extract the zipped files. Alternatively, right-click the folder and choose 7-Zip to bring up a list of unzip and extraction options. Click the option to ‘Extract files’. By default, 7-Zip will unzip the Mame software on to your desktop.

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Step 4. Look in the unzipped MameU132 folder for the .exe setup file. This will be the largest file in the folder and is represented by a frog logo. Right-click the file and click ‘Create shortcut’. This will place a shortcut to the program in the folder. Drag-and-drop the shortcut on to your desktop.

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Step 5. With thousands of game ROMs to choose from, you’ll need a way to manage your library. We’ve used ROM Center. Download the program, then follow the installation wizard. You might not want to bother with this step at first, but a manager app will quickly become indispensable.

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Step 6. Double-click the MameUI32 shortcut on your desktop to open the emulator. The interface will display a list of arcade games you can play. However, not every ROM works with every emulator. The screenshot below shows the list of games, but the tabs at the side help to narrow down the selection.

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We explain how to use a software emulator to maximise gameplay, turning your current Windows 7 computer into a classic arcade machine. You can enjoy Frogger, Yie Ar Kung-Fu and other great games of old.

Step 7. You could waste hours downloading specific ROMs, only to find that your emulator doesn’t work with them. To save time in MameU132, tab down to the working titles. Compatible ROMs are highlighted in light and dark green. We selected an old Konami classic called Yie Ar Kung-Fu and, of course, the 1981 version of Frogger.

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Step 8. Once you’ve chosen which games you want to play, you’ll need to search the web for the ROM files. The most comprehensive selection can be found at coolrom.com. It hosts an array of ROM titles for different emulators. Download the zipped ROMs for your chosen games and save them to your desktop.

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Step 9. Before you can play a game, you’ll need to move the ROM into the MameUI32 ROM folder. Don’t unzip a game before you try to play it – this won’t work. Instead, open the MameUI32 ROM folder (which will be empty), then drag-and-drop your zipped ROM files into it.

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Step 10. Auditing your ROMs lets the emulator pick them up. Once it’s spotted them, they’ll be listed in the green Available tab on the lefthand side. Go to File and scroll down to ‘Audit all games’. This may take a while. When it’s finished, close and relaunch the emulator. You should now see a list of the downloaded games.

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We explain how to use a software emulator to maximise gameplay, turning your current Windows 7 computer into a classic arcade machine. You can enjoy Frogger, Yie Ar Kung-Fu and other great games of old.

Step 11. Newer games are often written for use with a controller rather than a keyboard. You can buy a cheap USB controller, such as Nyko’s £4.99 Airflo PC Controller. Go to Options and click ‘Default game properties’. Specify whether you want to use a controller. You’ll be offered a variety of mapping options.

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Step 12. If some of your games were written for older consoles, you may need to download a Bios ROM to play them. The game will tell you if you need to do so, and offer a link to download it. Download the zipped Bios ROM, extract the file, then drag-and-drop the Bios ROM into the MameUI32 ROM folder.

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Step 13. Select the Available tab on MameU132’s righthand menu to bring up a list of games that are now playable on your Windows 7 PC. Double-click a game. You may have to go through a quick ROM check – click Ok as required. Once you’ve completed this hurdle, you’re finally ready for 8bit retro-gaming heaven.

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Step 14. Most MameUI32 games use the up, down, left and right arrow keys, and use Alt as Fire and Spacebar as Jump. When you start, hitting the number five is like adding 10p coins into the arcade machine, and you can select single- or multiplayer modes. A help file will give a full list of controls.

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