Yesterday we told you about iMAME, the free iOS emulator that somehow managed to sneak its way into the App Store. The app allows users to play classic arcade games by loading ROM [read only memory] files onto an iOS device.

iMAME comes with 10 classic arcade games, but is compatible with thousands more if you can figure out how to transfer ROMs onto your handset (or iPad). We put together this easy tutorial to show you how to do sideload retro game ROMs for iMAME.

Obviously, you’ll need ROMs on your computer to transfer onto your iDevice for this to be of any use to you. And since most of these games are copyrighted and illegal to distribute, we aren’t going to link to them. But they’re not hard to find.

Note: Your iOS device does not need to be jailbroken for this tutorial. Also, keep in mind that not all ROMs will work (make sure they’re MAME compatible).

Step 1. Downloaded iExplorer (or a similar utility) and plug your iOS device into your computer.

Step 2. Launch iExplorer and select your iOS device on the left hand side. This should reveal an Apps icon. Click it.

Step 3. Now you should see a list of all of your device’s applications. Locate iMAME, click it, and select Documents.

Step 4. And that’s all there is to it. Move your ROMs into this folder, launch iMAME, and start playing!

Let us know if you have any questions or concerns in the comments below.

  • If you have a download app and iFile then you could do it all from your device. (Jailbroken of course)

  • Dan

    ok… and what format do we need to use? How do we know if it’s compatible with the emulator? Nothing in this tutorial I hadn’t figured out before.

    Also if you are jailbroken, there are many better emulator out there.

    • Anonymous

      All the ROMs I have seen are zipped. So I couldn’t tell you what the file’s extension is because all I see is .zip. That’s what I’ve been transferring from my computer to my iPhone — zip files.

      If you are looking in the right places, the ROMs will be labeled MAME or MAME-compatible. That’s what I’ve been downloading and most have worked for me.

      Thanks for reading!

      • malik

        can you please help me?

  • It’s useless.

  • Yeah, I need to know what file extension to have on the game when I put it in the iMAME documents folder

    • Dan

      from my research, you need to have 37b5 format, I found a site where I am downloading a 250 meg file of roms, if they work I will post more info.

      • Dan

        yeah so after much trial and error, I found them! Google: the old computer 37b5 and you’ll be set.

      • You will most likely need a set that is made for MAME V.037b5. If you have a newer ROM set, it can be converted using ClrMamePro. It’s not for the faint of heart, if you don’t know your .dat files from your other files.

        Tip: Make the ROMs merged sets and it’s easier. Not all games work, though. I have a 100% Mame 0.37b5 set, and some still fails to work, though they work fine with the real Mame.exe.

        Oh and I never tried the Mame for jailbroken devices on iPhone 4, only iPad. Gees, the iPhone 4 sure is slow compared to my iPad 2.

      • Dan

        if you just follow what I said, you don’t need to format them, you can download them in the right format. I already got a dozen that work.

        although if anyone finds snes and nes games in that format, let me know!

  • it worked flawlessly! Y u say no work? I followed the steps and everything went well! (for the file format, u could see it yourself from the default games in iMAME, or, u don’t have to change the filename / format at all if you have the roms..)

  • What’s the alternative to Iexplorer for windows?

    • Think it’s called iPhoneBrowser

      • Anonymous

        I have only used iPhoneBrowser but it works great….

  • It works great! Have you noticed in /var/mobile/Applications/some random letters/ it had some roms. And they don’t really work, you get an error.

  • whats the ROM’s file extension type???

  • So you lead a horse to water but not make em drink??

  • Scott Holdsworth

    I have done everything up to the point of dragging the roms into the iMame documents folder as when I try this it just won’t let me! what am I doing wrong?
    I cant remove roms or add roms to the folder!

    • Sash Saveski

      @ Scott Holdsworth, I had the same problem to fix I updated iTunes and reboot PC not sure if the reboot or combination of upgrade+reboot fixed.

  • Anonymous

    It seems like probably one in twenty roms are working for me. Most of the zip files that I load tell me that a number of files are missing. Even from the list of 37b5 roms that Dan and others recommended above, I still hardly have any that will come up. So far, it’s pretty much just the above pictured “Turtles in Time” and the first Mortal Kombat. Are others honestly having better luck somehow?

    • I’m in the same boat as you — few ROMs that I download work. That’s often been the case with MAME, though. Reply if you have any better luck, as for now I’m disappointed. I have the iCade all ready to go and can’t get any of the standards, like Pacman, Donkey Kong or Joust working!

    • Okay – I got Pacman and Donkey Kong from the site mentioned above. They work on the iPad iMame. Just google “old computer 37b5.”

      It has totally made my day!

      And let me add to Midway and others – if you sell Pacman, Donkey Kong and others on the App Store, *and* make the iCade compatible, then I would gladly buy them instead of use Mame.

  • Anonymous

    i add some games to imame4all roms folder, but some games not show up in gamelist, Why?

    how can fix this proplem?????????????

  • gguter

    Didn’t work. If it worked for you, then GFY

  • malik

    i am new user and installed MAME on my Iphone now please help me to add the games in it

  • malik

    i added the ZIPed file in mame whenever launch the same from mame it shows” ERROR: required files are missing the game cannot be run