These overlays (sometimes known as bezels) display art on top of the game you're playing. To use them, you need a PC or Raspberry Pi (or other compatible system) running some version of MAME and the associated game software, as well as a widescreen (16x9) monitor mounted vertically. To display the overlay while playing a game, download the artwork file for that game overlay (it must have the same filename as the game), place it in the Artwork folder within your MAME directory and launch the game. (For instance, the software for the game Magic Sword is called msword.zip, so it requires a file in the Artwork directory also called msword.zip.)
All overlays are 4K resolution (2160 x 3840), and listed dimensions are for the game screen, relative to a 4K vertical monitor. The actual game screen size will depend on the resolution of your monitor.
Most of the overlays include multiple presets that let you choose the size of the game screen, access a "dark" version designed to look more like a dark arcade, and sometimes other options. To choose a preset, press Tab while running the game to bring up the MAME menu, select Video Options, and select a preset from the list.
Some overlays include Curved presets designed with a curved screen port, to better simulate the look of a CRT monitor. These presets work best if you are using a geometry shader that adds a curved look to the game screen. For an optimal experience, you may need to adjust your shaders to match the curvature of the screen shape in the overlay. If you are not using a geometry shader, you are using a shader that adds a curved bezel, or if you prefer a rectangular screen port, choose a Straight preset where applicable.
Altered Beast follows the ancient Greek quest of one or two unnamed characters, brought back from the grave by Zeus to rescue his daughter Athena from Neff, the king of the underworld. A beat-em-up with relatively simple platform mechanics, Altered Beast's key draw is a unique transformation mechanic that turns the relatively weak humans into powerful hybrid wolf, dragon and bear characters. Despite the novelty, the game is a bit of an odd... beast, with a relatively slow pace that doesn't quite deliver the satisfying punch of beat-em-ups like Final Fight and other contemporaries – but that didn't keep it from grabbing a place in the pantheon of late 80s classics.
Armored Warriors brought a new angle to the somewhat saturated beat-em-up genre, with giant human-powered robots of varying abilities, interchangeable weapons and up to three players who can team up for even more powerful attacks. The story follows a military team from the United Earth Government, sent to investigate strange activity on the planet Raia, with which Earth has signed a ceasefire treaty after a long war. The mech-powered heroes must defeat an unknown enemy who has taken over the Raian capital, though *spoiler alert* there may be more to Earth's plans than they realize. The game adds some new layers to the beat-em-up formula, including challenging bosses, and who doesn't love jetting around in a giant robot and smashing things?
A classic beat-em-up for many reasons (its gameplay and sound effects, its premise, even its title), Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja is second only to BurgerTime as Data East's best-known title. "President Ronnie has been kidnapped by the ninjas. Are you a bad enough dude to rescue Ronnie?" asks the game's intro, and of course, the answer is always yes (even if it takes lots of quarters to get there). Bad Dudes was not unique in its punch-and-kick mechanics, but its timely (for the 80s) ninja theme and weapons and its distinctive visual style have made it a standout in its genre. Note the presence of Data East quasi-mascot Karnov as the first level boss, and the surprisingly convincing pixel art portrait of Ronald Reagan at the end exclaiming "Hey Dudes thanks, for rescuing me. Let's go for a burger... Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!"
A somewhat odd but reasonably effective tie-in to the 1989 Tim Burton film, Atari's Batman is a hybrid beat-em-up that combines fairly typical platform-based punching and kicking with interstitial driving and flying levels that add some variety to the formula. Batman leans into the camp of its source material, with copious digitized images and voices from the movie that help liven it up between dispatching scores of generic henchmen and the occasional boss (including multiple run-ins with the Joker himself). Our favorite brooding man-bat feels surprisingly vulnerable, but the graphics are pretty good for its era despite uneven animations, and without the bothersome need to keep pumping in quarters, it's a fun throwback to the dawn of the 90s.
Rare's Battletoads series was a hit on early 90s consoles, which led the way for this arcade crossover beat-em-up in 1994. Oozing the somewhat juvenile (and unmistakably 90s) personality that was Rare's trademark (its heroes are named Rash, Pimple and Zitz), the arcade Battletoads amped up the violence and graphic style of its console predecessors, and included a variety of combat styles and level variations to keep things interesting. Unfortunately, due perhaps to its difficulty and certainly its timing, Battletoads was the unkissed er, frog in arcades, failing badly enough to cancel planned sequels and effectively killing the franchise — but you can relive the high point of the series in all its eww, gross glory right here.
Based on the comic Xenozoic Tales and a tie-in to an animated series of the same name, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs takes place in a pulpy dystopian future where humanity has been driven underground and dinosaurs have returned to rule the Earth. The game sends mechanic Jack Tenrec, scientist Hannah Dundee and others in pursuit of the mysterious Black Marketeers, within a beat-em-up world that resembles Final Fight if it had machine guns, cars and, of course, dinosaurs. The story takes several twists and turns, but the fighting action stays fairly consistent throughout, sending waves of baddies and a shapeshifting villain for you to punch into oblivion.
The spark that set the beat-em-up genre ablaze in the late 80s, Double Dragon pits martial artists Billy and Jimmy Lee (also known as Hammer and Spike) against the Black Warriors gang as they fight to rescue mutual love interest Marian. Though not the first game with beat-em-up mechanics, Double Dragon brought a gritty martial arts atmosphere inspired by Bruce Lee movies and more complex fighting mechanics to the genre, and was cited as an inspiration for Final Fight and other well-known beat-em-ups. Developed by Technos Japan and distributed in the US by Taito, the game spawned two sequels, a spinoff Neo Geo fighting game, an animated series and a live-action movie, and is still a classic for its simple yet satisfying style and gameplay.
Capcom's legendary beat-em-up Final Fight features a scenario practically ripped from the headlines: former wrestler becomes mayor of crime-ridden city, pledging to eliminate crime, which prompts local gang to kidnap his daughter in retaliation, which leads said mayor (now shirtless) to recruit said daughter's boyfriend and his buddy to beat up said gang and rescue said daughter. Originally conceived as a Street Fighter spinoff, Final Fight drew inspiration from a variety of sources, including the Double Dragon series and the movie Streets of Fire, and turned it into one of the most iconic beat-em-ups of its era. From its unique character designs and individually named enemies, to its more sophisticated fighting mechanics and infamous continue screen, the game has earned a lasting place in the beat-em-up pantheon.
At some point in the 90s, it seems that arcade game developers needed a reason not to jump on the beat-em-up bandwagon, something TAD Corporation was unable to provide before releasing Legionnaire. A relatively by-the-numbers brawler in the vein of Final Fight, it lacks weapons or an especially interesting move set, and instead gets by on quirky enemy designs and a few interesting additions such as a dash attack and a grenade-throwing special move (OK, it has one weapon). It may not be your first beat-em-up choice, but if you just have to beat em all, Legionnaire will give you a bunch of new enemies to beat on.
Perhaps the most amazing Japanese-sounding game concept that was actually conceived by an American, Ninja Baseball Bat Man was the brainchild of Drew Maniscalco, who combined several pop culture touchpoints (ninjas, baseball, Batman) into a beat-em-up that oozes character and humor. Tasked with retrieving several stolen artifacts from the Baseball Hall of Fame (so the stakes are clearly world-altering), up to four bat-wielding heroes battle side-by-side against similarly baseball-themed enemies to recover the relics. The gameplay features fantastic character designs, a series of colorful stages, a wide range of power-ups, bizarre bosses and other touches that have made the game a cult classic despite its relative obscurity.
The Punisher was Marvel and Capcom's first collaboration, and it brought a grittier edge to the already-violent beat-em-up genre upon its release in 1993. The game features the standard Punisher storyline (Frank Castle's family is gunned down, and he seeks revenge against the Kingpin), with Castle teaming up with Nick Fury (back when he was a cigar-chomping white guy) to take down hordes of bad guys. Appropriately, this involves a lot more guns and hand grenades than your typical beat-em-up game, diffused somewhat by comics-inspired BLAM! and KRAK! effects. Though it lacks the range of recognizable characters of Konami's 1992 X-Men beat-em-up, The Punisher features sophisticated graphics for its time and action that should satisfy beat-em-up fans. Our overlay depicts the game in the Capcom Dynamo cabinet format.
The sequel to Shinobi, Sega's Shadow Dancer continues its predecessor's platform-based shuriken-em-up gameplay but adds a trusty canine sidekick, Shadow, to help in your quest take down a terrorist organization. The unnamed ninja protagonist can send Shadow ahead to subdue enemies, which handily distracts them from sending slow-moving knives and bullets your way. (Don't worry, the dog can't die, but he will shrink to a harmless pup if attacked.) Carrying over Shinobi's gameplay mechanics, Shadow Dancer failed to pick up on the health bar and "insert coins to continue immediately" trends, sending you back significantly when you take a single hit, which adds to its difficulty. But you can take it – you are a ninja, after all.
Technos' ambitious but relatively obscure beat-em-up Shadow Force contains a deceptive array of combat mechanics, making it more akin to a fighting game in many respects despite its side-scrolling levels and increasingly tough enemies and bosses. The game features a full six action buttons in the US release, which control high and low kicks and punches, jumping and the ability to possess enemies (the Japanese version has only three buttons and changes their commands, so check which version you're running). The latter ability is what really sets Shadow Force apart – when you activate the ability, you can inhabit many of the game's enemies, each of which has its own special abilities, adding a huge range of possible approaches to combat. Along with vibrant landscapes and sounds, it adds up to a challenging but memorable beat-em-up experience.
The Simpsons stands as one of the most popular and iconic arcade games of the 90’s and still has legions of fans to this day. Players jump into action to help Homer and the cartoon family rescue Maggie from the clutches of Mr. Smithers, who has kidnapped Maggie to retrieve a large diamond she is sucking on. Most of the series cast pops up at one point or another, not to mention Binky from "Life in Hell," as you fight through legions of henchmen and bosses in classic beat-em-up style. One of the defining arcade brawlers of Konami’s hot run of massive 4-player cabinets (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, X-Men, Sunset Riders), it played on the success of the TV show and opened the flood gates to bring more entertainment franchises into the arcades (for better and sometimes worse). Eat my shorts.
Vigilante is a bit of a throwback for its time, in that it didn't adopt either the 3D movement of games like Double Dragon or the platforming mechanics of Bad Dudes, instead opting for more sophisticated graphics and sound applied to a simpler formula akin to Irem's original Kung-Fu Master. Your goal is to rescue Madonna (sadly not the Madonna) from the clutches of endless waves of "skinheads" with full heads of hair. There is very little strategy to Vigilante, only timing, as there is little subtlety to enemy attacks, and once you get the nunchucks you can easily beat the game. But the colorful graphics and fantastic synth soundtrack make it worth a few punches (it has a very satisfying punch sound, you have to give it that).