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.
Cyberbots takes the rumblin' robots of Armored Warriors and builds a full fighting game around them, with a variety of character storylines centering around the Earth Force and the pilots of the VAs (Valiant or Variant Armors) the players control. Players choose both a human pilot (which determines the storyline) and a VA type (which determines your abilities and moves), which allows for a fair amount of options despite a limited number of pilot/VA combinations. Players have access to VA-specific special moves in addition to special attacks and ranged weapons, giving it greater depth as a fighter than it might seem at first glance. The cabinet appeared in both standard and Big Blue formats, both of which we have reproduced here.
Darkstalkers represents one of Capcom's earliest forays into character-driven fighting games, featuring expressive character designs and animations as well as storylines and the beginnings of a larger universe. Based on the Street Fighter II engine, the game features a menagerie of gothic horror-themed characters lined up to defend Earth from invading demon Pyron. The fighting system is similar to that of Street Fighter II but adds features such as Air Blocking, Crouch Walking and Chain Combos as well as a Special meter players can charge up for powerful attacks. The game would spawn an enduring franchise including numerous arcade and console sequels, comics, animated TV series and more.
Developed by Taito and released in the US by Romstar, Kageki is a surprisingly twitchy arcade brawler that requires extremely fast button mashing more than Street Fighter-esque strategy and timing. Taking place in the Japanese underground, the game challenges players to fight their way up the chain of a local gang in a series of bare-fisted fights. The combatants have a minimal range of fighting abilities but at least can move in two axes, which adds another level of tactics. The cartoony, superdeformed style of the characters and its odd touches (the losing fighter is unceremoniously dumped down a manhole) make it a quirky and very Japanese entry in the pre-Street Fighter II fighting landscape.
Killer Instinct was a groundbreaking fighting game for its time in numerous ways: it used 3D-rendered graphics in a more extensive and dynamic way than most games up to that time, in addition to introducing a variety of elements to the fighting genre, including automatic combos, combo breakers and the continuation of character life bars between rounds. Developed by Rare, the game was a part of a partnership between Nintendo and Midway parent WMS to create and market arcade games that would then be ported to Nintendo consoles, particularly the Nintendo 64. Despite its ties to family-friendly Nintendo, the game features a fair amount of violence and gore, including finishing moves reminiscent of the popular Mortal Kombat series. Killer Instinct dominated arcades during its time and spawned one arcade sequel and a later Xbox re-imagining, not to mention a full-length documentary.
The sequel to Rare and Midway's groundbreaking fighting game with 3D-rendered characters, Killer Instinct 2 refined and expanded upon the gameplay system of the original game in numerous ways. KI 2 adds a Super bar which enables more powerful attacks, an expanded combo system based around "autodoubles," throws and parries, easier combo breakers and a remixed roster of characters. The backstory has the returning cast sent back in time and fighting to defeat the evil Demon Lord Gargos, with varying endings depending on which characters they defeat with finishing moves.
The third game in Capcom's Marvel vs. Capcom series (oddly enough), Marvel vs. Capcom brings together a slate of Marvel superheroes to battle a who's-who of characters from across the Capcom universe, including Mega Man, Arthur from Ghosts 'n Goblins and characters from Darkstalkers, Street Fighter, Cyberbots, Strider and Forgotten Worlds. As in Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter, players can choose two heroes to team up and trade off, but MvC changes up the formula with a limited number of Guest Character attacks and the addition of the Variable Cross system, which allows both heroes to attack together for a limited time. Marvel vs. Capcom is part of a still-running series that showcases Capcom's commitment to dynamic, character-driven titles with enduring competitive gameplay.
It is probably safe to call Mortal Kombat the most controversial game in arcade history — plenty of other games have attracted attention and caused offense, but few inspired US Congressional hearings. Mortal Kombat added a darker, more serious tone and graphic, bloody violence to the burgeoning fighting game genre — a distinctly different direction from Street Fighter II and its clones that would make it a runaway success, and even help push the revival of arcades in the 90s. The game's graphics pushed boundaries as well, using video capture to create a look with surprising realism for its time, a technique that would go on to power NBA Jam and other Midway games. The violence attracted the crowds, but the game's air of mystery, including its Chinese mythology-inspired backstories, secret moves including the series-defining Fatalities, secret characters and other elements made it irresistible to its largely teenage, largely male audience. The game spawned three arcade sequels, numerous console sequels and ports, two somewhat questionable movies, comics, music, TV shows and even a live touring show.
Mortal Kombat II expanded upon the success of the original with multiple new characters, a continuation of the first game's plotlines, a refined fighting system and more. In addition to improving the graphics, making the gameplay more aggressive and attacks more varied and powerful, the sequel introduced a wider range of finishing moves — new Fatalities, including two per character, as well as stage-based Fatalities and humorous Babality and Friendship finishing moves (a relatively rare instance of a high-profile game parodying its own gameplay). Mortal Kombat II was an even greater success than the original, in arcades as well as on consoles, though its notoriety led it to be banned in Germany and helped usher in game rating systems.
Continuing the spine-ripping success of its two siblings, Mortal Kombat 3 introduced a run button to allow players to quickly close the distance to their opponent, coupled with a run meter, as well as pre-programmed chain combos that cannot be interrupted. The game's stages also feature multiple levels, accessed by knocking your opponent through the ceiling or floor to continue the battle on a new stage. In addition to the previous games' finishing moves, Mortal Kombat 3 introduced Animalities, finishing moves that transform your character into an animal before killing your opponent. The single player mode also includes the ability to choose a skill level, and players can enter a Kombat Kode to modify the gameplay or access hidden characters.
Mortal Kombat 4 marks the series' first foray into 3D graphics, which were fast overtaking the 2D video capture-based graphics Midway and the Mortal Kombat series were known for. In terms of gameplay, MK4 features essentially the same formula as previous games in the series, with 15 playable characters and the run button and combo system, though the transition to 3D caused the gameplay to be somewhat slower and the game didn't feature true 3D gameplay. MK4 also introduced a weapons system accessed with a button combination, as well as an upper limit on possible damage with one combo, and simplified the Fatality system to remove the series' less serious elements. As with other early 3D games from the late 90s, the game's 3D graphics seemed groundbreaking at the time, but have arguably not aged as well as the visuals of the 2D versions (that may be nostalgia talking, however).
Released the same year as Killer Instinct and during the reign of the Mortal Kombat series, Primal Rage was part of an overall trend toward more sophisticated (and violent) graphics and gameplay in arcade fighting games. Following a cataclysm that regresses the world back to the Stone Age, seven godlike creatures emerge on this new Urth and fight over the fate of the planet, worshipped by the remaining humans. Primal Rage's key differentiator was its non-human characters, including dinosaurs and giant apes, brought to life using novel stop motion animation techniques. The game spawned not only a significant arcade following, but numerous console versions as well as a popular toy line and a sequel, Primal Rage II, that was never widely released but can now be played via emulation.
Punch-Out!! was an unusual foray for Nintendo, known for cute platformers, as a challenging and realistic (if somewhat cartoony) third-person boxing game. Aside from its cleverly wireframed protagonist, which allowed you to see yourself without obscuring your opponent, Punch-Out!! was most novel for featuring two monitors, one for the main action and one that displays the fighters, score and status (so chosen because Nintendo had a glut of CRT monitors at the time that it needed to get rid of). Though simple, the game's boxing gameplay proved quite addictive for arcade-goers, leading to both an arcade sequel and several console adaptations.
The first game released for Capcom's CPS III hardware, Red Earth is a fantasy-themed fighting game that combines RPG-like elements with the conventions of the fighting genre. Set in an alternate 14th century, Red Earth follows four heroes as they battle a series of bosses (in the game's single-player Quest Mode) leading up to the evil Scion, who is trying to take over the world (aren't they all?). The game is also playable as a standard two-player fighter, though with only four heroes it lacks the breadth of Capcom's usual squads of playable characters. Though the game isn't as well-known as many of Capcom's other properties, it features the same expressive 2D graphic style you would expect, and its characters have shown up in numerous other Capcom games.
The first sequel to Street Fighter Alpha picks up where the first game left off, adding Dhalsim and Zangief from the original Street Fighter II as well as several newcomers (including playable bosses from the first game), and further developing the core gameplay. In addition to the Super Combo system, Alpha Counters, Air Blocking and Fall Breaking of the original, it adds a Custom Combo system that allows players to expend Super Combo energy to create their own combos, as well as updated stages and backgrounds, other gameplay updates and additional balancing.
The third and final game in the Street Fighter Alpha series, released in between even more Street Fighter games from other series, adds a variety of new characters to the previous games' roster while further developing its fighting systems. Alpha 3 centers on the addition of "Isms," a set of three selectable fighting styles that mimic various other games in the series (A-ism is similar to the previous Alpha games, X-ism works similarly to the combo system of Super Street Fighter II Turbo and V-ism is a variable style focused on custom combos). It also introduces the Guard Power Gauge, which depletes every time you block an attack, ultimately leaving you vulnerable to a Guard Crush (both your Ism stance and character choice influence the size of your Guard Power Gauge). Along with numerous other updates, these changes make Alpha 3 a significantly different beast from previous entries in the series.
Amid Capcom's continued development of new fighting games such as Darkstalkers following the success of Street Fighter II, it returned to the series with Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors' Dreams in 1995. Featuring all new art in a more expressive style influenced by its post-SFII games and the Street Fighter animated movie, the game depicts younger versions of the original characters as well as several new characters. Alpha further developed the Street Fighter formula with the inclusion of the Super Combo system introduced in Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Alpha Counters, an Auto mode for less experienced players and tactics such as air blocking and chain combos.
Building on the boundary-smashing success of Street Fighter II: The World Warrior, Capcom released Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting less than a year after Champion Edition. This third game in the series was designed to up the ante as players mastered the game (if the use of both "Turbo" and "Hyper" in the title wasn't a giveaway), with accelerated gameplay that required more precise timing and additional special moves for most of the characters. With other refinements including new color palettes, Hyper Fighting further polished the characters and gameplay of the original Street Fighter II.
Street FIghter II: The World Warrior is largely credited with creating the fighting game genre as we know it, and Champion Edition built on its success with refinements that made it more competitive within its genre, becoming the best-selling edition of the game. Champion Edition's key additions were the ability to play the four boss characters (Balrog, Vega, Sagat and M. Bison) and to play mirror matches with the same character, though it also updated some of the fighters' moves and added various balance tweaks and refinements to the game. Street Fighter II is considered by many to be one of the greatest games of all time, and the Street Fighter series is still among the most popular within the competitive fighting community.
Based on the CPS-3 hardware, which allowed a new level of visual fidelity, the Street Fighter III series continued to evolve the Street Fighter formula with the addition of new mechanics: the ability to parry attacks, leap attacks, as well as Super Arts, selectable special moves that use a power gauge. In addition to adding a variety of new characters to the Street Fighter III roster (because it wouldn't be a new Capcom fighting game without them) and new stages and endings tied to the returning characters, and continuing the EX special moves from 2nd Impact, 3rd Strike adds the Grade Judge system, which awards special bonuses based on how well you performed across several metrics (in case your friends and opponents trash talking you wasn't enough).
Super Punch-Out!! continued the formula of Punch-Out!!, with similar graphics and the same stacked monitor configuration, while introducing colorfully-named new opponents including Bear Hugger, Dragon Chan and Vodka Drunkenski. The gameplay remained similar as well, with the addition of the ability to duck by pulling the joystick straight upward. Though it didn't dramatically move the series forward, it did provide more of the same boxing thrills, and was remade with more sophisticated graphics (albeit on a single screen) on Nintendo's consoles.
As with Capcom's numerous refinements of its Street Fighter games, Midway released Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 to further hone the gameplay and add new characters and features, and is usually considered the high point of the series in arcades. Among its new features are several new gameplay modes (2-on-2 and an 8-player tournament mode), gameplay tuning and refinements, new stages and the return of several original Mortal Kombat characters that were omitted in the first version of MK3. It was the last 2D-based Mortal Kombat games to be released in arcades, as the reigning technology had moved on to 3D.
Vampire Savior: World of Darkness is the second sequel to Darkstalkers, with the Western release of the game tying into White Wolf Publishing's World of Darkness franchise as a part of a short-lived collaboration between the company and Capcom (the game itself seems to have little connection to White Wolf's IP other than the general feel). The story's antagonist is Jedah Dohma, a nobleman from the demon world Makai, who seeks to rebuild it after it falls into chaos by luring in the Darkstalkers and stealing their souls. This naturally sets up a series of exciting battles, because video games! Vampire Savior contributes some new mechanics to the series, including the Damage Gauge System (similar to Killer Instinct, in which the winner of a round retains their current life total instead of resetting, with the added ability to recover some health), an ability called Advancing Guard that pushes opponents away, as well as a new energy gauge that powers special Dark Force attacks.
Having established both the Street Fighter series and two Marvel-based fighting games, Capcom made the popular decision to cross over the two universes, creating what would become the long-running Marvel vs. Capcom franchise. X-Men vs. Street Fighter allows each player to choose two fighters, who can trade off during combat and join forces for special attacks, and includes features from Capcom's other Marvel games such as super jumps, in-air combos and the Hyper Combo Gauge for supercharged attacks.
X-Men: Children of the Atom was the first Capcom fighting game to use Marvel characters, and it set the stage for the popular and long-running Marvel vs. Capcom series. Released at the time of the X-Men animated series, the game has much in common with mid-90s Capcom fighters Super Street Fighter II Turbo and Darkstalkers. Children of the Atom adds X-Abilities, powered by the multi-level X-Gauge, as well as air combos and super jumps. The game's storyline concerns a plan by Magneto disrupt the Earth's electromagnetic field and bring mutants into power, with other evil mutants aligning with Magneto and the X-Men teaming up to stop them. (As with most Marvel-related fighting games, it's never quite explained why the X-Men are fighting each other, but it's a great way to answer those "Who would win in a fight?" questions.)