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.
Developed by Valadon Automation and released in the US by Stern, Bagman combines Donkey Kong-like platform levels that span multiple screens with maze chase gameplay that requires more strategy than reflexes. The titular antihero traverses the platforms, ladders and elevators of a mine to retrieve the gold he stashed before he escaped from prison, while avoiding guards and making use of pickaxes and carts in his quest to gather his quarry. It takes a bit of practice to find the optimal routes to avoid the guards, grab all the gold and run out before the timer does. Bagman is known for its comic strip-inspired art, which explains the entire game’s plot and gameplay mechanics all in the marquee.
Considered by many to be one of the best games of all time, Bubble Bobble combines cute characters with simple but satisfying gameplay mechanics to create a game that seems like it came from Nintendo, but didn't. The game sends Bub and Bob, two chibi-styled, bubble-blowing dragons, through a series of 100 platform levels within the Cave of Monsters, defeating enemies by encapsulating them within bubbles and then popping them (which then causes them to turn into food). The level designs and enemy challenges become increasingly complex as the game continues, culminating in a single epic boss fight. Bubble Bobble would go on to pop out many sequels for consoles, as well as the hit spinoff series Puzzle Bobble (aka Bust-a-Move).
An early 80s classic that combined the maze chase craze with Donkey Kong-style platform mechanics to create something fresh, BurgerTime tasks chef Peter Pepper with assembling massive burgers layer by layer while avoiding a kitchen full of other food, apparently slighted by his choice of lunch. The scaffolding he runs across resembles a Pac-Man-style maze, but the addition of falling burger ingredients adds a layer of strategy, with a limited number of food-stunning pepper shakes as a last defense. BurgerTime's colorful graphics, whimsical cartoon foods and classic soundtrack made it a popular 80s draw and continue to make it a game worth revisiting.
Congo Bongo borrowed much of its core concept from Donkey Kong — chasing a giant ape across increasingly treacherous levels while avoiding obstacles and enemies — but added both graphic sophistication and a level of charm that made it stand on its own. The hunter protagonist's motivation is merely spite (Bongo lights his tent on fire in the game's intro), rather than rescuing a damsel, and his quest for revenge requires dodging monkeys, rhinos, snakes and other unfriendly animals along the way. Congo Bongo's key innovation was its 3D isometric levels, not unlike Zaxxon before it, which added a new dimension (literally) to the levels and required a new way of thinking to avoid the various hazards in your path.
An early-80s Atari classic that is celebrated as much for its beautiful MC Escher-esque cabinet art as for the game itself, *Crystal Castles* is a somewhat surreal take on Pac-Man-style "eat the dots" gameplay, within a series of three-dimensional castles filled with fantasy baddies. Players control Bentley Bear, whose insatiable greed compels him to pick up all the gems from every level, evading sentient crystal balls, aggressive trees, swarms of bees and a flying witch along the way. The game's trackball controls added a level of novelty common to several Atari games of the era, while the levels (rendered using a technique known as trimetric projection, says Wikipedia) feature 3D twists and platforms that require quick thinking and dexterity to navigate quickly.
The first game designed by now-legendary designer Shigeru Miyamoto, Donkey Kong was anything but a planned success – it was intended as a replacement game for unsold Radar Scope cabinets, and its concept was conceived after Nintendo failed to secure the rights to create a Popeye game. The rest is, of course, history, as Donkey Kong and the franchises it spawned came to define Nintendo for decades. Donkey Kong became a cultural touchstone in the 80s, was the birthplace of Nintendo mascot Mario and inspired a documentary, The King of Kong, about various attempts to seize the world record high score.
For their third Donkey Kong outing, designer Shigeru Miyamoto and Nintendo went in a totally different direction, removing Mario from the equation entirely (he was off chasing pests with Luigi in New York, apparently) and replacing him with Stanley, a gardener trying to protect his precious plants from an onslaught of bugs. The gameplay took another left turn as well, combining platform elements like the previous games with shooter action vaguely reminiscent of a slow-motion Galaga or Centipede. Pushing Donkey Kong far enough toward the top of the screen causes him to drop a super spray canister that makes Stanley's bug sprayer far more powerful, making it easy to complete the level and helping make Donkey Kong 3 one of the more accessible games of the series.
Following from the success of Donkey Kong, designer Shigeru Miyamoto and Nintendo followed up with its first sequel, which flipped the script to make Mario the villain, the titular ape the kidnappee and Donkey Kong's offspring the hero. It also added more novel gameplay elements, with vertical vine-climbing in addition to horizontal platform running and the ability to kill enemies with falling fruit, and the game's vertical focus made it a significantly different challenge from the original game. Donkey Kong Jr. also featured increasingly expressive character designs, with Junior's facial expressions bringing a degree of emotion to the game that was uncommon for its era.
Three years after Sir Arthur the knight rescued his beloved Princess Prin-Prin from the clutches of Lucifer in Ghosts 'n Goblins (I believe this strictly follows Arthurian legend), the ultimate bad guy is back and he's mad as Hell! Lucifer strikes down Prin-Prin and the local villagers (with some sort of evil laser, it appears), and Arthur must once again leap into battle to defeat him and restore the people's souls. Ghouls 'n Ghosts follows the original game's formula pretty closely, including its lovely organ soundtrack and punishing difficulty, with a new set of enemies, updated graphics and slight gameplay updates. Though it was the last arcade release of the series, it was succeeded by numerous console releases and it remains a popular Capcom franchise.
One of the classic platformer action games of the late 80s, Karnov combines a bizarre fantasy setting with relatively deep and difficult gameplay for its genre. There isn't a great deal of story behind Karnov – you play Jinborov Karnovski, a fire-breathing Russian strongman in search of treasure – but the strategy behind the game involves a great deal of memorization and uncovering of secrets to succeed. The positions and actions of the cavalcade of fanciful enemies (sword-wielding monks, djinn, dinosaurs and centipede women to name a few) don't change but pretty much require multiple playthroughs to learn, and there are a number of power-ups and weapons hidden around the levels. Karnov the character became a mascot of sorts for Data East, appearing as a boss in Bad Dudes and making cameo appearances in several other games in addition to being a playable character in Neo Geo fighter Karnov's Revenge.
Marble Madness was a novel game for its time, introducing the Atari System 1 hardware and featuring unique level designs and gameplay in addition to true stereo sound. Players roll a marble (using a trackball, perhaps the tightest connection between gameplay and control scheme ever conceived) through increasingly complex and perilous 3D landscapes, trying to get to the goal before the timer runs out. The game was a hit upon its release, and is probably the most memorable of the System 1 games. Though it works best with a trackball, it is playable with an 8-way joystick, albeit with somewhat less control, and you'll feel like you're missing the point (i.e. marbles). Check out the rest of the Atari System 1 games on the theme pack page.
The third game featuring Mario, Mario Bros. also brings along his brother Luigi to scour the sewers of New York City to clean up an infestation of turtles, crabs, flies and other pests. Though the mechanics differ from later games, Mario Bros. cemented Mario’s characterization as an Italian-American plumber, his trademark ability to jump on and defeat menacing animal life and his love of giant coins. The game’s multiplayer gameplay, reportedly inspired by Joust, and relatively slow-paced gameplay make it far more approachable than many of Nintendo's previous games. This overlay includes a custom instruction strip, as there was no official version.
Probably the least-known of the Atari System 1 games, Peter Pack Rat featured an original set of cartoon animals, led by a pack rat whose goal is to collect all the random junk strewn about each level. Peter Pack Rat is a hybrid of platformer and maze game with a jazzy, eclectic soundtrack, and while its levels can be a little visually confusing at first, its a game that grows on you. The original cabinet sported a bright blue joystick identical to the original Battlezone joystick, only... blue.
Check out the rest of the Atari System 1 games on the theme pack page.
After designing Donkey Kong in the image of Popeye, Nintendo created its actual Popeye game a year later, borrowing elements of the original game while giving it a unique concept and gameplay. To rescue Olive Oyl from the clutches of Brutus, Popeye must catch the hearts, notes and cries of H-E-L-P she drops, while avoiding not only Brutus but the Sea Hag and other nasties. Popeye can't jump, but he can knock out Brutus by grabbing his favorite canned leafy snack. Various other characters from Popeye's universe appear occasionally, as he traverses three increasingly treacherous levels to rescue his sweetie. This overlay features an original instruction strip based on the cocktail cabinet instructions, as it didn't come with an official one.
One of the most iconic arcade characters of the early 80s, the protagonist of Q*Bert lives only to hop around a isometric pyramid of cubes, changing their colors while avoiding enemies intent on stopping him, for whatever reason (motivations were often fairly vague in early 80s games). The game featured a rare diagonals-only control scheme using a rotated 4-way joystick, which continues to present challenges to MAME enthusiasts 40 years later. Q*Bert was Gottlieb's only real arcade hit, but it hit big enough to not only put Gottlieb on the map but to grace Saturday morning cartoons, endless merchandise and appear in movies Wreck-It Ralph and Pixels.
Strider brought an audacious combination of visual style, gameplay mechanics, level design and sound design to unsuspecting arcades in 1989, creating a dazzling spectacle that would influence countless games to come. Based on contemporary manga Strider Hiryu, the game puts players in the shoes of a ninja on a mission to assassinate the Grandmaster, who rules over the dystopian future world. Strider's constantly changing setting, moving from gleaming fortresses to sprawling airships and beyond, sets the stage for one of the most acrobatic platform/hack and slash games of its era — it requires both careful timing and constant judgment of exactly what you can run, climb and jump on in your relentless push forward. Its high level of difficulty, creative bosses and even the hero's iconic arc-shaped blade animation have helped make it an arcade legend that still deserves attention.
Two years after the original Bagman, that lovable rascal is at it again, having escaped from Alcatraz (could Bagman actually be Clint Eastwood?!), and he’s still after his stashed gold. In Super Bagman, he can grab a gun and grenade in addition to the standard pickaxe, but the guards are also armed, adding more danger to his underground shenanigans. Another new twist is the ability to release a captured comrade from the clink by finding a special bag of gold to receive the key. Though not a radical change from the original, Super Bagman adds some new thrills and pitfalls, providing even more spelunking fun with hardened criminals.
TAD Corporation's Toki is a curious platformer that casts players as a Tarzan-like tribesman pursuing an evil witch doctor, who has kidnapped princess and love interest Miho and also turned him into a shrunken ape-like creature. The transformation has given Toki the ability to shoot deadly projectiles from his mouth, for some reason, which are of great help in navigating the creature-filled caverns that lie between him and his beloved. Toki was a popular game for its time, and it's easy to see why, with its character-filled presentation and complex platforming challenges – it even spawned a recent remake, but you can relive the original here in its arcade cabinet glory.
Movie tie-in games were relatively rare in 80s arcades, but the few that did surface often produced games that stand well on their own (Tron and Star Wars being excellent examples). Though certainly less well-known, Capcom's Willow belongs in that list as well, as a platformer with a surprising amount of depth as well as heart. Willow follows the events of the 1988 Ron Howard movie, in which diminutive Willow Ufgood must protect baby Elora from the evil witch queen Bavmorda, while teaming up with warrior Madmartigan along the way. The gameplay is similar in many ways to the Ghosts 'n Goblins series, with the addition of more complex levels, a more reasonable difficulty level and the ability to buy upgrades from roving vendors, which give you a variety of new abilities in addition to allowing you to restore your health.
Zwackery was an oddity in mid-80s arcades, combining excellent and expressive graphics with surprisingly complex gameplay and controls. Players step into the robes of Zachary Thwacker, a wizard on a quest to save a lovely princess who has been turned into a frog. Along the way you'll encounter crows who love to drop things on your head (and then turn into flying eyeballs), aggressive mushrooms, gargoyles, guards, devils, skeletons and ultimately a dragon, all while trying to defeat the Evil Ghoulum. Zwackery requires near-ambidexterity to master, as you control the wizard with a flight stick with two buttons corresponding to your sword and shield, rotate your sword/shield arm with a spinner, push the spinner down to pick up items and pull it up to cast spells.
We included this game because it's a cult classic, but it is very difficult to play on MAME without a two-button flight stick and a push-pull spinner. If you can find a way to play it, it's something special.