This is pretty cool. Developer Patrick McCarron decided to re-outfit his Mortal Kombat II arcade cabinet, which held dedicated hardware for running that game as well as a handful of others, with a more versatile MAME emulator setup. MAME stands for "multiple arcade machine emulator" and does just that: runs the ROM files of tons and tons of different arcade games.
Originally planning to use a Mac Mini to pull of this feat, Patrick decided he’d put one of his many older iOS devices to the task instead. It took some technical know-how to put it all together, which he details on his blog, but in simplified terms he transplanted the guts of an iCade into the arcade cabinet and rigged an iOS version of MAME to run through video out into the cabinet’s CRT monitor. The results can be seen in the following video.
Now, because he’s a developer Patrick was able to compile the MAME code into an app that ran on his device without needing to jailbreak. For normal users this scenario would probably require jailbreaking and running iMAME4All. Also, the iMAME app that slipped past Apple's approval process late last year and was subsequently pulled would work too, if you happened to grab that when it was still available.
Since the iCade hardware isn’t built for 2-player support, that eliminates playing multiplayer on the cabinet setup, which is kind of a bummer. And there are various other quirks associated with going this route for an arcade emulator setup. Still, it’s a pretty sweet hack that shows how versatile an iOS device can be with the right inventiveness and know-how.
Patrick plans to continue tweaking the setup to improve it, and even dreams of a similar setup built into a portable arcade stick with an iOS dock that could stream games through AirPlay to be played wirelessly on a big screen TV. Sign me up for one of those, please.
MAME Cabinet Upcoming AppWatch Button Watch App