Compiling MAME

All Platforms

  • Whenever you are changing build parameters, (such as switching between a SDL-based build and a native Windows renderer one, or adding tools to the compile list) you need to run a make REGENIE=1 to allow the settings to be regenerated. Failure to do this will cause you very difficult to troubleshoot problems.

  • If you want to add various additional tools to the compile, such as CHDMAN, add a TOOLS=1 to your make statement, like make REGENIE=1 TOOLS=1

  • You can do driver specific builds by using SOURCES=<driver> in your make statement. For instance, building Pac-Man by itself would be make SOURCES=src/mame/drivers/pacman.cpp REGENIE=1 including the necessary REGENIE for rebuilding the settings.

  • Speeding up the compilation can be done by using more cores from your CPU. This is done with the -j parameter. Note: the maximum number you should use is the number of cores your CPU has, plus one. No higher than that will speed up the compilation, and may in fact slow it down. For instance, make -j5 on a quad-core CPU will provide optimal speed.

  • Debugging information can be added to a compile using SYMBOLS=1 though most users will not want or need to use this.

Putting all of these together, we get a couple of examples:

Rebuilding MAME for just the Pac-Man driver, with tools, on a quad-core (e.g. i5 or i7) machine:

make SOURCES=src/mame/drivers/pacman.cpp TOOLS=1 REGENIE=1 -j5

Rebuilding MAME on a dual-core (e.g. i3 or laptop i5) machine:

make -j3

Microsoft Windows

MAME for Windows is built using the MSYS2 environment. You will need Windows 7 or later and a reasonably up-to-date MSYS2 installation. We strongly recommend building MAME on a 64-bit system. Instructions may need to be adjusted for 32-bit systems.

  • A pre-packaged MSYS2 installation including the prerequisites for building MAME can be downloaded from the MAME Build Tools page.

  • After initial installation, you can update the MSYS2 environment using the pacman (Arch package manage) command.

  • By default, MAME will be built using native Windows OS interfaces for window management, audio/video output, font rendering, etc. If you want to use the portable SDL (Simple DirectMedia Layer) interfaces instead, you can add OSD=sdl to the make options. The main emulator binary will have an sdl prefix prepended (e.g. sdlmame64.exe or sdlmame.exe). You will need to install the MSYS2 packages for SDL 2 version 2.0.3 or later.

  • By default, MAME will include the native Windows debugger. To also inculde the portable Qt debugger, add USE_QTDEBUG=1 to the make options. You will need to install the MSYS2 packages for Qt 5.

Using a standard MSYS2 installation

You may also build MAME using a standard MSYS2 installation and adding the tools needed for building MAME. These instructions assume you have some familiarity with MSYS2 and the pacman package manager.

  • Install the MSYS2 environment from the MSYS2 homepage.

  • Download the latest version of the mame-essentials package from the MAME package repository and install it using the pacman command.

  • Add the mame repository to /etc/pacman.conf using /etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist.mame for locations.

  • Install packages necessary to build MAME. At the very least, you’ll need bash, git, make.

  • For 64-bit builds you’ll need mingw-w64-x86_64-gcc and mingw-w64-x86_64-python2.

  • For 32-bit builds you’ll need mingw-w64-i686-gcc and mingw-w64-i686-python2.

  • For debugging you may want to install gdb.

  • To build against the portable SDL interfaces, you’ll need mingw-w64-x86_64-SDL2 and mingw-w64-x86_64-SDL2_ttf for 64-bit builds, or mingw-w64-i686-SDL2 and mingw-w64-i686-SDL2_ttf for 32-bit builds.

  • To build the Qt debugger, you’ll need mingw-w64-x86_64-qt5 for 64-bit builds, or mingw-w64-i686-qt5 for 32-bit builds.

  • To generate API documentation from source, you’ll need doxygen.

  • For 64-bit builds, open MSYS2 MinGW 64-bit from the start menu, and set up the environment variables MINGW64 to /mingw64 and MINGW32 to an empty string (e.g. using the command export MINGW64=/mingw64 MINGW32= in the Bash shell).

  • For 32-bit builds, open MSYS2 MinGW 32-bit from the start menu, and set up the environment variables MINGW32 to /mingw32 and MINGW64 to an empty string (e.g. using the command export MINGW32=/mingw32 MINGW64= in the Bash shell).

Building with Microsoft Visual Studio

  • You can generate Visual Studio 2017 projects using make vs2017. The solution and project files will be created in build/projects/windows/mame/vs2017 by default (the name of the build folder can be changed using the BUILDDIR option). This will always regenerate the settings, so REGENIE=1 is not needed.

  • Adding MSBUILD=1 to the make options will build build the solution using the Microsoft Build Engine after generating the project files. Note that this requires paths and environment variables to be configured so the correct Visual Studio tools can be located.

  • MAME can only be compiled with the Visual Studio 15.7.6 tools. Bugs in newer versions of the Microsoft Visual C/C++ compiler prevent it from compiling MAME.

  • The MSYS2 environment is still required to generate the project files, convert built-in layouts, compile UI translations, etc.

Fedora Linux

You’ll need a few prerequisites from your distro. Make sure you get SDL2 2.0.3 or 2.0.4 as earlier versions are buggy.

sudo dnf install gcc gcc-c++ SDL2-devel SDL2_ttf-devel libXi-devel libXinerama-devel qt5-qtbase-devel qt5-qttools expat-devel fontconfig-devel alsa-lib-devel

Compilation is exactly as described above in All Platforms.

Debian and Ubuntu (including Raspberry Pi and ODROID devices)

You’ll need a few prerequisites from your distro. Make sure you get SDL2 2.0.3 or 2.0.4 as earlier versions are buggy.

sudo apt-get install git build-essential python libsdl2-dev libsdl2-ttf-dev libfontconfig-dev qt5-default

Compilation is exactly as described above in All Platforms.

Arch Linux

You’ll need a few prerequisites from your distro.

sudo pacman -S base-devel git sdl2 gconf sdl2_ttf gcc qt5

Compilation is exactly as described above in All Platforms.

Apple Mac OS X

You’ll need a few prerequisites to get started. Make sure you’re on OS X 10.9 Mavericks or later. You will NEED SDL2 2.0.4 for OS X.

  • Install Xcode from the Mac App Store

  • Launch Xcode. It will download a few additional prerequisites. Let this run through before proceeding.

  • Once that’s done, quit Xcode and open a Terminal window

  • Type xcode-select –install to install additional tools necessary for MAME

Next you’ll need to get SDL2 installed.

  • Go to this site and download the Mac OS X .dmg file

  • If the .dmg doesn’t auto-open, open it

  • Click ‘Macintosh HD’ (or whatever your Mac’s hard disk is named) in the left pane of a Finder window, then open the Library folder and drag the SDL2.framework folder from the SDL disk image into the Frameworks folder

Lastly to begin compiling, use Terminal to navigate to where you have the MAME source tree (cd command) and follow the normal compilation instructions from above in All Platforms.

It’s possible to get MAME working from 10.6, but a bit more complicated:

  • You’ll need to install clang-3.7, ld64, libcxx and python27 from MacPorts

  • Then add these options to your make command or useroptions.mak:


Emscripten Javascript and HTML

First, download and install Emscripten 1.37.29 or later by following the instructions at the official site

Once Emscripten has been installed, it should be possible to compile MAME out-of-the-box using Emscripten’s ‘emmake’ tool. Because a full MAME compile is too large to load into a web browser at once, you will want to use the SOURCES parameter to compile only a subset of the project, e.g. (in the mame directory):

emmake make SUBTARGET=pacmantest SOURCES=src/mame/drivers/pacman.cpp

The SOURCES parameter should have the path to at least one driver .cpp file. The make process will attempt to locate and include all dependencies necessary to produce a complete build including the specified driver(s). However, sometimes it is necessary to manually specify additional files (using commas) if this process misses something. E.g.:

emmake make SUBTARGET=apple2e SOURCES=src/mame/drivers/apple2e.cpp,src/mame/machine/applefdc.cpp

The value of the SUBTARGET parameter serves only to differentiate multiple builds and need not be set to any specific value.

Emscripten supports compiling to WebAssembly with a JavaScript loader instead of all-JavaScript, and in later versions this is actually the default. To force WebAssembly on or off, add WEBASSEMBLY=1 or WEBASSEMBLY=0 to the make command line.

Other make parameters can also be used, e.g. -j for multithreaded compilation as described earlier.

When the compilation reaches the emcc phase, you may see a number of “unresolved symbol” warnings. At the moment, this is expected for OpenGL-related functions such as glPointSize. Any others may indicate that an additional dependency file needs to be specified in the SOURCES list. Unfortunately this process is not automated and you will need to search the source tree to locate the files supplying the missing symbols. You may also be able to get away with ignoring the warnings if the code path referencing them is not used at run-time.

If all goes well, a .js file will be output to the current directory. This file cannot be run by itself, but requires an HTML loader to provide it with a canvas to output to and pass in command-line parameters. The Emularity project provides such a loader.

There are example .html files in that repository which can be edited to point to your newly compiled MAME js filename and pass in whatever parameters you desire. You will then need to place all of the following on a web server:

  • The compiled MAME .js file

  • The compiled MAME .wasm file if using WebAssembly

  • The .js files from the Emularity package (loader.js, browserfs.js, etc.)

  • A .zip file with the ROMs for the MAME driver you would like to run (if any)

  • Any software files you would like to run with the MAME driver

  • An Emularity loader .html modified to point to all of the above

You need to use a web server instead of opening the local files directly due to security restrictions in modern web browsers.

If the result fails to run, you can open the Web Console in your browser to see any error output which may have been produced (e.g. missing or incorrect ROM files). A “ReferenceError: foo is not defined” error most likely indicates that a needed source file was omitted from the SOURCES list.

Useful Options

This section summarises some of the more useful options recognised by the main makefile. You use these options by appending them to the make command, setting them as environment variables, or adding them to your prefix makefile. Note that in order to apply many of these settings when rebuilding, you need to set REGENIE=1 the first time you build after changing the option(s). Also note that GENie does not automatically rebuild affected files when you change an option that affects compiler settings.

Overall build options


Name of a makefile to include for additional options if found (defaults to useroptions.mak). May be useful if you want to quickly switch between different build configurations.


Set to change the name of the subfolder used for project files, generated sources, object files, and intermediate libraries (defaults to build).


Set to 1 to force project files to be regenerated.


Set to 1 to show full commands when using GNU make as the build tool. This option applies immediately without needing regenerate project files.


Set to 1 to skip the working tree scan and not attempt to embed a git revision description in the version string.

Tool locations


Set the C/Objective-C compiler command. (This sets the target C compiler command when cross-compiling.)


Set the C++/Objective-C++ compiler command. (This sets the target C++ compiler command when cross-compiling.)


Set the linker command. This is often not necessary or useful because the C or C++ compiler command is used to invoke the linker. (This sets the target linker command when cross-compiling.)


Set the Python interpreter command. You need Python 2.7 or Python 3 to build MAME.


Set to 1 to use separate host and target compilers and linkers, as required for cross-compilation. In this case, OVERRIDE_CC, OVERRIDE_CXX and OVERRIDE_LD set the target C compiler, C++ compiler and linker commands, while CC, CXX and LD set the host C compiler, C++ compiler and linker commands.

Optional features


Set to 1 to build additional tools along with the emulator, including unidasm, chdman, romcmp, and srcclean.


Set to 1 to disable building the PortAudio sound output module.


Set to 1 to include the Qt debugger on platforms where it’s not built by default (e.g. Windows or MacOS), or to 0 to disable it. You’ll need to install Qt development libraries and tools to build the Qt debugger. The process depends on the platform.

Compilation options


Set to 1 to disable treating compiler warnings as errors. This may be needed in marginally supported configurations.


Set to 0 to disable deprecation warnings (note that deprecation warnings are not treated as errors).


Set to 1 to enable runtime assertion checks and additional diagnostics. Note that this has a performance cost, and is most useful for developers.


Set optimisation level. The default is 3 to favour performance at the expense of larger executable size. Set to 0 to disable optimisation (can make debugging easier), 1 for basic optimisation that doesn’t have a space/speed trade-off and doesn’t have a large impact on compile time, 2 to enable most optimisation that improves performance and reduces size, or s to enable only optimisations that generally don’t increase executable size. The exact set of supported values depends on your compiler.


Set to 1 to include additional debugging symbols over the default for the target platform (many target platforms include function name symbols by default).


Numeric value that controls the level of detail in debugging symbols. Higher numbers make debugging easier at the cost of increased build time and executable size. The supported values depend on your compiler. For GCC and similar compilers, 1 includes line number tables and external variables, 2 also includes local variables, and 3 also includes macro definitions.


Additional command-line options to pass to the compiler and linker. This is useful for supplying code generation or ABI options, for example to enable support for optional CPU features.


Additional command-line options to pass to the compiler when compiling C source files.


Additional command-line options to pass to the compiler when compiling C++ source files.


Additional command-line options to pass to the compiler when compiling Objective-C source files.


Additional command-line options to pass to the compiler when compiling Objective-C++ source files.

Library/framework locations


SDL installation root directory for shared library style SDL.


Search path for SDL framework.


Set to 1 to use shared library style SDL on targets where framework is default.


Set to 1 to prefer the system installation of the Asio C++ asynchronous I/O library over the version provided with the MAME source.


Set to 1 to prefer the system installation of the Expat XML parser library over the version provided with the MAME source.


Set to 1 to prefer the system installation of the zlib data compression library over the version provided with the MAME source.


Set to 1 to prefer the system installation of the libjpeg image compression library over the version provided with the MAME source.


Set to 1 to prefer the system installation of the libFLAC audio compression library over the version provided with the MAME source.


Set to 1 to prefer the system installation of the embedded Lua interpreter over the version provided with the MAME source.


Set to 1 to prefer the system installation of the SQLITE embedded database engine over the version provided with the MAME source.


Set to 1 to prefer the system installation of the PortMidi library over the version provided with the MAME source.


Set to 1 to prefer the system installation of the PortAudio library over the version provided with the MAME source.


Set to 1 to prefer the version of SDL provided with the MAME source over the system installation. (This is enabled by default for Visual Studio and Android builds. For other configurations, the system installation of SDL is preferred.)


Set to 1 to prefer the system installation of the Julia utf8proc library over the version provided with the MAME source.


Set to 1 to prefer the system installation of the GLM OpenGL Mathematics library over the version provided with the MAME source.


Set to 1 to prefer the system installation of the Tencent RapidJSON library over the version provided with the MAME source.


Set to 1 to prefer the system installation of the pugixml library over the version provided with the MAME source.

Known Issues

Issues with specific compiler versions

  • GCC 5 for Linux reports spurious errors on encountering deprecation warnings. Adding DEPRECATED=0 to your build options works around this by disabling deprecation warnings.

  • MinGW GCC 7 for Windows i386 produces spurious out-of-bounds access warnings. Adding NOWERROR=1 to your build options works around this by not treating warnings as errors.

  • Initial versions of GNU libstdc++ 6 have a broken std::unique_ptr implementation. If you encounter errors with std::unique_ptr you need to upgrade to a newer version of libstdc++ that fixes the issue.

GNU C Library fortify source feature

The GNU C Library has options to perform additional compile- and run-time checks on string operations, enabled by defining the _FORTIFY_SOURCE preprocessor macro. This is intended to improve security at the cost of a small amount of overhead. MAME is not secure software, and we do not support building with _FORTIFY_SOURCE defined.

Some Linux distributions (including Gentoo and Ubuntu) have patched GCC to define _FORTIFY_SOURCE to 1 as a built-in macro. This is problematic for more projects than just MAME, as it makes it hard to disable the additional checks (e.g. if you don’t want the performance impact of the run-time checks), and it also makes it hard to define _FORTIFY_SOURCE to 2 if you want to enable stricter checks. You should really take it up with the distribution maintainers, and make it clear you don’t want non-standard GCC behaviour. It would be better if these distributions defined this macro by default in their packaging environments if they think it’s important, rather than trying to force it on everything compiled on their distributions. (This is what Red Hat does: the _FORTIFY_SOURCE macro is set in the RPM build environment, and not by distributing a modified version of GCC.)

If you get compilation errors in bits/string_fortified.h you should first ensure that the _FORTIY_SOURCE macro is defined via the environment (e.g. a CFLAGS or CXXFLAGS environment variable). You can check to see whether the _FORTIFY_SOURCE macro is a built-in macro with your version of GCC with a command like this:

gcc -dM -E - < /dev/null | grep _FORTIFY_SOURCE

If _FORTIFY_SOURCE is defined to a non-zero value by default, you can work around it by adding -U_FORTIFY_SOURCE to the compiler flags (e.g. by using the ARCHOPTS setting, or setting the CFLAGS and CXXFLAGS environment variables.

Unusual Build Configurations

Cross-compiling MAME

MAME’s build system has basic support for cross-compilation. Set CROSS_BUILD=1 to enable separate host and target compilers, set OVERRIDE_CC and OVERRIDE_CXX to the target C/C++ compiler commands, and if necessary set CC and CXX to the host C/C++ compiler commands. If the target OS is different to the host OS, set it with TARGETOS. For example it may be possible to build a MinGW32 x64 build on a Linux host using a command like this:

make TARGETOS=windows PTR64=1 OVERRIDE_CC=x86_64-w64-mingw32-gcc OVERRIDE_CXX=x86_64-w64-mingw32-g++ OVERRIDE_LD=x86_64-w64-mingw32-ld MINGW64=/usr

(The additional packages required for producing a standard MinGW32 x64 build on a Fedora Linux host are mingw64-gcc-c++, mingw64-winpthreads-static and their dependencies. Non-standard builds may require additional packages.)

Using libc++ on Linux

MAME may be built using the LLVM project’s “libc++” C++ Standard Library. The prerequisites are a working clang/LLVM installation, and the libc++ development libraries. On Fedora Linux, the necessary packages are libcxx, libcxx-devel, libcxxabi and libcxxabi-devel. Set the C and C++ compiler commands to use clang, and add -stdlib=libc++ to the C++ compiler and linker options. You could use a command like this:

env LDFLAGS=-stdlib=libc++ make OVERRIDE_CC=clang OVERRIDE_CXX=clang++ ARCHOPTS_CXX=-stdlib=libc++ ARCHOPTS_OBJCXX=-stdlib=libc++

The options following the make command may be placed in a prefix makefile if you want to use this configuration regularly, but LDFLAGS needs to be be set in the environment.

Using a GCC/GNU libstdc++ installation in a non-standard location on Linux

GCC may be built and installed to a custom location, typically by supplying the –prefix= option to the configure command. This may be useful if you want to build MAME on a Linux distribution that still uses a version of GNU libstdC++ that predates C++14 support. To use an alternate GCC installation to, build MAME, set the C and C++ compilers to the full paths to the gcc and g++ commands, and add the library path to the run-time search path. If you installed GCC in /opt/local/gcc63, you might use a command like this:

make OVERRIDE_CC=/opt/local/gcc63/bin/gcc OVERRIDE_CXX=/opt/local/gcc63/bin/g++ ARCHOPTS=-Wl,-R,/opt/local/gcc63/lib64

You can add these options to a prefix makefile if you plan to use this configuration regularly.