Retro Gaming in Mac OS X 10.5 #1 : Atari Games

I have recently switched from Windows XP to MAC OS X 10.5 and one of the things I feared upon switching was losing the capability to play all of my old Emulated games. I own a copy of EVERY retro game compilation for the PC and Playstation 2, and use these games as inspiration for new games that I create. So far, I have found ways to play Atari 2600, Atari 400/800/5200, Atari 7800, Atari Lynx, Atari ST and Atari arcade games on the MAC via emulation.

Given the nebulous legal nature of emulation, I can not advocate playing any games that have not been released into the public domain. Also, I assume that by purchasing all of the compilation disks for various platforms I have some sort of legal leg to stand on if and when I play version in another medium (emulation). But I also am not really sure. In any case I have purchased multiple disk/rom copies of most if not all of these games I play via emulation (I even have Atari ST disc copies in my attic), and using one main computer to play all of my old games is really the most convenient, space conscious way for me to play.

I was reasonably surprised by the high quality and user friendliness of the MAC emulation community products. In most cases they were as easy or easier to use than their Windows counterparts.

Atari 2600
The best Atari 2600 emulator I could find was StellaOSX. Just download the disk image, mount it and copied the contents to a folder on your hard drive. Then, just double-click on the StellaOSX program, then find a rom file on your drive to load in. As a standard, the arrow keys control in the 4 directions, and the [control] key is the fire button. You can set the mouse to control any of the 4 paddles (so Super Breakout is a definite possibility).

F1 – Game Select
F2 – Reset
F3 – Color
F4 – B/W
F5 – Left difficulty set to A
F6 – Left difficulty set to B
F7 – Right difficulty set to A
F7 – Right difficulty set to B

Game pads are fully supported. I used my Playstation 2 controller plugged into a USB converter and it worked like a charm! has most of the Atari roms (save Activision and a few others) for you to try out. I tried out Ms Pac-Man and it worked perfectly.

Atari 400/800/5200/XL/XE
The Atari800MacX emulator was every bit as good or better than its Windows counterpart. It was another easy install – just mount the image and copy the contents to you hard drive – complicated only by the need to find and place system roms in the OSRoms folder. When you have completed this task, you just need to double-click on the Atari800MacX file to get started. I tried out the classic Blue Max and it ran flawlessly.

F2 – Option
F3 – Select
F4 – Start
In the preferences tab you can choose to use a game pad for control. You can also set the keyboard to control one or both sticks and the mouse to control one of the paddles.

Atari ST
Steem doesn’t exist in the Mac world, so I was excited to find great emulator called NoSTalgia. NoSTalgia ia also an easy install. Just copy the unzipped NoSTalgia folder to a drive, copy some TOS images to the main NoSTalgia folder and double click the NoSTalgia application. Choose a TOS image from the FILE menu, and Disk Image from the DISK menu and finally HARD RESET from the FILE menu.

I Have yet to be able to figure out a method to get the game pad to work, but you can easily use the Arrows and [CONTROL]. I will keep researching to see if this is possible though. I tried NARC and it worked and sounded just like the Disc I have in the attic – unfortunately, not very well, but that is the game, not the emulation.

LYNX emulation is handled by the great HANDY emulator. Handy requires that you copy the contents of the disc image to a folder and then find and place the linxboot.img in that folder. The emulation works pretty well. I was able to get most games to run, but there is no Joystick support w/o the addition of a Shareware program (available at the above link) that adds stick support to about 20 other MAC emulators also. I tried Gates Of Zendocon with the keys and it worked perfectly.

A – Option
B – Shift
1 – 1
2 – 2
Arrows control the direction pad.

Atari 7800
MESS is the best way to go for the 7800. MESS emulates many systems and is a little complicated to get set up. The contents of the disk image need to be placed in a folder on your hard drive, but the settings go elsewhere. The biggest difference between MESS on he MAC and Windows is that the settings for mess are placed in a folder in the home documents folder of the user who installs it. The MacMESS User Data folder in the documents folder needs to contain a ROMS/A7800 folder. In that folder you need to place the 7800.rom file.

When you have done that, boot up MESS, choose the 7800 system, a CART and click [PLAY]. That’s basically it. If you have a game pad plugged in, it will work perfectly. I tried Food Fight and it plays better with the Playstation 2 pad than with the 7800 controllers.

I also used the game pad to select difficulty and start the game, so I don’t know exactly what the keyboard controls are.

Atari Arcade Machines
Many Atari 2600 games and Arcade machines are available on the 80 Classic games disc that I have for the Playstation and the PC. I don’t think it was released for the MAC, so the best way to play these games is with MacMAME. Like MESS (with an almost identitcal interface), MacMame requires you to copy the contents of the disk image to a folder, and then all settings AND ROMS go in a folder called MacMAME User Data in your documents folder. I replaced the ROMS folder there with an alias to the ROMS folder I have elsewhere. It worked like a charm, so I didn’t have to copy a huge rom folder to my documents folder.

4 – Adds a coin to the game
1 – starts one player game
2 – Starts a two player game

Asteroids worked perfectly and the game pad worked great. I also tried out Star Castle, although not an Atari game, it was one that I wasted 100’s on hard earned quarters on before I ever shot out the center baddie. Alas, it didn’t work because I don’t have the correct roms …Karma I guess because I don’t own the roms for it in any other form.

Atari Jaguar
I was not able to get any roms to play in the MESS Jaguar emulator. Maybe soon… Until then, it is Jagulator in Parallels.

There are many other emulators out there. I can’t wait for MESS to add Lynx, ST and better Jaguar support. It really is a great emulator, even if the current MAC version is a few revs behind. It also plays 2600, Atari 800 and 5200 games, but I chose to use the dedicated familiar emulators for those.

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