The golden age of arcade games was, as has been stated, probably before 1995. The arcade titles of that age were considerably better than anything achievable on a home computer or console. For example, consider the game Scramble. When it came out in 1981 as an arcade title, at the age of the Atari 2600 (home console) and the VIC-20 (home computer), naturally, neither of these home systems were able to provide at least something close to the gaming experience of the "real" arcade title. For example, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum (which was only released a year later; the game even later: in 1982, Melbourne House's "Penetrator" and in 1983, Bug-Byte's "Cavern Fighter") had much inferior ports, and this is true of almost every home systems of the early eighties.
This trend continued through the entire eighties, well into the early nineties. It was only in 1990, with the release of SNK's dual (AES (home) and MVS (arcade)) system NeoGeo, that a home console hit the market with exactly the same games as its arcade counterparts. NeoGeo has received some really nice games; most importantly, the vastly successful Metal Slug series, which is a very popular 2D platformer title even today.
However, the NeoGeo didn't really sell to home costumers as well as, say, SNES or Sega's Genesis; mostly because of the price of the cartridges (about the twice of those of SNES) and the comparative (compared again to SNES and, before its release, the technically even less comparable NES and Genesis) rarity of titles. This means it was only with the advent of really powerful home computers that the age of arcade machines started to decline. Still, a LOT of these games are of very high quality even by today's standards, particularly when compared to the lack of quality games on mobile platforms like Windows Mobile. Therefore, emulating arcade machines (and running arcade games) on mobile devices is much more important than on desktop Windows with, at times, much better native titles.
When you hear the word "arcade games", don't think of 25-year-old "crap" like Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Frogger and the like. Some people only like referring to these really old titles as "the" arcade games. That's in no way true: the Metal Slug series and the 19XX-series (starting with the old 1942) are also arcade games. Therefore, anyone stating "arcade games are very old and technically very bad games not worth emulating" only shows he/she doesn't have a clue about what he's saying. Or, if he's an arcade emulator developer, he may just be explaining why he hasn't implemented any support for any new system ;)
As arcade games were produced even in the 2000's, there are really quality titles around. For example, I don't think you'll be able to show me a 1942 clone for Windows Mobile that is better than 19XX or 1944 written for the CPS-2 arcade machine (and perfectly runnable on a better Windows Mobile handheld!) This means there is a plethora of up-to-date, visually and, sound-wise, absolutely stunning action games well worth emulating on our mobile devices.
Keep in mind that, in this complete guide & tutorial & roundup, I refer to all the games ever released for arcade machines - both 25-year-old early games and 5-10-year-old, really advanced ones. Of course, I'll put definite emphasis on emulating newer systems to ease the lack of high-quality, comparable 2D action titles on Windows Mobile (WM for short).
Why should you bother?
- To bring up memories (or, if you prefer simple games)
- To play (more recent) games better than anything else on Windows Mobile in the genre
Look for “MAME” sections on ROM sites. Some ROM sites have dedicated NeoGeo and/or CPS-1 and CPS-2 sections. Unfortunately, I am not allowed to give you links. If you open your eyes and use Google, I'm sure you'll find the ROM sites in a fraction of a minute.
Don't be afraid of these sites - I've tested the ones coming up as the first after some quick Google searches. Not one of them continued any viruses and all MAME downloads were usable and CRC error-free.
After downloading the ZIP files, just copy them in the roms subdirectory of your emulator. Do NOT decompress them!
Note that MAMECE3, unlike the two other, more recommended emulators (Finalburn and PocketCultMAME, which must be manually copied to the handheld) comes with a CAB installer. This means you'll manually hunt for the roms subdirectory. If you install it to a storage card under WM5+ or in the built-in storage with any operating system version, it'll be at \Program Files\MameCE\Roms\ (with WM5+, on a storage card, prefixed with the path of the card itself). With operating systems prior to WM5 and a storage card-based installation, it'll be in \MameCE\Roms\ on your card.
Finalburn Alpha 0.09
First and foremost, the most important arcade game emulator you MUST check out is the WM port of Finalburn Alpha (current version: 0.09), the only REALLY usable CPS-1 / 2 and NeoGeo emulator. You can read a complete review & tutorial on the title HERE (click the link!); therefore, in here, I won't really elaborate on it - except when directly comparing its features, speed and compatibility to other arcade emulators.
Its main strength is its speed (in which it's just unbeatable), sound quality (in that, not even PocketCultMAME comes close, let alone MAMECE3!) and features like on-screen tap areas. Its main disadvantage is, however, the complete lack of running non-NeoGeo / CPS games. That is, it won't be able to run anything released before 1990 - and only about 10-20% of later games. However, the titles still available for the platform (and playable on a current WM device) are still overwhelming - this emulator is really nice!
Finally, it's capable of running even (most of) the latest (NeoGeo / CPS) games. For example, 1944 - The Loop Master was released for the CPS-2 in 2000. Still, Finalburn emulates it flawlessly.