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What control devices does MAME support?

MAME supports three basic classes of controllers:

  • standard keyboards
  • Key Encoders
  • mouse-like controllers (this includes most mice and trackballs)
  • any DirectInput-visible control that has digital buttons or analog axes (this includes most joysticks, joypads and steering wheels)
  • Act-Labs USB Light Guns
  • Console Pads via USB Adapters

Please note that most of MAME's controls are set up for development purposes, which means that most games will work fine with just some form of keyboard control. If you wish to use fancier control schemes, you will probably need to configure them within MAME to your liking.

How do I configure the keys?

Press Tab in-game and choose "Input: This Game". Select the input you want to configure, press enter followed by the key you want it mapped to.

More fancy key combinations can be made. To map this key OR that key, set one of the keys as before, wait until mame accepts it, then repeat for second key. To map so two keys have to be pressed at the same time, press both (or more) keys after pressing enter. To map a not (key1 if key2 is not also pressed), enter, press first key, then quickly press the not key(s) twice. "Input: General" can be selected to change all games inputs, or mame's UI buttons.

This will also work for joystick and mouse inputs.

Why doesn't the Tab key work anymore?

Most likely you have re-configured the normal menu key, Tab to something else. To restore the default settings, you'll have to delete the default.cfg file from the cfg/ subdirectory below the main MAME directory.

If you have settings you don't want to lose, you can also try to edit default.cfg with any text editor, since the input configuration files are in XML format. Find the line that says <port type="UI_CONFIGURE"> and delete the adjacent <newseq... line, leaving only the <defseg... line within the <port> tag.

How can I change what axes the mouse and joystick control?

Press Tab in-game and select "Input: This Game". From there, you can assign inputs to the X and Y axes. Additionally, in the menu, there is an option for analog controls, where you can reverse the Axis.

Mouse control is too sensitive / not sensitive enough.

Try increasing the accleration and sensitivity settings in the Analog Input settings menu after pressing Tab.

Why doesn't my joystick work?

There can be several reasons for this:

The most common reason is that in your MAME.ini file you have the "joy=" line reading "joy=0", simply change it to joy=1. If this does not work, try the following:

  • If your joystick or game controller came with a device driver, you may need to install it first. To do this, refer to the documentation that came with the joystick or joypad itself.
  • Open the Windows Control Panel (Start -> Settings -> Control Panel) and double click the "joysticks" or "game controllers" icon. See if your controller is regonized there. If it is, proceed further. If not, you may need to add it there, or you may have a problem with the joystick or controller itself, or its device driver.
  • In MAME, try pressing "Tab" and choose "Input: This Game" and make sure that the games buttons are mapped to the appropriate joystick inputs.

The arrow keys work, but I can't fire, jump, etc.

Here are the default controller buttons for many games:

  • 5 - Insert Coin
  • 1 - Start
  • Arrows - Move
  • Ctrl - Action Button 1
  • Alt - Action Button 2
  • Space - Action Button 3
  • Mouse - Analog Control (needed for some games)
  • P - Pause
  • ESC - Quit MAME
  • F2 - Service Mode
  • Tab - MAME Options Menu

Note: There are many games with much more complex controls. If you need to see or change a games controls, press Tab and choose "Input: This Game".

TRON's arm doesn't move; I can't aim in Heavy Barrel, etc.

Often, these games use analog control, which by default is mapped to the mouse.

When playing Star Wars (or other games) with a mouse, the crosshair moves in the wrong direction.

These games were played with a Yoke originally, so that this is correct. In MAME, you can press Tab while playing, and choose "Analog Controls" and reverse the axis to correct this.

I don't remember how to control this game.

You can press Tab and choose "Input: This Game" and review its inputs. Additionally, you can go to and see if there is an FAQ available for the game.

What if I only want authentic arcade controls?

There are several high-quality control panels available. The first one, and now the most basic, is the HotRod. It's been joined by the X-Arcade, which is also relatively basic but can be used with many popular home consoles in addition to computers, and the insanely customizable SlikStik.

It's also possible to build your own: you can get plans, guidance, and support at Build Your Own Arcade Controls.