Originally Posted by b0uncer
Well, you have to pay for any game that isn't freeware, and that's the fact for most if not all emulator games. Of course there are different kinds of emulator games "freely" available on the net, but in most cases they are illegal; there's this rumour that if you have the original copy, you can legally use the emulator image too, but I would still ensure that from some place else, just in case. Or if you have the original games, get (build, buy or loan) a device with which you can connect the games to your pc and create the images out of the games yourself.
Playing internet-downloaded emulator games is just as legal as playing internet-downloaded any other games.
I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news but, aside from a few VERY early arcade games which have been made public domain (we're talking pre chucky egg here) it isn't legal to use ANY copied game roms with MAME it also isn't legal to use cartridge game copies with any of THEIR emulators. There was a test case in the US where it was decided that whereas magnetic media was volatile therefore justifying backup the same could not be said for ROM based media. Unless a game company has specifically stated otherwise all ROM copies are therefore illegal.
Of course some of the old Arcade games have actually been lost because of this decision but a lot more are now being released on XBox live and on Mobile phones meaning that the companies that had largely forgotten about them for years are now making noises about their 'intellectual property'.
Then there's all these 'all in one' 6 game joysticks and classic console rereleases (a tiny version of the megadrive with 6 built in games and a cartridge shot which has international compatability - Japanese and European games will both work - has just recently come out)
There was a brief moment in time (that I believe can only be measured in months) when you could buy single user licences and the Mame-compatible Rom images for arcade games through a small American company. This deal collapsed, not suprisingly, around the time that Microsoft decided to release classic games over Xbox live.
All of which is a shame for those of us who want to play the original arcade classics with controllers like the original. I mean the SEGA console version of GoldenAxe might be good but it isn't as good as the arcade original and it doesn't have the brilliant end sequence that the original machine had (I should know - I finished the entire game on £1, one of the proudest moments of my teenage life!)
Personally I'd look into good quality remakes and clones of the games you like. There probably aren't many directly linux compatible ones as that's traditionally been quite a different platform but there is at least one - the amazing Mutant storm - and it's incredibly good and you could get most of the windows ones running under Wine. If you can find an Amiga Emulator there are tons of good remakes of classic arcade games for that platform as well - many of them with the same gameplay but graphically superior to the original. The other possibility is looking at getting hold of the files for flash games and running them natively through a browser or compiling them as standalones via Adobe AIR (think it's now available for Linux but not sure)
The other option is to go the 'grey' route and purchase physical game ROMs alongside their MAME download counterparts. You'll technically be breaking the law but there's a chance that the companies involved would be more likely to turn a blind eye - but don't bet on it.
I'd also recommend Mugen. It apparently runs well under Wine and is a platform for Street-fighter type games. Of course the initial download is a bit basic and you'll need to learn how to install the incredibly huge amount of user-community add ons for the game to become worthwhile but with a bit of work you'll end up with a cool 2D fight game where anyone can fight anyone. Type "Mugen" into Youtube to see what I mean!
There WAS an early Linux version but it's quite old so won't be the best version. The latest version of Mugen can be found on - they think I'm a spambot so I'll put it in another post - and, as I said, from what I've heard on the forums it's reasonably Wine Compatible.