TOP

Mednafen Tutorial

By Alejandro Rodriguez. Last revised Nov 4, 2017.

Share

About Mednafen

This tutorial is to help you with Mednafen for Windows. Mednafen is a multi-system emulator that supports Atari Lynx, Neo Geo Pocket Color, WonderSwan, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, NES, SNES, Virtual Boy, PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 CD, PC-FX, Game Gear, Genesis, Sega Master System, PlayStation 1, and Saturn. By itself, Mednafen doesn't have a GUI. In order to enjoy a more traditional (and much easier) emulation experience with Mednafen, you need a frontend GUI. The most popular frontend GUI seems to be “Mednaffe.” This tutorial is focused entirely on it.

What makes Mednafen particularly awesome is its support for ISO files. This is a huge advantage for emulating TurboGrafx16-CD/PC Engine CD and Sega Saturn games. MagicEngine, Ootake, and SSF are great emulators, but playing CD games on them requires a CD-ROM drive. SSF at least works with virtual CD-ROM software, but MagicEngine and Ootake don't. This is quite annoying. Thankfully, Mednafen is here to fly in and save the day.

*For this tutorial it's important that you download Mednafen from my emulators page. Included in my zip download of it is “Mednaffe” and the TurboGrafx16-CD BIOS.

Mednafen's frontends

Mednaffe's default window Mednaffe in action

Mednafen is a command line driven program. You'd need to know DOS commands to work your way around it. Given that very few people know DOS, frontend GUIs have been made for us so that we can use Mednafen with a graphical interface.

The frontend that I have chosen to include in my site's download of Mednafen is Mednaffe. I think it's the easiest to use out of all the other Mednafen frontends out there.

There are others such as MedGui (which I used to cover here) and MedGui Reborn (the new version of MedGui). I think Mednaffe is more user friendly and ideal for beginners. MedGui is still worth checking out, though. It's awesome if you're a more experienced emulation user looking for better ROM management and extra features.

64-bit and 32-bit versions

When you go to download Mednafen, the first thing you're going to see is two versions: 64-bit and 32-bit. So what is that and which version do you download? I won't drown you with technical jargon. In short: these are types of Windows systems. 64-bit is newer and faster, and 32-bit is older and slower. If you have 64-bit Windows, you need to download the 64-bit version of Mednafen. And vice versa with 32-bit.

Not sure if you have 64-bit or 32-bit Windows? Here's how you can check:

Searching for '64-bit' to find the technical specs window
  1. On the bottom left where you see Search the web and Windows, do a search for “64-bit”.
  2. You'll see this come up: “See if you have a 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows”. Click it.
  3. You'll arrive here . Look for “System type”. If it says “64-bit operating system” then you're using 64-bit Windows. If it says “32-bit operating system” then you're using 32-bit Windows.

Using Windows XP? Here are directions for that .

Installation

It's important for this tutorial that you download Mednafen from my emulators page. It includes required files for my directions. Mednafen is a standalone program so it does not have an install wizard. Installation is simple: just extract Mednafen from its zip file. Not sure how to extract zip files? Here's a video tutorial showing you how: how to unzip files on Windows.

IMPORTANT! Mednafen must be placed in a common folder on your computer. I recommend Documents, Downloads, or create a folder on your desktop. If you place Mednafen somewhere else on your main C drive, then you may be restricting it to read-only access. Doing so prevents Mednafen from saving anything.

To open Mednafen, double-click on Mednaffe's EXE

Loading a game

Mednafen supports Atari Lynx, Neo Geo Pocket Color, WonderSwan, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, NES, SNES, Virtual Boy, PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 CD, PC-FX, Game Gear, Genesis, Sega Master System, Saturn, and PlayStation 1. I don't recommend using Mednafen for the popular systems such as SNES and Genesis. There are better emulators for them.

Adding a folder (optional)

Mednaffe gives you the option to load all the folders that contain your ROMs. This gives your ROMs easier access, as opposed to manually loading a single ROM every time via the File menu. Here's how to load your folders:

  1. Click the Add Folder button, or press Ctrl+A.
  2. Navigate to the ROM folder you want to add, then click Open; as shown here .
  3. You should now see your ROMs listed in Mednaffe. Simply double-click on a game to load it. Continue the steps above to add more folders.
  4. Once you have several folders added, you can swap among them by clicking on the path at the top - as shown here .
  5. To remove a folder, have the folder open that you want to remove and click File > Remove folder.
  6. Next, you should read Setting up the keyboard or gamepad so you can actually play the game.

Loading a game

If you followed the directions above about adding a folder, then all you need to do is double-click on a game to play it. But if you prefer the old fashion method, here's how to load a game manually via the File menu:

  1. Loading a game
    Click on File > Open ROM, or press Ctrl+O (as shown to the right).
  2. Navigate to the folder containing the game you want to play, click on it, then click Open; as shown here .
  3. Another window should pop up with your game loading. Next, you should read Setting up the keyboard or gamepad so you can actually play the game.

Q: I get 'Mednafen executable not installed'!

Mednafen executable is not installed in path

If upon opening Mednaffe you receive the following error message: “Mednafen executable is not installed in path” - that means Mednafen is not in the same folder as Mednaffe. You need to download Mednafen and extract it into the same folder where Mednaffe resides. Or even better, download Mednafen from my website because it already includes Mednaffe and the 'syscard3' BIOS for booting TurboGrafx16-CD/PC Engine CD games.

Q: Some games show a black screen!

Some of your ROMs may not load with Mednafen, giving you just a black screen. The fix is to try downloading the game from another ROM site. It's weird, but Mednafen is picky about certain ROMs.

Loading a TurboGrafx16-CD ISO

If you haven't already, it's important for these directions that you download Mednafen from my emulators page. It includes the TurboGrafx16-CD BIOS syscard files that are required for booting games. If for whatever reason you don't want to and prefer to download the BIOS files separately, I have them here.

ROM sites like to distribute TurboGrafx16-CD/PC Engine CD games with MP3 tracks to save on space. Upon extracting your game it'll look like this . Mednafen, however, requires WAV tracks. I need to walk you through converting those MP3s to WAVs and then editing the CUE sheet to reflect the new WAV tracks.

*If the game you downloaded already has WAV tracks, or it's made up of a single BIN or single ISO (like this ) then skip these sections to “III. Booting the TurboGrafx16-CD game”.

I. Convert MP3s to WAV

  1. Download and install WinLAME (1.5 MB).
  2. Open WinLAME. Click on the Open button button, look for the folder where the MP3s are, select them all, then click on Open. You should see the MP3s you selected listed in the white box. Click Next to go to the next screen.
  3. You'll arrive at the “Output Settings” screen. Under “Output Module”, choose Wave Output, as shown here . Click Next to go to the next screen.
  4. You'll arrive at the “Presets” screen. The default is fine. Click Next to go to the next screen.
  5. You'll arrive at the “Encoding” screen. Click Convert button to begin the conversion.

II. Edit the CUE sheet

  1. We need to open the CUE file and change all instances of MP3 to WAV. The CUE sheet is this file . Go ahead and double-click it.
  2. You've probably never opened a CUE sheet on your computer. Windows will prompt you with an “Open With” window. Choose Notepad from the list, like this: on Windows 10 , on Windows XP . If Notepad isn't showing, click Other Programs and it should be there on the list.
  3. So you'll have a Notepad window like this . Click on the Edit menu then Replace. In “Find what” type “.mp3” and in “Replace with” type “.wav” - as shown here . Take note that this is case-sensitive! If your wav files have “.WAV” instead of “.wav”, then you must type it in caps here as “.WAV”. Click Replace All when you're ready.
  4. I don't think this part is necessary, but I like to do it anyway just so things are consistent. Do another Replace to change instances of “MP3” to “WAVE”. Your finished CUE sheet should look like this .

III. Booting the TurboGrafx16-CD game

  1. After following the above directions your game should look something like this .
  2. I hope you downloaded Mednafen from my emulators page. Otherwise, you need to download the “syscard3.pce” BIOS. You can find that in my emulators page. Then place “syscard3.pce” in the root of Mednaffe's folder.
  3. From this point you can load the TurboGrafx16-CD/PC Engine CD game as you would like any other ROM. So my directions in loading a game apply the same way:
    • If you added the game's folder, simply double-click on the game's CUE sheet to load it.
    • Otherwise, select the CUE sheet via File > Open ROM.
  4. If you haven't already, you should read Setting up the keyboard or gamepad so you can actually play the game.

You can learn a little more about Mednafen's TurboGrafx16-CD/PC Engine CD emulation in Mednafen's official page.

Loading a PlayStation 1 ISO

Final Fantasy VII running on Mednafen Final Fantasy VII running on Mednafen

Mednafen actually emulates PlayStation 1 games very well. The drawback is that Mednafen gives you very little options. Out of box, Mednafen doesn't offer any of the fancy 3D rendering filters ePSXe offers. It gives you the standard pixel-ish screen, as shown to the right.

Anyway, here's how to load PlayStation 1 games with Mednafen:

  1. First, you need the BIOS. You can download it from my emulators page.
  2. Mednafen specifically requires the following BIOS files. I mean, you don't need all three, you just need the BIOS for the region you want to play.
    • scph5500.bin - required for Japan-region games.
    • scph5501.bin - required for North America/US-region games.
    • scph5502.bin - required for Europe-region games.
  3. You must name the BIOS exactly as shown here. For example, if your NA BIOS is named “SCPH-5501.BIN”, you must rename it to “scph5501.bin”.
  4. Place the BIOS file(s) in Mednafen's main directory, as shown here .
  5. Before we load your game I need to point out an important detail. Mednafen can only play ISOs that are in BIN/CUE or ISO/CUE format. BIN/CUE is the most common. It would look something like this (the icons would look different):
    Sample of a PlayStation 1 game in BIN/CUE format
    *If your PlayStation 1 game is currently in a ZIP, 7Z, or RAR file, it must be extracted.
  6. From this point you can load the PlayStation 1 game as you would like any other ROM. So my directions in loading a game apply the same way:
    • If you added the game's folder, simply double-click on the game's CUE sheet to load it.
    • Otherwise, select the CUE sheet via File > Open ROM.
  7. Lastly, make sure to read CD swapping for multiple-CD games. And if you haven't already, you should read Setting up the keyboard or gamepad so you can actually play the game.

You can learn more about Mednafen's PlayStation 1 emulation in Mednafen's official page.

Loading a Saturn ISO

I need to warn you. While Mednafen can emulate Sega Saturn games as good as SSF, Mednafen is plagued with poor ISO compatibility. There's a 50/50 chance that Mednafen will reject your Saturn ISO (while SSF can load any ISO you throw at it). People will tell you “Oh, well it's not working because you downloaded a bad ISO.” Yet your 'bad ISO' works fine on SSF. Hence, proceed with the following directions anticipating that your Saturn ISO may get rejected.

  1. First, you need the BIOS. You can download it from my emulators page. Download the specially marked Saturn BIOS for Mednafen.
  2. My Saturn BIOS files will have the proper filenames. But just for reference, note that the BIOS files must be named exactly as the following:
    • mpr-17933.bin - required for North America/US-region and Europe-region games.
    • sega_101.bin - required for Japan-region games.
  3. Place the BIOS files in Mednafen's main directory, as shown here .
  4. Before we load your game I need to point out an important detail. Mednafen can only play ISOs that are in BIN/CUE or ISO/CUE format. BIN/CUE is the most common. It would look something like this (the icons would look different):
    Sample of a Sega Saturn game in BIN/CUE format
    *If your Saturn game is currently in a ZIP, 7Z, or RAR file, it must be extracted.
  5. From this point you can load the Saturn game as you would like any other ROM. So my directions in loading a game apply the same way:
    • If you added the game's folder, simply double-click on the game's CUE sheet to load it.
    • Otherwise, select the CUE sheet via File > Open ROM.
  6. When Mednafen rejects your Saturn ISO you'll get one of two outcomes listed below. The best thing to remedy this is to download the game from another website, and cross your fingers and hope it'll work with Mednafen. Or just use SSF instead, because it'll run any Saturn ISO.
    1. You'll see a weird CD status screen .
    2. You get a ROM image is too large error .
  7. Lastly, make sure to read CD swapping for multiple-CD games. And if you haven't already, you should read Setting up the keyboard or gamepad so you can actually play the game.

You can learn more about Mednafen's Sega Saturn emulation in Mednafen's official page.

CD swapping for multiple-CD games

Setting up support for games with multiple CDs

This is a weird, confusing process. To automatically load the next disc of a game, you will need a .m3u file. To make one, simply create a text file and name it after your game. Within the text file, write the names of the .cue sheets for your game discs as such:

  • Game (Disc 1).cue
  • Game (Disc 2).cue
  • Game (Disc 3).cue

Save the .txt file and then change the file extension to .m3u. Run the .m3u, rather than the .cue of the first disc and the first disc will load. When you get to the end of that disc, the next disc will be automatically loaded. For this method to work, shared memory cards must be used for the games in the playlist.

Creating shared memory cards

Create psx.cfg, and add the line: filesys.fname_sav %s.%X. Here's the full documentation. Emulation bugs, crashes and save states can corrupt your memory card data.

Help screen

While a game is running, press F1 for Help. In window mode, it's a bit cropped off but in fullscreen you can see all of it. The Help screen is important to review since Mednafen's features are entirely keyboard driven once a game is running. The Mednafen documentation is also very helpful. Press F1 again to exit Help (don't press Esc because that closes the game!).

Setting up the keyboard or gamepad

There are two ways you can go about this. You can setup keys via Mednaffe's GUI or while a game is running.

Configuring keys via the GUI

Unlike other Mednafen frontends before Mednaffe, Mednaffe allows you to easily configure the all keys for every system in advance! This saves you a lot of trouble. Here's how:

Bringing up the keys associated with a system
  1. If you want to configure a gamepad, plug it in now. If Mednafen is already open, close it and re-open it after you've plugged in the gamepad.
  2. Click on the Systems tab. You'll see a list of all the systems supported by Mednafen (as shown toward the right).
  3. Click on the system you want to configure the keys of, then click on the Input tab.
  4. Click the Controller Setup button. Here you'll see all the buttons associated with the system and their current button.
  5. Take note the column with the keyboard keys; as outlined here . To reconfigure a button to another keyboard key or a gamepad button, click on the keyboard key associated to a button. Then press the new keyboard key or gamepad button you want it set to.
  6. Repeat the process to reconfigure all the keys. Click Close when you're done.
  7. Repeat this process for every other video game system in the list that you intend on playing.

Configuring keys during gameplay

  1. While a game is running, press Alt+Shift+1 (for player 2 it's Alt+Shift+2).
  2. Proceed to follow the prompts and press the keyboard key or gamepad button you want to be set for the one displayed. Mednafen presents you a weird sequence like “Gamepad 1: UP (1), Gamepad 1: UP (2), Gamepad 2: RIGHT (1), Gamepad 2: RIGHT (2)”. You need to press each button twice. It's ok if you mess up. Just finish the configuration and start over.
  3. This process needs to be repeated for every different system you play.

ESC closes the game!

BE CAREFUL! During gameplay, if you press Esc it will close the game! If you're an emulation enthusiast, you might be used to pressing Esc to bring up the emulator's menu. Not with Mednafen.

Full screen

Press Alt+Enter to enter full screen. Press Alt+Enter again to go back to window mode. Don't press Esc! That closes the game.

You'll notice that full screen is not quite full screen. You can enlarge the game screen in full screen by clicking the Systems tab, click a video game system you want changed, click the Resolution tab, then in the Resolution boxes enter “1” - as shown here .

Also keep in mind that you can set it so that games open in full screen by default. Just go to Global Settings > Video, and click Enable fullscreen - as shown here .

Screen filters

Screen filters enhance graphics to make them look better than the real thing! They're set on a per system basis, so configuring for one video game system doesn't set it for all of them.

Enabling a filter is easy. Click on the Systems tab, select a video game system, click the Filters tab, then select a filter in the “Special video scaler” drop-down menu - as shown here .

The filters

Here is some explanation and samples for these filters below.

Save states

Save states is a feature that saves the exact spot you are in any game. To save your state, just press the F5 key during gameplay. To recall your saved state, press the F7 key.

Mednafen lets you save up to 10 different save states via 10 slots. You access these slots by pressing any number between 0-9. For example, if you want to save a state to slot #3, press 2 on your keyboard then press F5 to save.

Note: The save states feature is not supported with every video game system that Mednafen supports. If you attempt to save a save state and you see a “Save error” message, then save states are not supported for that given system.

Fast forward

Fast forward is the feature that speeds up the game. To access it, hold down the “~” key. Let it go when you want it to stop.

Capturing screen shots

Press F9 to capture a screen shot. Mednafen will dump it to the “snaps” folder as a PNG.

Finding ROMs

In my links page, I have some good links to sites where you can download ROMs. If you want to try to find more sites than what's in my collection of links, just Google around. For example, if you want to download Dracula X just Google “download dracula x pc engine”.

The only tricky thing is that the TurboGrafx16 has several aliases. Below is a list of the ones I know of. Try them out during your ROM or ISO searches. “TurboGrafx16” is the NA name and “PC Engine“ is the Japanese name. Although even in NA, it's common for people to refer to NA games as for the PC Engine.

  • TurboGrafx16, TurboGrafx16-CD
  • TG16, TG16-CD
  • PC Engine, PC Engine CD
  • PCE, PCECD

Q: Mednafen isn't saving anything!

If you're using Mednafen for the first time and you're finding that you have all these problems:

  1. Save states aren't working. You save a state, then when you try to reload it nothing happens.
  2. In an RPG when you save your game at a save point and close/re-open Mednafen, you find that the save is lost.
  3. Emulator configurations that you changed such as adding a screen filter aren't saved. When you close/re-open Mednafen, you have to make those configuration changes again.

Then your problem is that you currently have Mednafen in a read-only location on your computer. You must move Mednafen to a more common location such as Documents, Downloads, or a folder on your desktop.