Last revised November 19, 2021
This page is for people who are completely new to arcade emulation and need step-by-step directions. At the same time, I'm going to try to explain everything as minimally as possible so I don't intimidate you and turn you off from these games.
Maybe you've used Snes9x for Super Nintendo emulation or ePSXe for PlayStation 1 emulation. Snes9x, for example, is extremely easy. All you do is load a ROM and the game begins.
Arcade emulation, though, is a different kind of beast. A game is made up of multiple ROMs (multiple zip files) rather than a single ROM (a single zip file). Take a look at this screenshot:
These are (most) of the ROMs for Dungeons & Dragons Shadow Over Mystara and Tower of Doom. Arcade ROMs use a parent/child system to save space on your computer. The parent ROM (i.e. “ddsom.zip”) is always at the top of the list and contains the core data of the game. The child ROMs contain specific regional data.
For example, “ddsomu.zip” contains the data for the United States version of Shadow Over Mystara. To play “ddsomu.zip”, the parent ROM “ddsom.zip” must be present in the folder. That's how the parent/child relationship works.
Does that make sense? Easy so far, right? Let's continue...
The emulator I recommend is “RetroArch”. You can download RetroArch from RetroArch.com. Click on the “Download Stable” button to download it.
Double-click on the EXE you just downloaded ( ) to install RetroArch. Follow the directions in the install wizard. If you need step-by-step instructions for installing RetroArch, I cover that in my dedicated RetroArch Tutorial.
RetroArch is a multi-system emulator. The emulators within a multi-system emulator are called “cores.” To save space on your computer, RetroArch comes without any cores installed. So to be able to play arcade games, you need to install an arcade core. Here's how:
Step #1 - Open RetroArch. It's a program on your computer, so you'll find it in your programs list when you click the Windows Start icon . Once RetroArch is open, select “Online Updater”
Step #2 - Select “Core Downloader”.
Step #3 - Select “Arcade (MAME 2010)”. RetroArch offers lots of arcade cores. “MAME 2010” is the core most compatible with the arcade ROMs readily available in ROM sites. And it runs the Dungeons & Dragons arcade games great!
That's it! RetroArch now has an arcade core installed. Next, let's grab the Dungeons & Dragons arcade ROMs.
Grab them below:
This next part might be a little confusing because these are zip files within zip files. You need to extract the large “...ROMs.zip” zip files. But don't extract (or rename) the smaller zip files that come out of it. See below for an example. By the way, if you don't know how to extract zip files, here are unzipping help videos on YouTube.
I packaged the zip files this way because I wanted to save you the trouble of downloading 20+ individual zip files. It's important to have all of these files because arcade emulators can be finicky and often give you 'missing files' errors if you don't have all the files.
So where do you put these files after you extract “...ROMs.zip”? Put them wherever you want! You can keep them in your Downloads folder. You can create a new folder on your desktop or in Documents for your ROMs and other emulators.
Step #1 - Click the “File” menu then “Load Content”.
Step #2 - Navigate to the folder where your ROMs are located. Click on the game you want to play then click “Open”. This would be either “ddsom.zip” for Shadow Over Mystara or “ddtod.zip” for Tower of Doom. These parent ROMs default to the European versions of the games. If you'd like, you can be patriotic and select “ddsomu.zip” or “ddtodu.zip” for the United States versions.
Step #3 - The game will show a couple system information screens before beginning. When you hear the dramatic music from the introduction sequence, press the 5 key a few times to insert virtual quarters. Then press the 1 key to start the game.
That's it! From this point forward, when you close & return to RetroArch you can quickly load the game in the “History” tab on the home screen. And don't forget about using save states to save/load your progress in the game (explained below).
Here are the default keyboard keys for playing the Dungeons & Dragons arcade games.
Player 1 Keys
General RetroArch Keys
As for setting up a game controller, the beauty of it is that you probably don't have to. RetroArch is pretty good at auto-detecting your game controller and pre-configuring the buttons. This especially applies if you're using a top-tier game controller such as the 8BitDo Pro 2. 8BitDo also made an arcade deck controller.
What you need to do is connect your Bluetooth game controller to Windows (or plug it in if it's wired), open RetroArch, start the game, and press a button on your game controller. RetroArch will give you a small prompt on the bottom of the screen telling you that a game controller was detected in port 1.
If you need help connecting Bluetooth controllers to Windows, YouTube has help videos. There are even specific help videos for connecting 8BitDo controllers. If you want to see more options for game controllers and learn more tidbits, I have a dedicated tutorial for this: Gamepads Tutorial.
There you go! You have the Dungeons & Dragons arcade games up and running on your computer. In this guide, I just wanted to give you the quickest and easiest run-through. I need to point out that RetroArch offers a ton of features. It offers save states, screen filters, capture screenshots, reconfigure the keyboard or game controller, other ways to load games, achievements, and more. I cover these features in my dedicated RetroArch Tutorial.