How to play clones of merged MAME ROMs?

I have merged roms for Mame which means all the clones for a particular parent rom are inside one single archive. But when I load the rom in RA, it only loads the parent rom game. For instance, tmnt2 always loads the 4-player version. How can I play the 2-player clone version that is inside that rom?

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There’s no way to choose which child ROM to load in RetroArch, but I think you can do it if you load from the MAME OSD interface inside the core (that is, the TAB menu).

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Another option, which i find easier:

Use your merged romset, then make a dummy / empty file with the name of the clone you want to play.

Example: (merged rom file) (empty / dummy file i made)

Choose the empty/dummy file and it will launch the 2 Player version, but use the files found in the merged rom:


ohhhh, very clever! TIL


It works, thanks! Though I really wish RA could scan the contents of a parent rom and list the clones so we didn’t have to do this.

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This works very well, in this way the playlists can be created. I had used Link files, they can be loaded independent but do not scan the playlist.

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It works with empty dummy files?

I never knew that. Instead i was just downloading the clone roms and added them into the romset. And my way to easily separate them was that the regular merged romset had a different “date modified” date.

Still, all the clone roms i added are about 1GB. So it’s not like i’m wasting a ton of space in my 4TB drive… Though i do have a 7z archived romset btw (the latest, 0.237). The full merged set (without CHDs) is about 20GBs smaller than the regular .zip archived one. Maybe i can still save that extra 1GB…

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Do you even need the empty dummy file in MAME ? Because FBNeo doesn’t need it, you can launch a non-existing file as long as the name is ok.


Good point. I tried this, wasn’t sure. You technically dont even need the file if you’re launching from the command line. I ran:

RetroArch -L mame_libretro.dylib "/path/to_mame_merged_set/"

And it loaded the game just fine, even though i dont have that file at all (just the parent file).

Empty / dummy files are good if you want them in a playlist/to scan them into RetroArch or any other front end.

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So you can make a playlist with all the dummy entries needed and it should work fine?


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To save some time for others, here’s a gist that will generate all the empty/dummy clone files all in one go.

Here’s a zipped folder of all the empty/dummy files for the latest MAME (Arcade only) as of the writing of this post (~6500 games, but only ~1MB in filesize)


Thanks! I wanted to ask one thing though. Is it necessary to place all the clone zip files in the same folder as the parent ROMs? I use Mame separately as well and don’t really want to fill my Mame ROMs folder with 6500 empty zip files.

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They ideally do need to be in the same folder. They can easily be removed / sorted though by ‘sorting by size’ and then just dealing with all the 0 size ones.

If you dont want to do that, then you need to do something fancy with the mame.ini file paths and add two seperate paths for the rompath. I personally don’t know how to edit or use a custom mame.ini in retroarch.

Edit: Looks like you can manually create it. See here, then you’d need to edit the rompath in the ini file to include the path to both the merged romset folder and the empty file folder.


Thanks, but the link to that page is giving an error. I tried to manually copy the mame.ini from my Mame folder into “system\mame\ini” and also changed rompath to my mame roms directory. Then I added another path to it using a semicolon which pointed to your empty zip files directory, but it didn’t work.

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I messed with this for a bit, and eventually found out the Retroarch MAME ini was defaulting to a hidden folder in my ‘home’ directory:


Which is a hidden folder. Seems like a bug, but the ini file is in there.

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A MAME standalone does not care if you have them all together or separated, it will show you everything (parents and clones), even if you do not have them. In order not to see the clones you have the visualization filters “Hide clones or only parents”.

You have to enable “Read Configuration” in the MAME options.
And maybe the option “MAME INI Paths”? From this I’m not sure.

If you use Linux, I do not remember well if I had problems with the routes of the directories…
This is the native form of Mame:
If for a rem, it does not serve, try:

This is the default directory of MAME standalone.
The ini of the Core Mame is saved in system\mame\ini It is not created, you can copy the MAME standalone.

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Thanks. I tried those options but it didn’t seem to change anything (no ini file was created), and there isn’t any doc on what they all do so it was mostly guesswork. I was able to get into the configuration directory settings from within the MAME menus (by hitting Tab) and it does show the ini directory to be ~/.mame, so perhaps RA overrides this somehow?

I also put a mame.ini file in the system/mame/ini folder and it doesn’t seem to take.

LaunchBox makes this much easier.

Where did you find the “~/.mame” folder? I have hidden folders enabled but I couldn’t find it inside the main RA directory. I don’t have a ‘home’ directory inside the RA directory.

Also yes, it doesn’t seem to take the mame.ini from “system/mame/ini” path at all.

Did you find any solution to run the clone roms yet?

I already enabled both of them but it still didn’t work.

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I am beginning to suspect that you can not handle the ROMs from the .ini. Only Drive.

And it has logic because it is incompatible with the Playlist of Retroarch.

Yes, RetroArch overwrites its own configuration.

“~/.” It is an acronym from the directory “/home/YOU·USER/”
"~/.mame" is the same as "$/home/YOU·USER/.mame/".
That is, it is inside your home folder, you have to enable hidden files to view it.

In retroarch is in “.../retroarch/system/mame/ini
The installation varies depending on what half you used to install, PPA, AppImage, Snap, Flatpak.

I am almost convinced that it is not possible to assign the Roms Route from the .ini, only the Drive.

Then, create the Set Split, or you have them in Merge with the empty files that Zack did. There is no problem in having all together, Mame always shows all parents and clones, even if you do not have the game.

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