Frontends

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Frontends are programs that allow a user to execute an emulator program, usually a command-line one, using a graphical interface. Examples of such are shown below.

Note: "Frontend" can be a somewhat confusing term since it is sometimes used to refer to an emulator's internal frontend that handles video, audio, and input interaction with the user and OS, while this page refers to the "Launcher" or "Executor" kind of "frontend".

Frontends (launcher)[edit]

Attract-Mode
A graphical frontend for command line emulators such as MAME, MESS, and Nestopia. It hides the underlying operating system and is intended to be controlled with a joystick, gamepad or spin dial, making it ideal for use in arcade cabinets. Attract-Mode is open source and runs on Linux, macOS, and Windows.
BizHawk
Main article: BizHawk
EmuCon

EmuCon is a GUI (Graphical User Interface) for many emulators systems: consoles, handhelds, and computers.

EmulationStation
Main article: EmulationStation
GameEx

GameEx is a front end that does a lot. It is also used for commercial applications. It has a powerful in-program editor that allows you to customize the front-end's visuals to all lengths. It also has a built-in media player. It has a free version and a registered version. It is a powerful front end.

Games (Gnome)

Games is a GNOME application to browse your video games library and to easily pick and play a game from it.

HyperSpin
Main article: HyperSpin
Ice

Ice isn't really a front end, but it's more of a way to add you're old retro and arcade games as executable files that steam can run as it would a regular steam game. It lets you add your ROMs as steam games basically.

Launch Box

LaunchBox was originally built as an attractive front-end to DOSBox but has since expanded to support both modern PC games and emulated console platforms. LaunchBox aims to be the one-stop shop for gaming on your computer, for both modern and historical games. Probably the most customizable emulator on here, alongside HyperSpin, if you buy a license. You can customize the interface to however you like and the metadata of each game and comes with a metadata scraper. Has integrated support for launching from Kodi (XBMC). There is one version free, but also has a premium version that gives you access to Big Box which is an HTPC version of Launch Box along with some other features..

MaximusArcade

Maximus Arcade is Windows-based software that allows you to relive thousands of classic games and creates seamless interaction with multiple arcade and console emulators while keeping the Windows environment hidden. Although best suited for use in computer-based arcade cabinets, it can be configured for use in a kiosk or simply running on a computer with a keyboard, trackball, or arcade joystick. It is widely-considered the easiest software for reliving classic games with emulators like MAME. It is a commercial software.

Metropolis Launcher

Metropolis Launcher has been created to be a great old-school launcher, emulation front-end and an extensive offline database of video game metadata thanks to MobyGames and their strong user base. Over 50 fields of metadata are supported by Metropolis Launcher's Main Screen. You can search-as-you-type, filter, group, and sort by any combination of them. Metropolis Launcher already ships with MobyGames based metadata, no web-scraping for this data is needed.

mGalaxy

mGalaxy is a minimalistic front end aimed at arcade cabinets. It does, however, have some really good features such as picking a random game out of your library, background music, favorites, top ten most played and more.

Nostlan
Designed for UHD displays, Nostlan (formerly Bottlenose) is a high quality electron based front-end launcher that supports many popular video game emulators. Open source and available on Linux, macOS, and Windows.
Pegasus

A cross-platform, customizable graphical frontend for launching emulators and managing your game collection. Runs on Linux, Windows, all Raspberries, and Odroids.

Playnite

Playnite is an open source video game library manager with one simple goal: To provide a unified interface for all of your games.

QuickPlay

QuickPlay is a windows-only powerful universal emulator 'frontend-of-frontends', which has support for countless emulators and systems, old and new, with a philosophy of being quick and easy for new users, yet comprehensive and flexible for old-timers. It was written in the heyday of RAD and OO frontends (as such it's written in Delphi), and like other frontends of the time, its very powerful and able to support considerable complexity and customisation (think MAMEUI, but on steroids). However unlike many other frontends of the time, its also very flexible and adaptable, and still updated by enthusiastic supporters. It takes a fresh approach to the backend which, in particular, gives blisteringly-fast search over large and diverse romsets.

RetroFE
Main article: RetroFE
skeletonKey

skeletonKey is an open-source ROM-Library management tool which functions as both a Launcher and as a deployment backend. [mirror]

Snowflake

An extensible framework and frontend for modern emulators.

Steam Rom Manager

An easier, still active alternative to Ice.

Terminal Launcher

Terminal themed (DOS look) front end. User emulators, easy setup. This one is as simple as they come. Designed to setup quickly, and access any game you choose without the weight and eye-candy of the bigger front ends

Comparison of supported platforms[edit]

Name Windows Linux macOS Android Raspberry Pi
Attract-Mode
BizHawk
CoinOPS
EmuCon
EmulationStation
GameEx
Games (Gnome)
HyperSpin
Ice
Kodi
Launch Box
Maximus Arcade
Metropolis Launcher
mGalaxy
Nostlan
Pegasus
Playnite
QuickPlay
RetroFE
skeletonKey
Snowflake
Steam Rom Manager
Terminal Launcher

For more information, see the Comparison of Emulator Frontends page.

Frontends (libretro)[edit]

These are frontends that only work with libretro cores.

Comparison of supported platforms[edit]

Name Windows Linux macOS Android Raspberry Pi
RetroArch
Blast16
BizHawk
Phoenix
Lakka
Ludo