A collection of Soviet slot machines on your Raspberry Pi

In the USSR, the gaming industry was underdeveloped in the 80s. Those who caught this time at a conscious age remember well the slot machines that were in cinemas, recreation centers and recreation parks, as well as the queues of people who wanted to play them. Basically, these were electromechanical slot machines, such as “Sea Battle”, “Air Battle”.

The most “cool” were the TV slot machines “Magistral”, “Interceptor”, “Gorodki”, “Race”, but their graphics were primitive and often black and white.

In the second half of the eighties, slot machines began to appear in the attractions. The first thing that caught my eye was that they had color graphics with much more complex shapes. Among these games, the “Humpbacked Horse” machine stood out, there was the longest queue to play for it, more than for the “Magistrali” or “Interceptor”. It was probably the most successful Soviet slot machine using microprocessors.

In this article I want to tell you how to play the Humpbacked Horse on the Raspberry Pi, as well as the Snow Queen, the Fisher Cat, SOS, Gorodoki, Billiards and some other games from Soviet machines, get a lot of positive emotions and, if you want, surprise your friends with the fact that you have such games.

Recently, there has been a worldwide trend towards computer games from the 80s and early 90s. In stores, you can buy various game consoles on which you can play old games and immerse yourself in childhood memories.

You can play without a console, using numerous emulators. The topic of emulating game consoles and slot machines is not new. Mostly game consoles and slot machines that use a microprocessor are emulated.

By downloading the required ROM (ROM chip image of the emulated device) and emulator from the Internet, you can play your favorite childhood game on a modern computer.

From personal experience, I can say that it is best to play in an emulator on a Raspberry Pi. It is compact, you can connect joysticks and a TV to it, and the shell / Linux distribution retropie has a colorful graphical interface, close to the game console and optimized for the joystick (with the exception of some rarer settings where a keyboard is required).

I thought that only western consoles and arcade machines (NES, SNES, SEGA Mega Drive) could be emulated, it turned out that I was wrong.

How did the idea come about

Probably, everyone has a desire to nostalgic about their childhood, to once again feel what they felt many years ago. For those who had their childhood in the 80s-90s, these were slot machines, which are now called arcade.

That is why museums such as Museum of Soviet Slot Machines. Having visited this museum in Moscow, I was under the pleasant impressions of visiting. There I saw almost all the Soviet slot machines that I played as a child and even more. The only darkening was that many of the machines were battered by time and merciless exploitation, many had broken joysticks and dead cathode ray tubes.

Knowing about RetroPie, I wanted to make it friends with Soviet slot machines, namely, to run games from Soviet slot machines on it. I really wanted to launch The Little Humpbacked Horse, but this idea seemed too fantastic, so I needed an emulator and a ROM and there was a low probability that it exists.

For all its mystery and confusion, it turned out that the MAME emulator included with RetroPie allows you to do this.

Interesting facts about Soviet slot machines

Having plunged into the topic of Soviet slot machines, I learned a lot of interesting things for myself. A lot of articles have been written on the topic of Soviet slot machines. Here I will give a brief overview of Soviet machine guns and interesting facts.

1. There were three types of arcade machines in the USSR, and just like all over the world:

– electronic-mechanical.

– television using discrete logic.

– television with use of the central processor.

If the emulation of the first two types is difficult and it is very difficult to emulate plausibly, then for the latter such emulation is currently performed at a fairly high level.

2. The first TV slot machines were built on discrete logic. The peculiarity of such machines is that they did not have a processor (yes, there was such a thing, although it is difficult for many now to imagine).

3. At the moment, it is known that 4 series of slot machines based on microprocessors were produced and introduced in the Soviet Union:

– “TIA-MC-1”;

– “Photon”;

– “Photon IK-02”;

– “Spectrum”.

4. In the Soviet Union, most slot machines were produced at defense enterprises, in contrast to Japan and the United States, where the gaming industry was well developed.

5. The Soviet analogue of the world-famous gaming (arcade) Pong machine from Atari – Telesport. Pong was the first commercially successful discrete logic machine. In 2022, this machine celebrates its 50th anniversary.

TV slot machine “TIA-MC-1”

In the mid-80s, in the city of Vinnitsa, Ukrainian SSR, at the production association “Terminal”, a TV Game Machine Multi-Frame Color was developed, which made it possible to replace the game program by changing one block. Based on this slot machine, the following games were created:

  • “Auto racing”;

  • “Billiard”;

  • “Towns”;

  • “Star Knight”;

  • “Fighter”;

  • “The Little Humpbacked Horse”;

  • “Cat-fisherman”;

  • “Kotigoroshko”;

  • “Dragon Island”;

  • “Treasure Island”;

  • “The Snow Queen”;

  • SOS.

Unfortunately, not all varieties of this slot machine have survived to this day. Of the 12, only 6 are known to have survived: “Billiard”, “Gorodki”, “Humpbacked Horse”, “Angler Cat”, “Snow Queen”, “SOS”.

If you are interested in the history of the development of this machine, I strongly advise you to look interview with TIA-MC-1 developer Alexander Gonorovsky. In this video, you will learn a lot of interesting things, including about the enterprise where TIA-MTs-1 was designed.

Also, the production association “Terminal” produced and put into operation two television gaming machines based on microprocessors, but not on the basis of “TIA-MC-1”. These are “Motor Racing” and “Fighters”, but they were not so colorful and attractive.

TV slot machines “Photon” and “Photon IK-02”

“Photon” was produced by the cooperative of the same name in the late 80s and early 90s based on the PK-8000 (a Soviet household computer that they tried to make similar to the Japanese Yamaha MSX). Cooperatives also produced Photon IK-02 based on the ZX-Spectrum. At the moment, we know about the following games for the Photon machine: Python, Labyrinth, Treasure, Tetris and the following games for the Photon IK-02 machine: Tramp, Black Ship, Cook “,” Collect “Buran”, “Agroprom”.

Photon and games for it are supported by MAME 0.133u1 and older, and Photon IK-02 and games for it are supported by MAME 0.134 and older.

Unlike TIA-MC-1, the games of these machines, from my point of view, are not unique and for the most part are foreign games translated into Russian and adapted for the slot machine for home computers. But it was such a time, cooperatives earned on what they could.

TV slot machine “Spectrum”

Produced at the Severodonetsk Instrument-Making Plant since 1991. Information about him is the least on the Internet. The machine contained three games: “Star AC”, “Flipper” and “Treasures of Neptune”, which could be selected using buttons. I did not find emulators and ROM for it.

MAME emulator and Retro Pi

The difficulty with RetroPie’s MAME emulator is that there are many versions that can be installed. The official page for MAME on the RetroPie site is even more confusing.

Using MAME to emulate “TIA-MC-1” for me was covered in darkness. Some versions of MAME opened the ROM and everything worked, others refused, and not for all games. All this looked like mysticism until I looked at the source code of the driver for “TIA-MC-1” in MAME. The driver hardcodes the ROMs that the driver supports. Currently MAME 0.248 only supports 6 games for TIA-MC-1. The very first game supported by the driver was The Little Humpbacked Horse, so it should work on all MAMEs since version 0.121

There are many tutorials and videos on the internet that show you how to install and set up RetroPie. I will tell you how I did it for a specific case, to emulate the games “TIA-MC-1”, “Photon” and “Photon IK-02”. I used Raspberry Pi 4, you can try Raspberry Pi 2 or 3.

What you need

1 Raspberry Pi 4

2. MicroSD card at least 4GB.

3. USB keyboard (for some settings).

4. Joystick.

5. 5V/3A power adapter and USB type C cable.

6. Micro HDMI to HDMI cable.

7. Computer and local WiFi network.

8. Preferably a case for Raspberry Pi, cooling radiators and a cooler.

Setting up Soviet slot machines in Retro Pi

  1. Downloading RetroPie from the official site

  2. Write the image to a microSD card. I used balenaEtcher.

  3. We collect our “slot machine”. We insert the Micro SD card, connect the joystick, keyboard, monitor or TV, power cable.

  4. Turn on your Raspberry Pi.

  5. If you have connected a joystick, the system will prompt you to configure it. Press any button on the joystick to start its installation. If you want to not assign a joystick button to some action, just hold and hold the button, then you will move on to setting the button for the next action. For hotkey select button Select joystick.

  6. Set up WiFi. Wifi->Connect to Wifi Network. Select an access point, enter the password.

  1. Set up hostname for Raspberry. System Options->Hostname. This requires a keyboard, if you’re happy with the default hostname you can leave it as is.

  2. Enable SSH. Interface options -> SSH. Then Finish -> Reboot.

  3. Install lr-mame2010. MAME has many versions. I have been looking for a long time for the version of MAME that would allow running TIA-MC-1 games. To do this, we need to install an additional package in RetroPie. MAME 2010 does not support all games for TIA-MC-1, but the emulation in it seemed to me subjectively the most pleasant. RetroPie Setup -> Manage packages -> opt -> lr-mame2010->Install from precompiled binary.

10.Download game images from the Internet. Images are on the next page – https://archive.org/download/mame-merged/mame-merged/. There are images for many games supported by MAME. I will list only the games that interest us in the table.

  1. Copy games to network folder on Raspberry Pi. In the address bar of File Explorer, type \\. In my case it is \\pi4. Images must be placed in a folder roms\arcade.

  1. Reboot Emulation Station. Start->Quit->Restart EmulationStation.

  2. Select and launch the game. Select the default emulator lr-mame2010

  1. Press Start on the joystick and enjoy the game.

  1. To run “Gorodki” and “Cat” you need to install another MAME emulator and configure the launch of this emulator for these ROMs. I leave this exercise to the reader.


The MAME emulator currently allows you to emulate 6 out of 12 currently known games for TIA-MC-1, 2 of which are only emulated on the latest versions of MAME, as well as all known games for Foton and Foton IK-02 .

Game emulation for TIA MC-1 will not replace authentic slot machines, but you will not be disappointed by dead cathode ray tubes or dead joysticks.

If there is a desire and slightly crooked hands, then using a few Chinese components, a monitor and a Raspberry Pi, you can make a gaming machine. The machine will be able to play not only the games from this article, but also many games that you can run on RetroPie. How to do this is written in the article.

If you know of any other Soviet slot machines based on microprocessor logic that I did not cover in the article, as well as ROMs and emulators for them, I will be glad if you share them in the comments.

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