DIY Arcade Machines – How to Use an Arcade Cabinet and Raspberry Pi Together


If you are in search of a way to get a Raspberry Pi running in an arcade cabinet, it may be time to consider building one yourself. While you may not be an expert woodworker, you should be able to assemble a cabinet with little effort or simply buy a used one for cheap. An arcade cabinet includes several parts and can be very expensive if it is a working machine. Fortunately, watching the used items marketplaces can significantly reduce the expense if all you want is the cabinet. Depending on the size of your cabinet, you may want to buy a kit.

Arcade1Up Cabinets

A great way to bring retro arcades to your home is with an Arcade1UP cabinet. This mini arcade cabinet will give you the same feel and look like the real thing but in a smaller package. Then, you can play your favorite arcade games on your Raspberry Pi and enjoy the nostalgic feeling of playing a vintage machine. If you don’t feel like building your own arcade system from scratch, an Arcade1Up cabinet is a solid alternative. They are easy to mod and there are numerous vendors and communities centered on modding Arcade1Up cabinets. You can even purchase a control deck (2 or 4 players) with a Raspberry Pi and instructions for installing to replace the stock Arcade1Up games.

What is a Raspberry Pi?

The Raspberry Pi is an affordable, configurable, and highly powerful computer. Its arcade cabinet community is huge. Other simpler board systems, such as ODroid, have more powerful processors, but the Raspberry Pi is an all-around easy choice. You can choose from the Raspberry Pi 4b or the Raspberry Pi 400. Both boards have different strengths and weaknesses. While the Raspberry Pi 400 has a keyboard built-in, the Pi 4b is more powerful and cheaper. The 400-class model is the best choice for a portable emulation system.

Choosing the Monitor

Once you’ve built the cabinet, you’ll need to purchase a suitable LCD monitor. Some LCD monitors are larger than others, so be sure to choose one that matches the cabinet’s dimensions. 19-inch – 27-inch screens will most likely fit inside an arcade cabinet, but be sure to choose one with HDMI inputs. You’ll also need to purchase a power supply. While you can use a micro USB power supply, you should look into getting a USB-A to micro USB cable to connect the Pi to the cabinet. Ensure that you have four-ohm speakers for audio. Since Raspberry Pi 3 has built-in Wi-Fi, you may want to invest in a wireless keyboard as well.

Setting up the Pi

Hopefully, your Raspberry Pi is already set up with an emulator such as Emulation Station. If not, you will need to install and configure EmulationStation. It will detect the buttons on the controller and ask you a series of questions. You will need to choose which buttons control which controls. Fortunately, the RetroPie menu has shortcuts for adjusting different settings. This will help you configure your system more easily. Utilizing ROMs found online, you should be able to house numerous classic arcade games to play on your arcade cabinet.

Before assembling your Arcade Cabinet, you’ll need to connect your computer to the monitor. You can use an older LCD with an HDMI adapter if you don’t have a computer with an HDMI port. Alternatively, you can use a VGA-to-HDMI adapter if you’re using an older LCD. Keep in mind that screen resolution may be an issue, but this is not the case with most classic arcade games.

Connect the Raspberry Pi to your HDMI monitor. Then, you can connect an SD card with games to the Raspberry Pi. A Micro SD card with at least 4 GB of free space is ideal. If you don’t have enough memory, you can buy a bigger SD card or connect an external hard drive to store more games. It’s easy to install the software. You can then enjoy your new game!

Once you’ve plugged your Raspberry Pi into the power source, it’s time to attach the buttons and Joysticks to the board. Fortunately, most arcade cabinets are equipped with a power board that allows you to securely fasten the Pi. However, some models of arcade cabinets have a simple hole for the power cable, making it more convenient to install the Raspberry Pi inside. You’ll need to be patient and follow tutorial videos closely if you aren’t familiar with the technology.

Final Words

If you are interested in adding a Raspberry Pi with emulated games to an arcade cabinet, it is definitely possible. While it is generally for the more technically inclined, it can be completed by anyone considering the number of tutorials and information concerning the process. Using a Raspberry Pi is a good option as it is more affordable than buying a new arcade cabinet. Furthermore, there are numerous options to make installing and configuring Raspberry Pi arcade machines simple.