Sometime in the past, I have introduced my kids to the 8-bit computers I had when I was their age (or maybe a bit older then they currently are). They liked the simple games of Boulder Dash, Montezuma’s Revenge and Moon Patrol. Since then, we have always talked that it would be nice to have a system with some retro games. Few months later, my 9 year old son and I have decided to build a tabletop arcade.
I am decent with woodworking, but I was really not looking forward to buying wood, measuring and cutting. There are tons of CNC arcade kits available on the internet. I have picked one from Game Room Solutions. It is a basic kit (not the deluxe version). Opted for melamine so I do not have to paint and for the cam-lock system so I can disassemble in case I have made a mistake.
The cabinet build went pretty straight forward. All I had to do was to put it together with the cam-lock system. The T-molding was added first because I was thinking that adding it to the finished cabinet with monitor mounted wouldn’t be easy. I think it was a wise decision.
The buttons, joystick and T-molding were purchased on Ebay. Arcade’s engine is Raspberry Pi 2 which I had available. Speakers were pulled from a non-working TV. Amplifier board (2x10W) and monitor I also had available. So the actual cost was pretty much just the cabinet, buttons and joystick.
Few photos from the build:
The cabinet is designed for 4:3 monitor but I only had widescreen one available that had DVI connector. That’s why you see some free space at the top of the monitor plus the monitor’s buttons are visible on the bottom.
One issue I have encountered was that the orange button and the left most red button collide when the control panel board is closed. This is due to the fact that I have ordered long buttons. I will have to replace them with short versions but just those two. Rest is working and fitting just fine.
USB controller board came with the buttons and joystick. It is just a plug and play with Raspberry Pi and the Recalbox system I have decided to use.
Speakers are powered by a small 2x10W amplifier. If you do not have one, try to source used external powered computer speakers. You can remove the drivers and amplifier board to use for this project.
For the software, I am using Recalbox just because of its fast boot time. It is also a bit simpler to configure than RetroPie which btw is a very good alternative. It took me a bit of time to get the software running. Why? Because I have used some crappy power supply that wasn’t able to power the RPi correctly. I had issues at boot and thought that my SD image was not good. Once I switched to a good power supply (2.1A) everything started to work fine.
ROMs with games are loaded into their respective folders in Recalbox. So i.e. Atari 2600 games go into /atari2600 folder. Very simple. My system has Atari 2600, Atari 7800 and MAME games only. If you are planning to emulate computers like Atari 800XL, ZX Spectrum, Amiga, etc., be prepared to have keyboard available as most of the games require some input from the keyboard to work. I.e. “press M for mode”, “press F1 for player 1”. Arcade games are basic and my buttons are configured as A, B, X, Y, SELECT, START, HOT Key plus the directional joystick moves.
So far, we have played Montezuma’s Revenge, Galaxian, Moon Patrol, River Raid, Pole Position and Karateka games. All lots of fun and bring up memories from the past. I still have to work on the cable management and add marquee to the top which is not included in the kit. Will post update and fully finished console once that’s done.
Off to play some retro games now…