Mini Arcade Cabinet

A Christmas Bar-Top Build

Posted by Jon on 2017-05-24 10:16:08


I built this miniature arcade cabinet for a Christmas gift in 2016. It is made of 1/2 inch plywood and an old HP LCD monitor. The brains are a Raspberry Pi 2 and the arcade controls came from Amazon.


I could have looked up plans online for a table top arcade cabinet, but I wanted to start from scratch. First I determined the height of the unit and drew up a side panel that would fit this height. I also took into account the height of the LCD display and the depth needed for the arcade controls. The width of the machine was not as important, as this could be determined later to fit the controls or display. It can be as wide as possible to suit your needs.

A, mostly to scale, diagram of the side


After drawing up my side panel, I had to scan it into my computer using my printer's flatbed scanner. I then took this picture into my favorite image editor and scaled it to size, as well as straighten and darken the outside edges. These edges will be used as a cutting guide later. I printed it to full scale, spanning 3 or 4 pages of 8.5 x 11 paper. I taped together my template, spray glued the template to the plywood, and cut out both sides at the same time. Once I had the sides cut and sanded, I followed my drawing and glued and nailed it all together.

I used a few different patterns when cutting the face panels that hold everything together. My monitor template is really specific to the monitor I had and not something I could reuse. The pattern for the controls is another story and this took some time to perfect. In about this third iteration, it felt comfortable for two people to use this small machine

My pattern for button and joystick layout


The software was rather simple as Retropie is really easy to install and setup. You simply put the image on an SD card and boot up. Transferring ROMs can be done via USB thumb drive and is the method I used to keep this arcade simple and offline. Retropie is really a great choice for Raspberry Pi driven gaming and the list of supported emulators is long.

A few images of the cabinet build


Of course, no build is complete without a bit of testing. Below is a video I shot before glueing and nailing on some of the last panels. I definitely prefer the arcade version of these games over the home console ports, but I still wanted to test the different emulators with different games. TMNT arcade is much better than the NES version.

A bit of gameplay


As I stated in the beginning of this post, this build was for a Christmas present. More specifically, this was a gift to my dad from my brother and I. It was a completely unexpected gift and it was well received. While I didn't get a picture of my dad on the arcade, my cousins were happy to test it further with a little NBA Jam.

Family tested and approved

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