Building an Arcade Machine - Part 1
Jesse Homa 04/07/2016
2 Minutes


Ever reminisce about playing some of those old classic arcade games in your youth and wish there was a way you could experience that same satisfaction without the need for a stack of quarters and finding an arcade shop that is still standing?  Putting together your own arcade machine is a great summer project that combines all your favorite video games of the past into a single entertainment system sure to keep you and your friends busy for years to come. 

Projects like this involve a lot of steps and considerations to make sure you are going to end up where you want, but often it’s hard to figure out where to start. I have been tasked with designing and configuring an arcade machine for use in my company’s break room. I wanted to walk through the steps and considerations I took as well as some detailed information on how to setup the software used in my build.

Starting out can be a daunting task as it may seem impossible to figure out where to start.  Generally, when going through builds there are a few major phases that help break up the workload.  These phases can be worked on simultaneously or separately depending on the time you have allocated to this project.

  • Researching for the build
    • Decide on what the needs and expectations of the project are
  • Building the physical cabinet
    • How to build the physical hosing for your arcade machine
  • Setting up the Computer
    • Build the computer that acts as the brain behind your arcade machine
  • Configuring the Software
    • Picking how you want your arcade machine to run and what games/emulators to use
  • Making finishing touches
    • Add art/décor to your cabinet or adding extra considerations such as light guns or controllers
Phase 1 - Researching 

It’s good to estimate this project to take several months from its inception to the completed build as there are a lot of things to consider. I recommend putting a few weeks into researching other builds to see what components or games are must haves so you know how to build around that. There are a lot of helpful tutorials out there on YouTube or gaming blogs to help you decide on what you would like to focus on for your arcade machine. 

Some common consideration ideas include:

  • How many players do you want to support?
  • What sort of game systems do you want to play?
  • How much are you willing to spend for this project?
  • Do you want to include any special input types such as light guns, trackballs, spinners, wheels?

Every build will be a little different than the next, so take time to figure out a plan of what components and options you want, and what prerequisites they require.  I would suggest to look at the following builds as they are great stepping stones for common setups and give some good ideas on what types of options you can do.

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