Arcades have always held a little bit of modern magic. There’s just something incredibly cool about them. But with only a handful of traditional arcades left across the country, how can you re-capture the fun of the arcade from home? Sure, you could sit in front of your computer and fire up an old arcade collection with a keyboard or a gamepad, but it’s just not the same. If you’re looking for an authentic experience, you need your own retro arcade cabinet. The question is how?
You could throw money at the problem. $3000 bucks will get you a fully-built stand-up arcade from sites like xgaming.com. Easy, but pricey. If you’re adventurous you can dig deep into your DIY spirit, get your powertools, and build one yourself. With the right parts and an old LCD you’re just a day or two away from some retro fun!
The biggest part is the obvious one: the cabinet. You can buy a kit online to assemble yourself, or you can really start from scratch and build your cabinet from raw materials. The bad boy in the video above is made of MDF, cut from a plan we bought online. It takes a little more work, but it looks great.
Next up are the controls: The easy way to handle this part is to buy a pre-built controller set that fits cleanly into your cabinet, but customizing your controls can be more fun. We’ve gone with a sleek carbon fiber finish and a single stick, but you can add as many buttons as you want, along with support for more players.
When it comes to picture, we used a recycled LCD monitor mounted inside the cabinet, protected by a sheet of glass. It’s got that old arcade look, with modern high resolution detail and vivid colour.
At the heart of the cabinet is the arcade machine itself. There are two ways to go here: you can recycle an older computer with software called MAME - that stands for Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator. It’s free, and legal games called ROMS can be downloaded from the official MAME website.
Or you can build your cabinet around a JAMMA board - JAMMA is a standard arcade interface letting you plug in games that come on their own circuit boards. You can even get collections like Namco’s Classics, letting you choose from a library of games all on one machine.
With a little bit of time and dedication, anyone can bring that retro feeling home with their very own arcade machine. Depending on your budget and the parts you want to buy, it can run you anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. It might seem pricey at first, but can you really put a dollar amount on another date with Ms. Pac-Man? I didn’t think so.