Retro games are surprisingly popular. As a fondness for classic rock music and 80s TV, it’s nostalgia we can attribute to the longevity of recorded media, and like old music and TV, retro games have taken a good hit thanks to digital technology. But while it’s fun to play emulators on your desktop, you’ll have even more fun using your Raspberry Pi.

It’s easy enough to build an arcade-style case for a full-fledged PC… but much easier with a compact and lightweight Raspberry Pi.

Earlier we looked at how to set up a Raspberry Pi to play retro games. using disk images and emulators, as well as demonstrating how to set up game controllers. for setting up controllers

These days you can buy the Picade kit, a well-made desktop arcade box for your Raspberry Pi. It’s a small kit with an 8″ LCD, but it’s not the only way to build an arcade cabinet for your Raspberry Pi.

What should you use for a retro game project?

All of our previous Raspberry Pi retro game projects use the RetroPie system, but we actually now have a few alternatives to choose from. Along with RetroPie you can also try:

PiPlay — Formerly known as PiMAME, this is another Raspberry Pi dedicated image with 13 emulation systems. Here is the taste: — primarily for desktop platforms, Lakka also has versions for the original Raspberry Pi and Raspberry Pi 2 . — Currently in beta, focuses on all Pi games (retro and online) and adds modern features like friend lists and achievement registration.

The following Raspberry Pi slot machine projects can use any of the above operating system images. Do you find a project to copy or inspire you here? Let’s find out.

Full size Raspberry Pi Arcade machine

While you’ll probably decide that a cocktail arcade or bar solution is more achievable, you’ll probably want to learn how to build a full-sized Raspberry Pi arcade cabinet first.

Portable Arcade Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi is so compact and portable; it makes sense to take a PiCade-style portable project with you. The following four DIY Raspberry Pi arcade cabinets should give you some good ideas in this area.

Porta Pi Arcade

A portable Raspberry Pi arcade machine that comes in kit form (starting at $75), the Porta-Pi Arcade is a good option if you want an arcade machine that doesn’t take up much space in your home.

The problem is, if you’re into gaming on this small device, you’ll probably need a full size copy!

Go Portable with NaCade Solar

The «naked» NaCade is a similar device, this time built from 3mm acrylic sheet rather than wood. This Instructable also uses a Pi Cobbler cutting board, but the entire build costs over $300. This may not be the route you want to take your build!

Micro Pi Desktop Coke Cabinet

With a 2.5″ LCD and mini joystick, you’ve probably already guessed that this project is a little on the small side. Using 3D printed parts, design observers «I’ve always wanted a tiny arcade machine for my desk, I decided to build it as small as possible.»

Since it’s about the same size as a soda can, it’s fair to say that if it were any smaller, this Raspberry Pi mini gaming cabinet would be unplayable.

Mini Galaga Arcade

Unusually for a Raspberry Pi arcade build, this project uses a CRT display for a total retro effect. In the spirit of this section, however, this is a very small CRT! This video describes all the steps required to create a similar project and the end results are certainly impressive.

Making a themed arcade machine is a good idea, which we’ll take a look at below.

Cocktail Arcade Tables Coffee Tables

Back in the retro days, many games took place in a bar or arcade rather than at home. Cocktail arcade tables were quite popular in clubs and bars in the 1980s, but are less common in these places these days.

Although still made by specialist manufacturers, the focus is now on the home with cocktail arcade tables, now styled as coffee arcade tables.

Here is the original.

Meanwhile, this how-to video demonstrates how to build a similar cocktail arcade table using a Raspberry Pi and an LCD TV, along with some of the details cut from the 3D model design.

However, you don’t have to tailor everything to your specifications. Coffee tables are a good alternative!

PiK3A — IKEA coffee table

Your Raspberry Pi arcade machine will look great on an IKEA coffee table. This low-budget conversion defies all logic, looking much more expensive than it actually is, and uses an Arduino to drive a joystick controller, while a Raspberry Pi bundles a 17-inch LCD TV. You can learn more at the Element 14 website (free registration required).

Pi coffee table

An alternative is the Pi Coffee Table, as shown in this guide. In this build, reclaimed or reclaimed wood can be used to make a coffee table (or maybe just an old coffee table), but up to sizes larger than the IKEA option allows. There is room for a 24-inch LCD, and the larger the table, the more room for the joystick and buttons. The Pi coffee table is finished in black paint and polished with French shellac.

f RetroPie Arcade Cabinet

Finally, we should mention our very own RetroPie Arcade Cabinet made by Tyler Gentry.

While the intro video might make it look like Tyler is playing the arcade machine in the nude, he then goes into detail about the hardware used for the build and illustrates the whole cabinet assembly process.

Most notable in this project is the removable screen; Essentially, the build assumes that you don’t want to dedicate a TV to your RetroPie Arcade Cabinet, but rather have the ability to add and remove a monitor as needed.

Decorating the finished Raspberry Pi arcade machine

Decals are required to decorate the slot machine, which can either be custom made (eg or ordered from a company such as Want to see how these decorations can improve your Raspberry Pi arcade machine?

Galactic Star Stage

This build calls itself Galactic Starcade and uses a pretty sticker to add that professional finishing touch. Plus, the name «Galactic Starcade» fits just about any game you can think of!

Bubble Bobble Bartop

On the other hand, the Bubble Bobble design in this bart build suggests that it can only be played with one game. Of course, this doesn’t apply to PiCade projects, and given how good these stickers look, we think you’ll agree that it doesn’t really matter anyway!


The Legend of Zelda Bartop

This instructable bartop is probably the best build of this design (essentially a half-sized arcade machine that’s attached to a tabletop) and comes with the added bonus of a stunning Legend of Zelda-themed decal.

zelda theme

While all of these lettering examples are stunning, we are particularly impressed with this Zelda-inspired decoration.

Wine Barrel Arcade

And finally, a custom build that doesn’t use decals but uses some unusual reclaimed woods. Designed by Matt Shaw, the Wine Barrel Arcade project uses an old oak wine barrel as its base, with an elaborately designed MDF box placed on the side to house the joysticks and buttons.

Speaking to Kotaku, Shaw revealed that the assembly took 6 months, 3-4 hours a week, between work assignments and father duties. It wasn’t too expensive, either.

“I believe it cost me $200 since I only had to pay for [Raspberry] Pi, buttons/sticks, paint, cables and I recently got a wireless keyboard that works with it.»

Chances are you don’t have access to an old oak wine barrel. But this is a good example of how to remake just about anything you can find for a DIY project.

Raspberry Pi 3 or Pi Zero?

Which Raspberry Pi do you plan to use with a PiCade style project? You can use the original, although they are hard to find. For the power and stability of Raspberry Pi 3 is your best option. Alternatively, to keep prices down, you can opt for the Raspberry Pi Zero, which is compact enough to fit into some very small retro gaming projects.

Of course, you don’t have to have a Raspberry Pi if you want to play in retro style. You can use an older PC to build your gaming cabinet, or an old game console (most of which can be convinced to work with modern TVs.) or even an Android device

Have you built a retro gaming cabinet for your Raspberry Pi? Any good inspiration from any of them? Tell us about it in the comments!

Image Credit: Slot Machine by archy13 via Shutterstock

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