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The 'Galactic Starcade' is a DIY retro bartop arcade cabinet for two players. It is powered by the Raspberry Pi micro-computer and plays multiple types of retro games - primarily NES, SNES, Megadrive and arcade (MAME) games. Using a Pi keeps the cost, weight and complexity to a minimum but the cabinet could also house a more powerful PC-based system to play more modern games.

I've always wanted an arcade machine for authentic retro gaming but they take up a lot of space and cost a lot of money. Making a custom bartop cabinet like this one solves both of those problems. It also lets you play potentially thousands of games on a single machine. This project costs under £200 (approx. $320) to make, whereas a prebuilt custom cabinet can set you back four or five times that amount!

This is my first big DIY project and my first Instructable - be nice! Any questions or feedback are more than welcome in the comments.

UPDATE #1: Thanks for the great reception to the Starcade everyone! Very pleased to have placed in two competitions and won some top loot from Instructables. I'm loving the photos in the comments, keep 'em coming please!

UPDATE #2: After a ton of requests I have finally got round to making some handy PDF guides which show all the necessary dimensions to make this arcade machine even easier to build yourself! I've knocked up full 1:1 scale printable guides for the side panels and the control deck, plus a reference sheet with dimensions and angles for the rest of the panels. You can download the PDFs below. Enjoy!

Step 1: Tools and Materials

If you want to follow along at home, here is the basic recipe for the build. Substitutions for similar items are fine - this is just documenting what I personally used. I've shown how much I found each item for online, although bear in mind that quite a bit of this stuff was already lying around the house and I didn't actually go out and pay for. This list should show you the total cost if you were to buy everything.

You will need:

  • Internals
    • Raspberry Pi model B - £24 (Amazon)
    • Clear case for Pi - £3 (Amazon)
    • Heatsink for Pi - £3 (Amazon)
    • 32gb class 10 SD card - £12 (Amazon)
    • 4-way extension lead - £1 (Amazon)
    • Fused switched mains inlet socket - £7 (eBay)
  • Display
    • 19" LCD TFT monitor with built-in speakers- £25 (eBay)
    • HDMI to DVI cable - £2 (Amazon)
  • Controls
    • Joysticks + buttons + USB interface - £44 (ultracabs)
  • Cabinet
    • 12mm MDF board 1829 x 607 - £15 (B&Q)
    • 9mm MDF board 1829 x 607 - £9 (Wickes)
    • 6mm MDF board 1829 x 607 - £7 (Wickes)
    • 3m x 15mm coloured t-molding - £6 (arcade world)
    • 750ml all-purpose white primer - £9 (screwfix)
    • 400ml matte black spray paint - £3 (screwfix)
    • 600mm brass piano hinge - £5 (Wickes)
  • Marquee
    • Plexiglass 500 x 240mm - £3 (screwfix)
    • Flexible LED strip kit - £13 (Amazon)

Approximate total spend = £191 ($305)

You will also need the following tools. A lot of these are pretty common but if there's something you don't have - borrow it! I personally borrowed a great deal of tools and advice from my housemate, fellow retro gamer and all-round good egg Jonny from 1up Living. He pops up in a few of the photos and generally helped a lot with the build.

You will need:

  • USB keyboard and mouse
  • Screwdriver
  • Drill with ~28mm, ~12mm, and ~2mm bits
  • Clamps!
  • Table saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Router
  • Sandpaper
  • Filler
  • Wood glue
  • Screws
  • Paint roller and small brush
  • Patience
Yay. Finished my cab based on your plans. <br><br>Next one started (50%) complete.
Hope you are still here. Planning to build one for my kids during winter vacations, would love to know more about the side buttons configurations.
<p>any chance you could point me in the right direction for the graphics . id love something similar to your.</p>
<p>Hello Chillimonster, I was wondering how I can do the side panels artwork like urs. I followed the template provided here to do my bartop but now I want to create some side artwork like u did to urs. Is there an adobe photoshop template for this bartop so I can just paste my artwork to it?</p><p>Thanks.</p>
<p>Well, you certainly went and raised the Bar. Topping my build... Congratulations good sir. Good luck on the contests and I voted for ya. <br><br>And yes all puns intended. :D </p>
<p>Thanks MoTinkerGNome! I don't think your build is taking a backseat by any means, console yourself with the fact that I voted for you too! (Puns equally intended.)</p>
<p>i just wanted to know, when you wired the controls up did you glue the panel in place after that?</p>
<p>And even if we don't win the contests. We still have awesome Pi-Cade Machines. <br><br>On a separate note we need to work out a pinball machine that runs android for Pinball Arcade. Their software and tables are awesome I just hate touch screens for gaming. <br><br>Could use a 24 for a mini or a 32&quot; 1080p TV/Monitor Mercury switches or accelerometers could work for the nudges and tilt and buttons and microswitches are easy..... HMMMMM stand alone pinball emulator... </p>
<p>I guess you know about Visual Pinball.</p>
<p>Oh yeah, I have a 23&quot; and a 15 that are decently proportionalized to each other. I just am fighting with the software. Once I get that worked out Ill build a mini pin table. </p>
<p>Hey, welcome to instructables, this is amazing! I hope to you keep positing awesome things!</p>
<p>Thanks MsSweet! I really appreciate the lovely response I've had from you guys over at Instructables :) I fully intend to post more awesome things in future!</p>
I love how well documented this is! I love that more and more people are building arcade machines. They are all just so beautiful!
<p>After more than one year and a 14 months baby, I finally made my own bartop cabinet. Thank you so much Rolfebox for layout and exaplanations !! </p><p>I honestly don't know how people made wood box in a few days / week end. Maybe I don't have enough stuff and skills at home but it took me a while for building part. Software part and joypad cabling has been very easily compared to first phase. For french users, I wrote a very complete document explaining steps if you want more details, don't hesitate to send me request in private. I admit I reused mostly ideas from Rolfe and Barn_uk using magnetic clips to hold marquee in. See results in attachment : </p>
<p>brilliant but how do you understand the mesurments?</p>
<p>Bartop measurements are basically in mm, without . which can be confusing. </p><p>See details in attachment </p>
<p>you can just ommit mm and replace with cm like : 42.2 mm is actually 42.2 cm or of course 424 mm</p>
Awesome. This makes much more sense. LoL
<p>thanks as the measurments seemed rather small lol now it all makes sense!!! </p>
<p>Built my 3rd one of these - in record time. 2 1/2 days from start to finish. This one was for my in-law's who live in Wyoming - thus the Wyoming Cowboy's theme. I used a 60-in-one board instead of a raspberry pi this time just so they don't have to deal with the computer parts of it. The monitor had to be mounted vertical for that board so there was no room for a marquee. No frills on this one but I'm happy with the way it turned out.</p>
<p>Just finished! Great fun working on this. </p>
Thank you for the great instructable!<br>Finished my build with a 23&quot; monitor.
<p>Thanks for the instructions! Finally after years of dreaming about an Arcade cabinet i've build one! The joystick and buttons are Sanwa's and using de control panel lay-out of a MadCatz Fightstick. There is a Intel NUC with an i3 in there running launchbox as a frontend.<br><br>What do you guys think of this build?</p>
It is great! The decals are looking really good and professional.
<p>Does anyone know of a way that I can find the dimensions in US measurements. Hardware stores around here pretty much only sell in inches and feet. Is there a resource where the conversations can be found that are sold in stores?</p>
<p>You can probably figure it out with this calculator. http://www.rapidtables.com/convert/length/mm-to-inch.htm. The image with the dimensions of user &quot;Zogzog&quot; are the right dimensions in mm.</p>
<p>Finished my cab based on your plans. I think that on control panel , left stick seems too close to the edge left side. Made it with zippy sticks and buttons, LED daisy chain, 10mm MDF. Thanks a lot for the plans. My 11 year's old son and I are very happy to play with this bartop.</p>
Thanks for the template! I used scrap wood from a bed frame and some MDF for the back, base and bezel. Just need to get some artwork for the bezel.
I like what you did with the old wood. Curious what kind of artwork you will apply on it. Maybe some veneer decal would look great on it.
<p>Thanks heaps @San-Markos! I was thinking of going full retro like, pacman or space invaders to get that contrast between the elegant wood design and the retro art. Thanks for the suggestion though...I will look into that veneer decal.</p>
That would be awesome too! Looking forward to see the result.
<p>First of all, thank you for your excellent DIY, I found the best tutorial to use as a base.</p><p>This is my own bartop arcade machine! </p>
Looks awesome!
<p>is there anyway to do the angle cuts without a table saw?</p>
Hi I really love this idea and it has inspired me to have a go at building my own. <br>I have wonderful memories of playing Wonderboy, Ghosts n Goblins , Pac man and Pac land, Street fighter etc.. in the arcades and it would be incredible to have this machine in my man cave. <br><br>My first stumbling block though is the screen. I'm finding it hard to find a screen with that aspect ratio and built in speakers. <br><br>How important is the aspect ratio and is there room for cheep external speakers and would it be a hassle to rig them to the Raspberry pi?<br><br>Otherwise if anyone has a link to a screen with the correct specs that would be greatly appreciated. I'm living in Sweden so American ebay is too expensive with freight. UK is fine. <br><br>Please be aware I'm a complete tech novice.
<p>I'm currently working on my own arcade and there will be room (behind the marquee) to fit external speakers. I've used second hand logitech z213 speakers . There is not a lot of space for the subwoofer but I'm placing it sideways right behind the screen. I probably will go for external speakers without a subwoofer next time because of the lack of space. The speakers were quite hard to open, used a saw for it. Just be carefull not to cut any wires and you will be fine. As for the screen, I've just used a 19 inch standard Dell screen (1280x1024 5:4 ratio) with a dvi hdmi adapter. <br><br>If you're looking for any inspiration , you can also check the video of youtube from &quot;I like to make stuff&quot; about a bartop arcade or from &quot;the geek pub&quot;. It helpt me a lot to visualize next to this great tutorial. </p>
Thanks for the info. I got my hands on a 19&quot; with a 4:3 aspect ratio. ? I'll have a look at some of those Youtube vids when I get that far. Thanks again for the tip .
<p>Thank you very much for this highly detailed instructable.</p><p>I used it and adapted a few to create my own bartop.</p><p>I'm motivated to create a second one.</p><p>You can see it here :</p>
<p>Great job, it really does look nice! </p>
<p>What is your opinion on the arcade buttons and joystick set? Based on my limited research, it seems like a good deal, but I wanted to know the experience of someone who has used them</p><p>I look forward to building one based on your excellent plans</p>
<p>Would anyone be ointerested in selling a completed cabinet?</p>
<p>Just finished my build. Made it a little wider and the control panel a little deeper to fit a spinner for Tempest and add another row of admin buttons. My biggest departure from plan was to make the bottom removable instead of a back door. The back was made from 1/2&quot; seven ply plywood with wall mounting in mind. I installed sockets and switches on both the back and bottom so that it could be powered from either, depending on Bartop or wall hung. The removable bottom allows easy access to everything, especially the control panel. Monitor can be removed if access to the electronics is needed. Graphics were found on the internet, resized and reshaped with the GIMP and printed at a local Signs by Tomorrow. Very pleased with the look. Two 2-1/2&quot; speakers in the marquee were stolen from an el-cheapo surround system and sound pretty good. No bass to speak of though. Bottom of the marquee as made from ply also for strength and is screwed to cleats on each side and is thus removable to access speakers, lights, and remove the captive marquee panel.</p>
<p>I love your project!!! I want to make one similar!!</p><p>In 2000 year (before I got married) I bought a full size arcade cabinet, that already works (with a marvelous Pentium II @350Mhz :-) It's in one of my son's room, but my son (almost 14 years old), have say me that we wants the cabinet to go outside his room :-(</p><p>Then I'm thinking about building a cabinet like yours. Your design for me it's almost perfect, but I have an old all-in-one LCD-PC with a 17&quot; touch screen (very useful for gun games, and I even have some touch games, a tactile jukebox...).</p><p>The problem is that the PC is a bit more taller than a simple screen... Then I need to make a taller cabinet, and I can't use your marvelous PDF plans.</p><p>Could it be possible to get sketchup files in order to make this simple modification to your design (I don't want to make a carton prototype, or complicate a lot, and I don't know how to use sketchup, in order to redo your design).... or even better O:-) could you make a second version of your cabinet (unchecked of course) a bit taller (say for example 10cm taller)</p><p>Thanks a lot for reading, and for sharing your designs!!! (and sorry for my english)</p><p>Regards</p>
<p>Just completed mine, thanks a lot. Did a few mods, like the control panel is removable, USB extender in the front. More info on it here </p><p><a href="https://retropie.org.uk/forum/topic/5593/space-invaders-themed-bartop-arcade-uk-completed" rel="nofollow">https://retropie.org.uk/forum/topic/5593/space-inv...</a></p>
<p>That looks really good! I really like the plexiglas overlays over the display and control panel. It looks like a 2mm Plexiglas overlay, but how did you finish the front edge of the control panel? Looks professional!</p>
Hi mate, looks amazing. Was wondering where did you get the control configuration sticker printed on the side of the screen. Cheers
<p>i made it in Photoshop, here it is. Prints out on A4 perfectly and fits snuggly in the side bezel</p>
<p>A bigger version is posted here </p><p><a href="https://retropie.org.uk/forum/topic/5593/space-invaders-themed-bartop-arcade-uk-completed/12" rel="nofollow">https://retropie.org.uk/forum/topic/5593/space-inv...</a></p>
Thanks for the process. Very detailed and pictures helped loads. Really enjoyed making this. Screen mount was a bit of a challenge!
Best for side graphics and control deck graphics try these guys<br><br>http://rockstarprint.co.uk/

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Bio: I'm a guy who likes games and design and making stuff.
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