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.
<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>Finished my build couple weeks ago just need to do the art work and final tweaking of the controls but overall great project, had alot of fun building this and now every one seems to want me to build one for them!</p>
<p>Would be nice to include the inch/foot dimensions for those of us who aren't on metric.</p>
Hi, awesome instructions. Thank you! the clearest and most helpful I've seen anywhere. I'm almost done with my cab and really pleased with it - I've been starring from scratch skill wise (I'd never really used a drill before!) but have learnt so much. Thanks.
<p>I've searched high and low for an awesome skin and this one keeps topping my list. Should be building my box shortly and it looks like this one is the winner.</p><p>Great stuff.</p>
That came out awesome.
I added a usb port to the front for 4 player gaming and ethernet port at the backnfornease of access. Next time I think I'll use perspex bezel rather than mdf as I think it'd give a nicer finish.
<p>A great set of plans and instructions! A big thanks to you. Saved me hours of designing. I added front USB ports for game pads. I also made the Bezel and Marquee as removable modules using industrial grade velcro, it works a treat! The 80's have returned. Happy Days!</p>
<p>I'm looking to build a Arcade cab myself and I was wondering where you got those graphics. Thanks.</p>
I purchased them from Rockstar Print. I am sure that there are many online that you could print.
<p>So do you have the one on Rockstar that is 7000mm H X 500mm w (Bartop) Sorry to keep bugging you. Thanks.</p>
<p>Alright, thanks </p>
Rockstar Print http://rockstarprint.co.uk/contact.php
<p>Sorry, I meant is there a jpg or something I can download to print the art myself? </p>
<p>Can you link me to that USB port that you have on yours? Does it just run to a USB on the pi?</p>
Sure thing, yes both just go direct to the Pi:<br> <br> <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00UV9G8OC/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o09_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1" rel="nofollow">https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00UV9G8OC/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o09_s00?ie=UTF8&amp;psc=1</a>
<p>Thank you very much for your plans. I've made it a bit narrower (47cm instead of 50cm). For the marquee I've used a polycarbonate and put some leds behind. For the speakers, i've drilled holes in the shape of space invaders.</p>
<p>wicked art on the front!</p>
Thank you! The vinyl used in control Panel is the original Midway's Space Invaders moon.
<p>Great guide. I use plywood instead of mdf. Personal prefer really. It is a lot lighter and screws hold better in it. I also made a tweak to the screen mount as my screen has a veda-mount e.g. the 4 screws.</p>
<p>lovely graphic on the side. good job</p>
<p>Thanks for the PDFs! made my own in one week</p>
<p>It works with Raspberry Pi 3 and Recalbox. there's two speakers, buttons with LED &amp; sticks from smallcab.net, Asus 19&quot; wide</p>
I done my first 2 player Bartop arcarde machine, this post help me a lot to build this project. Thank you.
<p>I'm almost done with my arcade...but...!</p><p><br>If someone could share which buttons of the USB card should be connected to which buttons on the arcade to simplify configuration I would appreciate it alot! <br>If....I say if...someone also could share a configuration file it would be really great.</p><p>I'm using the exact same configuration as in the instruction.<br><br>/Daniel</p>
I am in the same boat did you ever figure it out and can you help me. I'm a pi noob.
<p>any thoughts getting the raspberry pi to work on a 19&quot; monitor... DVI cable adapted to the the HDMI with an adapter.... </p><p>I cant get it going.. it works on a widescreen but not a 19&quot; screen</p>
I've gotten mine to work on 19&quot; and other sizes. Must be a problem with the monitor?
I also got a 19&quot; and it works with out any modifying
Thank you very much great instructions. I am only having one problem. I bought the same joysticks as you but cannot find the link to figure out how to get both of them working. anyone got a good tutorial or video I can follow.
<p>Super assome, will try asap.</p>
<p>Just got the marquee installed yesterday. Really liked this build. I built a usb port into the front of mine so I could easily switch to controllers. <br><br>Using an old laptop i7 and Lakka. Everything runs buttery smooth. </p>
<p>I made it! Used your design specs for the cabinet, built the system via directions from 'I like to make Stuff'. Added LED lit buttons, and used my pocket hole jig where possible. Great Father &amp; Son project, Thanks!</p>
<p>hey, really like what you did here by mixing the design and 'i like to make stuff' details.</p><p>before i start i was wondering if you can contact me with any issues you had..specifically with the wiring...im kind of lost with the details given.</p>
<p>Hey! Thanks a lot for this instructable, it has been incredibly helpful. Here's my version :D</p>
<p>For a 27inch Monitor (I have one spare ok!) would it be a case of making it wider and using 12mm MDF on the front or would there be other things to take into consideration?</p>
<p>Good Job!</p>
<p>Thanks for the plans, they helped massively. I made my own widescreen Sonic &amp; Mario take on it. The marquee still needs work though.</p>
<p>I'd love to see the measurements too.</p>

About This Instructable




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