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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.
<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>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 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>Thank you for your awesome tutorial! </p>
<p>This is the most important picture. My kids getting to enjoy some some retro gaming!</p>
<p>Thank you, for posting your design. I followed your cut sheet and it worked out great!</p>
<p>Thanks for this awesome tutorial :)</p><p>Here is my work :</p>
<p>Hello! I'm thinking about ordering the same speakers that you used here - the logitech z120 ones. I'm wondering how you mounted them on the underside of the marquee? Did you cut a hole the size of the speaker and then cover with the grids? Do the speakers fit inside the marquee box without any deviation from the plans? Do the speakers have decent sound quality? Thanks for your help</p>
<p>Hello !</p><p>In fact i took off all the plastic to get the speakers (be really careful while opening to not cut wires).<br>See the screenshot ;) <br>And yes, the sound is really decent and great for a bartop :) </p>
<p>May I ask what speakers you used?</p>
<p>Yes of course :)<br>These ones :</p><p><a href="http://www.amazon.fr/Logitech-Stereo-Speakers-Haut-parleurs-watts/dp/B00544XKK4" rel="nofollow">http://www.amazon.fr/Logitech-Stereo-Speakers-Haut...<br></a></p><p>(pretty easy to open to get the speakers and the sound controller, but be careful to not cut wires).<br><br>Then i used these grids :</p><p></p><p><a href="http://www.ebay.fr/itm/351448595160?_trksid=p2050601.m570.l6004&_trkparms=gh1g%3DI351448595160.N41.S1.R2.TR2" rel="nofollow">http://www.ebay.fr/itm/351448595160?_trksid=p20506...</a></p>
<p>hi there i just wanted to know, did you use t-molding on the edges or did you paint them yellow?</p>
<p>It's not really visible on the screenshot, but these are t-molding yes :) </p>
<p>Thanks :-)</p>
<p>Indeed the schematics provided by OP did have some stuff missing. Also there were some inconsistencys in the measurements when comparing two of the pictures. Nothing major and it's nice that you actually need to figure something out for yourself.<br><br>My project is still missing the marquee part and finetune on the Lubuntu/ES combination. Used a bit better hardware there myself.<br><br>Still need to work trough the power part and the lights too (and power switch).<br><br>Great tutorial and a fun project :)<br></p>
<p>Oh yeah and I did add the usb extensions to the front panel for possible controller use. On/off switch will be placed underneath the marquee panel (angel eye lighted one).</p>
<p>Nice! So its possible to have the arcade controls AND USB controllers connected ? I wanna do something like that but didnt think it would be possible. Do the controllers just go into the Pi USB ports ?</p>
Awesome tutorial! I built mine using these guidelines, with illuminated buttons from Amazon. Super simple. Mounted the Pi to the back of the monitor, and found that the Sony 19&quot; I used had an internal bezel with screw tabs, so it was super simple to attach. Used a slot cutting router bit on my router table to easily make the t-molding channels. I mounted two small amplified speakers (Amazon basics - $20) under the front bezel facing down and ran the wires internally. Simple solution and makes adjusting the volume simple with a knob on front of one speaker. <br><br>I also made the control panel mount via magnets for easy installation and troubleshooting should something go awry. It cleanly pops out but stays on firmly. The control panel and mating surfaces are mitered at 45 degrees. <br><br>Thank you for the great instructable!
<p>I'm loving the look you ended up with! Can you tell me what monitor and speakers you used? I seriously love how clean cut your monitor window looks.</p>
Hey I thought I replied to this but I'm not seeing it. I found a used $20 Sony 19&quot; LCD which was ideal. It had an aluminum bezel and adjustable rear stand. Upon disassembly I was pleasantly surprised that it had screw tabs all around the LCD panel itself. Made it super simple to attach from behind. <br><br>Speakers are amazon basics $20 free delivery. I just tucked them behind the marquee and ran the wire through. They sound great and keep it simple.<br><br>Good luck! Fun project!
Thanks! I used a song 19&quot; LCD I found on Craigslist for $20. The nice thing about it is after opening the case, the screen component had screw tabs all the way around. That made it super simple to simply screw into the back of the bezel! <br><br>For the speakers I bought the 'Amazon basics' amplified PC speakers for $20 and simply mounted them up in the top facing down. Gave me a volume knob that way and they sound great. <br><br>Thanks again for the kind words :-)
<p>Could you please help me with the measurements. tried converting from mm and the numbers just didn't seem right. : /</p>
Sorry just getting this! Here's what I did - print the template for the sides and use it, then cut the center boards all to 20&quot; wide and the metric conversions for their height. As long as you cut one big long strip at 20&quot;, you can cross cut your pieces from that and it'll all come together great!
<p>i REALLY LOVE how yours came out!</p>
<p>i REALLY LOVE how yours came out!</p>
<p>Very useful instructions! Made myself a Futurama themed box (vinyl is needed yet). I modified rolfebox's instructions to inches and smaller dimensions. Changed dimensions enough to fit onto 2 sheets of 2'x4' 1/2&quot; MDF requiring only one sheet to be CNC routed with a 1/4&quot; endmill.</p>
<p>Thanks for this tutorial. I made it a little bit different. See my pictures ;)</p>
hey very nice project! you said you used a 4:3 ratio tft but I'm just finding 5:4 tfts what max resolution has your display?
<p>Hi! I want first to congratulate you for your very detailed instructable. I've been so inspired by your bartop project that I've already built two '1-player' arcade machines (one for me, one for a friend), and I'm now starting a '2-players' bartop. Thanks a lot for having shared your project on this instructable!</p>
<p>hi there i just wanted to know, did you use t-molding on the edges or did you paint them? because im ising 18 mm mdf and i wond be able to use t moulding, do i have to use it?</p>
Hi, I just painted it as I used 12mm MDF. The result is more than acceptable if you sand it correctly.
<p>Is there any chance to grab the raw CAD file that you created this design in?</p>
<p>Are the dimensions messed up in your starcade_refsheet.pdf? For example, you've got the control panel at 50mm wide? 50 Millimeters?!? That should be centimeters, right? Otherwise this is like a micro arcade!</p>
<p>I've read through your post and comments (lots and lots of comments!), and, if I missed this, I apologize for being redundant.</p><p>How do you go about performing a proper shutdown on your RPi so as to not corrupt the SD card? I'm doing this build, and was considering an external button, but I'd really like it to be more idiot-proof. </p>
<p>Some of the measurements in the starcade_refsheet seem a bit strange. For example, the horizontal plane of the control panel seems to show 50mm, but the vertical (which is shorter, visually) shows 185.6 with no unit. Is the mm label supposed to be cm, and then the 185.6 is mm? But that doesn't seem plausible either.<br><br>Is it possible to upload an updated version of the PDF? I suppose I could just ignore that PDF entirely though and use the full-size printouts...</p>
<p>Since I don't see an option to edit my comment, I notice THIS picture has all the correct measurements listed</p><p><a href="http://cdn.instructables.com/FLV/1UXU/I20VV9CV/FLV1UXUI20VV9CV.LARGE.jpg" rel="nofollow">http://cdn.instructables.com/FLV/1UXU/I20VV9CV/FLV...</a><br><br>The only question I have remaining is, how far above the bottom of the front does the screen cutaway begin? Of course it will depend a bit on what monitor I use, but still knowing a general value to expect would be helpful.</p>
<p>i still dont understand how you did the marquee cabinet...its not clear in photos and the documentation... :/</p><p>any help?</p><p>thx </p>
The way i solved it was using clear plexiglass/perspex and cutting 2 pieces same size. I printed 3 artworks on 1 a3 sheet from the local printer. Once 1 is cut out it is secured with 2 pieces of aluminium angle screwed into place.
<p>Hi. Wonderful work! I only want to ask you one thing:</p><p>How did you do the marquee? Plexiglass and what? And how did you make it stick to the plexiglass? :)</p>

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