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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>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!
<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>thanks as the measurments seemed rather small lol now it all makes sense!!! </p>
Best for side graphics and control deck graphics try these guys<br><br>http://rockstarprint.co.uk/
<p>I made it myself with some lttle changes , thanks for sharing yours :)</p>
<p>The USB ports were a good idea! How did you house them in there like that?</p>
<p>Thanks you for all those photos.</p><p>I'm interested to know how you cut the back door. </p><p>Did you use a Jigsaw?</p><p>Is the door the same piece or you cut a new piece to size. because in the photos, the back doors looks perfectly clean.</p><p>thanks!</p>
<p>Can you explain how you added the USB slots? Does the arcade controller give the USB port game controller priority over the joystick/buttons?</p>
<p>someone help me with the mesurements they are all in MM and it seems to small?</p>
<p>I made it for my senior project!</p>
<p>excellent plans, made it and was quite easy thanks to this tutorial</p>
<p>did you use the stencil pdf? the measurements look of 54mm x 50mm for the back seems small.</p>
<p>It looks like many of the measurements are out by a factor of 10. Where appropriate they should be in cm, not mm (front, back and bottom height and width dimensions)</p>
<p>Yes thats what i noticed i just wanted to make sure because a lot of people have built this but didn't see anyone post about. Cant wait to build my own</p>
<p>Good luck. I'm just starting on the cabinet today. I've reduced my size by 50%, removed the 2nd player controller, am using a small 7&quot; TFT screen and 6mm MDF to try to reduce weight and make it &quot;portable&quot; for a single person.</p>
<p>yes i did. I follewed the stencil for all measures and everything fitted perfectly ( as long as all your angles are at 90&deg;)</p><p>In the beginning i also thought it would be too small ( especially for 2 players ) but all dimensions work very well . Building a second one at the moment and sticked to these dimensions.</p>
<p>DONE!</p>
<p>Thank you for this brilliant tutorial! I just have to design the marquee and i am done! </p><p>I added some speakers to the sides and two buttons for volume control besides them. That caused a lot of hardware to be added, as the analog audio output of the raspberry is producing a continous noise. That made me add an audio splitter and an amplifier was needed too. </p><p>If someone plans to do this as well please make sure you get an audio splitter that is able to handle the DVI signal, as the first one i ordered was not able to do this.</p><p>I added illuminated buttons too, as for this i recommend to install two dimmers one for the buttons and one for the marquee.</p><p>Thanks again!</p><p>Cheers</p>
<p>Thanks for the inspiration. Here's my take on the classic. </p><p>-Needs some touch up or stickers/graphics around monitor<br>-Side art: Star Wars movie posters cut to size.<br>-Marquee art: &quot;Desktop Wallpaper&quot;, printed on two sheets of paper. <br>-Joystick art: &quot;Desktwop Wallpaper&quot; printed on two sheets of photo paper.<br>-Speakers: Old logitech desktop.<br><br>Thanks again, happy to answer any questions.</p>
<p>What monitor did you use? :)</p>
<p>got mine done just in time for xmas ... cheers for the template n instuctions its made a gr8 xmas pressie for my boy :D</p>
<p>After reading this thread I made mine (see pic). I went for a 20 inch 1600 x 1200 re monitor though. Also I used a pair of Logitech z200 speakers which I hacked apart in order to seat the volume dial under the marquee - I even did this in a way that you can plug in headphones underneath the marquee.</p><p>Some TIPS for someone building this...1. Attach the screen to the wooden surround (bezel) before permanently attaching it to the frame. 2. Attach the control panel last and make sure all controls are in it before attaching as its near impossible to wire up from inside the cabinet. 3. Cut 2 x hand slots in the top above the back door for carrying it. 4. Put small rubber door stops as feet on the base to make it easier to get a hand under the machine for lifting. The carry slots and the machine being 10-15mm off the ground make it much easier to carry. 4. Get a bezel vinyl as well as the other surface vinyls as its definitely worth the extra $20. Paul at Rockstar Print (UK) is the place to go! 5. If you have kids like me - dont load up the machine with lots of ROMs, start with 5-10 classics that are easy to play so the kids get used to the use of the machine without it being too complicated whereby they may get overwhelmed and loose interest. 6. As mentioned earlier... install an easy to use/get to volume dial for the speakers as some ROMs have different volumes. </p><p>I'd looked around at various kits and designs and settled on this one and I'm glad I did as spending the time ordering all the parts and building it is as much fun as playing it. Thanks to the original poster for taking the time to do the plans and steps. Good luck to anyone who builds this... Im happy to answer any questions if you have any.</p>
Planning to build one with my kids for winter holidays, got any game title children friendly that you recommend?!
<p>bubble bobble 1, galaga, ghosts and goblins, original space invaders, 1942, gyrus, hyper olympics - stick to the basics. note N64, dreamcast ans PSX dont work that well on retro pie so I just stuck to the lr2003mame ROMset (which is 4800 games - but I only installed 90 hand picked classics from the 4800)</p>
<p>I want one!</p>
<p>Before doing this project I was a total DIY noob! Had to buy all the tools and learn how to use them (such as Routers etc).<br><br>Its been a very enjoyable project, took about 3 times as long as it should but its now finished. Made a few smallish changes to the instructions and also built in a full PC build. (Also moved monitor size to 20&quot; with 1600x1200 screen).<br><br>Thanks for your guide!</p>
Do you have any guide how you configured up the controls and is the side button to reboot the system.
<p>OMG OMG yours is exactly what I thought mine would look like in my head and bam there it is in a picture in the comments complete with the same bubble bobble (my all time favourite arcade game) graphics I wanted to use. Do you mind telling me where you got the graphics from?</p>
rockstarprint.co.uk were the guys who did mine, it was a bit pricey though.<br><br>You can give them your exact measurements and they will print accordingly. (make sure you give them measurements slightly bigger so u can trim to size. better to be over than under).

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