Introduction: Build Your Own Mini Arcade Cabinet With Raspberry Pi

Picture of Build Your Own Mini Arcade Cabinet With Raspberry Pi

The Porta-Pi Mini Arcade is a desktop-sized, fully functional, mini arcade cabinet measuring just under 13 x 9 x 10 inches (HxWxD).

This Porta-Pi Arcade turns your Raspberry Pi in a mini arcade machine. Of course you could stuff any other retro console inside, but the RPi is so versatile, powerful and awesome that I stuck with it to build this mini arcade.

The Porta-Pi Arcade Kit features:

  • Precision Laser Cut Cabinet, made from 0.25 inch Oak Plywood .
  • 7" (800x480 HDMI/VGA/Composite) LCD screen
  • (1) Commercial arcade joystick (micro-switch style)
  • (10) Commercial arcade buttons and micro-switches
  • Speakers (3" mid-range) with amplifier PCB (2W, Stereo Class D)

All running off a 5v 2A power supply!

Step 1:

Picture of

Start with an idea, and test it out.

I started with a proof of concept shown above. I made this from 1/2" plywood using a template I made with a cereal box. It was a little crude but I was proud of it, and everyone who saw this chunky machine loved it. I then, decided to make another one, but this time pour my heart into a new design. I also tried to engineer it so I could build another if I wanted... That was the hard part.

The cabinet design took over 200 hours of drafting, prototyping, and 'improving'. But like any good design, the cabinet fits common off-the-self commercial arcade parts, an OEM 7" tablet screen, and other common parts. This mini arcade can be laser cut, assembled, glued, and wired in under 8 hours. (I've built over 60 of these so far). Getting that build-an-arcade-in-a-day time took over 11 months of constant tinkering, designing, and engineering. A couple thousand hours of work over the course of 2 years. The video (next page) shows how the laser cut pieces are assembled (you can also build this design with 1/4" acrylic plastic). The rest of the video shows how to install and wire the monitor, LCD driver board, speakers, amplifier, arcade buttons, 8 way joystick, and raspberry pi.


So what about the software?! The software was an entire other story that took months and months to figure out. Back in 2012 I started messing with Retro Pie (an awesome compilation of retro emulators with a slick front end for the Raspberry Pi computer). After months of troubleshooting and frustrating nights with Linux, I got a stable image with the code needed to run the arcade controls hardwired into the Raspberry Pi's GPIO pins. I have the image available for download at my blog! You dont want to go through the headaches I went through; so I saved you the trouble :) Be sure to stop by the petRockBlog and see their great work with RetroPie.

Step 2: Gather Your Materials

Download the BOM to see what items are needed to build this mini arcade.

Step 3: How I Built the Porta Pi Mini Arcade

The 1/4" oak plywood cabinet is glued using wood glue. Everything else is shown in the videos.

Step 4: See It in Action!

Thanks for watching everyone!


Step 5: Bonus! Portable Battery Power!

Picture of Bonus! Portable Battery Power!

Portable electronics are only as good as their batteries. And batteries are expensive. Why not use the batteries you already have? Like cordless drill batteries? They are beefy, readily available and cheap* (when they go on sale).

To make a battery pack you will need:

  • An extra battery charger that fits your drill batteries (Ryobi brand shown)
  • A Buck converter (DC-DC step down converted) $12-25 on ebay
  • Some extra wire, hot glue, and flexibility in the design.
  • A Male DC cord (or whatever plug you want to use) $2
  • Dremmel

I bought a Buck converter (well, two different ones actually). Sure, you can make one: There are all-in-one IC's available that only require a few passive components to make the circuit. But, I like the quick solution (and cheaper one too).

I found an extra Ryobi charger in a junk pile. I gutted it. Soldered new copper wires to the battery terminals, added a double-pole-single throw switch at the battery end. Then, added this nice DC-DC step-down converter (buck) with output current and voltage displays. The converter has an adjustable output 5-30V with an input range of 0.8-32V. Load regulation is speced at 0.5% which is close to the actual performance. Why a buck vs. a linear regulator? For efficiency. I have a couple Lithium-ion drill batteries which are 18V. My Porta Pi Arcade needs 5V. Linear regulars dissipate the excess voltage through heat. Buck converters (step-down converters) switch the power on and off to provide power to the load. Buck converters are much more efficient at converting power. Making the most out of your battery source. I really like the output display. I milled out a view window so you can see the output. The rest I did with a dremmel (which got away from me a few times). I bought the step-down converter on ebay. It's one of those Chinese "gadgets". It is spec'ed to output up to 5A. I cant see the marking on the IC's and just to be safe I dont expect to sink more that 3A from this. Just to be safe. I've tested my luck running close to the written specs on many of these DIY circuit parts and I've always lost that bet around 90% of the listed limits. It works rather well. A great mod you can do for anything application. The converter was $11.xx shipped.

I also bought this beefy MeanWell buck converter which is also listed for max output of 5A (same as the tiny 'gadget' one for half the price!!!). The MeanWell brand is the larger one encased in a metal enclosure. Now you tell me which one of these converters is lying about their max ratings?

I wired up the MeanWell converter and ran the Porta Pi Arcade with a fully charged battery. Total run time was 2hr 45min with the volume set to a whisper. The MeanWell converter has perfect performance. The tiny 'gadget' converter did the job, but the Rapsberry Pi would occasionally "hiccup" when the CPU changed it's power demand; the converter supplying the power could not transition fast enough to match this demand. If you think you want to take on this project, remember: You get what you pay for!


ppeters0502 made it! (author)2014-07-23

Just finished putting the finishing touches on mine! I ordered the wood kit and manual through rbates4's kickstarter, because this is my first permanent project with the Raspberry Pi. Staining the wood and gluing together the initial cabinet shell wasn't too bad, and the same with hooking up the monitor driver board.

Setting up the speakers and speaker amp (my first soldering project for soldering the cables!) wasn't too bad either, the part that took the longest was by far wiring the buttons.

My first mistake was using signal wires that were too flimsy for setting up the daisy-chained grounding harness, and using crimp connectors that required too much force to use. The combination murdered several signal wires and eventually required a second trip to the hardware store.

Once I finished wiring the buttons though, the rest was a snap! the retro-pie image on my SD card works like a champ, and I'm already gaming it up! Thanks for the great project rbates4!!

rbates4 (author)ppeters05022014-08-27

Thankyou for supporting me!

jreyes1188 (author)rbates42015-01-20

Were can i buy the cabinet kit....i have all hardware

SamuraiBobX26 (author)2016-11-14

Do you have the drawings to build the cabinet itself as I like to make the cabinet myself as I am an aspiring woodworker and it looks like fun.

RickAstley (author)2016-01-26

༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ

༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ

QazW2 (author)2015-11-12

while the price of the assembled kit seems a bit high, one needs to remember the time it took to assemble the kit. then times by ten because you don't plan on assembling sixty of them to be able to do it as fast as he did it. the 45 minute assembly video was sped up many places so likely it took two hours at least. and I bet most will be hard pressed to assembly the kit in under 20 hours with hardly any able to do in under 15. and that doesn't include the painting or staining of the cabinet

since parts kit is just $85 less than assembled stained kit my math says you will take 20+ hours to save that $85 or $4/hour ($5 if you are fast AND accurate)

a full sized arcade cabinet was always in the $1000 - $3000 range so I'm wondering what it would take to convert this to a Pi operated full size (the Pi is actually more powerful than the early motherboards and definitely has more memory by thousands possibly even a million times)

while looking for a VGA monitor i found there are baseless (perfect to mount into a cabinet) for less than $20 (referbished) likely the cost of a HDMI to VGA converter is low (quick search found $19) the additional power required shouldn't be more than $100, likely much less (guesstimate, sorry if I'm off) so for a couple sheets of plywood plus the parts kit and an extra $150 or less (even much less here since kit includes screen that isn't needed as the $150 includes big (19 inch) screen)

Are you feeling the need to play Packman?

siliconghost (author)2015-10-07

Very well done! Do you sell the AI or vector drawing for the cabinet so we can laser cut ourselves?

ThomasH17 (author)2015-02-03

what speakers can I use instead ?

guzforster (author)ThomasH172015-10-02

I disassembled a cheap PC speaker and took the speakers with the amplifier board from within, it works.

jhanna7 (author)2015-09-13

I've can't seem to find a "add to cart" button on your site!

guzforster (author)2015-08-02

I made it :) The only problem I found is that I couldn't find the amplifier board for the life of me. I then disassembled a PC speaker and removed the amplifier board from within and used it.

dreama80 (author)2015-07-29

How do you hook up the plug n play to the screen

dreama80 (author)dreama802015-07-29

Sorry, wrong post

Christian500 (author)2015-05-03

Do you have a diagram for how to wire everything together?

slothbear607 (author)2015-04-21

can i get a link to the precut orange plastic thanks

asmith255 (author)2015-02-02

Can I use a spare kindle for this ( I need a new use for kindle before I throw it at wall)

Koung00 (author)2014-09-20

Ok I am extremely interested in building this project, and I honestly cannot wait to start building this! I just have to say thank you for providing the options of a kit or fully assembled project and the software to get it all working :D Really appreciate the work you've done.

rbates4 (author)Koung002014-09-21

Thank you! Such kind words help combat the effort involved. Glad to help you get started with your mini arcade!

JM1999 (author)2014-09-08

Cool, too many videos though.

MoTinkerGNome made it! (author)2014-08-26

Here is my build. Thanks again for the image and inspiration.

hcstokes (author)2014-07-02

This looks amazing!! I really want to build this, and I'm planning on buying the kit. I have a couple of questions though, could just use the software and components but put it into a different cabinet? And/or use a bigger screen?

rbates4 (author)hcstokes2014-07-02

Yup Absolutely. If you're a DIY'er you can put the Pi in almost anything. My build shows you how to wire and hookup everything, you could easily build a different cabinet for this.

MoTinkerGNome (author)rbates42014-08-20

Thanks for the work on the Image your software works perfect, I am using your software and since I already have the ROMS and a Xarcade stick it is time to build a Pi Bartop to house it in. Stay tuned I am rolling several projects into my build.

hcstokes (author)rbates42014-07-02

Thank you sooooo much!!!!!!

richb77 (author)2014-08-18

One word...Awesome.

TrollFaceTheMan (author)2014-07-26

Sweet, good job with all the details :)

cesar.o.gonzalez.54 (author)2014-07-25

hi bro, I have a question, which is the web site where you download the mame roms?, because I don't find anything it Works.

Master G (author)2014-07-09

Is this powerful enough to play PS1 games?

rbates4 (author)Master G2014-07-09

The Raspberry Pi is not. Emulation is hit or miss with PS1 games.

bboy974 (author)2014-07-08

Where do I get this kit or kits?

rbates4 (author)bboy9742014-07-08

fastenspy (author)2014-07-07

Any one have cad file?

mkowalski8 (author)2014-07-07

This is a nice looking cabinet, I am going to build one, but I think i will swap out the Pi for something with a lot more horsepower. Probably something based on the imx6q processor with dedicated VPU. At almost 4ghz and a gig of ram I should be able to emulate PS2 and xbox v1 games as well. :) Thanks for the inspiration.

RandyNose (author)2014-06-29

Why not a Torrent Link for the image file? That would save your bandwidth and make it available to many much easier.

ghismo (author)RandyNose2014-07-03


ghismo (author)RandyNose2014-06-30

Wow ! Awesome project !

+1 for a torrent link :)

Hyginx (author)2014-07-01

Looks awesome, but what's the average cost of the build?

rbates4 (author)Hyginx2014-07-02

Thank you! Build costs between $200-220. Does not include shipping when buying the individual parts.

XVinnys (author)2014-06-29

Nice one, makes me nostalgic, even wondering building one, but 1st can you let us know how much you spent in money and hours? Just to be aware.

In advance thanks for your share, awesome :)

rbates4 (author)XVinnys2014-06-30

Thank you! A wood kit costs about $220 in parts/ materials if you source the materials yourself. That does not include shipping. The wood kit can be built in about 6 hours.
Design these 'kits' took about 1100 hours. over the course of 10 months.

Darthorso (author)2014-06-30

Extremely beautiful! :D

I love arcade machines! I've bought a full-size one for only 80€ (about 110 bucks) fully functional from a failed game room.

I have two working jamma game cards to play with, but I want to convert it to a mame system. You're ible give me a great inspiration! :)

Keep sharing your greatness, my friend ;)

rbates4 (author)Darthorso2014-06-30

Thank you for such kind words! Good luck with your MAME project!

Darthorso (author)rbates42014-06-30

Thank you for sharing this! Stay great

usukie (author)2014-06-29

do u have a ply wood kit for sale?

rbates4 (author)usukie2014-06-30

I do!

willthederpy (author)2014-06-29

Could you do one for an old Sega genesis?

rbates4 (author)willthederpy2014-06-30

Yes! I've built a few of these with a console inside as a dedicated unit. The Genesis Model 2 or 3 might be a better candidate for this cabinet since they have small motherboards.

xootraoox (author)2014-06-29


Dropbox disabled account, please mirror the images. if you need host the files only tell my.

rbates4 (author)xootraoox2014-06-30

I'm working on a mirror for the image. Please be patient :)

seudafed (author)2014-06-29

Nice! I have been planning on building a 2-button and have been researching case design. Will you post the STL/design files for the case on your blog or on Thingaverse?


About This Instructable



More by rbates4:3D Printed Mini Arcade Joystick With Tactile SwitchesArduino Claw Machine (Version 4)Automated Plant Watering System
Add instructable to: