Raspberry Pi Arcade




Posted in TechnologyRaspberry-pi

Introduction: Raspberry Pi Arcade

About: If it ain't broken, take it apart and fix it.

A few months ago, I decided that I wanted an all-in-one arcade machine. I started looking for some info on how to build one, and immediately, the name "Raspberry Pi" came up. This Christmas, I got a couple of them. I started experimenting with a few operating systems, and Retropie became my favorite retro gaming os. The pictures show my finished arcade machine.

Step 1: Choose Your Raspberry Pi

I had 2 raspberry pi b+ on hand, so logically I chose that version of the RPi. For best performance, I recommend using the model b+, and if you're performance hungry, the new raspberry pi 2, which has 1 gigabyte of RAM.

Step 2: Choose Your Screen

Monitors aren't cheap, so you can't be picky if you to find something cheap. Ideally, it should have an HDMI port, but that brings the price tag up. I went to a thrift shop, and found a Philips 150S 1024x768 monitor for 14.50€, which is around 17 USD. Unfortunately, it had a VGA port. That means you need an HDMI to VGA converter. Not all converters work, and unfortunately, I learnt that the hard way. I finally found one that worked perfectly on Amazon. Here's the link:


Not all screens are the same, and if it was cheap, it's probably not the best quality screen. If you're having problems with the raspberry pi detecting the right screen height and width, adjust the overscan settings in config.txt. To access the config.txt file, remove your SD or MicroSD card, plug it in your computer, and it's in the root directory (boot). Edit it with a program such as Notepad++.

Step 3: Installing Retropie and Drivers

Now you have to install your operating system of choice. I chose Retropie, so that's the one I'm gonna explain. First off, you need to download the Retropie image. Here's a link to the the official download page:


Once that's done, flash it on to your SD card ( must be at least 4 GB). Now you have to install the Retrogame driver, to enable the use of buttons and joysticks wired to the gpio. Here's a download link with instructions on how to install it:


However, all this can be a hassle. So here's an image of Retropie 2.3 with everything installed, ready to use, compiled by Instructables user rbates4:

EDIT: New link


All you have to do is flash it.

Step 4: Test It Out

Ok, now you've got the basic components. Grab your keyboard and test it out. Make sure Retropie doesn't give errors, adjust the overscan settings, and just make sure everything in general works.

Step 5: Buttons and Joystick

First off, you're going to need a joystick. I found mine in a local electronics store in Spain. I also found one online which is nice and works perfectly with the arcade machine:


You're also going to need buttons. I decided that 6 buttons were good enough, but I'd recommend getting 10 if you want to easily play any game. These should work fine:


The picture above shows where each button and joystick pin must be wired. The (opt.) mentioned after a few of the pins means that it's optional. I use my arcade without them. Due to a small amount of ground pins, I soldered all the ground wires together from each button and joystick, and just used 1 ground pin, which is depicted on the image.
Now just go to Retropie, use your keyboard and to access the start menu, select configure input, and set your selected buttons to whatever you want.

Step 6: Building the Body

Since the monitors differ from one another, the casing for the arcade machine will differ. My dimensions would be useless, so here are a few pictures of the main design. I used a sliding back cover to easily access the electronics. I left a hole for the power strip inside, which I use to power the RPi, the monitor, and the speakers.

Step 7: Speakers

If you want sound, you need speakers. The minimum requirement is that they have a 3 (or more) watt amplifier, and that it uses the standard 3.5mm jack. I stuck mine in the area above the screen, and sound comes out well.

Step 8: Optional

I decided I wanted to make the logo glow, like in the real arcade machines. I just used a strip of LEDs, and wired one side to the 5 volt pin on the RPi, and another to a ground pin.

Step 9: Finished Product

The bartop Raspberry Pi arcade machine is now complete. Here are a few pictures of Mario land on GB and new, and a picture of the NES emulator in the Retropie main menu.



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    Hi. I have a question. again.

    We have been trying to make the buttons and joystick work, but we just cant.

    Its all connected correctly, but when we try to use them in a game it just doesnt do anything. and if we look in settings we cant find a place to configure it. please help.

    1 reply

    Did you install the official retropie and then install the retrogame driver, or did you use the preconfigure image made by rbates4?

    Hello My friend and i are trying to make this and have encountered a few problems. firstly, how do we connect the joystick to the rasberry? there are two "connector ports" at each corner. does one of these always connect to ground? then we were also wondering where you got the game to use with it and how you were able to connect the Pi to the monitor. ours doesnt work for some reason although we have the converter and everything plugged in.

    thanks :-)

    5 replies

    Do you have a model number for your joystick you could tell me? I don't really know how to help you if I don't know how it works. As for the screen, have you tested the screen out on another device, such as a computer? If not, try it with both adapter and without adapter and see if it works. If it works on the computer with and without adapter, then you'll have to mess around with the values in config.txt in your SD card with the OS installed. I recommend Notepad++ to edit this file. If it doesn't work on the computer, then it must be a problem in either the monitor or the adapter. As for the games, you technically can't get them unless you have the cartridge and you extract the game with a ROM dumper, however a quick search of the game followed by "rom" on google will give you quite a few results.

    First i´d like to say thank you for taking time to help :-). okay so i found out the model number for the joystick, its 256. i hope that helps :-D

    Do you mean that we should put the SD Card in a Computer and test it? Does that work?? is it not Rasberry Pi specific? :-O

    we downloaded and installed the programm NOOBS and Retrogame and we connected the mouse and keyboard to the monitor, but it doesnt have signal. Could that have to do with the VGA/ HDMI convertor having a shorter screw on one side?

    Thanks again :-D

    The SD card is not RPi specific when it comes to reading files; but if you installed a RPi compatible OS, it will only boot from there. When it comes to the the HDMI to VGA converter, I honestly have no idea what could be going wrong, but I can assure you it has nothing to do with the screw. As to the joystick, I can't find anything without the brand name.

    First i´d like to say thank you for taking time to help :-). okay so i found out the model number for the joystick, its 256. i hope that helps :-D

    Do you mean that we should put the SD Card in a Computer and test it? Does that work?? is it not Rasberry Pi specific? :-O

    we downloaded and installed the programm NOOBS and Retrogame and we connected the mouse and keyboard to the monitor, but it doesnt have signal. Could that have to do with the VGA/ HDMI convertor having a shorter screw on one side?

    Thanks again :-D

    Yes, you should put it in the computer and edit the config file. You need to uncomment and/or edit the video options in that config file. You'll have to do a bit of research on what does what. When it comes to the adapter, I don't think anything is wrong with it, but if you still don't get any signal after editing the config file, it may be faulty. Could you specify the brand of the joystick?

    Not at the moment, but I will have one ready in a few hours.

    Can you send me a message when you do? Thank you.

    Sure thing.

    Thanks, but can you do over the diagram with red and black wires and show the negative and positive prongs on the monitor and raspberry pi?

    The monitor uses an HDMI cable, which you can plug in directly to the raspberry pi, without having to worry about negative and positive prongs. To power the Raspberry Pi, it's basically the same thing, with a micro-usb cable; again, no need to worry about the negative and positive prongs. As to the buttons and joystick, the black cable is the ground cable, in other words, the negative cable, which is common to all controls, and the different colored cables are the positive cables for each control, which is wired to the GPIO.

    Thank you. I understand how to make this arcade now. Thank you for explaining it to me.

    No problem! I'm glad I could help.

    I have one more question were you able to power up and run the monitor without a CPU because I don't see one in the pictures? If so how?

    What kind of monitor are you using? If you are using VGA, you may want to enable VGA in the config.txt, which can be accessed via plugging in the SD into your computer.

    Does it matter what kind of monitor I use? Can you also make a video showing how to wire everything up if you don't mind?

    Sorry, I misread your question. The CPU is part of the Raspberry Pi, I don't need another one. And yes, I will make a video.