Like everyone else in the world, I grew up with a love for video games.  Specifically games for the Nintendo Entertainment System.  I don't know why, but I can't really get into playing all the modern games.  The nice thing about newer consoles is that they are easy to keep out of sight (wireless controllers).  Unfortunately to get your daily fix of NES, you need to dig through the closet, find the "good" controller, all the wires, etc etc and half an hour later you are playing.  My goal was to prevent this from happening.  And no, emulators just won't cut it.

I've always enjoyed the feel of playing with an arcade controller.  Sure the NES Advantage is OK, but it doesn't give you that authentic feel a real arcade machine does.  To solve that, I was inspired by a friend to build a NES Bartop Arcade machine.  I could have gone the easy route and built a MAME console, but I find emulation just isn't the same.  And thanks to Brian from http://www.retrousb.com I can have all my games at my fingertips with the PowerPak.

I could have made things easier by using a NOAC (NES On A Chip) system that fits a NES in the size of a credit card.  These have all sorts of problems though, sound, game incompatibility, color problems, and overall bad build quality.  Since I like my games 100% authentic, both sight and sound, the only option was the original NES hardware. 

Also, I want to be able to use a genuine arcade controller when my NES is hooked up to the big screen so I am doing something that has never been seen before (by me anyway). The controller part is detachable from the rest of the unit!

These were my goals for this project:

Keep it as small as possible
Make something that hasn't been done before
Maintain a good quality build
Inspire others to try something similar

I think I have accomplished all of these goals.  The final footprint is 31" High x 14 1/2" Wide x 15 1/2" Deep.  The cabinet has two unique features I've never seen.  It has the detachable controller, and it has and actual NES mounted on the monitor with a GameGenie connector soldered directly to the motherboard.  I didn't take any shortcuts with this build, and everything is strong and sturdy.  Finally, I've already had people tell me they want to build one of these!

So without further adieu, I give you The Genuine NES Bartop Arcade.

*Check out the NES rom I made to show off the cabinet (future instructable?)*

**for some reason it is showing up as a .tmp file.  Just change it to a .nes file and you should be able to run it on your emulator or PowerPak

Step 1: Materials Parts and Tools

I want to start by saying that I am not a professional builder, painter, or electronics expert.  I have spent a lot of time tinkering, and a lot of time reading what other people have done.  Please take this Instructable and learn from it.  This is my first Instructable, and my first attempt at making an arcade, so I am open to constructive criticism and welcome feed back.


I am a huge advocate of safety.  I have never had an accident involving tools and I plan on keeping it that way.  This Instructables involves tools that can kill you if not used properly.  Some can kill you right away, some may kill you down the road.  You only have one body, take care of it.

Eye Protection
Dust mask
Solder fume extractor


1/2" MDF - Came in a 4'x8' sheet only needed half of it
Krylon Spray Primer - Gray
Krylon Fusion Black Spray Paint
Krylon Fusion Red Spray Paint
Size 5 or 6 3/4" screws
Size 5 or 6 1 1/4" screws
Plexi/Acrylic/whatever - I don't know much about this stuff, I just had a bunch I salvaged
Wood Glue
Wood Filler


Drill - hand drill works, but a drill press is much easier
1 1/8" Spade bit - for buttons
1 1/4" Spade bit - for joystick
Counter-sink bit - I like to counter sink and pre-drill all my holes
Wire cutters
Soldering Iron
Multimeter - for testing circuits and verifying connections
Utility Knife - the sharper the better
Sand paper
Sanding blocks
Flush Trim router bit
Belt Sander
Table Saw
Circular Saw
Painters Tape


1 Front Loading NES
1 Arcade Joystick
6 Arcade Buttons
1 Galoob GameGenie Enhancer cartridge
1 NES controller
1 Set of speakers with built in amplifier
1 small light for marquee - I found a 13" wide Florescent light at the hardware store.
1 small powerbar - make sure it will fit in your controller box
4 rubber non-skid feet
2 Spring Roller Latches - for holding the top on
2 Latches - if you decide to make the controller detachable
Some small gauge wire - wiring the joysticks
You will also need the power adapters and av cables that came with the NES and other components.

Now I know your screen doesn't light up, what screen did you use? It doesn't say in the lists. Also, where would you get the arcade buttons?
Please read my previous responses about the monitor. There are many places to buy buttons online, a quick google search will aid you in your quest.
Hey I was wondering if you've had any lag/latency issues with the screen you used. I've tried playing my NES on my flatscreen tv and had a horrible time with latency. Playing games that needed quick reaction speed like Zelda II was pretty much impossible. I'd love to make a bartop cab like this, but I'm hesitant to use an lcd monitor without knowing how latency will be. Also, just wondering, how does the joystick feel compared to the D-pad of the original controller?
I'm pretty used to a bit of lag since I primarily play NES on a fullsized LCD. This LCD doesn't have any fancy graphics modes or anything on it so there isn't much noticeable lag. <br> <br>As for the joystick, it really depends on the game. It works great for some games, and others not so well. I think because there is such a dead zone between directions it can be hard to do complex quick manouvers when you are used to a D-Pad. You can probably get more sensitive sticks though, I just used what I had laying around.
Nice design!!!I know this is super late but are you selling these? I am looking for functionality not flair...
No I'm not selling these. I basically made it out of spare parts I had lying around. I would probably change a lot of things if I was looking to mass-produce and sell these.
How do you wire the joystick and the buttons? and where did you get the graphic for the controller box??? great ible
Step 10 shows pictures and an explanation of how to wire the controller. You are basically just replacing the NES contacts with the arcade buttons. First you connect all the ground pins on your arcade switches, then connect those to a ground spot on your controller.<br><br>Then you connect the wires to the corresponding pins/switches as I've shown in the diagram and pictures.<br><br>The artwork on the controller box was done by my wife. Basically a bunch of copy/paste from sprites obtained online.
wow apparently im blind i read this ible 2 before i commented on it. where is the best place to ground out the buttons?
In the picture showing the buttons and everything wired, you can click on the [i] button in the corner. It will show you the picture at the original resolution. The spot I chose was the bottom pin on the right side of the controller. There is also a hole you could solder to.<br><br>You'll be able to see better once you view in full size.
i love this instructables.... great job by the way... i did have one question... what about games that entail 2-Player mode? does this setup allow for 2-Players, or just 1-Player? let me know and thanx again
The connector for the second player still exists. I was planning on mounting a 2P plug on the controller section, but haven't gotten around to doing it yet.<br><br>So now you would have the 2p controller coming out the top. There would even be room to keep it plugged in all the time and just store it in the top by the speakers and light. I haven't used it for multi-player (since I have a regular NES connected to my tv), so this hasn't been a priority to add the plug.
SOOOOO do u accually put in a nes syestem? <br>kewl instructable dude!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! <br>
Heck yes!<br><br>Thanks man.
I like the overall outcome. Just a suggestion: for the Nintendo Logo, try to use window tint film. Just apply it to the plexi surface, cut out the logo, then place in a layer of red light tint film. You can get sheets of these for pennies. Looks good as is, just for another project, maybe you'll wanna give it a try.
Good suggestion. Maybe if I win a laser cutter I can do it that way =)
Laser cutter would be nice, but major overkill. Just an exacto knife and a stencil. Good luck.
so cool
Just one question (sorry if it's already mentionned but i have not seen it) what kind of screen did you use ?<br>However, a wonderful instructable and a wonderful project !<br>You put me in mind to do the same with a Snes (famicom)
The screen is from a Samsung SyncMaster 150Mp. I am almost positive they aren't manufactured any more. I just happened to get this one for free, so I couldn't even direct you to a better alternative. Most LCD tv's these days are widescreen, which isn't ideal for NES playback. Also, I can't necessarily recommend that monitor. The speakers that come in it were horrible and unusable. It also has to warm up for ~6 minutes before it shows a clear picture (that being said, it looks great after the warm-up).<br><br>Also, keep in mind that with an LCD you will not be able to use the lightgun. So if that is something you want, then design your cabinet around a CRT instead.
very cool. If you were to sell it, or make one for someone, what do you think you would charge?
So proud of you sweetheart! I'll admit, it's beautiful (even more-so in person). Our children will truly learn to appreciate REAL Nintendo as much as Mom and Dad and proud to know their Daddy made it!
Thank you hun, I couldn't have done it without your help. But you could have logged into your account first. Now it looks like I am talking to myself :)
Oh we all know you were really posting to yourself ;) <br>I can't believe that last week it was just a piece of board with 5 holes in it and now it is this! WOW! So impressed I had to vote for it! Okay, let's be honest even if I wasn't I would have voted for you but it really is quite amazing that you thought of this and made it come to life!
Where did you get your joy stick assebly? that is the only part that worries me. BTW, nice idea on the internal power strip! Makes things easier to manage for me.
Dont worry, my wife does that too ..... keeps people guessing. <br>but I do like the work and thought that was put into this. after buiding one MAME cabinet it may be time for a NES and possibly a C-64 one in our household
HAHAHAHA. Great post. I attempted something like this with an old play station, but it was accidentaly fried when I had some wires crossed. My electronics knowledge back then was limited. I don't know if I have the guts to rip into my precious....(NES) that is. Maybe one day.
... ebay my friend, grab one for cheap
I now have an extra computer moniter....... Im thinking on buying a console emulator( one that plays regular NES and SNES games) at game fellas. Now that I have an ible I can properly do this!
are you Chris Marquette?<br> great ible
Haha, nope. I have never noticed that resemblance!
Brilliant, i had ideas of my own last year of something very similar, i dont have the time, money or space for one though but its good to see others have done it

About This Instructable




Bio: Brad Bateman is a programmer, electronics hobbyist and classic Nintendo fanboy. He is currently dabbling in NES programming in 6502 assembly. He is interested in ... More »
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