Introduction: Arcade Machine - Retro Box

As a 80’s child I always liked the arcade machines. Two years ago, I saw

the RetroPi and decided to build one on my own.

Step 1: The Design

I wanted the arcade design to be unique. I learned to use google sketch-up so I could design whatever I imagined.

I wanted my arcade machine to have the same gaming position as the classic ones but slimmer, with a modern screen and with curves. because I find it more visually pleasing.

The height of the arcade machine is 1.8 meter with a width of 74 cm.

Since I didn't know what is the correct height and angle of the buttons panel,

I found some old design of Nintendo arcade on-line and adopted the height and angle values,

assuming they will fit most users.

After a couple of days with help from friends, it was complete. I have attached the sketch-up file.

Step 2: Parts and Materials


2 birch plywood 122*244 cm


masking tape


one liter wood red color

one liter wood black color

Plenty of various wires


Raspberry Pi 3

32 Giga SD Card

ControlBlock: Power Switch, Game Controllers, and I/O for the Raspberry Pi

2 players buttons (with led) and joysticks.(ebay)

26’ LCD screen

2 Arduino Nano (ebay)

WS2812B 5050 RGB LED Strip (ebay)

On/off Switch(ebay)

HDMI cable

AC Power cable

3 USB A to USB micro cables



Circular saw

Jig saw

Drill and standard bits

Table saw (optional)

Sand paper

28 mm' hole drill


Soldering Iron

Wire cutters



I choose the birch plywood because it is hard and durable but it is also heavy and not completely flat. You need it to be flat if you want to print and glue a sticker on it, but I painted mine. You can choose what kind of buttons to use. it really doesn't matter, it's a matter of taste, I wanted mine to be with LEDs. I also used two Arduino uno because I wanted a light-show that I could control completely.

Step 3: Build


First, we need to cut the wood to the right dimensions,

Luckily for me my cousin has a workshop so most of the building work
i did there during one day of super hard work.

I printed the side panels patterns with a plotter printer. Then I stapled it to the wood, and then with the help of the jig saw I cut along the pattern lines and put one finished board on the another for a template. after this, I had two pieces of plywood for the sides.

There are a lot of different angles where wood panels touch so you'll have to decide how to cut them as you go,

I used a table saw to cut the various angles..

For the big hole of the screen we used the jig-saw and then used the router with chamfer bit.

Assembly :

As you can see from the picture for all the connections, I used a thin pieces of plywood to mount the screws in a way so they will be invisible from the outside.

I also wanted the top to be detachable from the bottom so

I put a bottom and a top and connected them with screws.

After the assembly I took the router and used an edge bit with a round over finish.

The screen is held with a few wood pieces. above all a wood bar that fixes it to its place.


I took a piece of perspex and cut it to the right dimensions with a laminate cutter.

then I drilled 8 holes for the screws with the equal spacing.

I also added a power switch that controls the mains power (Screen, LEDs....)

Step 4: Paint

I decided to paint the arcade and not use stickers because it's cheaper, much cheaper.

I chose the classic (and easy) black and red colors.

I used water based paint for the wood, with a glossy finish that is supposed to look like plastic

I applied 3-4 layers for each part.

You can also enjoy the picture with my dog (Tesla)

Step 5: Buttons

We arrived at the most complicated part of the project.

First you need to decide what layout you want. I took mine from a great website.

I printed the layout and used it as a template. then I drilled the button-holes with a 28 cm drill.

(make sure you first put a piece of wood under it to reduce blowout)

Now you need to put all the buttons in their place, I used an Arduino Uno to control them.

I wanted a startup sequence with a fade-out effect. the fade out effect was implemented by a pulse-width-modulation. for that, I build a small PCB with transistor and a resistor in series to the base that is connected to a PWM output on the Arduino.

i uploaded the program in .ino file for Arduino IDE.

after everything was ready I took a piece of transparent Perspex and cut it to size with the same holes as the
wood. then I used the button's nut to hold it all together.

Step 6: Graphics and Light

For the graphics, I went with space stars theme (i even put the Big and Small Dipper in there) and the name "retro box" and choose a retro font which I found on-line.

I made a special graphic design for the button panel and the marquis with the help of a friend (graphic designer).

I gave her all the game character that i like and she designed it perfectly.

For the light of the marquis i used a WS2812B 5050 RGB LED Strip. Take the strip and

measure the circumference you need for a full loop around the marquis, than cut it where the marking is.

There is glue on the other side but it's weak so I used a thin strip of transparent plastic i found.

Then I put tacks on both sides of the LEDs strips .

Again i used an arduino uno to control and push the LEDs but this time i use an outside library (fastLED).

You have different animations and nice thing there.

Step 7: Software and Hardware

The "computer" that runs every thing is a Raspberry Pi, a small single board computer.

I recommend the Raspberry Pi 3 because it has WiFi connectivity and it is stronger than it's predecessors

and on some games you can see this.

On the Raspberry Pi I installed the RetroPi (you can find a lot of tutorials on line), an open source emulator which is very poplar.

I also bought a controlblock that sits on the Raspberry Pi and is very easy to use (there is explanation on how to use it in their website).

The control block has all the connectors you need for one or two player buttons.

About the games(roms), just search on line, you can find many games.

I hope you enjoyed the retro box building instructions manual and if you have any question feel free to ask me in the comments