Introduction: Full Size Arcade Cabinet Using Raspberry-Pi

How to build a full size MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) Arcade Cabinet.

I had wanted to build a arcade machine for a long time and was surprised how easy it was to build. My design is based on an instructable by ExperiMendel: I customized it for my height, 6 ft, and to fit a bar fridge that I use to store homebrew beer kegs. I may add beer taps to the front of it in the future. The total cost was about $500.

To get started I recommend the following order:

  1. Order the parts you cannot pick up locally,
  2. Design the cabinet,
  3. Purchase local materials
  4. Build
  5. Program the Raspberry Pi
  6. Enjoy!

Step 1: Order Parts

If you are like me and it takes a while to get parts online, I recommend you order them first so you get them in time to build.

  • Raspberry PI: I chose a Raspberry PI 3 kit with power supply $50
  • Micro SD card at least 8 GB $10
  • 2-Player Arcade Buttons w/ Joy Stick including USB encoder $40
  • USB LED light strip white, 3 meters $14
  • Power Strip with USB charger ports $16
  • Plexiglas 1/8" x 24" x 24" x2 $50
  • 24" LED TV, must be able to accept HDMI $80

Tools you will need:

  • Saw Horses, or some other surface to work on
  • Jigsaw
  • Clamps
  • Drill, 22 mm drill bit, 28 mm drill bit
  • Straight edge, ruler, protractor
  • Painting supplies

Step 2: Design the Cabinet

I designed my cabinet around the interior dimensions of 600 mm x 600 mm. I chose this so I could fit the pieces easily on the 2400 mm x 1200 mm MDF.

I highly recommend using a 3D design program to make sure everything fits together I used SketchUp because it is free and had a easy layout. I used the models from ExperiMendel's instructable for inspiration and designed mine to be taller and easier to cut out.

Step 3: Purchase Materials

You will need the following materials:

  • MDF Sheets x2 (12 mm x 2400 mm x 1200 mm) $66
  • Dressed pine for the frame, x5 (19 mm x 42 mm x 1.8 m) $25
  • Wood screws x200, (8g 30 mm) $20
  • Wood glue $6
  • Paint 2 L, I used a water based acrylic $50
  • Paint undercoat 2 L $50
  • Sand-able filler $15
  • Sand paper $10
  • Paint rollers $20
  • Black Art paper 24" x 24 " $10

Step 4: Build

Time to cut out and build the cabinet.

I don't have any woodworking experience so this part was the most intimidating part for me. It was pretty straight forward and fun once I got started.

  1. Using your layout from the 3D design, draw out the pattern for one of the side panels
    1. Double check the measurements
  2. Cut out the first side panel using the Jigsaw
  3. Use the first panel as a guide to draw out the other side panel
    1. Double check the measurments
  4. Cut out the second panel, and the back piece
  5. Use the 19 mm x 42 mm pine build a frame around the side panels
  6. Attach the back to the side panel
  7. Attach the other side panel to the back using a 600 mm piece to support the side
  8. Cutout and attach all the remaining panels: Top, control, front, door, inside shelf, inside top shelf, marquee bottom, inside bottom
    1. Once the sides and back were attached I found the actual sizes of the panels were slightly different from the planned layout. I measured, cut, and attached as I went.
  9. Use filler to fill in gaps and screw holes, then sand
  10. Apply the paint undercoat
  11. Apply the final paint. I used a water based enamel
  12. Pick a button layout
    1. has many panel layouts to choose from
  13. Cut plexiglas and clamp it to the control panel MDF. Then use the panel layout as a guide to drill the holes for the buttons.
  14. Print out graphics. I recommend taking the image and paying to get it printed as all that color will drain your ink cartridge fast. The images will be sandwiched between two sheets of Plexiglas for the marquee, and between the Plexiglas and the MFD panel.
  15. Pop in the buttons, and mount the joystick. Connect them to the USB controller board.
  16. Mount television. After receiving the TV I mounted it using a shelf to support it and brackets to keep it flush with the front.
  17. Cut the Pexiglas bezel out. Its the clear front of the cabinet that sits in front of the screen. Cut out the backing to the bezel using black art paper so just the TV is visible.
  18. Mount the LED Light strip behind the Marquee so it lights up

Step 5: Program the Raspberry PI

I used RetroPI to run the emulators. RetroPI is an image that sits on-top of the Raspberry-PI operating system. RetroPI includes Emulationstation which has all the emulators you need to run your games, Retroarch which handles the controls and settings across the emulators.

Setting it up is very easy. I followed the guide on PiMyLifeUp:

  1. Download RetroPi
  2. Image the Micro SD card using the RetroPi image
  3. Boot-up the RetroPi
  4. Download the ROMs
  5. Save the ROMs on the SD card in the retropie/roms under the respective emulator folder for those roms
    1. I would load all MAME arcade ROMs under the arcade folder

Setting up ROMs can take some time and trial and error. For MAME ROMs you may need to try a few different emulators to get it to work. Hit a button while the ROM is loading to switch the emulator for that ROM.

Step 6: Enjoy

Enjoy your finished arcade cabinet. Besides being able to play games you can also use Kodi to watch movies and view images.