Introduction: Multi-Cade Powered by Raspberry Pi

About: Just a College student from Eastern Kentucky with an engineering and technology interest. Occasionally i document projects and post them here.

Relive days of your youth, or experience new ones with this fun to make arcade cabinet powered by the raspberry pi. This guide will show you some of the basics to arcade creation and go into detail about the process I took to build mine.

Step 1: Gather/Order Materials


  • 1xRaspberry Pi

In this guide I used the new 2 B+ model due to its improved speed. You also need the following:

+Power Supply

+Video cable

+SD/Micro SD card

  • 1xArcade cabinet

This is often the hardest step. You have 2 options, find and dismantle a preexisting cabinet, or build your own from scratch. This guide will show you how to re-purpose an older arcade unit (Lethal Enforcers) into the multi-arcade. If you don't have an arcade cabinet lying around here are a few things you will need to start your own:

+A easily paint able wood, as in not plywood unless you expect to lay paint on thick

+Paint, for example usually multi-arcades are solid black, but white ones can be signed by friends and family for a bit more personality.

+T-molding, usually a color to make the edges of a cabinet pop/blend in, just look on eBay.

  • 1xTV/Monitor

This can be any TV, monitor, or the screen from a previous arcade game, as long as it has composite or HDMI video, otherwise you will need a converter. Depending on your display you also need:

+Materials to mount TV in cabinet

  • 1xPower Strip

You can have this as your power source or get a PC power supply, it is still nice to have something to plug the Pi and TV directly into.

  • 1-8x8 Way Joysticks

The number of joysticks=number of players, although not all systems support 8 player controls. A good brand is HAPP (, but any 8 way joystick should work fine.

  • 1-100xPush buttons

This is entirely dependent on what games you need/want to play, generally a SNES button (8 buttons per player) layout will play most home and arcade games.

  • 1xArcade to USB converter (optional)

This part is optional because you can wire through the GPIO pins on the pi, BUT it simplifies the process and usually comes with cables too. The one I got is for 2 player Street Fighter style/SNES you can get them here:

For $20, or do what I did and order imitation HAPP buttons, joystick, and the converter above from an eBay for $60:

  • Speakers/sound system(Recommended)

If your TV/monitor doesn't have speakers or isn't the quality you expected, you can install speakers or a sound system. Keep in mind if the speakers don't receive external power you will need an AMP.

  • USB WIFI dongle (Recommended)

This greatly simplifies things like installing custom code, installing new games, file transfer, and fine tuning settings because you can connect to your Pi via a PC.

  • Lights, LED's, neon, EL wire, etc.(optional)

If you are using a preexisting arcade cabinet it may have lights already installed. Arcade cabinets were designed to catch the eye of customers and your shouldn't be different.

  • Case/Heat sinks for Raspberry pi(optional)

If you plan on overclocking your pi or leaving it on for prolonged periods of time get heat sinks/fans. If you want to protect your Pi from dust and other foreign material, get a case. The new Raspberry pis have 4 mounting holes so a case is no longer necessary for mounting.

  • High Gloss Paper/sticker sheets(optional)

If your making your own decals, you may need one or both of these.

Step 2: Gather/Order Tools

You also need a few basic tools


  • Printer
  • Computer
  • Drill
  • Drill Bit (paddle bits work good)/Hole Saw that matches diameter of buttons (around 1 1/8" or 3 cm)

Step 3: Prep Cabinet

Before you can start making the arcade cabinet of your dreams you have to do one of 2 things first:

1. Design and build your very own piece of arcade tech. Here a few guides from instructables, after your cabinet is standing you can move on or paint your cabinet:

2. Purchase a preexisting arcade cabinet, you don't need it to be functional, we only want the cabinet. I used an old Lethal Enforcers arcade machine like the one pictured above.

  • Remove all unwanted components from the inside (WARNING: tubes on arcade monitors are known to hold charge for years after being unplugged, use caution when handling), If anything works that we don't need (i.e. the monitor or PCB) you can sell them to help afford more parts, or repair another arcade machine.
  • (If repainting) Use painters tape to keep any graphic, T-molding, etc. clean
  • (if repainting) prime and paint cabinet and coin door
  • Replace/repair any T-molding
  • Mount Display in cabinet.

Step 4: Prep Control Board

It is time to create your control panel. remove your panel from your cabinet if possible and get a layout of where you want your buttons. Make sure to leave enough room in between buttons that you feel comfortable drilling. I merged together a classic Street Fighter layout with that of the SNES, comfortable for most games. Mark on the board where you need to drill holes or do like me and create a graphic on the computer you then print it out. This can also be used to make a control decal easily. Just open your decal in your graphic software and go to town! Be sure to remember that unless you get it professionally printed by a company like GameOnGrafix, its quality may dwindle. My graphic was printed on 3 sheets of brochure paper and looks fine.

Below are the PDF printable for my graphic, scaled to a Lethal Enforcers Control panel (68.5 X 26.5 cm).

Step 5: Finish Control Board

After drilling your holes and prepping your graphic or lack there of, it is time for the assembly. Start by mounting anything you may need to to the underside, i.e. your arcade to USB adapter. Next, position your graphic fallowed by some plastic/acrylic (if you want a legit arcade feeling). Then start adding buttons and joysticks, do not tighten the buttons completely in case rotation is needed during wiring.

Next is the wiring, most JAMMA harnesses and control boards come with 2 cables per button, this is all you need for the pi too. Start by hooking all the grounds together, the pin is usually labeled as comm. Fallowed by the pin closest to ground (I believe this says to the pi the button is closed upon press, open otherwise). Keep in mind GPIO connecting will require external software like digitallumberjack ( to understand the inputs.

Step 6: Setup Raspberry Pi SD Card

To get your raspberry pi ready, start by going to:

Download the most up to date version of the Raspberry pi image (v3.0 as of posting this) and flash it to your SD card by fallowing one of these 4 guides:





Once that is finished remove your SD/micro SD from your computer and insert it into the Raspberry Pi.

Step 7: Prepping the Pi for Games

  1. Now with the control board and SD in the Pi, plug the pi into your arcades monitor followed by a keyboard and your USB cable to power your pi on.
  2. After the RetroPie splashcreen disappears you should see the EmulationStation (ES) load screen.
  3. Upon ES loading you will be asked to configure inputs for your primary player.
  4. Hold A on player one and follow the onscreen prompts to configure the rest of p1's controls. You can hold any button to skip buttons you don't have such as the Analogue sticks.
  5. Now at the ES homescreen/carousel, navigate to the RetroPie tab and enter it.
  6. Maneuver to the Raspi-config option
  7. Here you need to go to advance settings, memory split, and enter 128 (pre-pi 2), or 256 (pi 2)
  8. Overclock options can also be accessed from here, that is up to you, I didn't do it.
  9. Finally choose the EXPAND ROOT FILESYSTEM from the main menu so you can add roms
  10. finish and say yes to the reboot.

From here you have 2 main options to add games to the pi:

from another PC you can SCP transfer (requires internet), or choose the much faster, USB. I will show the USB method.

  1. create a folder on your USB called retropie
  2. plug drive into pi
  3. wait until any status lights stop blinking, or around 3 minutes
  4. unplug from pi
  5. plug into PC, and suddenly the retropie folder has a copy of the pi's directory
  6. Drag roms into corresponding USB folders
  7. Plug back into pi and enjoy!

Step 8: Final Assembly

Now is the time to assemble all the individual parts. Make it as self sustaining as possible so you don't have to pull it out to perform maintenance (i.e. run a USB cable from the pi to coin door for keyboard access). Most modern TV's and monitors have all the ins and outs needed to hookup the arcade with relative ease. After finished take it for a few test runs before sealing it up. Add the marquee and side art last so there is a lower chance of damage to the picture.

Step 9: ENJOY

Enjoy your new Raspberry pi Multi-cade! Invite a few friends over, pull up a stool and play for a few hours, keep it on as a conversation piece. How you make and use your arcade is entirely up to you. The current version of Retro-pie supports an easy 15+ systems, over 15000 games! So there is surely to be no shortage of fun.

This guide will receive updates if I make changes to my multi-cade (i.e. the addition of el wire), until then HAPPY GAMING.

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