Introduction: Retro Arcade - (Full Size Powered by Raspberry Pi)

About: Love to refurbish and repurpose old radios/devices into modern items for the house. Brings back old classic style!!

First I wanted to thank you for taking a look at the build guide for this Retro Arcade system. I am taking an older arcade box and placing it in a standalone cabinet with a 24-inch widescreen monitor. Measurements on this guide are rough to give you an idea of how to pull off a similar design. Depending on your case requirements and room space your build can vary quite a lot. I placed a good parts list in the guide to help you determine what you will need, I am sure a number of the Raspberry PI kits will include multiple items that can reduce the price, also things like old speakers, monitors, and power strips can drop the overall price point.

Let's get to the build, I broke it into sections to make it a bit easier to follow.


Case and frame:

  • 4ea
    • 1/4 Birch or Pine plywood panels 24 inch (w) by 24 inch (h)
  • 5ea
    • 1/4 Birch or Pine plywood panels 24 inch(w) by 36 inch (h)
  • 5-6ea
    • 1in by 3in by 8ft Pine or whitewood dimensional lumber rough sanded
  • 3-4ea
    • 1in by 6in by 6ft Pine or whitewood dimensional lumber rough sanded
  • 1ea
    • 1/4 Birch or pine plywood 24 inch (w) by 6 inch (h)
  • 1 roll (10-15 feet)
    • 1 1/4 (w) by 1/2 (thick) black foam weatherstrip
  • 1 pack
    • #6 or #8 wood screws 1/2 inch
  • 1 pack
    • #6 or #8 wood screws 2 inch
  • 4-5 cans
    • Spray paint with primer (colors and amount depends on design)
  • 2ea
    • Slide lock for doors (back and speaker area)
  • 4ea
    • Hinges small

Retro Arcade items:

Step 1: Lower Section

  • Subframe My focus for the subframe is all about weight, so using pine or whiteboard really worked well. Make sure to predrill holes for your screws to avoid cracking the wood if using a drill place your screws. My lower section frame was built to a spec of 36 inch (h) by 24 inch (w) and 19 inch (d). I did subtract the 1/2 inch (width of the plywood skin times two panels). So 35.5 (h) by 23.5 (w) by 18.5 (d).
  • Plywood skin for this build was used to reduce the overall weight as well as price. I purchased some precut panels (24 by 24) for the top section and (24 by 48) that were trimmed to size for the lower. Scraps from the trimmed panels will be used to make the platform between the bottom and top sections as well as sides of the marquee sections where the speakers are placed.
  • Note that I placed a brace in the bottom to reduce stress from moving the case as well as limiting sway when playing games.

Step 2: Upper Section

  • The Arcade frame for the top section was made out of a combination of sizes of whitewood or pine dimensional wood. The front and sides are 1inch by 6-inch boards and the mounts to the lower section are 1 inch by 3-inch boards. Additionally, the vertical supports are 1-inch by 3-inch boards.
  • The side panels were cut and shaped to the frame (up to the sides of the marquee) with a jigsaw. Used two of the 24 by 24 by 1/4 plywood panels for this.
  • The marquee section which will hold the speakers (two cutouts to allow sound into the top section of the case) was made with 1-inch by 6-inch boards. The end sections were simple plywood panels to cover the endcap.
  • The speaker area is part of the marquee (and once I have grills will have external outlets to increase the quality of the sound)
  • I cut out a section of one plywood panel (24 by 24) to create the monitor bezel (frame), This was by far the ugliest part of the build causing me to modify the bezel with an additional 1 by 3 frame and some foam stripping to hide gaps. Take your time with the measurements and build out the sides first and you will have far fewer problems than I did with this portion of the case.

Step 3: Monitor Mounting

  • I wanted to highlight this section because it will vary depending on the hardware you pick. I used the frame mount hardware on the monitor to attach it to scrap plywood and then to a 1 by 3 H frame. The monitor frame is secured into the upper section by simple wedge blocks at the feet of the frame and at the top left and right support. Notice the monitor bezel has been removed and the control board is still attached. On some monitors, you might need the ability to turn on the monitor power or select inputs. I like to cut the original button sections off the old monitor and secure them to the backside of the monitor for easy power on/off if needed.

Step 4: Access Doors

  • For this build I wanted two separate access doors, the lower allows access to the main system and the upper allows access to the speakers.
    • The main access door is simply 1/4 plywood that has two hinges added and a slide latch to secure the door. One note is since the panel is just 1/4 thick, I created blocks to attach my hinges to the panel which ensured that my screws would not punch through the panel.
    • The speaker door has two simple hinges and is made out of 1-inch by 6-inch whitewood. I added a simple stop to restrict the swing of the door and a simple handle to make it easier to grab. Plastic bushings and wood screws took care of both tasks without additional purchases.

Step 5: Controller Mounting

  • Some of the early photos show the controller deck as 1-inch by 6-inch whiteboard. I had to change it to a 1/4 by 5.5-inch section of birch plywood to allow the joysticks to extend through the panel without issue. The first picture shows that pannel after painting and all of the buttons cut out. I used 7/8th hole cutters to make the buttonholes and 5/16th shovel bit to carve out the hole for the two joysticks.
  • These controllers are really easy to connect simple modular connections from the button/joystick to the controller and then a USB connection to the Raspberry PI. I like to connect the controllers to a powered USB hub to remove stress on the Raspberry PI's primary power pack.
  • We installed 8 buttons for each player below are the layouts.

Controller panel:

joystick(1) Y X L / BAR joystick(2) Y X L / BAR

Front panel:

(1) Start Select (2) Start Select

Step 6: Side Panel Fused Power Switch

  • Rather than punch a hole for our power strip, we mounted an external power outlet with a fused switch. Depending on the model you purchase the wiring may vary, but be sure to use sleeved connections where the terminals are close together (reduce shorting risk). This connection also allows you to power the cabinet on/off without having to open it up.

Step 7: Equipment Install

The photos in this section show the installation of the hardware

  • Picture one and two show the final installation of the monitor and front bezel
  • Picture three and four show the foam strips (to hide flaws in the panel cuts)
  • Picture five shows the placement and cable management of the Raspberry Pi 3+, USB hub, Game controller USB boards, powerstrip, and original monitor controls. I used velcro tape to secure the components to the bottom panel which can be slid out the back of the case when the door is open.
  • The sixth photo is the final placement of the two USB speakers, they are positioned so the sound goes into the main section which gave the system a pretty good sound.


  • Connection to monitor on this setup is HDMI to VGA.
  • The speakers came with USB-C power, had to add an adapter to a standard USB connector.
  • Audio is connected to the Raspberry Pi 3+ via the 3.5mm audio jack. Need to configure that as an output on the system when setting it up.

Step 8: Working Arcade Video

Here is the final working Arcade with a PacMan theme for EMULATOR STATION (front end for the arcade)

Some links for software that runs the arcade as well as the Raspberry Pi.