Arcade Cabinet With Ambient Light Effects




A home made arcade wood cabinet, with commercial quality arcade controls, and integrated Ambient Reality Effects system.

The wood cabinet is cut out of 4x8' sandwich panel from Home Depot. The Arcade controller is a HotRod SE from (comes with MAME and Capcom ROMs).

The LED Ambient Light System is from and comes loaded with features.

Step 1: Family and Living Room Friendly

After having the concept drawn out, I created a cardboard mockup of the cabinet which lay around the house for a few months.

Tweaked the mock up time and again, and tried different placing in the house, until I was happy with both shape, functionality, and the whereabout.

It was then important to ensure the end result satisfies everyone in the household. That meant:

*Natural* oak wood that matches the living room furniture, and smells good
*Desk* monitor for the kids education and fun
*Shelves* for the kids toys
*Comfortable* folding stool you can load oneself and the kids for long game play (fits 1 to 4)
*MIDI* keyboard for piano lessons
*webcam* to keep in touch with the far and beloved
*MediaReader* to upload family pics and videos online
*MAME* (cream of the crop, flower of the flock, pick of the bunchcrop !!)
*one place* for the whole family to spend time together
*private* user accounts for the 5 of us, and the nanny
*Silent* media center PC

What we also got on the way:
- PVR convenience (never miss Desperate Housewives again)
- Juke Box and Winamp (music for the living room)
- Mood light (cuddling time)
- Browse family pics on living room TV (MCE)
- Watch kids videos on living room TV (MCE)
- Cleaned the house of old PC's and replaced with a single modern one

Technically to support above:
- silent uBTX Gateway 4019 Athlon 3500+, 1GB RAM, Media Center Edition 2005
- silent XFX7600 dual DVI + TV video card
- Svideo connected to TV
- DVI out 1 connected to desk monitor
- DVI out 2 connected to cabinet monitor
- Audio out 1 connected to living room stereo system
- Audio out 2 connected to arcade speakers

Cost wise:
- 4x8 feet Oak sheet from Home Depot $75
- misc. Home Depot $25
- Folding stool from IKEA $36
- Hanaho Hotrod Controller $150
- Gateway 4019 Media Center PC $400
- XFX 7600 video card $100
- Video and Audio Cabling $50

Step 2: Arcade Draft I

I started by making a Laptop based "arcade desk" draft.

Step 3: Arcade Draft II

Second draft was hand sketched with better ergonomics, more features, a decently sized monitor, and a desktop PC.

Step 4: Creating the Mock Up

Before going into too much design, a cardboard mock-up was put together, for getting a real life hands-on feel.

To make the end product more friendly looking in a typical living room furniture environment, the top section was eliminated.

Step 5: Detailed Design and Dimensions

Pleased with the mock-up hands-on feel, a detailed and to-scale design was created.

The design was tweaked time and again, and the final diagram was transformed into a board-cutting map. The layout was optimized to fit on 4 by 8 feet, 3/4" thick, Oak panel, as well as optimized for minimal number of wood cuts.

All 90 deg cuts were done at the store, with diagonal cuts at home with the use of a jigsaw.

Open the Zip file for detailed dimensions.
NOTE: recommend you further tilt the monitor by additional 2" towards the front.

Step 6: Woodwork and Finished Cabinet

Back from Home Depot, below is what the pre-cut raw material looked like.

Diagonal cuts were carefully made with jigsaw, on pre-taped lines, as to not chip the fragile oak sandwich wood.

Putting the pieces together was done with (many) woodscrews and internal support lines, in a way that no screws show on the cabinet exterior.

Only minimal painting was required, keeping the cabinet with a warm natural oak look and feel.

The sturdy HotRod controller was screwed from the bottom to its base wood plate, and instantly became part of the structure.

The net weight of the wood, the 19" Monitor, and the wide 2" base and 2" supporting triangles, resulted with a solid cabinet that easily sustain kicks and joystick push/pull during the heat of the game.

Step 7: Ambient Light System, Media Center, MIDI Keyboard

As to the ambient light system, currently two LED strips are used as wall washing elements, but additional strips will be added inside the cabinet. You can find more about this marvel light effects system at

A quick visit to IKEA brought in a high stool for those who would rather sit than stand.

The AMD desktop came with Microsoft Media Center 2005, so I had all the incentive in the world to hook it up to the living room TV and Stereo system.

For everyday use of the machine, I placed a desk next to the arcade cabinet, and hooked up a second set of monitor, keyboard and mouse.

This also allowed to conveniently put the Yamaha MIDI Keyboard out in the open.

More pictures and information will be added, so make sure you check here often.

One entertainment system to rule them all !!

Step 8: CRT to LCD Conversion

- replaced 19" CRT with 22" widescreen LCD
- homebrew 360 degrees swivel mount for landscape/portrait play modes (using 4" lazy susan, VESA M4-0.7mm screws, acrylic sheets)
- 20 degrees tilt via "tracks"

arcade cabinet next step?
jigsaw cut the cabinet depth in half - with the new 22" flatscreen there is no use for that depth any more

find arcade game list at

Step 9: Make Thin Profile and Integrate the LED Strips Into the Cabinet

After the CRT monitor was replaced with an LCD display, it was possible to cut the cabinet depth in half. To keep the thin cabinet stable, the cabinet was attached to the wall studs with 3" screws.

Here is the final result.



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12 Discussions


7 years ago on Introduction

i always wanted to make an Arcade machine however , i live in a rented house hence i guess i gotta find a used old laptop to make a desktop version of arcade machine. Anyway thank you very much to ignite my passion to make a portable arcade that i always had in mind.


9 years ago on Introduction

I like the design.  I made a full-sized arcade cabinet over the summer, and it takes up a lot of room (both vertically and horizontally), and your design looks like it doesn't take up that much room.


10 years ago on Introduction

now that i think of it i could use my grandpas old computer and LCD, he used to play call of duty 3 on. he, doesnt use it anymore. lets put it that way :-(


10 years ago on Introduction

Nice instructable, but I think you really should have left the top half of the cabinet on... so it feels like an arcade machine, not just joysticks on a computer.


12 years ago

Could you add any pictures of the finished product?

1 reply

12 years ago

Pretty nifty. I have the same controller and would like to make the game cabinet for it. I have question though, do you know where I could download games for the computer? Thanks.

1 reply