Arcade Machine

Introduction: Arcade Machine

This Instructable shows you how to build your own arcade machine. I decided to build this for myself because I'm a big gamer and commercial arcade machines cost excess of R12000 (~$1700) and thats just unfordable for most. This took me about two days of solid work and at a fraction of the cost i have my own game station.

There are two options to use when running the system, either an xbox 360 in order to play newer games with better graphics such as TEKKEN or a computer running MAME to play old style arcade games such as PACMAN, I will get into all of this at a later stage. 

The frame is made from super wood, its strong but easy to cut with a jig saw. I bought 4 pieces, each 1800x600mm cost around R500 (~$70)

I purchased two Xbox arcade joysticks from the market (probably not real Microsoft product but they work just as well), they were really cheap compared to other joysticks out there ,R250 each (~$35), and they work on Xbox as well as a windows PC since they are both Microsoft.

The screen is the more expensive part but its completely your choice as to which size (depending on your price range) you would like to use. I found a good deal on a 23" LCD so thats the one i used. Any monitor with the right serial port will work. its easier to use one that has built in speakers, if not they can be added later on. 

main components:

cable monitor to Xbox/PC (VGA) (R150 ~$20)
PC or Xbox
arcade joystick controllers x 2

Other materials/tools you may need:

paint(any colour you choose)
paint brush
screws(long enough to get through the thick wood)
jig saw
screw driver
measuring tape
printer(for the marquees)
strip of LED's (for visual effect)
speakers(if monitor doesn't have)

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Step 1: Design

I first designed the arcade machine using "Google Sketchup", its a free downloadable program and is a great way to see what the final product will look like. It also has a 'Dimension' feature so you can see roughly the size of the pieces you need to cut. I ended up rounding off the dimensions to make things simpler. So don't use these exact measurements,rather see what looks good and use common sense. Don't make the frame too thin or it wont be sturdy but don't make it too thick or it will be too heavy (unless you don't mind that)

Measure twice cut once.

Step 2: Construction

Once all the dimensions are sorted out the actual work begins:

First draw out the sides of the frame on the wooden sheets and use the jigsaw to cut them out.

All the pieces of wood were drilled and then fitted with screws. 4 per strut.

Then cut some struts for support so the frame can stand upright. note: if the front panel is the width of the board you used ie: 600mm, the struts must be 'that width' + 'the thickness of 2 boards' ie: 600+20mm = 620mm in order for it to sit flush.
The more struts, the sturdier the frame.

Cut a large square piece to use as a base for the 'drawer' which houses the Xbox/PC and then another thinner one to use as a shelf to hold the controller (these will both be 600mm wide as they fit between the side panels)

Add more struts to the headboard and base for support.

Measure out your monitor and cut a square in your front panel board so that it fits flush, rather cut a little too small and sand it down than cut it too big. if there are gaps it it wont look good.

Once all panels are in place and the frame is solid, sand down the corners and start painting with the primer.
Add the color paint on top of that and the main frame is complete!

Step 3: Fittings

Next I placed the controllers on the shelf to see if they fit snug and added 'Marquees'.

you can add any graphics you like:
I did a quick search on Google images and found a bunch of retro graphics and enlarged them with 'Paint' so that i could print it out over two sheets of paper. stick them together and glue them onto the wood . then varnish over it to keep it down and prevent it from getting damaged. Alternatively they can be covered with perspex which looks much better.

To fit the screen i removed the base which is normally screwed into the monitor and replaced it with a strong piece of steel about 2mm x 100mm with 2 holes drilled into it and bent into an "L" shape, so one side screws into the monitor-shaft of the base and the other into the wooden frame. If done correctly this can be a very sturdy support.

A nice addition was an LED strip i placed just below the headboard.It was from an old car sound system and it looks great, I stripped the wires and connected it to an old 8V cellphone charger as the power supply since it takes DC. alternatively a switch can be places in between the LED's and the power supply so its not always on.


Step 4: Sotware

Here are the two options behind the game console:

You can either use an Xbox 360 or a PC. when using an Xbox just slide the Xbox into the back shelf and use the VGA cable to connect it to the screen and simply plug in the controllers. The VGA cable comes with an Audio wire so you can connect your speakers up as well. If your screen has HDMI you can use that instead. To neaten things up , drill two small holes in the front panel to allow the controller wires to get through to the back so they can plug in. This is simple but costly and not everyone has an Xbox.

The PC might be a better option as most people have old ones just lying around. These games don't require high performance pc's, Therefore older computers will work.
I had an Ee-pc Netbook. it only has 1 gig of ram and about 16gig of Hard drive, nothing special but it works just fine. I formatted it to use for this purpose.

First Download a free emulator from the Mame website:

Mame" makes the computer think its an arcade machine so you can play old school games.

Once you have downloaded Mame and installed it, download any ROMS you would like that Mame supports. these will be the games you will play through the pc.You can find them at:

Open up the folder which Mame is saved and find the "rom" folder. Place these roms 'IN THEIR ZIPPED FORM' in the rom folder and run Mame. When Mame is running, search for the game of which rom you downloaded, right click on it- properties-audit, *it should scan the files and say "Passed" click ok and double click on the game. It should run and you can start playing :)
connect up a VGA cable from the screen to the PC. for easy access you can place the pc in the 'shelf' and keep a keyboard by the controllers. Plug the controllers into the usb ports.
Play for hours....

For further info on how to use mame, search google, theres plenty of help.

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    6 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    sorry for being off subject but...NICE CAR. i just traded my sl55 for a brand new porsche turbo


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    thanx man,porsche turbo is awesome,i wish u all the best with ur new car!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Hey awsome build man! Would love to make this for the classics I have. If you want a real library of retro games look up Hyperspin, it was made for a set-up like this.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanx man! U shud make it, its really not hard. Im busy working on a pinball machine running Visual Pinball on Hyperspin which i saw on another instructable, but to get the software setup is not so easy.I duno y there cant just be a single program to click and play. first thing I need to do though is save up for the two screens :(. let me know if u land up building the arcade, and if u have any questions don't hesitate to ask :)


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome, so it runs an XBOX 360 then? Where did you get the awesome retro joysticks?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Yeh! Xbox 360 for better graphics and theres an 'arcade set' game which has Pacman,Tetris...or you can use a PC running Mame with a front end..
    I first searched online for arcade joysticks and found a lot on ebay, I really wanted an "Xarcade" joystick,would look awesome, but it was too expensive. Landed up going to the local flea market and they had cheap ones there, don't think they legit Microsoft products and thats why they were so cheap:) R250(~$35)