Darkade - Bartop Arcade Cabinet




For a long time I wanted an arcade cabinet to relive the old classic games from my childhood. Got a lot of inspiration for building mine from people posting on Instructables. Most of the materials used were recycled or upcycled, a lot of the electronics scavenged from old devices.

I was torn between using the Raspberry Pi or my old computer for this project but finally decided on the old computer parts because I hated parting with them and they worked much better with emulators.

Design was based off the plans I found here on Instructables, though adjusted a bit to fit my own needs.

Step 1: Tools and Matrials Used

Hopefully I listed everything needed, if I forgot something please don't hold it against me.

Tools used:

  • hand saw
  • pliers
  • hammer
  • knife
  • screwdrivers
  • power drill
  • angle grinder
  • soldering iron
  • rotary tool
  • clamps
  • various drill bits
  • sanding paper
  • brushes
  • masking tape


  • palette wood
  • plexiglass
  • MDF board
  • hinges
  • iron-on edge tape
  • USB SNES controller
  • happ buttons
  • 8-way joystick
  • 4,6 mm female quick spade connectors
  • 19" 4:3 LCD monitor
  • atx power supply
  • motherboard, graphicx card, processor, RAM, HDD
  • power extension box
  • speaker driver
  • 3w speaker
  • 50cm 12v LED strip light for computer case
  • piece of aluminum
  • screws
  • wire
  • paint
  • wood putty

Step 2:

This is how it started, building the base and the side panels. Make sure that the bottom is sturdy because the construction is going to be somewhat heavy. I used a lot of screws since the wood wasn't straight, otherwise I would just use wood cement.

Step 3:

Added the front and the control board parts, did a lot of sanding. Also on some joints I used U-shaped pieces of wire along with wood cement. You can see the construction starting to look like a proper cabinet now.

Step 4:

Glued together the front pane, screwed it to the bottom. Started using wood putty. Again a lot of sanding after.

Step 5:

Used a couple of hinges to make the top open like a car hood. You will definitely want easy access to the inside of your cabinet in case you need to fix or adjust something later.

Step 6:

Next thing was the monitor mount. I added a couple of boards on the sides to make it sturdier since the screen I'm using is somewhat heavy.

Step 7:

Attaching the marquee, screen stand and cutting the plexyglass to fit the marquee.

Step 8:

Hooking up the speaker to the driver board, connecting to the case and testing everything. My first idea was to put it up in the marquee but decided against it since I'd have to drill holes in the plexy to get the sound correct and the volume knob would be difficult to get to. This way if I decided to adjust the volume later, just lifting the hood was enough. The sound board used is a LM386 mini amplifier board that works from 3V-12V, and the speaker is 3W 4ohm, salvaged from a broken bluetooth speaker.

Step 9:

Made the fixture for the plexy and tested the LED. I was considering a few other ways to attach the plexy but ended up with this somewhat simple solution.

Step 10:

At this point I took apart the SNES controller and pulled the wires from it. Sandwitched the panel between two MDF pieces to keep them from moving. There is an instruclable for this from MrHermito, please check it out the details for details:


Step 11:

Drilling the holes for the arcade style buttons, also installed the power button. More wood putty and sanding before painting. Lots and lots of sanding.

Step 12:

Basic paint job. First I transferred some graphics to the wood via baking paper technique, then did 3 coats of paint and was happy how it came out.

Step 13:

Installed the LCD screen and the buttons.

Step 14:

Next came the red trim, which I ironed on. The 8-way joystick arrived at this point to I put it in it's place.

Step 15:

The tricky part, getting the motherboard, power supply and HDD securely on the MDF. Decided to make a hole under the processor so it wouldn't lie on the wood and had more air circulation under it. The HDD is screwed in from the bottom, motherboard from the top and the power supply secured with zip ties.

Hardware for those interested:

  • AMD Athlon II X2 270
  • GIGABYTE GA-M68MT-S2P Micro ATX Motherboard
  • Apacer 4+2GB RAM, DDR3
  • Sapphire Radeon HD6670 1GB DDR5
  • Seagate Barracuda 7200 160GB
  • OCZ CXS-500W

Step 16:

Made a aluminum mount for the LEDs, mounted it in the marquee. The sign is printed until the vinyl one arrives, which might take some time.

The OS was booted up at this point, decided on Lakka for it's simplicity. Decided for this OS since it already has all the emulators built in and supports a wide variety of joystick. All you need to do after installing it is to load up your ROM files and you're good to go.

Check out http://www.lakka.tv/ to see more about this simple Linux distribution.

Step 17:

The front USB panel was installed and buttons were being tested before I closed it up.

Step 18:

Added the power extension box in the back and made the back cover. There's more than a few holes to ensure air circulation and more than enough room to add a 12cm fan later if I notice it starts to heat up in the summer. Also made a hole for easy access to the extension box's power button.

Step 19:

Last but not the least, having my significant other thoroughly test it. Hope you find this instructable somewhat helpful if you decide to build an arcade cabinet of your own.



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    20 Discussions


    2 years ago

    I have a question how do you config the snes controller in lakka.tv ? The snes controller doesnt Work in lakka i think iT is becouse the settings Not are right ?

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    The USB snes controller i bought from China worked straight away with Lakka.I've also hooked up an xbox 360 USB controller and PS3 sixaxis dualshock and they worked with no issues also.

    If, however your controller doesn't work for some reason you can use any usb keyboard to customize the inputs of your USB device.


    2 years ago

    Nicely done, the only issue is the one that applies to all wood pc cases: no grounding. The cpu can emit quite a bit of EMR and cause interference, which is why PC cases are generally metal and grounded through the power supply (ultimately to earth ground).

    Depending on how close you are to your neighbors you might get away with it, but you could also take some metal screening (fairly tight) and just encase the MB, and attach to the P/S ground with a wire. Or copper tape, that would work too, and goes down fairly easily. Doesn't need to be air tight, RF wavelengths are long enough that as long as the holes are small it's not a problem.

    All that said, this is a really nice build, thanks for the Lakka link and the marquee is brilliant!

    3 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thank you, and I will surely look into how to ground it. Nice catch, didn't really think about that at all when I was making it.


    Reply 2 years ago

    Just ran across this, probably the easiest to apply, the adhesive is conductive!



    Reply 2 years ago

    Googling faraday cage will turn up a bunch of ideas, but some tight copper screening or tape (or a combo) will do the job, just remember to scrape any coatings off where you attach to ground so you have continuity throughout the whole assemblage. And of course standoffs for the board will keep it from shorting (come to think of it, they're what are used to ground the board to the case anyway, so there you go).


    2 years ago

    Great job! Very impressive!


    Reply 2 years ago

    The picture of my notebook has cm values in it, yes. Otherwise just multiply by 2,54 from the original plans to get all the measurements in cm.


    2 years ago

    Is awesome, Thanks


    2 years ago

    Can you tell me how much money it would cost to make this, and the costs of every separate material?

    2 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    I can only give a rough estimate since most of the parts are salvage:

    palette wood - 0$, MDF 6mm 60*120cm - 6$, 50x15cm plexy - 1$, SNES usb controller - 4,30$ banggood.com, 8-way joystick and 8 push buttons - 14,50$ ebay, old power extension box - 1$, box of wood screws, various sizes - 6$, 19" LCD screen, used - 25$, old PC(motherboard, memory, power supply, processor, HDD and graphics card)/new raspberry pi 2 - 35$, iron-on edging tape 4$, hinges - 2$, black and white wood paint - 15$,speaker and amplifier 4$. Think that about sums it up.

    So 117,8$ total. Or around 960,00 SEK or 103,00 €.


    2 years ago

    This would be a fun project for my husband and I to argue over. LOL He really doesn't like it when I want to "Help". Any good instructables on the computer part?

    2 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    Hmm, basically any old computer would do. The emulators I run on it are Nintendo64/Playstation/Sega Saturn and everything older than that. Any old computer with a dual core processor and 256MB graphics card will do the trick. Only pointer I would suggest would be to leave enough room between hardware for air circulation.

    Even Raspberry Pi 2 (35$ investment) should have no issues running those, if you don't have an old pc/laptop lying about.

    As far as the programs it runs, Lakka you can install off a USB drive and it's ready to play games in under 10 minutes.


    2 years ago

    Yours looks much better than mine... I like seeing a full sized arcade machine as opposed to the mini ones (though they are cool too). Good work, I love the red and white paint job1

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thank you, I enjoyed making it. I'm quite sure that with a few extra boards you could make yours better looking than mine ;)


    2 years ago

    i was searching for a good arcade to do thx

    1 reply