The Ultimate Guide to Custom Arcade Machines

So you want the classic gaming experience with custom arcade machines in your home? Where do you go? What do you need to know? This guide is a goldmine and wealth of information that will help you make sense of it all.

Answer these simple questions

When it comes to custom arcade machines, there is a multitude of options available these days. There are a few questions that you need to answer before you embark on your custom arcade machine quest.

  1. Do you want to build an arcade cabinet yourself?
  2. If so, do you have the tools and skills to tackle the job? Can you get access to those tools or skills?
  3. Do you have blueprints?
  4. Would you rather purchase a custom arcade cabinet than do all the work?
  5. If so, can you afford a full-sized arcade system or will you have to scale down to a bartop unit?
  6. Do you really want a custom arcade machine or do you just want to play games? Maybe you would just prefer to game on your TV and be done with it.
  7. Would you consider buying a used old-school arcade cabinet and fixing it up?

Once you know what it is you’re going to build or purchase, it makes things much easier to manage. If you prefer full-size custom arcade machines, you can find a plethora of resources online.

Building a full-sized custom arcade cabinet

This terrific online series will guide you through the entire process. If you plan to make an identical arcade cabinet with no modifications, you will need the blueprints from

Other materials that you will need for custom arcade machines

Now that you have the Raspberry Pi, blueprints, tools and the software, some of the additional items you may need include:

  1. Joystick, buttons and controller kit
  2. 27 inch LCD monitor
  3. Speakers
  4. T-Molding
  5. Micro Density Fiber board
  6. Paint
  7. Vinyl Decals
  8. Surge protector

Building a bartop custom arcade cabinet

Besides the size of the unit, this option is identical in almost every way to the full-sized unit. The big positive here is going to be the cost saving and time.

You can download the blueprints at 

Gaming on the Raspberry Pi

You need to also decide the platform you will host your games on. I cannot recommend the Raspberry Pi enough for this task but if you have an old Windows desktop lying around, you can download various emulators to make it work.

The setup for Retropie is so simple. It’s almost as if the Raspberry Pi with Retropie software was created just for gaming. Not only is it a cheaper alternative to hosting games on a PC but the small size of the until will make it extremely easy to conceal.

The other benefit of the Raspberry Pi is the ease of use. For gaming, you will need to download the latest version of the free Retropie software and follow the simple installation guide.

Retro games

No custom arcade machine is complete without some quality games. But how do you get games on a Raspberry Pi you might ask? Raspberry Pi ROMS download through google is your answer.

This is a tricky question due to those pesky piracy laws. The emulation software that comes with the Retropie software uses ROMS. ROMS are simply the file for each game you plan on playing.

Important note

Technically, it is illegal to download and play ROMS. However, there is a loophole.

If you own the original media (cartridge or CD), then you are free to use the ROM associated with that platform. For instance, if you still have the cartridge for Sonic the Hedgehog on the Sega Genesis, you are free to use the ROM for Sonic and play it on your Raspberry Pi.

With that being said, I am not advocating that you download ROMS willy-nilly without considering this point first.

Raspberry Pi ROMS downloads are all over google. With that being said, be careful out there. Be weary of any sites that require you to download software in order to download their ROMS. It’s almost always a scam and will contain potentially harmful spyware.

Buying custom arcade machines

With a little searching online, you can find several vendors who will build a custom arcade cabinet for you.  For instance, there is one in my neck of the woods called

There are both pros and cons to going this route.


  • No manual labor and time is required
  • A skilled professional is the designer
  • Instant play
  • Work directly with the builder


  • Arcade cabinets are heavy, bulky and must be shipped. Risk of damage
  • Prices are substantially higher than building yourself
  • No reward or patting yourself on the shoulder for designing yourself

Alternative option

Another option is to order a unit from a trusted source like but the arcade cabinet will not be customized to your preferences.

Going the set-top route

Maybe you’re not interested in the authentic arcade experience. If that is your preference, then its really easy.  You simply need:

  • Raspberry Pi Kit
  • Install Retropie software
  • Some ROMS. Google “ROMS”
  • A game controller or two
  • An HDMI compatible TV or monitor to play games on


No matter which option you choose for custom arcade machines, you can’t go wrong. It’s a great time for retro gamers.