How to Make a Retro Arcade Gaming System

While the teenagers of the past would hardly have dreamed of missing the old arcade gaming systems had they been able to see the consoles we have now, the fact remains that every generation has it’s nostalgic fun, and arcade systems are a coveted commodity for many middle aged individuals.

If you dream of standing in front of one of those tall, sturdy arcade systems, using the sensitive, easy to operate joysticks and large full hand buttons again, read on. This tutorial will show you how simple and easy it is to create your own arcade system – the only difference between the one created in this tutorial and the old ones is that you don’t need an endless supply of quarters to keep the game going.

This project overall is medium in complexity and will require about a month of construction. The overall price will depend on how complex you want this project to be and the overall price you put into it.

At the cheapest, this project will cost about $100. If you need to purchase all the materials, including the computer, you’re looking at a minimum of $600.

Items Needed:

  • Arcade box template or old wood arcade that needs restored
  • Computer with a good graphics card and a monitor
  • Arcade gaming board or controller board kit
  • Jigsaw, paint, sealant, and/or stickers
  • And of course, your gaming tshirts to add more fun!

Step 1: The biggest and most expensive component of an arcade system is the computer and monitor. If you have an old computer lying around the house, you’re in luck. It costs far less to upgrade the graphics card than it does to purchase a system.

If you don’t have a computer and monitor, you’ll need to purchase one. Don’t bother with a new one – you can find ones being sold via Craigslist or eBay far cheaper. You’ll also need a monitor. Flat screens work, but the old CRT monitors are cheaper and give the authentic rounded look of old systems – no matter which you choose, it will need to be a square 4:3 monitor, not a wide screen.

Step 2: Now you’ll need an arcade system box or template. Buying the wood shell of an old arcade system is probably best – you’ll need to sand it down and fill in any dents and holes with filler. Paint it – glow in the dark paint is great – and then seal it.

Step 3: Purchase a thin, cheap cabinet-shaped computer desk and set up the monitor on it. Place the computer at the bottom and hook the entire unit up. Make sure that it runs.

Step 4: Now download game emulators and ROMs. Many ROMs are illegal, despite what the sites may say, so make sure you download legal one. You will need to find these on your own.

Step 5: Download a program called Maximus arcade. Maximus was created to be an emulator organizer for just such a project as this. It offers a nice, arcade-like splash screen upon start up and then allows you to scroll through all the emulators you have downloaded. You can then scroll through the games you have available on the system.

The program is free for individuals – to install it, simply follow the start up wizard.

Step 6: Once the computer is set up and ready to go, you need to set the walls up around it. Screw the two side walls onto the desk. Screw at top piece on to hold the two units together firmly. Now, slide out the keyboard tray and use screws to make it permanent. Construct a wood shelf around this to mount the joystick and controller board.

The controller boards can be purchase pre-made off of eBay.

Step 7: After the entire unit has been assembled, slip some slider discs under neat the unit so you can get behind it easily – the entire unit will weigh about one hundred pounds.

Step 8: Plug it in and make sure everything works as it should. If it doesn’t, plug a keyboard into the back of the computer and run a check on the Maximus settings to make sure they’re set up OK.