Build Your Own Raspberry Pi Arcade Machine – Part 1

Build your own arcadeWalk into any arcade/amusements today and it’s likely you’ll be met with a sad sight. A painfully rigged grabber machine plays the same 10 seconds of some god awful pop song while inviting you to win knockoff Angry Birds plushies. A 2p pusher with a glued down plastic watch for a prize continues to pointlessly shove it’s shelves back and forth, and a Virtua Racer machine with a knackered seat and half broken screen tries to tempt you out of 50p. All the while an elderly lady who may or may not have passed away props up an aging fruit machine whose reels stick between symbols. Not even Wreck-It Ralph would want to live here. It didn’t used to be this way though, and I’m going to bring the glory days of the arcade back to my living room with the help of the Raspberry Pi.

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be building a Raspberry Pi powered arcade emulator integrated into an arcade style controller. It’ll also be capable of emulating some retro home gaming systems (SNES, MegaDrive etc.), so by the time it’s finished we should be able to party like it’s 1989. This first version is a test bed and template for a desktop sized arcade cabinet I have planned, but I’m waiting for the awesome looking HDMIPi display I backed on KickStarter to be released before I go that far.

If like me you haven’t held a soldering iron since that “unexplained” fire at school, don’t worry, this is firmly in the beginner difficulty category. We’ll need some hardware, and for all the arcade controls I’ll be buying from the fantastic ModMyPi, a UK based company who among other things are resellers of Adafruit products. Adafruit have an excellent tutorial on their site that covers the construction of a similar setup that I used for the base of my project, but I’ll be tweaking this build by adding more buttons and pairing it with the excellent RetroPie project.  My initial shopping list is:


1x Model B Raspberry Pi

1x 8GB SD Card

1x Arcade Joystick

6x 30mm Arcade Buttons (various colours)

2x 16mm Illuminated ring switch (for Start and Insert Coin buttons. These have integrated resistors so should be nice and easy!)

1x Pack of 40 Female to Female Jumper wires

1x Pack of 3mm Female Spade connectors

1x Wireless Keyboard (wireless for convenience, but you can use any USB keyboard)

1x Soldering iron and some solder


The above linked products are just suggestions, and there are a wide variety of alternatives available. In many cases the best option is the hardware you already have, so feel free to substitute any equivalents you might have lying around. This list should see us through the project, but as this is a work in progress I’ll be sure to add anything else I come across that might be handy (or remove anything that didn’t quite work!).

In the next post I’ll cover the initial Pi setup and configuration of RetroPie, then we can move onto burning our fing- I mean, careful soldering! In the meantime I’ll leave you with an amazing arcade fact to get you motivated. In 1981, just 3 years after release, the original Space Invaders had made more than $1bn in the US. That’s well over $2bn in today’s money and each play cost just 25c…that’s a lot of quarters!




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