A coworker at a previous job built an arcade emulator. He used a CNC machine to cut the cabinet, then dropped in an old monitor for display, a Raspberry Pi for emulation, and a set of joysticks and buttons he’d found on Amazon. It was a pretty neat setup that inspired me to put mine together.

Instead of the old-school arcade cabinet feel, I decided to build something a little more modern, so I threw together a compact cabinet with scrap wood, I setup an Intel NUC with emulators for the consoles I grew up with, and plugged in a pair of SNES-style controllers. It’s a fun setup for playing old games from SEGA Genesis, N64, GameCube, etc.

You can use whatever you want as the box to run the emulators; a Raspberry Pi works fine for arcade emulators, but you’ll need something more powerful for more recent console emulators.

The arcade cabinet in use.

(I cleaned up the fit after taking these photos, FYI).

BOM (~$50 if you have the computer/Pi and building materials lying around):

FYI: If you buy something through an Amazon link, I may earn a commission.

First, build the cabinet around your monitor. I built a small shelf for it to sit on, and secured it with another shelf that will hold the NUC. I also used some caulking around the monitor to make sure no light shines through. I also left a gap at the bottom for storing the controllers.

The arcade cabinet with the monitor shelf.

Here’s a view from the front with the monitor installed.

The arcade cabinet with the monitor installed.

Next, I stuffed in all the electronics (and adhered the LED light strip, of course). I also added a WiFi Plug so I can power it on and off through voice commands or my phone.

The arcade cabinet with all the electronics.

Once the electronics were done, I installed Ubuntu and setup automatic log in so I could eventually have Ubuntu boot and launch the software automatically after being powered on.

Next, I used the RetroPi Ubuntu docs to setup the software. Ubuntu picked up the controllers automatically, so I only had to run through some simple controller button mapping steps guided by RetroPi to get them working. I wrapped up the software setup by turning on auto-start in the configuration options.

Lastly, I setup some additional emulators and acquired some games. That’s it!

The arcade cabinet in use!