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Homemade Arcade Machine

When I was young I loved the old style arcade machines, especially the coin operated ones. I was really jealous, because I couldn't buy my own machine or built one. So the years went by and I forgot my passion. Until now. I remember one day hitting me like a blast. Lets buy an arcade game machine! I started looking for such machines all over the internet (even on eBay), and I found a lot of them. There are still people who build them. But there was one little problem. Their cost is too high, even of the used ones.
My next thought was to build my own custom machine. I already had a PC and an old TV set, lying around. The only thing I needed was the cabinet. I remember when I was young, I liked two special types of cabinets. The horizontal cabinet, used for games like the tehkan world Cup and the mini cabinets, used for games like pacman. Mini cabinets were my favorite type and this was why I decided to build one of them. I started searching for plans over the internet, but unfortunately, I couldn't find anything! I found some mini cabinet plans, but they was not even close to the original I had in mind. The only thing I did found, was some pictures of the original cabinet (Later on, I found out that this type of cabinets was originally designed in Greece and that was the reason I couldn't find any plans on the internet).
I was very frustrated until I decided to make my own plans, based on the pictures of the original. Creating plans based on photographs is not a good idea, but what else you can do, when you have no other option? I had to do a lot of guessing, but in the end I managed to create the plans I. Later, from discussions in Greek forums, I discovered that I was very close to my estimations.


My cabinet is not exactly the same with the original one, due to the fact I used my own custom plans, but is very close to it.

Building an arcade game machine is harder than it looks, especially if you don't want to do a quick and simple job. You need to know how to work with wood and if you don't have the necessary tools it will be a very difficult task.


The basic components you need to build your own arcade game machine are listed below:

  • Of course the most crucial part is the computer. If you have an old PC lying around, it will be just perfect for the job (at least for simulating arcade games with M.A.M.E.).
  • Another important part is the monitor. You can use a modern LCD or an old CRT. If you want bigger screen, then you have to use a TV set. The old analog TV sets will give a style closer to the original machines, but they lack of the necessary inputs. If this is the case, then you have to be careful when selecting the graphics card of your computer. Personally, I used an old style 24'' analog TV set (which I got for free) and a graphics card with TV-out capabilities (got it from stock for 20 euros).
  • You will need a coin acceptor. A coin acceptor is not important, but it will make your machine look original.
  • You will also need buttons and joysticks.
  • The game controller. This circuit is monitoring the status of the buttons and joysticks of your panel and sends the appropriate signals to the PC. You can buy a game controller or you can build one (like I did). Buying a new game controller costs a lot of money and that is why I decided to build my own. However, my game controller has some characteristics that none of the commercial products can imitate.
  • The last component you will need is... wood. Normally it will not cost you more than 40 euros, but that depends on where you'll buy it.

Also you will need the appropriate tools to handle the wood. Creating the cabinet is by far the most difficult part of the whole process.

Lets build an Arcade Game Machine (AGM)

Building an AGM is a complicate procedure, so I will try to describe the whole process in few steps, to make things easier.

Step 1

Building the cabinet

Here you will find the design plans and directions on how to build the cabinet. The design plans were made with Google's SketchUP program (version 8).
Step 2
Building the game controller

Step 3

Connect them all together


Step 4
Setting up the software



In the following image slideshow you can see all the steps of creation


Created: 20/09/2011
Updated: 19/03/2013

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