There are several ways to go about setting up an arcade’s internals. The first is to find the original boards from the 1970/80/90s and install them into a homemade cabinet. This really limits what games the cabinet can play, and is very costly. The second way is to use a PC to emulate all of the games. That’s great because you can literally play thousands of games on your arcade. The third way is my favorite. Use a
Watch my Video on Installing RetroPie
Download the Arcade Cabinet Plans Here!
Retropie and the
General Purpose Input/Output
SD Cards vs Hard Drives
RetroPie along with Emulation Station are the front ends that connect all of the emulators for each system into one clean finished product. RetroPie has built in emulators for MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator), Commodore 64, NES, Atari, Amiga, Apple II, PlayStation and many, many, more. In addition RetroPie comes completely configured on an SD Card image that you simply download from the RetroPie website. There is little to no configuration needed, depending on how complex of a system you are looking to build. In many builds, you’ll just load Retropie on your SD Card and be playing games in a few minutes. In other cases a little tinkering may be required. Regardless, it is the simplest solution available for most gamers.
Where to Buy the
Raspberry Pi 3
If you’re going to build an arcade cabinet with RetroPie, the first thing you’ll probably want to do is buy a Raspberry Pi 3. You can use a RPi 2, but the emulation won’t be as good, so get the RPi 3 if you can. I really like the kits from CanaKit (CanaKit is not a sponsor, though they should be). CanaKit makes kits that contain the Pi 3, a case, power supply, and other optional components such as HDMI cables, SD Cards, card readers, breadboards, etc. These kits make it super easy to get started. If you plan to do more than just arcades and gaming, you’ll want to definitely consider the Ultimate Kit.
You can also buy the CanaKits on Amazon.com They qualify for Prime Same Day delivery in many areas for the same price as CanaKit’s site, which is a bonus for some of us.
The cases come in many colors. Black, white, red, etc. I really like the clear case as shown in the photo to the right. It’s awesome to see the circuitry of the Pi through the case. I’ve even considered the possibility of lighting the case on the inside to make it glow.
Parts List for this Project
If you don’t already have the items for this project, here’s a handy list!
There are a few steps required to get RetroPie onto your Rasbperry Pi. Just follow along and we’ll make this as easy as possible.
Get the Latest Image of RetroPie
Head over to the RetroPie website and grab a copy of the latest image. Drop a copy on your PC and unzip the file somewhere. Hang on to this file. We’re going to need it in a minute.
Format the SD Card with SD Card Formatter
Next, grab a copy of the SD Card Formatter for Mac or Windows, depending on your platform. Install it on your system and use it to format the SD card. Do not format the card using Windows! The SD Formatter was created specifically for memory cards using the SD/SDHC/SDXC standards and will give you higher performance from your card that the OS format utility will.
Install the Image onto the SD Card
Depending on your OS, you’ll need to use a different imager to image the card, I’ll talk about the two most common.
Using a MacOS (OSX) to Create a RetroPie Image
My favorite tool for imaging any
Using Windows to Create a RetroPie Image
My favorite tool for imaging any
Booting up RetroPie
The next step is to install the SD Card into the
You’ll eventually see a splash screen for emulation station and land on a screen asking you to configure a game controller. All you need to do is attach your game controller to the USB port and press each button as it asks you. This will map the buttons on your game controller to the configuration files in RetroPie.
RELATED ARTICLE: Connect Xbox One controllers to Retropie
Install the Game ROMs
Installing the game ROMs is incredibly simple. Don’t ask me where to obtain them, I can not tell you. If you don’t understand why, I am sorry. The easiest and fastest way is to install them via a USB stick.
USB Stick ROM Install Method
Find a USB stick and format or erase it. Create a directory on the USB stick called “retropie” without quotes. Plug it into your
Eject the USB stick and place it back into the
Great article Mike, I’m about to venture into doing this for my kiddo’s bday!
Did you see my RetroPie bartop cabinet build? 🙂
Yea that is totally cool!
How would one go about legally obtaining ROMs such as super mario bros, pacman, and other popular games?
Hey Mike I’m looking into building my own table top arcade but i can’t seem to get MAME ROMs running on my retropie. Ive got the latest version of everything (pi3, and all the retropie software and what not), but when I load the MAME ROMs on the pi it just goes black. Im using a mac computer and I really can’t find anything that explains why I’m having this issue. Any chance you have a fix for me?
How are you loading the ROMs onto the Pi? More details you can give the better.
Cool i built a retro table top a few months ago using a pc and had loads of people asking me to make one for them
But this retro pi is the way forward thanks for the vid on you tube looking into making and supplying these cabs on e-bay as a bit of a hobby / pocket money love retro gaming even though im in my 50s
I thought about doing that too, but I figured out I would only be making about $10 an hour. Maybe you can do better than me!
How do you use the joysticks and buttons as a controller?
Hey! Great stuff. Where is the follow-up video where you are promising in this video? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DrliYAyL8Ts — I can’t find it 🙁
You are using NES controllers in the video but I would like to learn more about configuring Retropie with an arcade controller. I am using the i-pac2. Cheerio!
It’s part of the guild.
When you copied the Roms in the video they were in zip format when you placed them in the nes folder… Don’t you need to unzip em? Or does the rasberry Unit fix that?
No sir. This has little to do with the Pi though. It’s the emulators, MAME and the like prefer your to keep the ROMs zipped.
Ok, thanks for the Quick responce.
I’ll think i order your cabinet plans now.
Thanks again for a great show with the arcades.
i ran the Win32 Disk as an administrator and selected the RetroPie image and selected file F:/ which was my SD card, but when i tried to write the image onto the SD card, it said that the selected file didn’t exist. how do i fix this?
So can you load your old nes and playstation controllers into the Raspberry Pi 3 or do you have to buy a newly designed controller of those two that will fit in the pi 3? Also, what about wireless Xbox 360 controller? will this work?
Where is the link to buy the NES controller (remake) i am 24 years old an dreally enjoy this kind of stuff i got the rasberry pi and everyything working just the controller i need please help me out Mike. Thanks
Love this article. Very detailed. Made the process nice and easy. Worth pointing out that the USB file structure part didn’t work for me. I had to load game by connecting to the network and then UNC’ing to retropie. Other than that, perfect. Thank you!
Building a cabinet based on your plans and videos which have been the most helpful I have found. Wondered what your opinion or your setup is for a good all around shaders/smoothing settings Thanks!
I see it’s been 4 years already but I was wondering if you have to let the USB in the Raspberry Pi?
Or can you extract it when the games are on the RPI?
Hey Mike. I’ve been using a Retropie for a while now but just with a tv and various controllers. I just recently decided to tackle the cocktail arcade cabinet build from your plans and was testing out my Retropie with a 24″ vertical screen. I have the orientation correct for the arcade roms using cocktail mode, but am not finding where the setting is for making the screen flip for player 2 on a cocktail mode system. Any suggestions?