When I was a kid I dreamed of it: my very own arcade machine. I could play for hours without spending an allowance in quarters because my arcade machine would have infinite free plays. It would offer up all of my favorite games and there would never be a line. Unfortunately, arcade machines have become a bit of a relic of the lost age of North American arcades. Fortunately, the DIY and build (or repair) your own arcade machine culture is alive and well. Check out these awesome DIY arcade machines, builder resources, and maybe even get inspired to build your own.
Sam Wang from Perth, Australia clearly agrees, building his very own IKEA hacked table top arcade machine. Made using the BESTA Bench with INREDA drawers, this feat of DIY really brings me back to those days spent with my dad hanging out in pool halls and those classic table top Pacman machines. Check out his process at Ikea Hacker.
Over at DIY site Instructables we find this awesome counter top Nintendo machine and some instructions and a video on how you might build your own. Made from an old PC and a 17" LCD monitor, this custom system really nails that classic NES aesthetic.
Nerd blogger Steve, aka StiGGy, also shares a dream of building his own custom table top arcade machine, documenting his process on his blog including building the controller from custom parts, and configuring it to work with his PC.
Resources for building your own
There are a surprising number of resources available on the web to get your started building an arcade machine. From software solutions, to complete design specs, the DIY arcade community is alive and well. Let's take a look at some of things you'll need to know if you want to do it yourself.
MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator)MAME is an arcade machine emulator for PC. Their website also hosts a number of ROM's (which are copies of old games which the emulator can run), many of which are from the pre 80's arcade era. If you have an old PC kicking around just wasting space, you may already be a fifth of the way to building your very own arcade box. From their website:
MAME stands for Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator. When used in conjunction with images of the original arcade game's ROM and disk data, MAME attempts to reproduce that game as faithfully as possible on a more modern general-purpose computer. MAME can currently emulate several thousand different classic arcade video games from the late 1970s through the modern era.
Custom or vintage cabinets
Building your own cabinet for your custom arcade machine likely requires access too a decent workshop (though as Ikea hacker Sam Wang proved, using pre-existing furniture also works). If you've got access to a band saw, (and a patient significant other) you'll want to check out Building A Home Arcade, a website dedicated to all facets of the process, including planning and building your cabinet.
If you feel like you might need a bit more help than that, the folks over at Cleveland's own North Coast Custom Arcade offer cabinet kits, plans and complete gaming systems to get your ultimate gaming lounge off the ground. Similarly, Arcade Depot advertises "Real Wood Arcade Cabinet" kits and all the other pieces you'll need to build your custom machine.
You can also dive right in with a refurbished or refurbish-able cabinet from eBay. Arcade machines used to be everywhere, but now most of them lay in waiting for someone to give them some love. Find a vintage cabinet and take it apart, throw in some modern guts, and load up MAME or even a modern console.
PC website Maximum PC offers up some really well done research on how you might go about building your own as well. Covering a wide range of cabinet types and resources, this article is another great resource for getting started building your own custom arcade system.
Key to the arcade experience is a really great joystick. If you're working on a true vintage arcade machine you can check out Ultimarc for a wide selection of classic arcade sticks.
X-Arcade offers a USB capable arcade console which is built ready to mount in a custom cabinet. From their website:
Your Tankstick™ is an indestructible beast which lets you relive thousands of classic arcade games like Galaga™, Ms. Pacman™, and gaggles of others on your PC, Mac™ or Linux computer. Buy now and get 18 Classic Arcade Games For Your PC. Use out of the box with PC/Mac/Linux: (USB PS/2), plus add extra adapters optionally with the drop-down menu on the right. Free Ground Shipping: USA http://www.xgaming.com/
Modern solutions, The iCade
If you're just looking for a taste or vintage arcade gaming, you might consider picking up the ICade for the iPad. With a wide range of available games, including Atari's Greatest Hits, you can order your own iCade at Think Geek.
- Beautifully retro-styled tabletop arcade cabinet for your otherwise useless iPad
- iPad connects to the iCADE controls via Bluetooth
- "Atari Greatest Hits" iPad App ready to go with the iCADE, including support for over 100 classic Atari games.
- Atari App comes with Missile Command for free, other games available for in-app purchase. 3-game packs are $1. All 100 games are $14.99
- Compatible with both the original iPad, iPad 2 and New iPad (iPad 3)
- Ships separately in packaging that lists the product name on the outside
Whatever you decide to do — good luck, and happy gaming!
(Images: as credited above)