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Make Your Home Arcade Dreams a Reality

High Priest

I think a common dream for most retro gaming enthusiast is owning their own arcade machine. The ultimate goal would be a basement full of authentic arcade cabinets that covers all the bases of retro arcade goodness. That is a pretty lofty goal that would require an excessive amount of space, money and understanding from your significant other... Luckily, in 2021 you have never had more options to cover as many arcade machines in one machine than ever before. With the large amount of affordable home arcade options I am hopeful that seeing some sort of arcade setup in basements and rec rooms will become as common as dart boards, pool or foosball tables. Let's take a look at some of the options available!

Form Factors and Your Choices

Before you decide on what arcade setup to go with, you should look at all of your form factor options. This is going to be dictated largely by you space, how many players, and possible your budget. Another thing to consider is your button layout. A six button setup will cover the vast majority of games, but if you have aspirations of emulating anything modern, an eight button setup would be really nice. I will talk about ways to play modern games on an arcade setup later in the article.

Bar Top

The bar top is aimed at two player setups that are low on floor space. This is probably the most practical setup to go with. You have a lot of options when it comes to bar tops since they are one of the most popular options. The downside for the bar tops would be that they are exclusively two player setups and will restrict your options when it comes to screen size as well. You have some great options when it comes to making your own bar top setup. I would recommend to just order the panels and find the rest of the parts on your own. The joysticks and buttons that come with the kits are not always the best quality. They will feel ok in the store, or while you are installing them, but when you go to pull off a combo in Marvel vs Capcom 2 or are dodging bullets in a "shmup", you will wish you had splurged on better sticks and buttons. Your sense of nostalgia expects something like an authentic Sanwa joystick, even if its a worn one, covered in pizza grease.

DIY Kit-Panels only

Micro Center Bartop Arcade Cabinet 22" - Unassembled - Micro Center

LVL23 Easy to Assemble 2 Player bartop / tabletop arcade | Etsy

LVL27 23 to 27 screen 2 Player bartop / tabletop | Etsy

Full Kits

Micro Center 22" Bartop Arcade Kit - Unassembled - Micro Center

Bartop Arcade Multicade Bar Top Fully Customizable | Etsy

Full Size Cabinet

This is what people think of when you say that you have an arcade machine at home. The full size cabinet will open your options up to four players and a larger monitor if you wish.

The freestanding cabinets also introduce the option to buying arguably the easiest way to get into the arcade scene by getting an Arcade 1up machine. A couple guys on the "Emulate This" Discord have modded their Arcade 1up machines to really be impressive setups. The picture below comes from @Daniel_LA or as the show dubbed him "The Smog Strangler". He added new buttons, joysticks, integrated Wii motes for light gun games, and is running it off a nicely upgraded office PC.

If you want a little larger footprint, there are lots of DIY kit that send you the panels to assemble and leave it to you to come up with everything else. You can put a Raspberry Pi or try to fit a smaller form factor PC to run your games off of. There are a ton of guides and videos online that show you how to take an older smaller office PC and pop a low end graphics card in it to make an amazing emulation machine. If you are new to PC gaming, maybe stop by the "Emulate This" Discord so we can walk you through it. It is a rough time to build a PC, and its easy to spend money on the wrong components. This is where you want to decide if you want to have a two player or four player setup. The trend is to have all of the players have the same button layouts, but when you really think about it, there really is not need a for player 3 or 4 to have full six button setups.

Micro Center Full Size Arcade Cabinet 32" - Unassembled - Micro Center

LVL32B4 Flagship 4 Player Upright Arcade Cabinet Kit for up to | Etsy

Fight Sticks/Pedestals

The last option is what I have recently built for my own setup. This is not your traditional arcade setup, but to me it is the most flexible. I went with a four player, six button pedestal setup and have been really happy with it. You could even skip the pedestal setup all together and just get a fight stick and set it on a table in front of a TV. I got my setup from a vendor on Etsy (LEP1Customs) and was pretty happy with the end result. I may try to drill out 2 extra buttons for players 1 and 2 to make them 8 button setups, but the way it sits now I am having a lot of fun with it. I just mounted a spare TV I had on the wall and parked the pedestal in front of it. The setup was pretty affordable and something that I would recommend anyone with basic DIY skills