If you grew up playing arcade games for hours, you still might get the nostalgia itch every now and again and wish you could play them just like you did when you were young. Unfortunately, as time advanced, so did the gaming consoles. You can now pretty much put what used to be an arcade console into your pocket and walk around with it. And sure, while you could easily download and emulate anything from Sonic the Hedgehog to the old-school Mortal Kombat game from the 90s, it just doesn’t quite feel the same as playing on an actual arcade. Arcade gaming isn’t all the craze it used to be when these machines were first introduced to the public in the 1970s, by Bushnell and Ted Dabney.
You might want to decide just shop online for a complete arcade cabinet – ready to hook up and play straight out of the box, but this wouldn’t be the smartest idea. Although they are, these don’t exactly come cheap and the fact is that the vintage gaming industry is only being kept alive by a loyal group of fans, so there is a chance you won’t be able to find too many choices. The good news is that you can make your own arcade cabinet with some effort. So, if you’d rather not spend too much cash, you can build your own setup from home! So, let’s go over the things you are going to need, in order to make this work.
Getting your PC setup started
If you’re an avid gamer, there is a chance you have a spare PC lying around somewhere in your house. Don’t worry, you won’t need anything fancy. These are ROM games – with how powerful PCs are today, you could probably run them on a toaster! If you’re wondering what kind of specs you’ll need, don’t worry! You will make do just fine with a Pentium III processor, at least 256MB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce 2. Sure, you can overkill it with much better specs, it will make the games run faster – but what is ultimately going to change your experience for better or worse will be the OS you choose to run on this machine.
Choosing the most appropriate OS to install
The OS you choose is entirely up to you, but the best one for your needs here would be the Arch Linux distribution, or Ubuntu. You can use Windows, too, but you are going to have superior customization options if you settle for Linux. The best practice here would be to create 2 partitions and install your OS to one while keeping all of your ROMs on the other one. This way, if you install an OS you aren’t as happy with or you want to experiment, you can always keep the partition with your ROMs intact while swapping out through different OS’s. Keep in mind that it would be near impossible to build and make everything from scratch, but the expenses you are looking at are far lower than paying for an entire arcade cabinet.
Figuring out your controller setup
To make the actual cabinet your arcade setup will sit in, you are going to need a few things, too. You’ll need to shop around for the joysticks and the buttons that will be mounted at the front. The Street Fighter setup is the most universal one, so if you are planning to play a variety of arcade games, this will probably be your best bet. It comes with a single joystick and 6 buttons. You can get 2 sets and wire them to make your arcade multiplayer compatible, in which case you’ll need 2 more buttons to act as the Player 1 and Player 2 start buttons. Don’t forget that you’re going to need another button, which will trigger your arcade to know a credit has been put in, so you will be able to proceed and play.
Putting it all together
For creating the actual mounting panels for your controllers and buttons, as well as the entire cabinet, you are going to need good woodworking skills. There are a lot of plans out there and you may want to check out some videos, just to see how many options you have. Keep in mind that you’ll also need to do the entire wiring for the components, so it might be easier to buy a pre-built cabinet and do the wiring yourself. These are surprisingly cheap, so you might want to get one of them and just do the rest by-hand. After everything is put together, you can head on over to Gamulator, to find the biggest collection of ROMs you can then install and unpack your favorite games to your custom-made arcade!