One look at the Raspberry Pi shows you that miniaturisation affects all facets of life — even retro gaming! With the Raspberry Pi 3, almost every retro gaming platform can be emulated, so why not build a dedicated, retro-themed game station to house it in?
“RetroPie”? What’s That?
If you want to play retro games on your Raspberry Pi, you have several options. The first is to install a single, standalone emulator, load up the ROMs, and play.
The third possibility is to install an emulation suite, a collection of emulators available as a disk image. Several retro gaming platforms are available for the Raspberry Pi. Among the most popular are RetroPie, RecalBox, and PiPlay (a Raspberry Pi-based version of MAME).
Below we’re going to show you a collection of retro game stations that mainly use RetroPie to load classic games. However, most of these examples will run just the same with RecalBox, PiPlay, or any other emulation suite you care to mention.
Note: Downloading ROMs you don’t already own in physical form is illegal, got it?
Before we continue, check out how to build your own NES or SNES Mini with RetroPie.
1. RetroPie Bartop Arcade Cabinet
We’ll start with this more traditional build. While all of the projects in this list are fantastic, you’ll probably want to at least consider a traditional-style arcade cabinet.
Essentially a half-height arcade cabinet with a Raspberry Pi inside, this build is perhaps the most polished we’ve seen. The use of a trim router to cut insertion slot for some T-Trim is particularly pleasing. And if you don’t want a bartop cabinet, this build can be easily adapted into a full size, standing cab.
2. Retrobox All in One Arcade Joystick
What if you don’t want a static game station? You might not have the skills, or the materials, to build something so big. You have plenty of alternatives, including this, the Retrobox. Essentially, this is a Raspberry Pi in a box with an arcade machine-style controller and buttons attached.
The idea is simple — you connect it to a HD TV, power up the Retrobox, and start playing! It doesn’t end there, as the box affords access to the Pi’s USB ports. Add some USB game controllers to the mix and you’ve got a multiplayer gaming system in your hands! And if would like to use the controller on other games, you can. The Retrobox has its own USB cable, and can be plugged into other consoles.
Find the full steps at Howchoo, including a link to the parts and the very useful drilling templates.
3. MintyPi: Mobile Gaming in a Tin!
A portable Raspberry Pi gaming machine in an Altoids tin! This build really has everything, including a rechargeable battery. You’ll need a Raspberry Pi Zero W for the best results (it should work fine with the none-wireless version of the Pi Zero, however).
This is a long build, requiring some custom-built pieces that can be ordered online (see the link below). You’ll also need a few 3D printed components, the 2.4-inch LCD, and the all-important Altoids tin. The result is a fantastic little retro gaming portable console that is small enough to slip into your pocket. I mean, what’s not to like?
Don’t miss the full set of instructions to build your own MintyPi.
4. Raspberry Pi Arcade Table
Back in the day, there were several types of arcade machine housing. While the stand-up variety has endured for decades (predating the digital era), sit-down machines — essentially tables — were popular for a time. These are basically tables with glass surfaces and an up-facing monitor, with a joystick at each side for two-player action.
Some great original “cocktail arcade” machines have been built for RetroPie use (working originals sell for thousands on eBay), such as this example from Instructables.
Cocktail arcade tables are a great way to have a machine in your home without arousing suspicion. There are many ways to build these, from grabbing decrepit originals from eBay to repurposing an existing table!
5. Arcade in a Briefcase
Sadly, there’s no instructions for this one, but we’re confident you’ll be able to make your own version. After all, there’s not much building required — all you need is a display, and a suitcase!
It’s unlikely you’d be able to power this with a battery, sadly, due to the size of the screen. However, if a power supply is available, opening and handing out controllers will make a great portable gaming party.
You’ll probably find that some internal structure is needed for this, so you’ll need to make some detailed plans.
6. The Cupcade: A Micro Arcade Machine
If you want to go small, then the Cupcade is the way to go. This is a micro arcade machine, sold in kit form, which you can find online at Adafruit (unavailable at the time of writing). But even if you can’t get hold of one of these kits, there’s enough here to prove that a RetroPie gaming station doesn’t have to be a six-foot cabinet!
Think the Cupcade is small? Think again! The World’s Smallest MAME Arcade Cabinet was the result of a hacking session, and is incredibly small… about the size of a Pi Zero.
While it’s not available to buy, it should give you plenty to think about. In short, the possibilities for Raspberry Pi retro gaming machines are endless!
7. RetroPie in a Portable DVD Player!
Another awesome portable Raspberry Pi arcade gaming project! This game station is basically a Raspberry Pi squeezed into an old portable DVD player. After all, building an arcade game station with RetroPie shouldn’t just mean using wood. Repurposing existing devices is just part of the fun!
The portable DVD player form factor is compact and lightweight, making this fantastic build resemble a laptop computer. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a battery, so you’ll need to plug in to enjoy some gaming action.
This project is a challenge, and isn’t recommended for amateur builders. Following the example in the video will need a good electronics knowledge. However, the results speak for themselves. If you don’t want to go through the build process, you can still emulate the Amiga on your Raspberry Pi.
Feeling inspired by these builds? Or did you build your own Raspberry Pi-based gaming station? Share your own RetroPie (or PiPlay, RecalBox, etc!) game station in the comments.
Image Credits: Roger Braunstein Via Flickr