Building my own RPI-based Bartop Arcade Cabinet

One of my pet project this summer was to build a bartop arcade cabinet. I had some rpi400 laying around, which are rpi4 imbedded in a keyboard. The idea of always having a keyboard handy for the arcade cabinet sounded like a great feature, and to access it, I had to find a way to easily open the cabinet.

That’s why there’s hinges in from of the control!

All in all, building this was fun, and I decided to use Batocera.linux as the OS. It turn out to be the easiest one and most complete one, as well as the fastest one, based on my tests.

Main goal was to load MAME arcade games (tetris, pac man, Super Street Fighter 2). But I ended up putting Mario Kart N64, and it actually runs pretty good if we set resolution to 640×480 for that game.

There’s still one bug going on with Batocera – after a while we must reboot the Arcade since there seems to be a memory leak somewhere (developers are aware).

In the box, there’s

  • rpi400
  • Old 19 inches 4:3 monitor
  • 2 set of generic dragon arcade USB controllers
  • HDMI to VGA active adapter (powered)
  • power bar outlet (re-wired to a on/off switch in the back)
  • Altec lansing speakers
Arcade Bartop Cabinet (no stickers)

I thought it might be interesting to should you various stages of the build, in case you are looking for some inspirations:

Initial frame
Hinges for the bartop
Stained, ready to assemble!

During the whole configuration, I had a problem. RetroPie was not able to output sound properly, and Batocera was not able to connect to WiFi. It turned out this was caused by an insufficient power in the rpi.

Lesson 1: avoid a USB sound card if you can. It draws a lot of power that can interfere with the Wifi & Bluetooth module (which is what happened to me). If you do that, try to get one that can draw its power from somewhere else. I prefer rely on the HDMI sound output.

Lesson 2: if you use an old monitor, get an Active HDMI to VGA adapter. These adapters will usually include an audio output (which solves above problem). If you use a passive adapter, the chip relies on the power provided by HDMI, which may result in black screen flickers in some games. Using an active adapter fixed the problem for me.

This is a very different topic than what I usually post, but I felt like a good place to share this!

Did you ever build an Arcade cabinet?

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