How to build the best retro arcade set up ever

Last Updated November 2019

The video game industry seems to always be evolving to bigger and better systems and games, but there’s one segment of the market that’s growing faster than anyone could have expected: retro gaming.

Whether you miss the days of pumping quarters into Frogger, or you just want to relive the gaming magic from the consoles you grew up with, it’s easier than ever to reconnect with your favorite classic games in the comfort of your own home.

Here are our favorite retro gaming setups — no matter what flavor of nostalgia you’re looking for.

If you want your own classic arcade

Get back to where it all started! If you miss the stand-up machines from the ’70s and ’80s, you’re in luck: it’s finally affordable to get a replica arcade machine, and better yet, most “modern” arcade machines include several titles, so you get a lot more for your money.

Our Picks

We love the new four-foot arcade replicas from Arcade1up. They’re fully licensed, and each cabinet includes four games, each in their original low-resolution glory. They’re not quite as tall as the originals, but that makes them perfect for sharing with younger gamers who weren’t around for them the first time.

  • The Asteroids machine also comes with Major Havoc, Lunar Lander, and Tempest. This is a solid mix of popular and obscure titles, which is perfect for times when you want to mix things up.

  • The Centipede machine, along with Centipede, includes Missile Command, Crystal Castles, and Centipede’s sequel, Millipede. Using a trackball in addition to a joystick takes some finesse, so make sure your wrists are ready for it.

  • The Rampage machine has Gauntlet, Joust, and Defender on board in addition to the eponymous mega-destruction game. Every title on here is a fan favorite, and with three joysticks, the Rampage machine is your best bet for your next gaming party or get-together.

  • The Galaga machine features only one other game, the follow-up title Galaxian. Both games are solid fun, and get even more challenging with practice.

If you love classic arcade games, but don’t have room for an entire gaming cabinet in your home, consider Tiny Arcade’s replicas. Their namesake is no joke: Each arcade unit is only four inches high, but they play fully functional versions of their games, including Pac-Man, Galaxian, Ms. Pac-Man, and Space Invaders.

If you miss the consoles of yesteryear

Miniature re-issues of old consoles are very hot right now — pretty much every video game publisher from the ’80s and ’90s is getting in on the act, creating small replicas of the gaming systems that defined generations. If you’re ready to rekindle your love for the console you grew up with, or you simply want to experience home retro gaming for yourself, pick up one of these reissues (and hurry — they sell out of stock all the time).

Our Picks

We’ve got a soft spot for the two biggest names in 1980s console gaming: Nintendo and Sega. Here’s how you can get your fix of the systems that remain totally tubular to this day.

  • The Nintendo Classic Mini Console looks, sounds, and feels just like the original NES, but it’s about 1/8th of the size, and it’s got 30 games built in.

  • The Super NES Classic takes the same miniaturized approach to Nintendo’s 16-bit console, the Super NES. With two controllers, and 21 games on board (including Super Mario Kart), you’re all set for hours of fun.

  • The Sega Genesis Classic follows suit, but brings a whopping 81 games to the table, effectively guaranteeing that your favorite Sega titles are included. Whether you love platformer classics like Sonic the Hedgehog or role-playing games like Phantasy Star III, you’ll find them just as fun as you remember them.
While it may not count as retro gaming, the Nintendo Switch supports many classic games from Nintendo’s digital library, and with a Labo Garage Arcade Bracket, you can set up your Switch to be your own mini-arcade machine.

If you want to build your own DIY gaming arcade

Many gaming enthusiasts build their own arcade machines, using small electronics to power emulators that can mimic just about any legacy video game system. So-called “RetroPi” arcades (built with the Raspberry Pi micro computer) are incredibly popular, but there’s just one catch: Unless you own physical copies of the games you’re playing, it’s illegal to download electronic copies (most commonly known as “ROMs”). Many gamers consider this a “gray area,” but it’s really not — and Nintendo in particular has pursued legal action against offenders. If you love to build things yourself, and you own physical copies of your favorite gaming titles, check out our favorite RetroPi kit.

  • The Vilros Raspberry Pi Retro Arcade Gaming Kit has everything you need to build your own home arcade — you just need to supply the RetroPi software and the ROM files for your favorite video games. With two gaming controllers, ample storage space, and an external design that looks more than a little familiar, the Vilros Raspberry Pi kit has everything you need to create your retro-arcade masterpiece.
Written by:
  • Jaime
    Jaime
    Writer