close up of japanese slot machine
Arcade Oddities,  Retro Game Consultant,  Video Games

8 Tips for Designing a Great Arcade Room

Trying to bring life to your basement or a spare room? Many people, like myself, are converting an area of their home into an dedicated arcade. They’re great for parties and great way to relax after a long day’s work. Here are my tips for creating an arcade room you can be proud of.

Consider Unconventional Arcade Options

Don’t be afraid to go the unconventional route when it comes to planning your arcade area. We can’t all have the arcade room of our dreams with multiple cabinets and a dozen pinball machines. Not only is this really expensive but there are area constraints that need to be considered. Now, traditional arcade machines are great however they are bulky, need to be repaired, and they only have one game. You can argue about authenticity and preservation but I prefer to go the emulator route due to my reasons above. That’s why I went ahead and built a custom 4 player arcade console on wheels with a spare computer inside. Not only does this save on space but you also use less wood than a traditional looking arcade cabinet. I also don’t have to worry about smaller monitor built into the cabinet. For mine I have 37″ Sharp TV mounted on the wall. It’s a great way to showcase the game and prevent everyone from hovering around the screen.

Great Front End Emulation Solution

I wanted something close to an arcade experience. Having a Windows Desktop that I had to navigate with a trackball is a big no. That’s why I wanted a front end solution that fits my needs. After looking at the different solutions out there I went with LaunchBox and bought their forever license so I could have access to Big Screen Mode. Combined that with Emu-movies gameplay movies and images it provides a great visual preview of all the games I have loaded up into the system. The other great thing about LaunchBox is that it downloads all of the images and information about the games directly so it saves you time during the setup.

Get a Lot of Different Games

You may only like a handful of arcade games but there are a ton of hidden gems out there that deserve the attention. My advice is to look for the best arcade games of a certain genre and get them all. You’ll be surprised at the number of great beat-em-ups out there or even puzzle games. Just don’t go load up one of those 5000+ game files. You’ll want a curated collection that you’ll be proud to show off. The other great thing about having a front end solution is that you can include party games from other video game consoles. Want to play those harder to emulate 3D games? Many console versions work just as good if not better!

Cup Holders are A Must

My wife and I throw a lot of parties and the one thing I found people like to do is drink while playing arcade games. I didn’t want someone placing their drink on the unit itself. Spills happen at every party and the last thing I wanted was for the electronics to be fried after someone tips a drink over. Also, I didn’t want condensation from the glasses to ruin the wood either. To solve this problem I went on Amazon and purchased 4 foldable and adjustable cup holders. The same ones people install on boats and cheap cars. They’re discreet enough to where they blend into the cabinet when folded. Also the adjustable part is great for drinks of all sizes. They were fairly inexpensive at $10 a cup holder. A great investment to your arcade cabinet.

Comfy Stools

Not only do people like to drink but they like a place to sit too. That’s why we picked up two cheap stools from a garage sale and reupholstered the seats. Total cost for both once we’re all said and done cost us around $5 as we already had the fabric. You don’t have to spend $50+ on one stool when re-purposing some old furniture is just as good. Chances are if you’re building your own arcade cabinet you’re pretty handy or at least be willing to learn new skills.

Get a Killer Sound System

Sometimes you just want your own music while playing arcade games. That’s why next to my arcade machine I have a record player hooked up along with the ability to connect my phone. Perfect for when you want to play your all RUSH mixtape while playing Space Invaders. In addition you can find arcade ambient playlists from the 80s and 90s to make you feel like you’re in an actual arcade.

Not Just Arcade Machines

Think outside the box and consider getting a Pachinslo machine. This is a Japanese slot machine that typically only a couple years old due to the gambling regulations over there. You should be able to find a local reseller in any major city. Typically these can cost $200 to $1000 depending on the license and complexity of the machine. We got lucky with finding our Debut machine at a local Orlando thrift shop for $50. They be aware they’re really loud!.

Another option to look into is virtual pinball machines. Regular ones can be difficult to repair and virtual will spare you the headache if they ever break down. The downside of going virtual is that the physics aren’t quite there yet but that’s a price I’m willing to pay to have multiple cabinets.

Other Arcade Items to Consider

There are a couple more things to consider if you’re building your own arcade machine. The first is to create dedicated arcade buttons on the back of the panel to exit the game, take a screenshot, enter the options, and a back button. You can setup macros but I’ve had bad experiences with people accidentally activating them during the game. It’s easier to install them in the back and label them.

The next is to go big when planning. I wish I would have installed a spinner to go along with the track ball in my machine. Other options like light guns are just a USB plug away but actual drilling will cause some issues with the design and layout.

Speaking of layout, give your players some room. I hated that tight feeling you get when you have 4 players all around a tiny arcade cabinet. By expanding the width between players you’ll give everyone some breathing room along with some extra space for their drinks.

If You Build It They Will Play

I’ve found that arcade machines are a straight nostalgia trip for the older crowd while younger kids see arcade games like a special treat. So have fun while designing your arcade room. Whatever you decide to go with people will want to play it when they come over. If you have an arcade room you’ve designed or have any additional tips or questions please leave a comment. I’d love to answer any questions and see your arcade room.


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