Barrel o’ Fun: Arcade machine barrel table

What do you do if you are given a big old wine barrel? You could make it into a twee garden planter; go over Niagara Falls in it; or cut off the end and make a secret passage like in Scooby Doo. Or you could do the obvious thing and build a Raspberry Pi-powered arcade machine. Matt Shaw did just that. Arcade games, wine and Donkey Kong style barrels—three of our favourite things in one.

The arcade machine in all it's barelly glory

The arcade machine in all its barrelly glory

The machine itself has the benefit of a sit-down cocktail cab (you can put your drinks on top) with the standup advantage of being able to jostle your opponent. It’s a nice clean build—deliberately low tech—wired using crimps and block connectors with no soldering. The Raspberry Pi runs the excellent PiPlay, an OS for emulation and gaming.

The other great thing about this project is its scrounginess. Reusing and repurposing makes us happy and this whole project does just that: an unloved 4:3 monitor, free table glass from online classifieds and an old barrel. The main costs were the buttons, joysticks and wiring and the whole build came in at around £90.

Circuit testing at it's finest!

The circuit tester is quite brilliant

Although we’ve blogged about Pi-powered arcade machines before (we have two in Pi Towers, we like them, OK? :)) the point is that if you have a Pi lying around then you can make a games machine out of almost anything. For not much money. (And as someone who spent every Saturday feeding their pocket money into arcade machines in seedy arcades in Southport, that’s an amazing thing.)


Donald Foltz avatar

Very cool! I like the minimalist approach. The relatively small form factor means you can put it almost anywhere. If I owned this I’d spruce it up by painting it red and yellow with the DK Boom design.

TheStrayMongrel avatar

That was definitely the idea. Something that at a glace just looked like a barrel type bar but on closer inspection… bam pleasant surprise. :)

beta-tester avatar

excellent wood work on the controls panel.
i saw that project already on PiPLAY forum, but i didn’t realize, that the control panel was done in that perfection to nestle up tightly to the curved barrel in all directions.
absolutely awesome !!!

TheStrayMongrel avatar

Oh wow this has turned up here. Sweet.

Yeah thanks @beta-tester, getting the controller to fit that snugly was the hardest part of the build. Turned out well in the end cause i took my time and have a deft touch with an angle grinder.

sgamer_sebastien avatar


oscar avatar

sweet, that looks awesome

Over-40 avatar

“Scrounginess” – what a lovely word!

TheStrayMongrel avatar

Ha isnt it! That was part of the challenge, do it as cheap as possible and still look nice in the end.

wallyware avatar

And, if you use the right kind of barrel, you can enjoy the pleasant aroma of bourbon while you play!

Jimmy B avatar

I built an arcade, but used Retropie. I have had nothing but trouble getting arcade controllers to work. What did you use to connect all controls and buttons to the Pi? And if you used PiPlay, can you assist in configuration file? Or once connected, did it work from the get-go? I really want to finish my arcarde I built last February. Any help would be appreciated.

Jimmy B avatar

I guess I should have also mentioned that I am using a keyboard emulator board that they say should work just fine (iPac2). But it will recognize some buttons, but not all, and second joystick and buttons do not work.

What hardware did you use?

Clive Beale avatar

My Raspberry Pi arcade panel uses an iPAC (original though, not v2 – though as it just emulates keypresses there should be no real difference) and I’ve had both RetroPi and PiPlay working fine with it “out of the box”. Might be worth asking on the forums:

TheStrayMongrel avatar

@Jimmy B, was going to go the IPac route due to ease of use but one of the guys on PiPlay convinced me to give connecting the controls directly to the GPIO a go. Worked out well and didnt cost nearly as much.

The Adafruit utility is what you want to look up for the controller config and the guys on the PiPlay forum are soooo much help. Head there and check it out for sure. One of the guys has also written a great controller config thing called GPioneer to custom configure everything.

Good luck, fun stuff to build.

Sergei Jonovich avatar

Is it a barrel from Donkey Kong per chance? ;) Genius of an idea and an awesome implementation.

Tom avatar

How do I get detail instruction on how to build something like this. I’m a newb at the raspberry pi 2

TheStrayMongrel avatar

@Tom. I dont have detailed online instructions but this could help. That and the PiPlay forum was all i used really… oh and a bit of google here and there. All the best.

martin avatar

Wow man ! Awesome ! I made one of them but in cocktail mode with only 42 games and a very old pc , yours look amazing !

TheStrayMongrel avatar

Thanks! :) The pics with this story dont do it justice, looks stacks better with the galv bands painted black. I assume you’ve seen that though on the imgur link.

Fun times, been playing a stack of SF2.

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