Five(ish) awesome RetroPie builds

If you’ve yet to hear about RetroPie, how’s it going living under that rock?

RetroPie, for the few who are unfamiliar, allows users to play retro video games on their Raspberry Pi or PC. From Alex Kidd to Ecco the Dolphin, Streets of Rage 2 to Cool Spot, nostalgia junkies can get their fill by flashing the RetroPie image to their Pi and plugging in their TV and a couple of USB controllers.

But for many, this simple setup is not enough. Alongside the RetroPie unit, many makers are building incredible cases and modifications to make their creation stand out from the rest.

Here’s five of what I believe to be some of the best RetroPie builds shared on social media:

1. Furniture Builds

If you don’t have the space for an arcade machine, why not incorporate RetroPie into your coffee table or desk?

This ‘Mid-century-ish Retro Games Table’ by Reddit user GuzziGuy fits a screen and custom-made controllers beneath a folding surface, allowing full use of the table when you’re not busy Space Raiding or Mario Karting.

GuzziGuy RetroPie Table

2. Arcade Cabinets

While the arcade cabinet at Pi Towers has seen better days (we have #LukeTheIntern working on it as I type), many of you makers are putting us to shame with your own builds. Whether it be a tabletop version or full 7ft cabinet, more and more RetroPie arcades are popping up, their builders desperate to replicate the sights of our gaming pasts.

One maker, YouTuber Bob Clagett, built his own RetroPie Arcade Cabinet from scratch, documenting the entire process on his channel.

With sensors that start the machine upon your approach, LED backlighting, and cartoon vinyl artwork of his family, it’s easy to see why this is a firm favourite.

3. Handheld Gaming

If you’re looking for a more personal gaming experience, or if you simply want to see just how small you can make your build, you can’t go wrong with a handheld gaming console. With the release of the Raspberry Pi Zero, the ability to fit an entire RetroPie setup within the smallest of spaces has become somewhat of a social media maker challenge.

Ivan Villatoro used an old Burger King toy and Pi Zero to create one of the smallest RetroPie Gameboys around… and it broke the internet in the process.

Mini Gameboy Chase Lambeth

4. Console Recycling

What better way to play a retro game than via a retro game console? And while I don’t condone pulling apart a working NES or MegaDrive, there’s no harm in cannibalising a deceased unit for the greater good, or using one of many 3D-printable designs to recreate a classic.

Here’s YouTuber DaftMike‘s entry into the RetroPie Hall of Fame: a mini-NES with NFC-enabled cartridges that autoplay when inserted.

5. Everything Else

I can’t create a list of RetroPie builds without mentioning the unusual creations that appear on our social media feeds from time to time. And while you may consider putting more than one example in #5 cheating, I say… well, I say pfft.

Example 1 – Sean (from SimpleCove)’s Retro Arcade

It felt wrong to include this within Arcade Cabinets as it’s not really a cabinet. Creating the entire thing from scratch using monitors, wood, and a lot of veneer, the end result could easily have travelled here from the 1940s.

Example 2 – the HackerHouse Portable Console… built-in controller… thing

The team at HackerHouse, along with many other makers, decided to incorporate the entire RetroPie build into the controller, allowing you to easily take your gaming system with you without the need for a separate console unit. Following on from the theme of their YouTube channel, they offer a complete tutorial on how to make the controller.

Example 3 – Zach’s PiCart

RetroPie inside a NES game cartridge… need I say more?

Here’s a video to help you set up your own RetroPie. What games would you play first? And what other builds have caught your attention online?


Sean Walker avatar

I went back and forth on whether or not to include the word cabinet but i’m not sure what else to call it. Should I have called it a “Retro arcade box”? Either way, thanks for mentioning it! I had a blast making it, that’s for sure.

I’ve got a handheld design i’m about to start on that may be similar.

Alex Bate avatar

It’s a great build, Sean. Not sure what I would have called it either if I’m honest. Haha. Can’t wait to see the new handheld. Let me know when it’s done via [email protected]

Disruptityourself avatar

Pretty sure the gameboy build was from @ivanretrobit on instagram. Worth looking into because I think he deserves the credit for that idea.

Alex Bate avatar

Do you know what’s funny? When the handheld appeared on Reddit, our Instagram repost was one of the few that credited the right person. I was obviously having a moment when I wrongly credited Chase. I’ll reprimand myself and get the post edited. Thanks

neil lopez avatar

any chance you’ll sell the cabinet on amazon?

Elfen avatar

I highly doubt it as these units are custom made by the creator. Most do have plans to hand out for you to build on your own. You just have to be great with tools and in some cases have a 3D printer.

Ada-Fruit might a mini arcade case, I remember seeing one sometime last year. I do not know if they still got it, though they do have the parts to build one.

AndrewS avatar
Elfen avatar

I find PiMame easier to set up than RetroPi. It is not that one is better than the other, they both achieve the same thing.

But I’m more into emulating older systems like the Commodore PET, Apple and alike. A few friends even got 68K/PPC Macs running on their Pi’s. And with DOS-Box lets you run all those old PC-DOS Games and even Windows 95/98!

What ever program is used, in the end it is great to be able to run old games/programs on a new system even if it through emulation!

Shannon Spurling avatar

Guess I need to publish… I just finished my cocktail cabinet, but I haven’t documented a thing. :-(
Hardly had time to build it.

Zach avatar

Thanks for the shoutout! We have a few more RetroPie projects in the pipeline now too :)

Julien avatar

Re: Handheld gaming,

I can’t believe there is still no Kickstarter project based on Pi Zero attempting to build a cheap handheld device pretty much similar to the one made by Ivan Villatoro? I, among a bunch of thousands of other people, would be more than willing to throw money at whoever tries to do it…

Julien avatar

Also if I may, I believe is a much better project than RetroPie. But beauty lies in the eyes etc…

Pieman avatar

How can you not mention that tiny arcade from Phillip Burgess at Adafruit for this post ( I am still reeling from the awesomeness of that build. Adafruit really should have considered selling those as pre-built keychain fobs. Even for the cost, I think multitudes of people would have gone for it.

Eric Olson avatar

Another Pi-based retro-computing project is the PiDP-8 and and PiDP-11 simulators with working front panels that can boot DEC and Unix operating systems from the 60’s and 70’s.

I don’t know if Raspberry Pi has blogged about this project before. It seems and interesting.

winkleink avatar

Just setup Pi2 with RetroPie for the Christmas fun in the office again.
Keeps the team entertained during the busy time.

Dex avatar

Not a games machine per se, but the Sinclair QL had some (mostly type-in) games. Anyone done a QL emulation? It had its own ‘dialect’ of BASIC.

Kravex avatar

There’s also the IKEA LACK table from Element14’s spannerspencer, saw it at the Edinburgh Maker Faire and had to make my own when I got home (mines the white one near the bottom) :-)

Rich Kavanagh avatar

Don’t forget the RetroStation project

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