How to Build a Kick-Ass MAME Arcade Cabinet from an Old PC



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Sadly, most of the things that made our childhood fun are now disappearing including the arcade games. While working in the cabinet refacing business, I've had a lot of requests for transforming old cabinets into full size arcades. It's nice to see that there still are nostalgic people that want to preserve bits of their childhood alive.



I have seen free Arcade cabnet's on craigslist one way to cut cost of having to build a cabnet sometimes even a free pentium 4 computer.

Ebay is also a great way to get some other stuff a ipac,Joystick's,button's Ect.

As for the Person who suggested romnation that site is outdated

google pleasuredome  best place I have ever been for mame hand's down 



Registered Linux User #404122 Microsoft has encountered a critical system error and must now shut down. Better get Bill Gate$ on the phone for this one.......


go to for the roms.
I've been playing MAME games sine 1999. Funny, for once I seem to be ahead of SOME Max PC users 8-)





I have received a full size TMNT cabinet.  Would I be able to use this in it's current config to do this.  What would I still need.  I know that I need the computer, but what about interface connections?  Would I need to "gut" this and start over.



it's very useful and interesting information. thank you.
самая лучшая автомобильная мойка



Seems like a cool system. If I had the money, I'd build this. But unfortunately, looks like I gotta stick with playing WOW on a i5 system. 



Ok, the only extra pc you have laying around is a 486-66 or pentium 1 thats been your end table for the past 10 years.  The great alternative to mame in the 90's for people with lower end hardware was Retrocade.  Its programmed in assembly to be really quick.  Version 1.2b2 runs 114 really great games most of them at full speed on that 486 running dos.  It also has a great front end.  Make sure you get all the packs for it. I saw 5 or 6 dell latitude pentium mobile 266mhz laptops on ebay this morning going for $25 or so.  Perfect for this application. Another emulator that runs on an old machine running windows 95 is Hive running 53 of the best classics.  Visit for more info and downloads of these pc reviving emulators.  You will have to look hard for the roms....




I already had all the stuff and a couple weeks ago I decided to cobble together a makeshift mame cabinet.  I took a VCR storage cabinet 12" by 24" by 30" (could have been a little taller and a little deeper) and put four locking casters on it.  Then I took two L brackets and attached my Xarcade dual stick to the top.  I then attached a 19" 4:3 lcd monitor with built in speakers behind the xarcade stick. The screen swivels so you can view it standing or sitting.   I cut a slot in one of the shelves so I could stand up an old 2ghz pentium 4 laptop.  I used an older version of mame32 0.74 because i already had all the roms and you can disable the legal notice which seems to cause a problem with my joystick.  I tried version 0.129 and it wasn't all that much better.  I know you can get the tank stick with a trackball built in but since I bought my stick years ago, i am using a logitec marble mouse.  I have it attached with velcro so i can get it out of the way when i dont need it.  It dosen't feel that bad for trackball games but.... for my favoriate game, tempest, you can grab the ball and operate it just like a spinner which just dosent feel right with a 3" trackball.  A keyboard fits in the cabinet and the mouse can store there also.  I have the buttons on the Xarcade to do all the work in mame32 from selecting a game to exiting a game and everything inbetween so you dont need to use a mouse or keyboard.  The thing looks pretty good, dosen't take up much space at all and is light enough to wheel anywhere in the house if need be.  Its also power efficient since the laptop dosen't use more than 40 watts or so and is able to play 95% of the mame games in my collection.  Took me all of 2 hours and everyone loves it.  Its a great alternatave to someone who dosen't want to spend lots of time and money or sacrifice the floor space for a full size cabinet.  But it is still feels rather authentic while playing the games and is super easy to use so even little kids (or a wife) can hop on it and start playing games. 


A picture of my project is at



The U-HID interface from Ultimarc is an amazing little fully programmable USB device. I use them for operator pushbutton interfaces to terminal emulators they work great . Andy at Ultimarc reponds to all my emails and items are shipped from UK to the US quickly.



I looked for roms to build this cabinet and finally found full sets for MAME at Emuparadise. Just putting this in here in case someone else is trying to build this and needs the resources. This takes you to their MAME Roms Section. Also, you can alternatively just download the full set here. Cheers =) Great article, it's lovely to have an arcade cab.



A Pentium 4 800fsb would be the minimum glad to see this artical but if you want more info on mame google mame for dummies easy way for a newb to get started



I could swear that this mag has done this before, many years ago



Has anyone done this with very old hardware?

I have a perfectly good box with 1999 vintage dual-Celeron 500s, 768MB sitting in the corner all lonely.



Excellent article!  It would be helpful for you to talk about some of the other builds that replace functionality that has been removed in the newer versions of MAME, like high scores and cheats.  MAMEUIFX (formerly MAME Plus!) has given those of us who cherish our high scores, the chance to retain them.  The Save State feature doesn't really work yet in MAME and isn't an option for high score hounds.

Another thing that would have been helpful would have been to use the Smart Strip so you can power on your cab in one shot.  A coin door installation example and some fans in the cab would have been helpful.  I would have used the pinhole grid for a fan rather than speakers.

I think the one big thing you missed in the article is putting the software configuration up front.  If you can't get MAME to work on a PC, there is no point in building a cab. 

Other emulators also could have been discussed like Daphne, Stella, MESS, PinMAME, etc.  Most cab builders like to have more than one emulator on their machines.  Nothing like kicking back on a lazy afternoon on your cab and playing Yars' Revenge...

I built my cab a long time ago, but still love it and keep it updated.  The only thing I haven't gotten to work is a lightgun.  For some reason, I have a CRT monitor, and the LCD light guns (the ones designed for CRT TVs) I bought, even after multiple calibrations and emails to tech support, tracked incorrectly on the screen.  I went the CRT TV and SVideo route.  I eventually gave up.  Gun games will have to suffice with the trackball.

Here is some info about my cab  Since I put up the last update, I just slapped in a Core2Duo E7500, 4GB RAM, a nicer video card with Dx10 support (only DX9 matters anyway) and a big hard drive as the new CHD files tend to get HUGE.  The side art peels back every so often and needs a new spray of some adhesive to slap it back on.  I didn't coat it in case I wanted to change it in the future.  I also like having a power button high up so kids can't get at it easily.  For the exit button, I used the Ipac shift function so a kid wouldn't hit the exit button in the middle of a game by mistake.  The pause button is fine to hit.  I also made a generic instruction card I mounted on the plexi under the monitor.

I also added a new front end - Hyperspin FE.  This thing is really slick and very professional.  I can see some of the sounds getting annoying to some, but that's easy enough to reconfigure.  A lengthier analysis of Front ends, rather than just MaLa, would have been good.  GameLauncher has been a tried and true friend for 5 years.



I found these are new light guns that look awesome! They work closer to the screen so you don't have to stand very far way like the LCD Top Guns. I had one of the LCD Top Guns and they were hard to calibrate and only worked when I stood about 5 to 7 feet away from the screen. Plus they had huge light bars that went on the top and side of the screen. With these Arcade Guns I only had to mounted this tiny light bar behind the bezel by the top of the monitor and you can't even see it! These guns work flawlessly! I have them configured to work with MAME in two player mode.

I bought the blue and red gun kit. I was thinking about getting the dual white kit which also would have looked great with my cabinet. These light guns are the best guns I've found so far! I would recomend then to anyone looking to for good light guns for the PC.



I'm looking for a couple PC Light Guns.



Goodarticle guys, I really like the surgical gloves!

I’vebeen working on my own MAME box for some time. I’m converting an old Taito box(picked up for free at a local vendingmachine house) which I believe was an Alpine Ski machine.  Here are some good points and links I’vefound.  I am not affiliated with any ofthese guys, I just believe after researching this for years that they are thebest of class.

Bestfront end period –

Best sitefor joysticks and controls -

Besthistorical reference –

As forequipment – don’ build more than you need. For instance the Mini-Pac from Ultimarc is just about perfect.

Why?  Well there are very few 4+ player games.  The fact is most arcade games are 1 and 2player and of those 1 and 2 player games most are only 1-4 buttons.  I say don’t overdo it unless you really haveto have that 4 player 8 button set-up. But really how many times do you use it? If you have the money, go for it, but remember, the box will start tolook ugly.

OK,control panel – Do you need a 4 player 8 button MAME box.  Most likely no!  Here is why.

Outof my 7000+ Roms, 3000 are clones.  Soout of my 4000 or so original titles I have the following break up approximations.

No.of Players

670- 1 player games

2600- 2 player games

60- 3 player games

235- 4 player games

1- 6 player games

2- 8 player games

No.of Buttons

450– 0 button games (uses joystick or other control input)

550– 1 button games

1080– 2 button games

630– 3 button games

450- 4 button games

80– 5 button games

230– 6 button games

30– 7 button games

50– 8+ button games

Typesof joysticks / controls

180– spinner or paddle games

70- Light gun games

70– Trackball games

360– 2 way or 4 way joystick games

2150- 8 way joystick games

50– Double joystick games

560– Button only or Misc.

Good luck,




cnsf1 is the best site for controls.  Ultimarc is awesome, but they get most of their stuff from Happ (or so it appears that way).

Lots of good front ends out there.  It would have been good to see more of them referenced.

I agree 4 players arent needed unless you are a Gauntlet fan.  Most of the other 4 player games have 2 player version options.



Wow looks remarkably identical to the one I built 8 years ago, incredible :)



For reference, please check out my photobucket album, "Thousand Dollar Joystick"

I wanted to build a MAME cabinet, and I based mine on the vertical cabinet that you used in the pictures.

However, I tried to improve on the 'supercade' design by making the second tier of buttons in custom arrangements for special games like Discs of Tron, Battlezone, Vanguard, Defender and Stargate.

The BEST spinner out there is the Apache Controls BlackHawk Spinner.  Smooth as silk and very solid.

I also opted for a large CRT display for one reason you neglected to mention; the lightguns available when I built this require a CRT display.  Lightguns and LCDs don't work.

Also the entire control panel is self contained, so it can be detached from the cabinet and taken along for a party.  I called it the Thousand Dollar Joystick, because the entire control panel plugs into any PC with only one usb cable and a power cord.

I recently upgraded the CPU and with the following components:

  • Intel Pentium E5200 Wolfdale 2.5GHz Dual Core
  • ASUS P5QPL-AM LGA 775 Intel G41 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
  • A 40GB PATA raptor I had left over from another PC for WinXP
  • A new Seagate 500GB drive for storage, and a OEM Samsung DVD drive
  • 4GB DDR2 ram
  • PCIe Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS
  • All neatly tucked into a IN WIN EM013 Black MicroAtx case.  Great cooling fan layout.

I use the Maximus Arcade Frontend, and I have over 5000 classic arcade games loaded.

Using the free FuturePinball program I can also play dozens of pinball games on it.

To answer some of the other questions and comments:

Yes you can do this for much less.  I would love to do this all over with everything I've learned and make it a followup article for Maximum PC.  I have a used Computer Kiosk I grabbed from off CL for next to nothing, and it would make a great starting point for a more modest 2 player MAME cabinet. 

I used an older Dell server keyboard; one with a PS/2 connectors that had a built in mouseball.  Its hidden in a keyboard tray underneath the control panel. 

When I got the buttons and parts for the panel, I made a mockup with an old piece of paneling to see how my fingers naturally rested when playing a game.  That helped determine the most comfortable layout.  

ACTLabs makes great lightguns.  House of the Dead, Area 51, and others play great on the MAME cabinet.

Newer releases of the MAME code take advantage of both your multi-core processors and your graphics card power.  Games like Gauntlet Dark Legends and others that would have been a stuttering slideshow are now smooth and very playable.

Make a list of your favorite games, get MAME, poke around and remind yourself what games you loved that you may have forgotten.  Then look at which controls are needed, and build your panel accordingly.

Want to keep it really simple?  Ultimarc (a company mentioned in the acticle) makes a Ultra360 programmable joystick.  It has a USB interface and can be hard-coded to be Joy1 and Joy2 and never get confused which stick is which. It can be programmed to act as a 2-way, 4-way, 4-way 45% offset (QBert!), 8-position, or fully digital joystick, with a different configuration for every game.  It has no microswitches or leaf switches to wear out, and each stick supports 8 buttons.  That means 6 per player to handle your favorite beat-em up, and still have 4 spare buttons for other functions.  2 sticks, and you have just handled hundreds of classic game possibilities.  My kids beat the heck out of them, and they can take it.

You can get more details of my design in the photobucket album, I have comments on most of the pictures.



If you are looking for a fun garage project. Build a pinball machine that uses a t9 graphing calculator as the computer or your welcome to come help me.



I built my own cabinet about a year back myself and you have some great stuff here, but I have a couple of suggestions from my own experiences...


Unless you want to be do-it-yourself guy, don't build your own controllers.  There's lots of companies out there like XArcade that make great pre-made units at reasonable prices.  Save yourself a lot of aggravation :)

Side and front machine 'Marquees' and overlays make your machine look great, check out

Buy a 'frontloader' application that will handle all emulator switching and controls.  For $25 I picked up a copy of Maximus Arcade at and it looks and works awesome.  You can switch seamlessly through forty or fifty emulators like Mame, Daphne (Laser Disc Games), Stella (Atari 2600), etc.

Pick up a "Smart" power strip.  These strips have one outlet that will automatically turn on the power to all the other outlets if the device in the original socket turns on.  So you can fire up your whole cabinet including lights, speakers, monitor, all by turning on your PC in the main socket.  With a bit of creative wiring you can even have the power on switch for your PC hooked up to a false coin return button or something.

Couple of other links I found during my build that really helped me out:







I built a sit-down MAME cabinet a few years ago and I agree with you on all your points except not wiring your controls yourself. It only took me about an hour and a half to wire the whole thing up, and it looks a million times better than a big ugly XArcade sitting on your unit.



men i love this article. because actually i downloaded MAME. but i have some questions. here are some...

how would you make an ATI card run through an Nforce board?

can i play shooters in there? my favorite is Operation Wolf™.



The best part about the whole article was the link to wicked retarded. That guy was so mad at the bad cabinets it made me lol.



Loved the article, it was great, and would love to build one for myself.  However, I felt I should note a few things.

First, from the title I was under the impression that you'd be building what I would consider to be a cheap machine.  I can't fault you for that - even if you had built the cabinet yourselves you would have had to buy all of the main functional parts for the joysticks, bezels and display.  That said, in perhaps a future article, could you possibly see about building one using off-the-shelf parts and on a budget?  I think a passable, impressive one might have been built (counting all of the parts except the monitor and keyboard) for a few hundred less.

Second,  You had the two basic (I've never seen the half cabinets until I started going to bars, and even then I wouldn't call those "arcade" machines by a long shot), but I felt you missed a couple of designs:  The driving game (I'm sorry, you simplycan not play games like "Out Run", "Cruis'n USA" or "Virtua Racing" with any sort of arcade justice on a joystick) and one I'm calling the "Stand Alone Unit."  The SAU is essentiallythe arcade cabinet cut in half designed for standing in front of the TV or Large Monitor, and I saw it employed most at a few arcades growing upon fighting games such as "Mortal Kombat II."  (If anyone has any idea what I am talking about, please reply and fill in the blanks - I didn't have time to look for it, as I have to run soon.)

Third, so that people don't get the wrong idea, what would you call the "bottom" for a computer set-up?  I looked at a few of your links and noticed that some were running Pentiums (Talk about old school!), but what would be considered realistic?

Finally, between your staff, who holds the most and top high scores in the games you chose to emulate?  (Might as well get some cmpetition going here... :)  )



Dude, Crusin USA was on N64. Was it on these old machines too? IDK anyway, I actually got an N64 emulator and played crusin USA just last week on my gaming pc. It's pretty fun!



Cruis'n USA and Killer Instinct were both arcade units that came out in 1994, a couple of years before the Nintendo 64 was released in 1996, and both used technology that was stripped away from the final N64 configurations.

Info on Cruis'n USA:

Info on Killer Instinct:

Info on Nintendo 64 (and the code names "Project Reality" and "Ultra 6", the latter of which was referenced by both arcade games):



Yes, the Cruis'n series were arcade games before they were ported to the consoles.  I can recall playing the first one when it came out and being wowed by it.  A quick Wikipedia search shows the first one released in '94.  Most arcade game enthusiasts would prefer to play the original instead of the stripped-down version that was available on the console.



I was planning on building one someday, and after looking at this, I am 100% sure that a standing cabinet is the way to go. That thing looks like it will make my neck sting if I use it more than 15 minutes at a time.



It's really comfortable, if you sit at the right height. I put a fair number of hours into Galaga last week, with no ill effects.

If you have the space, an upright is definitely the way to go. I really like the cocktail though, because you can play both horizontally and vertically oriented games full screen.



This sounds like something that would be a lot of fun to do with my son when he's a bit older.  Nice guide!



 1. Norm was humiliated

2. Kudos to the jeans n' sneakers with a labcoat. Kinda like a hip Bill Nye the science guy.

Keep making these build stories Alex (I give you props cause you're named here most, no one else), they remind me of Indy Mogul builds and are very in depth on how to do it, should I want to do it... I sense a new project for winter! Cocktails around a cocktail style table arcade!






If you're a MAME newb or this is the first time you've heard of it, go all the way to page 9 for the author's definition of MAME, or to page 7 for the author's definition of a the thing he's making for MAME.  Or Wikipedia has a pretty good definition at: (Yeah, it's a feature, not a news brief, so no one expects strict inverted pyramid style, buuut...)    



... before anyone gets the wrong idea.  Loved the article.  The only way this could be cooler is if it could either be turned into a refrigerator (no pun intended) or if it could be biggie-sized and turned into an RV of some sort.  Significant other won't let you put it in the living room, no big deal, if it's an RV, then IT IS THE LIVING ROOM... and all the other rooms too.  And if your significant other doesn't approve, then you can hop in your MAME cabinet RV and move on down the road and find a more significant, and more MAME-tolerant significant other.  Just make sure the MAME-RV is titled in your name only and that you change the locks on it before you drive away.  If the ex-SO left anything return-worthy in her dresser drawer, that's what UPS is for.   



? I just got the wrong idea from this. RV?!? Really? If your SO doesn't like t, make it a hide away! Cocktail style with a big removable lid. It would double as a coffee table. Beat that!






The hideaway mention got me thinking...  what about a different hideaway? How about one of those beds for apartments/flats with very limited space... you know, the ones that fold into the wall?   When the bed is folded away, the bottom of the bed is a wall panel with an LCD-screen and controls that fold out from the box springs section.   When the bed's unfolded, the screen and controls are safely underneath out of view.  

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