Retro gaming has experienced nothing short of a renaissance in recent years. From single-board computers running software dedicated to video game emulation, to a slew of handheld devices, gamers young and old love revisiting the classics. While playing your favorite console games is fun, the real trip down nostalgia lane is replicating the arcade experience.
Many consider arcades to be a relic of a bygone era. However, it doesn’t have to be. You can bring home your very own arcade cabinet today. And even if you don’t have the space to recreate an 80s arcade at home, just looking at some of these machines is a fond trip down nostalgia lane.
Here are some of the best arcade cabinets out there today.
1. AtGames Legends Ultimate
If you want the biggest bang for your buck, when it comes to licensed games, packed into a single arcade cabinet, then you can’t go wrong with AtGames Legends Ultimate. It includes 300 titles, including Joe & Mac, Iron Commando, Drakkhen, Aladdin and Lion King.
The cool thing here is that you can actually stream games from platforms like Steam (or AtGames’s own streaming service) to your cabinet, expanding what you can do with it immeasurably.
This cabinet really looks the part, too, with a beautiful coloring of neon pinks and yellows that makes it truly look like it’s from a bygone era. Beyond the joysticks and face buttons for two players, there’s also a giant trackball and spinner knobs. It’s the complete package.
This cabinet will set you back $600, but it’s a great addition to a den room – if you have the space for it. And if you’re keen to add your own games and do some tinkering, that’s not too hard to do here either.
Arcade1Up aims to capture the look and feel of a variety of classic arcade games, and the best part is, they are relatively inexpensive. To achieve such affordable prices, the Arcade1Up machines are three-quarter-sized replicas of the machines you could find at your local arcade. This makes Arcade1Up machines stand roughly four feet.
That being said, the company does sell risers that increase the standing height of each machine. Aside from being slightly smaller than you remember, the attention to detail is impressive. Arcade1Up cabinets try to replicate the exact styling of each machine they produce, from the style of the cabinet itself to using the same artwork.
There are a number of Arcade1Up machines available, boasting an impressive lineup of classic games, spanning numerous genres. Virtually every gamer will be able to find something to enjoy. This impressive lineup of classics includes fighters like Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat, brawlers such as Final Fight and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, sports games like NBA Jam, old school classics like Pac-Man and Space Invaders, and even shooters like Big Buck Hunter! Of course, Arcade1Up has many other machines available, with new models being released regularly. Just be aware that there is some assembly required.
3. Arcade1Up Counter-cade
If you’re short on floor space, a bartop arcade unit can scratch your retro gaming itch without taking up much space. Fortunately, Arcade1Up has you covered here as well. The Counter-cade machines measure approximately 16x10x12 inches and weigh about 9 pounds. Unlike the standing units from Arcade1Up, the Counter-cade comes completely assembled and ready to play. In addition, the Counter-cades feature licensed games and artwork, meaning the games play accurately, and the artwork on the unit is vintage.
Unfortunately, there isn’t as much variety when it comes to the games available in the Counter-cade form factor. Currently, there are only seven models to choose from, and all of the titles are from the early 1980s arcade heyday. That being said, there’s still plenty of fun to be had with classics like Pac-Man, Galaga, and Dig-Dug. Furthermore, the Arcade1Up Counter-cades can be found for quite a bit less compared to their bigger counterparts.
4. Prime Arcades Cocktail Arcade Machine
If the thought of standing while playing your favorite retro arcade games isn’t appealing, and you don’t have a bar to plop a tabletop arcade machine on, you may want to consider a cocktail arcade machine. Cocktail or table cabinets are rectangular tables with a monitor housed inside. The game’s controls can be found at both ends of the table, and players can sit down while they play. Additionally, the tables are covered with a piece of tempered glass, making it safe to place drinks on, hence the name. They were often found in bars and pubs during the Golden Age of Arcade Games, but now you can have one in your very own home!
The Cocktail Arcade Machine from Prime Arcades boasts 1,162 different arcade games from the 80s and 90s built in. Furthermore, it features a massive 26-inch LED monitor with a quarter-inch tempered glass topper to protect it. In addition, it even comes with chrome stools! There is no assembly required: simply plug it in and play. That being said, Prime Arcades isn’t a toy. The Cocktail Arcade cabinet is commercial grade and weighs in at almost 200 pounds. While the build quality is fantastic, there is one major downside – the price tag. At the time of this writing, the Prime Arcades Cocktail Cabinet is over $2,000.
5. Creative Arcades Full-Size Cabinet Arcade Machine
When you absolutely must have a true arcade experience, look no further than Creative Arcades. Its full-size, commercial-grade arcade cabinet measures in at 71x30x32 inches and features premium components. These include high quality SANWA joysticks and buttons, a trackball, a 32-inch LCD monitor and a thick tempered glass overlay. The machine comes preinstalled with 3500 classic arcade games from the 80s and 90s. Furthermore, it is ready to play out of the box.
One of the coolest features of this cabinet is that it supports both free and paid gameplay. When set to paid gameplay, players have to insert coins into the coin slot in order to play the machine. Unfortunately, one of the biggest drawbacks of the Creative Arcades Full-Size Arcade Cabinet is the hefty price tag. At nearly $3,000, it’s an expensive way to recapture the magic of the arcade. That being said, Creative Arcades does make other cabinets with fewer games and smaller monitors that are more affordable.
6. Build Your Own
With a little effort, you can build your own arcade machine at a fraction of the cost. All you need is some plywood and a Raspberry Pi or old desktop PC. There are a ton of tutorials available online to get you started, including how to configure the software side of things as well as plans for the cabinet itself. If you’re not handy with a jigsaw, you can always order DIY arcade cabinet flat packs from a variety of resellers. These are pre-cut panels that you put together like a piece of Ikea furniture!
If you want to dig deeper into the world of retro gaming at home, see our guide on how to turn your Raspberry Pi 4 into a retro console. Also, take a look at our ultimate guide to N64 emulation on Retroarch.