Did you know that DIY is more than homemade beer recipes and make it yourself body products? Tech curious folks have been using products to create DIY tech gadgets or new inventions since humans first developed stone tools. The Raspberry Pi is a small, versatile computer that is so tiny it fits in your hand! In today’s post, we’re going to talk about DIY tech and making a Raspberry Pi Arcade Game using some easy to gather supplies and a tiny but powerful computer.
We hope that you eventually get so tech-savvy that you can make a tech gadget like the Raspberry Pi Arcade game from scratch. But for now, we want to show you how to get started with some kits that are so easy to follow along with that your kids can do it. These Raspberry Pi Arcade games are excellent for promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).
But first, let us drop some knowledge.
What is a Raspberry Pi Computer?
Around 2012 the makers of the Raspberry Pi computer saw the opportunity to market DIY or Maker tech. Over the last decade, tech lovers have created thousands of DIY tech gadgets using the four different versions of the Raspberry Pi computer.
Tech geeks make smart mirrors, add blockers, classic gaming systems, home security cameras, and more using the Raspberry Pi computer.
The perks of the Raspberry Pi computer include:
- Small (easily concealed within a tech gadget).
- Low power draw
- Fully customizable
The Raspberry Pi has 4 USB ports, a micro SD card slot, HDMI port, an ethernet jack, wifi capabilities, a 3.5 mm audio jack, and more. It’s completely customizable. The micro SD card acts as the hard drive for your Raspberry Pi computer. You can upload programs and run software onto your SD card to drive your Raspberry pi gadget!
The Raspberry Pi can run Linux or even Windows!
The Raspberry Pi is a great way for people to build a customizable and affordable computer that runs fast!
There is even a vast online community of tech makers that you can lean on for support as you are learning how to use and build with a Raspberry Pi computer.
For an excellent overview of all of the capabilities of the latest model of the Raspberry Pi computer (Raspberry Pi 4), check out this video here!
The Raspberry Pi Foundation:
If the Raspberry Pi computer doesn’t sound cool enough, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is a charitable organization that works hard to get computers and technology into peoples’ hands worldwide. The foundation works to make tech, innovation, and creativity possible for anyone (especially students) around the world.
Building a Raspberry Pi Arcade Game:
A tabletop or bar top Raspberry Pi arcade game is a great project to get your gaming minded kids involved with STEM subjects. Instead of buying them the latest SNES system to passively play on, you can purchase the supplies to build a tabletop arcade-style two-player game together!
If you don’t have kids, this is still a fun project for a DIY maker who loves tech and retro arcade-style games.
A note on the legality of owning and playing these retro games:
To be safe in the eyes of the law when downloaded and playing these retro-style games, you must own a physical copy of the game to be legal in the downloading and playing of the emulated games in a Raspberry Pi computer.
Dig into your old stuff left in your parent’s attic and find your retro super Nintendo games, and you are safe to play on your DIY Raspberry Pi Arcade!
Supplies Needed to Build a Raspberry Pi Arcade Game:
- Arcade Cabinet.
- Arcade Style Buttons and Joysticks (enough for two players).
- Raspberry Pi Computer: For this project, we recommend using the Raspberry Pi Model B Board. Not all joysticks and buttons can work with the newest Raspberry Pi 4. The Raspberry Pi 4 is more powerful and faster if you want to search for controls or arcade buttons to work with the latest model.
- A Micro SD Card: We like this card that is preloaded with the RetroPi and games. RetroPi is the software needed to emulate your favorite retro games. *You can only run the games that you own a physical copy. Otherwise, you are violating copyright law.* The games you don’t own should be deleted off of the SD card.
- SD Card Reader: Needed to format your SD card on your computer to work with your Raspberry Pi.
- Monitor (Up to a 27″ Widescreen LED screen will fit the above arcade cabinet).
- Optional Computer Speakers: if you want louder music and game sounds than your LED screen can offer.
- A Micro USB Cable: This serves as the power source for your Raspberry Pi Computer
- Power Strip (Optional for inside your arcade cabinet)
- Zip ties: To tidy up the wires inside of your arcade cabinet
- Case with a cooling fan to keep your raspberry pi computer safe and protected.
- Primer and paint to customize your arcade cabinet
- Design software to create a customized label for your arcade cabinet. A Cricut or even a 3D printer would be awesome to make your arcade cabinet look professional. Vinyl labels on the Cricut are perfect for labeling the arcade-style button too!
The program, RetroPi, is necessary to run your game ROMS on the DIY Raspberry Pi arcade. IF you don’t want to use the preloaded Micro SD card, there is an excellent tutorial on the software requirements HERE.
IF you haven’t already done so, we recommend you check out the Raspberry Pi Reddit page. There are tons of tutorials, tips, tricks, and a great DIY tech community at your fingertips.
**Another note about game Piracy**
We want you to be careful in your search for game ROMs on the internet. If you can’t find your physical copies of older games to download game ROMS onto your micro SD card legally, this website has lots of free (and legal!) game ROMS for your to choose.
Seriously though, how would you feel if someone stole your creativity?
Assembling your Raspberry Pi Arcade Game:
- Paint and Customize your Arcade Cabinet: You want your arcade cabinet thoroughly dry before you start messing with the electronics and software set up.
- Install your monitor into your Arcade Cabinet: Some builders choose to use a plexiglass screen protector over the monitor and the control panel (button and joysticks). If you want to include plexiglass, here is an excellent tutorial for that. A Vesa mount of very helpful in installing and mounting your monitor inside your arcade cabinet.
- Hook Up the Controls: Normally, this would be the most complicated part of the electric hookups. Most joysticks and buttons require sodering and following directions precisely. These Joystick and Buttons use an encoder board and pin slots to connect the controls to the encoder board easily. The encoder board then connects to the Raspberry Pi by USB. The Raspberry pie has 4 USB slots.
Once you connect your controls, the monitor plugs into the Raspberry Pi via HDMI Cable.
Connect your optional speakers to the Raspberry Pi’s 3.5 mm headphone jack.
Connect your power supply.
Be sure to make all of your connections before plugging in the power cord for your Raspberry Pi computer. You want all of the components recognized on startup.
Playing Your DIY Raspberry Pi Arcade Game:
With the preloaded and configured SD card, you should be able to plug in and play your arcade games as soon as your build is complete.
If you want to try your hand as installing the software and game ROMS onto a blank SD card yourself, here is a great tutorial to try!
Using the Raspberry Pi Computer
The Raspberry Pi makes computing and tech DIY easy and affordable for almost anyone. We love all of the different DIY tech we could try with the Raspberry Pi computer!