Planning the Arcade Cabinet


The first choice to make when it comes to building an arcade cabinet is, what type of cabinet should you build? The most popular and most common is the ‘upright’ machine (like mine). However there are several other types that you could choose from. Here are some pictures of other arcade cabinets with links to their respective creators.

Bob’s Cocktail Cabinet


Driving/ Cockpit


Bar top
Compact MAME Cabinet


Juke Box
Retrocade’s Jukebox


My Ultimate Pre-Game



Some people don’t even bother to build cabinets and simply build arcade control panels to use with a computer or console. For example:

Joeys Arcade Panel



Getting the Cabinet

So now that you have seen the different types of arcade machines that are out there, its time to figure out how you are going to get your own arcade cabinet. Here are the three basic ways to do so:

  • Build – There are a few ways to go about building your own cabinet. Some people choose to build from scratch using their own design while others may follow someone else’s plans. If you’d like to actually construct your own arcade cabinet but don’t know where to begin then you may want to check out Mameroom’s arcade plans and cut outs. For more arcade cabinet designs and plans head to the building the arcade cabinet page.

  • Buy – Like building there are several ways to go about buying an arcade machine. You could buy new arcade kits from Mameroom or brand new completed arcade machines from X-Arcade and from SlikStik. An E-bay search for arcade cabinets will bring up a number of results and if you get lucky you may find exactly what you’re looking for. E-bay will often have empty cabinets up for sale but usually the seller requires that it be picked up from their location. It is definitely worth a shot though as this can save a lot of time and money.

  • Restore – If you manage to find a used cabinet on E-bay, great, see what you have to work with and start from there as you now have a cabinet. However many old arcade places and game rooms may be trying to get rid of certain machines or have left over cabinets. So if you happen to live near an arcade go check it out and have a chat with the owner.

The way you go about getting your cabinet is completely up to personal preference. Great machines have been built from scratch while others are built from restored cabinets or kits. It is all simply dependent upon the resources, time, and woodworking skills that you have.

What I Did

For my MAME arcade project I decided to purchase the UAII kit from Mameroom. The reason I made this choice was because I wanted the project to be completed fairly quickly, I didn’t have the available space to do the kind of woodwork necessary, and I really didn’t have much experience in woodworking to begin with. So for me purchasing the kit was a great idea and I have to say, I am very happy with the decision I made. Just remember, the way you go about getting your cabinet is entirely up to you and what your MAME arcade project requires.

Things to Consider

Now before you run out and buy a machine or start planning your design from scratch there are several things you should consider.

  • Display – How big is the display you are using? Be sure the cabinet will be big enough and able to support the weight. And if you’re not sure yet about your display then head over here for information on different arcade displays.
  • Sound – Where will the speakers go? Will they be mounted at the top of the cabinet or come from a TV? Is there a place that is more suitable given your particular project?
  • Computer – Will the PC or consoles be able to fit where you need them to fit for your arcade machine? Are they easily accessible if something goes wrong or needs to be changed?
  • Control Panel – Will the cabinet be suitable for the control panel you have in mind? Does it have the ability to play the games you would like to play?
  • Art/ Extra Touches – Do you want to install a marquee with a light at the top? Do you intend to purchase any sort of cabinet art? Should you make room for a coin door?

By now you should have a good idea of the different types of arcade cabinets used in MAME machines and the various ways to get your own. Start deciding on what it is you would like your machine to do and then pick the type of arcade cabinet that you feel best suits that goal. To see more examples and types of designs go to the building an arcade cabinet page of the main guide.

Now its time to make a few sketches, so get a piece of paper and make a few simple drawings of what you would like your arcade machine to look like.

Once you have done that and have a good idea of how to achieve the cabinet you drew it is time to start designing and planning the arcade control panel.