Make a DIY Recalbox or Retropie retro gaming arcade with joystick and 8 buttons for less than €85

In the previous tutorial, we saw how to install and configure the Recalbox distribution that allows you to transform the Raspberry Pi 3 into a Retro Gaming console. Today, I propose to move to the hardware and build a small arcade for distribution Recalbox or Retropie. There are many projects on the internet. Not everyone has the time and tools to make an arcade. I propose you to use market components. We find for about €20 boxes for arcade acrylic. These are basic cases in which we will install the Raspberry Pi 3 and an 8 button joystick kit. By taking advantage of specials, we can equip for less than €85 all inclusive

Necessary material

At this moment, the arcade case alone is on sale for 11.62 € from Banggood’s UK warehouse. The USB joystick kit with 10 buttons is on sale for € 15.70. Several colors are available (black, pink, red, white …). To play two or more, you can connect several joysticks to the Raspberry Pi. Recalbox is able to automatically detect the joystick plugged into USB. We will see below how to configure it.

Material needed for the Recalbox

Listed Raspberry Pi, you will need very little material. An 8GB SD card is enough to start. You can store your games and games on a USB stick or USB hard drive. You will also need a 5V 2.5A or 3A power supply. You can use a keyboard to navigate the menus or a USB Gamepad to configure the joystick.

Last update was on: 20 February 2018 21 h 02 min

Unpacking the arcade arcade case

I received the box in a cardboard box of very good quality. The kit contains the injected plastic case of 45mm high. The tray is cut in a 4mm thick acrylic plate. It is protected by a sheet of paper (quite difficult to remove elsewhere). 4 suction cups 50mm in diameter will keep the case in place during your fierce games. Finally, a bag contains the necessary hardware to fix the joystick and the tray. The build quality is very correct. The case is very basic, it just lacks one or two stickers to make it more fun.

arcade diy case box retropie recalbox

Assembling the Joystick Kit

I used this kit for this project. It comes with a 4-way joystick, 8 buttons of 32mm of diameter and 2 buttons of 25mm of diameter (for example for select and start). We will have 2 spare buttons with this case. A card is used to connect the buttons (black / red cables), the joystick (white 5-wire tablecloth) and connect everything in USB to a PC or a Raspberry Pi.

arcade joystick button set kit diy retropie recalbox

The joystick is fixed with 4 screws + nut M3. Tighten without forcing with a wrench or pliers. Once attached, insert the black washer and screw the button onto the joystick shaft.

montage joystick kit diy arcade retropie recalbox

Then clip the buttons.

montage boutons joystick borne arcade recalbox retropie

Connect the joystick to the map with the white tablecloth (5 threads). A deceptive is present on each side of the cable.

Connect all the buttons using the black / red wires. There is no order to respect or polarity in the connections. I just plugged all the buttons on the connector line at the bottom of the board.

Finally connect the USB cable.

Put in place the suction cups. Each suction cup is held in place with a (large) plastic pin that fits into the hole (inside the case).

Assembled console

Unlike some cases sold on the internet, it is not intended for the Raspberry Pi. There are several mounting locations but the diameter of the screw is larger than those provided at each corner of the Raspberry Pi. There is only one hole in the case that allows a cable to pass. If you want to integrate the Raspberry Pi, it will take a little tinkering. For example make holes to pass the HDMI cable, the power supply 5V and possibly the SUB connector of a Gamepad adds. As the Raspberry Pi is used to prepare all my tutorials, I simply took out the USB cable of the joystick.

Here is a view of the assembled assembly.

Configuring the joystick on Recalbox

Start Recalbox. If you have a USB Gamepad, the keys are indicated at any time at the bottom of the screen. If you do not have a USB Gamepad, here are the keyboard shortcuts for Recalbox:

  • Enter: open / close the main menu
  • Right / left arrows to scroll through the consoles
  • Up / down arrows to move through the menus
  • Q to validate, enter a menu, launch a game (beware, if the keyboard is qwerty, the Q is on the key A)
  • S, backspace
  • Space to restart or shut down the console

Open the main menu and go to Controllers Settings

recalbox controler configuration

Select Configure a controller

Recalbox automatically detects all USB connected game controllers. Here, it detects well my USB gamepad and the box of arcade. Press any button to start the configuration. Attention, if a configuration already exists, it will be erased.

All you have to do now is press the joystick in all four directions and choose a button for each action. Use a USB keyboard (or the second gamepad) to go down the list. It is not possible to configure everything with 8 buttons. You will have the equivalent of a Gamepad. 4 directions, A, B, X, Y, Left (L), Right (R), Select and Start.

That’s it, everything is ready. There is more to play!

If you have a larger budget, you can also opt for this top kit. Entirely made of acrylic, it is specially designed by the Raspberry Pi 3. It can also accommodate an Orange Pi or an Odroid. A USB daughter board supports joystick management, 10 buttons as well as stereo audio output to 2 speakers installed on the rear panel of the case.


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