I spent a lot of time in arcades when I was growing up. The volume of quarters I spent in those dark and dusty rooms over the years probably could have paid for a home arcade in my bedroom. My parents would have never allowed it, but they would have at least been interested to hear my analysis of the money it would have saved them. 

Oddly enough, that’s still the case. While building a home arcade isn’t a cheap endeavor, you can create an experience that’s very similar to the one I described above—and you can do so in a way that will last for a decade.

In this guide, you’ll find a few tips to help you get started, including ideas for decor and selecting games that you won’t get bored with, even after hours and hours of play.

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How to Create a Home Arcade

There are several examples across the internet of aspiring arcade gamers who bought old arcade machines before they thought about where to put them. That’s not a fate we want for you, so to help you avoid filling your garage full of arcade games that you can’t enjoy, here are a few steps to help you create the home arcade of your dreams.

Use a Spare Room

Here’s the step that precludes me from having a home arcade. I live in an apartment and, alas, there isn’t such a thing as a spare room in my home.

But if you’re like the majority of folks out there, you might have a guest room that rarely gets used. Or an “office” that you retreat to for nothing more than some quality time scrolling through your social media accounts. 

Example of a home arcade. Pac-Man and Space Invaders characters in neon lights are hung on the walls. Six cabinet video games are against two of the walls at a 90-degree angle from each other.
Any spare room can serve as an incredible space for your home arcade. Video game characters in neon lights add character and fun. Photo by Joey kwok on Unsplash.

If that’s the case, consult your family or roommates about converting it into a home arcade. While you might assume it’s fair game, you’ll enjoy it even more if everyone you live with has signed off on your new project.

Ensure That You Have Enough Electrical Outlets

Now that you have a room, it’s time to shop for games, right? Not quite. 

Before you do anything else, you need to ensure that you have enough electricity to power your home arcade. This exercise requires you to do a little more research than counting the number of outlets in your dedicated arcade room. According to M&P Amusement, arcade games require 1.5 to 3 amps of power. If you’re looking to fill up your room with pinball machines, make sure you have enough juice for about 3 to 5 amps per game. The good news is that most homes have 20-amp circuits, which is enough for a typical vintage arcade or pinball machine. 

If you’re planning for a large home arcade room, M&P Amusement also suggests consulting with an electrician to ensure that you’re not going beyond the capabilities of your room. Even if you’re planning a more modest arcade space, a few surge protectors rated for the amps your games require never hurt anyone. 

Choose the Right Colors for Your Home Arcade

There are plenty of home arcades that are, well, whatever color the room originally was before it was a dedicated game room. And if you don’t want to go crazy about painting your room, that’s OK! You can create the environment you want with some LED lights and other items. 

But if you’re looking to repaint the room, consider choosing a theme for the entire space. Many gamers get inspiration from their favorite games. If you’re anything like me, you might paint your room to look like the infamous Tommy Lasorda Baseball on Sega Genesis. I wouldn’t recommend this to most people, but that game meant a lot to me when I was a kid, so it’s on my list for a future home arcade.

Before you choose the colors for your room, think about a moment in arcade gaming or a specific game that has a similar amount of sentimental value. When you find one, consult with an expert at a local paint or hardware store to ensure that your color palette matches your vision.

Selecting Flooring for Your Home Arcade

Just like the paint for your home arcade, the flooring for your space can be as big or small of an undertaking as you’d like. If you like the current flooring in your space, feel free to save your cash for other aspects of the room. But as you think through the type of environment you’re looking to create, here are some considerations to keep in mind for flooring.

  • Hardwood flooring: Want your room to look like an old-school arcade from the ’70s? Hardwood flooring is ideal for creating that wonderfully musty environment that was hard to resist in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Bonus: hardwood floors are easy to clean!
  • Vinyl flooring: Arcades tend to take a pretty good beating over time, especially as you move from one game to another. Vinyl or laminate flooring is a great option if you’re looking for something that’s long-lasting, easy to clean, and similar to a lot of the arcades kids from the ’90s know and love.
  • Carpet: HGTV fans might not always love carpet in the main areas of their homes, but it’s a great option for your home arcade games. If you’re concerned about how noisy your room might get, carpet is ideal for reducing the amount of sound that escapes your arcade area.

Lighting Your Home Arcade

If you’re searching for home arcade lights, good news: You have a lot of options! But the bad news also is that you have a lot of options.

pinball machines
Source: wikimedia
Any spare room in your home can serve as an incredible space for your home arcade games.

Before you go out and buy all the fluorescent lights you can find, keep in mind that vintage arcade games don’t age well when they’re under extreme amounts of heat or light. Preston Burke of Paste Magazine says that LED lights offer the same aesthetic as your favorite fluorescent gaming lights, without putting your games under harsh lighting conditions for extended periods of time. They’re also relatively inexpensive, so you can swap out different lighting installations essentially on a whim if you’d like.

Beyond that, consider the lights that are coming off your home arcade games already. Many gamers find that they don’t need to add many additional lights once their arcade cabinets are installed and running.

Choosing Games for Your Home Arcade

OK, here’s the fun part. Let’s pick some games. But first, let’s talk about your budget for said games.

Vintage arcade cabinets and pinball machines are similar to vintage cars. Technically, you can buy them for just a few dollars, but only if you don’t mind putting in some serious sweat equity to get them working and can afford for them ultimately not to work. Rare arcade cabinets that are fully functional and in mint condition can cost you tens of thousands of dollars. 

Before you sink all that cash into your arcade games for home, the folks at Game Room Guys suggest asking yourself the following questions:

  • Who will be playing the arcade games? Is it just for you, or will your family be joining you in the arcade from time to time? Just adults? Teens? Kids?
  • What types of arcade games for home do you want? You have a wide variety of choices from sports to hunting games, all of which come in stand-up or sit-down configurations. 
  • When do you want to get it? If you’re looking for something custom or made-to-order, you might have to wait for several months for your games to arrive.

If you want the experience of playing a vintage game without spending a ton of money, a company called Arcade1Up offers vintage-style arcade cabinets with modern gaming technology. They offer some of the most popular arcade games at a fraction of what a restored vintage cabinet would cost. These can be a great alternative, especially if you’re on a budget and hoping to play some of the classics in your home arcade. 

Take Your Gaming Life to the Next Level

Home arcades are a great way to rekindle memories of the past without having to constantly make change for dollar bills. When they’re designed and built out tastefully, they can also add a unique dimension to your home that’s welcoming for arcade enthusiasts and casual gamers alike. 

Although the excitement of building an arcade in your home might make it difficult not to rush the process, take your time and think through the type of space you can enjoy over the next couple of decades. Use the tips in this guide whenever you feel the urge to buy something that’s out of your budget or doesn’t meet your needs. You’ll likely tinker with the room for years to come, but that’s half of the fun!

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