Playing retro games is easy on a Raspberry Pi - and the pocket computer is pretty good at it too! All you need is a little help to connect buttons and a joystick up and you can custom design your own arcade console, desktop or stand-up machine, even just a simple controller box. It makes for a fun weekend project that will last all year.

This Adafruit Arcade Bonnet is designed to make small emulator projects a little easier to build. Here's what you can look forward to!

  • It is the same size as a Pi Zero, so for really compact builds, this is super small. You can use it with a Pi 2, 3, B+ or any 2x20 connector Pi.
  • It has JST sockets so you can plug in six arcade buttons easily using our quick connects
  • Header breakouts for use with both clicky-type switched joysticks and...
  • Header breakout and converter for using analog-type joysticks or thumbsticks with potentiometers inside
  • A 3W speaker output that can drive 4-8 ohm speakers for when using with a TV output, HDMI display or PiTFT
  • Switches are all managed with an I2C-GPIO converter with interrupt out. The converter is very fast and frees up all the pins so you can use this Bonnet with a PiTFT or any other accessory/device that uses a lot of pins!

If you don't need an amplified speaker output, analog-joystick input or minimal pin usage, check out our plain-jane Retrogame tutorial which just plugs all the buttons and joysticks right into the Pi directly.

This item as sold as a mini-kit, with a Bonnet and headers that need to be soldered in to attach it to a Raspberry Pi! It only takes a few minutes but soldering iron and solder are required.

It also doesn't come with any of the extras, so you can choose which buttons/joysticks/speaker you want! Here is a list of the items you can use:

Arcade Buttons

The JST connectors on the Bonnet mate perfectly with these quick-connects, which we really like.

Any of our Arcade buttons will work. You can use any switch you like, really - doesn't even need to be a button!

The translucent 30mm ones work nicely with the quick-connects and are recommended!



Around the edges of the Arcade Bonnet are plugs for up to 6 buttons, labeled 1A through 1F. These work directly with our arcade button quick-connect wires.

Arcade/Button Quick-Connect Wire Pair - Set of 10 pairs

Quick connector wire sets will make wiring up our arcade-style or metal buttons quicky-quick. Each wire comes as a 'pair' with two 0.11" quick-connects pre-crimped onto 20cm...

Arcade Button - 30mm Translucent Clear

A button is a button, and a switch is a switch, but these translucent arcade buttons are in a class of their own. They're the same size as common arcade controls (often referred to as...

These cables plug right in, and then you can quick connect to many switches or arcade buttons. For the 1F connection, plug this cable in before plugging the Bonnet into your Pi 3 or Pi 2 since the USB ports will make it tougher once its installed.

Joystick / D-Pad

Any four or eight-way “clicky” joystick can be connected to the 4WAY STICK header. “G” is the joystick’s common ground pin, while L, R, U and D are the four cardinal directions. (Yes, diagonal works as well, in games that require it.) We recommend soldering some of the male header that comes with the bonnet and then using Female-Female wires to plug directly into the joystick

Or you can solder the wires directly from the joystick

Small Arcade Joystick

This snappy 8-way joystick beckons you to play with it! It is rugged, and not too large, reminiscent of a Pac Man arcade cabinet. Unlike the potentiometer-based 2-axis and mini...

Premium Female/Female Jumper Wires - 20 x 12" (300mm)

These Female/Female Jumper Wires are handy for making wire harnesses or jumpering between headers on PCB's. These premium jumper wires are 12" (300mm) long and come in a 'strip' of 20 (2...

Analog-style Joystick

Some lower-profile joysticks are available only in analog versions. These can be connected to the ANALOG header. 3V and G are 3.3 Volts and ground from the Pi, respectively, while X and Y are the stick’s analog outputs for the two axes.

The analog joystick input is processed and handled as a 4-way stick. Most vintage games operate with a 4-way stick; there is no option here for a “true” analog input.

Note that we convert the analog voltage into digital switches without an analog-to-digital converter so we can detect when the joystick is moved around but we do not measure how 'hard' it is being pushed in a direction!

Analog 2-axis Thumb Joystick with Select Button + Breakout Board

This mini-kit makes it easy to mount a PSP/Xbox-like thumb joystick to your project. The thumbstick is an analog joystick - more accurate and sensitive than just 'directional'...

Mini 2-Axis Analog Thumbstick

Sometimes a simple analog control device can be the perfect tactile solution for your project, but they can be surprisingly hard to come by. Luckily we've got a low cost, quality Mini...

Mini Analog Joystick - 10K Potentiometers

Sometimes a simple analog control device can be the perfect tactile solution for your project, but they can be surprisingly hard to come by. Luckily we've found a low cost, quality...


The Arcade Bonnet’s mono class D amplifier can handle a single 4 or 8 Ohm speaker, up to 3 Watts. The amplifier’s “I2S” interface provides extremely clear sound…better than you’ll get from the Raspberry Pi’s headphone jack.

Most early arcade games had monaural sound. For anything with stereo, the two channels will be mixed to a single channel for the amplifier.

Speaker - 3" Diameter - 4 Ohm 3 Watt

Listen up! This 3" diameter speaker cone is the perfect addition to any audio project where you need an 4 ohm impedance and 3W or less of power. We particularly like this cone as it...

Mono Enclosed Speaker - 3W 4 Ohm

Listen up! This 2.8" x 1.2" speaker is a great addition to any audio project where you need 4 ohm impedance and 3W or less of power. We particularly like...

Other Connections

If you have a need to interface other hardware, most of the Pi’s GPIO pins are broken out to this header. There are also some spare ground points near the corners.

Be mindful of the pins marked with a circle — SDA, SCL, 17, 18, 19 and 21. These are used by the chips on the Arcade Bonnet. Some — like SDA and SCL, used for I2C communication — can usually be shared by multiple devices. The others should be avoided unless you very specifically know what you’re after.


Software installation for the Arcade Bonnet requires an internet connection. That’s a frequent topic already covered in other Pi getting-started guides, so we’ll assume here that your Pi is already booted and networked, running Raspbian or a gaming-ready OS like RetroPie.

You may find this easiest if ssh is enabled on the Pi, and then log in with a terminal app. This lets you copy-and-paste the commands that follow, as they’re very exact about spelling.

Support for the buttons and the audio amplifier are installed separately. If you don’t need the bonnet’s speaker support, you can just skip that step and use the regular headphone jack or HDMI audio in that case.

Buttons and Joysticks

Enter the following two lines to install support for the six button connectors and the 4WAY and ANALOG joystick connectors:

curl -O
sudo bash

When run, this script will offer a couple of options:

  • Disable overscan? If you answer “Y” this removes the black border around the screen (common on HDMI monitors). Takes effect on next boot.
  • Install gpio-halt utility? Linux-based systems like the Raspberry Pi don’t like it when you just switch off power…there’s a specific shutdown process, else the SD card may get corrupted. The gpio-halt tool lets you add one more button between ground and any unused GPIO pin (not one of the six button sockets) to initiate an orderly shutdown. Gaming OSes like RetroPie already include a shutdown command among their menu options, so you may not need this.

When the script finishes you’ll be asked whether to reboot. Answer “N” if you plan on installing audio support, and follow the next section (“Audio Amplifier,” below).

If you need to change the key assignments: edit the file /boot/ say with sudo nano /boot/

Near the top of the code you’ll see this table:

'#' lines are human comments and do nothing for the code. The first six actual elements in the table correspond to the six button inputs (labeled “1A” through “1F” on the Bonnet). Then two “0” values (these do nothing, but need to be there, don’t delete them) and another 8 elements corresponding to the 4-way and analog joystick/d-pad inputs.

Audio Amplifier

If you’d rather use the heaphone jack or HDMI audio output, this step can be skipped. Otherwise, to enable Arcade Bonnet speaker output, it’s one line:

curl -sS | bash

There are no install options; it simply does its one thing. Confirm installation when prompted and reboot when done. Then re-run the script again after rebooting to test the speaker output. After the speaker test reboot once more to activate the speaker volume control

Audio will then be channeled through the Arcade Bonnet amp.

If you’re curious about what the script is doing behind the scenes, this guide lays out in detail each step performed.

Advanced Usage - Other Inputs

Additional button inputs are possible using the GPIO pin header and our retrogame utility.

This guide shows how to install and configure retrogame.

This requires configuring retrogame to only read the extra GPIO inputs! The six main buttons and joystick are already handled by the previously-installed Arcade Bonnet software; retrogame is a separate thing and they’ll interfere if accessing the same pins.

Try to use the 6 button inputs on the Bonnet. Much easier. retrogame is guru-level stuff.