A past Maker Faire display of mine once incorporated a Pac-Man theme “for the old-timers.” It was a surprise then to see young kids all recognized the characters too. How? Smartphones! Thanks to emulation — running old code byte-for-byte on modern hardware — these classic games are still played and relevant a generation later.

Much of the mystique of the originals lied in the cabinets and controls. Anyone can load a game on a smartphone or tablet…but the physicality of the arcade machine and its clicky buttons made them rare objects of desire back in the day.
We wanted to capture a small taste of that, using the tiny Raspberry Pi computer. The result is a DIY kit we call Cupcade!

Cupcade isn’t the first, but it’s notable for using the Adafruit PiTFT display. The direct digital interface delivers a pixel-perfect rendition of classic games with none of the blurriness you’d get with a composite screen.

Kit Contents:

Earlier “beta” kits had some additional parts not listed here; new kits have these pre-assembled on the interface board.

You will also need:

  • Raspberry Pi Model B computer (Model A also works, but with only half the RAM this may impact performance). If you have a Model B on-hand, the earliest ‘V1’ boards will not work with this project (easy to spot — they have no mounting holes). The new Model B+ is not currently compatible, but will likely be addressed in the future.
  • Soldering iron, solder, stranded or solid core wire (24 or 22 gauge) and related paraphernalia
  • Masking tape
  • For setup, you may temporarily need a keyboard and monitor
  • Game ROM files

Optional additions:

Cupcade requires a Raspberry Pi Model B with mounting holes. The new B+ board, and early Model Bs with no mounting holes, will NOT work.
Hey! Don’t be fooled by the fun-and-games nature of this project. It’s a challenging build that draws on a broad range of maker skills: fiddling with Linux commands, stripping and soldering wires, and even a bit of arts & crafts. Read through the whole guide before starting, decide if you’re ready to tackle this and make sure you have everything you need.

Our original Retro Gaming with Raspberry Pi guide is a little easier — same goal, fewer pieces, using a regular computer monitor for the display. You might want to start there if this project looks a bit overwhelming.
Last updated on 2015-05-04 at 04.27.56 PM Published on 2014-04-04 at 11.56.13 AM