by: Scott Steinberg
Just because you don’t have time to comb Internet auctions for deals, restore vintage arcade cabinets, or haul heavy machinery cross country doesn’t mean you can’t recreate classic Chuck E. Cheese-style thrills in your own home – and for pennies on the dollar. Thanks to a growing range of affordable and value-priced home arcade machines designed to fit modern lifestyles and housing formats, it’s never been easy to assemble a collection of your childhood favorites. (Or convince significant others that a large piece of electronic equipment deserves a place of honor in your home.) Simply grab any of the below plug-and-play units, among the best home arcade machines for modern collectors, and you get started recreating the pleasures of your wayward youth in minutes. Don’t blame us when one turns into four, four turns into ten, and suddenly you’re clearing out the basement to support your new hobby.
$599 (Bartop Edition)
A full-size or bartop arcade machine with a twist, the WiFi-connected iiRcade allows you to download an ever-growing catalog of smash hit classic and new-release games on-demand. Just a few sample offerings you can download to this stunning system’s 64GB or 128GB of internal storage include old-school standouts such as Double Dragon and Dragon’s Lair II; indie hits like Oddmar and Dead Effect 2; and a host of offbeat selections from over the years including Gunbird, Retromania Wrestling, and Karnov. Packing online multiplayer capabilities, stereo sound, and a steadily-expanding range of titles to pick from into a comfy physical footprint that’s designed to fit in homes of every size, it’s one of the most practical and innovative systems we’ve seen in years. Solving one of the most fundamental challenges of coin-op ownership – keeping on-screen challenges feeling fresh and interesting as years pass – whereas many coin-op machines lose their charm over time, the iiRcade’s charm continues to grow. As such, it’s a must-have for serious arcade enthusiasts.
$499 (Bundle with base stand)
One of the arcade era’s most iconic systems returns as the Neo Geo gets a new lease on life courtesy of the MVSX, which packs 50 all-star classic games into one retro-fabulous unit. No matter if you prefer fighting (King of Fighters and Samurai Shodown collections), platform-hopping (Magician Lord), or run-and-gun (think multiple Metal Slug titles up through Metal Slug X), there’s plenty of fun on the menu. Easily converted from a bartop device to stand-up machine with the addition of an optional base, it truly excels at two-player head-to-head match-ups, with legendary outings from Garou: Mark of the Wolves and Fatal Fury Special among the options on offer. A top pick for any den or playroom, games look and run brilliantly on its 17-inch display, making it a recommended choice for anyone who spent huge chunks of the ‘90s memorizing favorite characters’ special moves, or who loves Japanese-influenced animation.
Legends Ultimate Arcade
A full-size arcade machine that includes a pair of joysticks, two spinners, a trackball and other authentic controls, as well as a high-definition monitor on which you can play 300 different built-in games in genres from sports to shooters to puzzle and action. You can also pause, rewind, save, and load games as needed, or tap into an online-connected library of titles that you can download or compete for supremacy in via Internet leaderboards. Featured selections (which can also be accessed via an optional subscription) run the spectrum from early-age classics (BurgerTime, Centipede, TRON) to contemporary console offerings like Aladdin and The Lion King. If you’re looking for a lower-priced option that you can simply hook up to your TV, also check out the Legends Gamer Pro joystick ($249.99), which plugs into a television set and lets you enjoy 150 titles instead.
$299 and up
Easily stored, shipped, and assembled, Arcade1Up’s collection of classic arcade games is spread across an array of machines featuring all-time favorites such as Star Wars, Space Ace, and Marvel vs. Capcom. Moreover, many of these cabinets – which stand slightly shorter than traditional systems at just 4 feet tall) – are designed to be collected en masse and are built to be compact enough to easily fit into furnished basements and garages. (You can also add an optional riser to bring them up to height if you like.) However, where they really shine is in their authentic feel, and range of offerings, which even include seated Outrun machines and convincing replicas of barroom staples such as Big Buck World and Golden Tee Golf. Most come with a minimum of three games included – be sure to check each system to see what other surprise titles you can enjoy in addition to the marquee offering. If you’re looking for a lower-priced option that you can simply hook up to your TV, also check out the Legends Gamer Pro joystick ($249.99), which plugs into a television set and lets you enjoy 150 titles instead.
3400 Retro Arcade Machine Console
A two-player joystick system that also doubles as an arcade-style console with thousands of games built into it. Essentially, you just connect the device to a high-definition television set, and you can dive in and start playing 3400 different titles including many childhood favorites. Offering a handy way to enjoy interactive action that’s easily stowed away in an entertainment center to minimize clutter, it provides a great way to enjoy classic thrills without having to find room for a full-size coin-operated cabinet. Built-in speakers bring the on-screen fun to life as you save the galaxy from invading aliens or stave off a zombie apocalypse.