How I turned my gaming PC into an arcade machine

I love arcade games. There’s no feeling like going down to a seaside town and hearing the loud and obnoxious classics with the speakers turned up full blast. For some it can be hell playing on machines that everyone else has abused over the years, but for me this is my childhood. About five years ago I had the lofty goal of bringing these arcade classics to my gaming PC, but only if I could play them roughly as intended.

For on-rail FPS gaming, I need a light gun; for racing games, a wheel; and for fighting games, an arcade stick. Very early in the project I had three classic arcade games I wanted to set up the units for. These were Street Fighter III: Third Strike, Sega Rally Championship and any of The House of the Dead series. However, my scope has now expanded to four, with the second game Time Crisis. The main challenge was that I wanted to use official ports made to run on my gaming PC or use officially re-released versions of the classic games before resorting to emulating the original arcade games.

My first purchase was years ago and it was the Razer Panthera arcade stick. I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time trying out arcade sticks months in advance via loaner units, but this is the one I stuck with. It’s the easiest device of the four to set up, as everything is plug-and-play, with even a switch to enable PlayStation 3 compatibility if I feel like using it there.

Nacon Daija in white with a PlayStation logo on the front.  It has black buttons and a black ball-top pin.

The main selling point of this fight stick was that if I broke the buttons or pulled the stick too hard, I could repair the broken parts by opening it up and using the included tools to replace them with Sanwa parts. So far I haven’t had to replace any of them, but unfortunately this match stick has since been discontinued. I also see no mention of the successor – the Razer Panthera Evo – outside of a few pages on the website. If you want my recommendation for a fight stick, the Nacon Daija and Mad Catz Ego both use similar high quality Sanwa parts and work well on gaming PCs, although replacing broken parts is a bit more difficult.

The only remaining issue I have with this battle stick is that most games don’t include an option to manually change in-game icons. To its credit, Capcom has recently started doing this with games like Monster Hunter Rise, but not for its retro fighting collections. It’s a bit of a learning curve to remember that the X button on an Xbox controller is the square button on a PlayStation-based pad. I briefly resorted to post-its to remind myself of the Xbox buttons when navigating Mortal Kombat 11’s menus. However, I will soon finish my first key target game, Street Fighter III: Third Strike, since it is officially available via the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection. The arcade stick works here and with more modern games with minimal fuss.

My biggest problems come with light weapons. Until the last couple of years or so, it was impossible to get them to work on LCD or OLED screens. All this changed when the Sinden Light Gun hit the market. The gun comes in two flavors – $105 USD / £90 GBP for the base model and $160 USD / £140 GBP if you want the recoil feature. As a fan of Light Gun games, I wanted to support one as soon as possible, so I chose the recoilless gun. It uses a camera on the end of the device both as a webcam feed and to emulate the mouse, so when active, the cursor will track the screen, and frankly, it’s a miracle. The gun is of decent build quality, with fully customizable buttons and a wired USB for lossless connectivity.

Gaming PC Arcade - a Sinden Light Gun in black with a large USB cable out the bottom of it.  It has an orange tip on the end of the barrel to show that it is not a real firearm.

I occasionally have trouble getting the light gun to work properly since my setup includes two LCD screens and above them two square decorative artwork. The gun gets confused, sometimes I think these paintings are multiple screens so I have to angle them in a way that doesn’t interfere with the Light Gun camera. Additionally, the settings menu is somewhat complicated, and it took watching some YouTube videos from external sources to troubleshoot calibration issues. But by using a white border around the screen, I’m soon blasting away at my screen like I’m at the arcades.

The included Sinden Arcade Pedal came separately, with big thanks to Sinden for the unit. It costs $250 USD / £200 GBP for one or $475 USD / £380 GBP for a set of two. Essentially, these pedals emulate single button presses on the keyboard. This chunky pedal is easy to set up, especially when running arcade versions of Time Crisis through emulators like MAME. One is enough for me since I only care about the early Time Crisis games, but two pedals are required if you want to play future installments in single player. At the very least, it’s more defensible as a luxury purchase if it truly emulates the old-school arcade feel, and after trying it myself, I couldn’t go back.

Since Light Gun requires a bit more work than I had hoped to play nice with House of the Dead Remake. However, the original arcade house House of the Dead works fine using the Sega Model 2 arcade game emulator, which is handy since I need this for games that work with the wheel. The PC ports of the second and third games are also easy to find on and require little setup with the Sinden Light Gun, although I did need to install a dedicated program to force House of the Dead 2 to switch screens. Since the gun doesn’t work with PS3 and both House of the Dead 4 and Scarlet Dawn aren’t available on PC, I’m out of luck on this front.

Finally, let’s discuss the latest addition – the Thrustmaster T128. A mid-range option, this wheel costs around $200 USD / £170 GBP and comes in both PlayStation and Xbox button variants. I should point out that Thrustmaster kindly supplied my Xbox configured Thrustmaster T128. As my first wheel peripheral, the unit is mostly easy to set up, although I wish the foot pedal wire was about a meter longer to help manage cables and ensure the unit reaches my feet.

Gaming PC Arcade - a Thrustmaster T128 steering wheel with Xbox controller and pedals for acceleration and braking.

The wheel build quality is outstanding, with tons of buttons I can map for shifting gears, changing viewpoints, or anything else I need. It doesn’t come with manual gear shifting, opting instead for flappy paddles, but this suits most arcade racers. I can only map the years as first and second gears, while the nearby red buttons could be third and fourth gears. For more modern games, like Forza Horizon 5, I can flip between gears with both paddles as originally intended. The force feedback from the wheel helps with immersion, especially when driving over gravel in Forza Horizon 5. Even when emulating games like Sega Rally, it still gives a bit of a kick to simulate how the original arcade machines work. It’s so well made that I had the confidence to throw it into corners, quickly spinning the wheel and desperately trying to stay on the road.

I had to consult the manual when learning how to attach the wheel to my desk, as I had absolutely no idea how the clamp worked, but the instructions are well written. My only outstanding issue is that the foot pedal won’t sit still. Sure it’s durable, but it slides around my admittedly thin carpet like I’m trying to play on an ice rink. I can imagine this would be worse if I had a wooden floor. It has rubberized soles on each of the four corners, but I don’t think they do much.

I was lucky when it came to finding a PC copy of the original Sega Rally. It’s almost the same as the Sega Saturn version and runs fine on Windows 10. But I just couldn’t get the port to work with the wheel as it looks for ancient devices that no longer exist. So instead I choose to bite the bullet and download it for the same dedicated Sega Model 2 emulator I use to play the original House of the Dead. To my absolute delight, the wheel is instantly compatible without disturbing the Sinden Light Gun settings since the control inputs are game specific. However, it’s worth noting that it took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that I could test without playing the game by seeing the Val number go up and down as I hit the pedals while still in the configuration menu.

Of course, the quest for a full arcade conversion isn’t over. I still reckon a proper flight stick that runs the Star Wars Trilogy arcade (the one where you use a flight stick to fight Darth Vader in a lightsaber duel) will be my next goal, but that’s quite a while away. For now, though, I’m happy to be able to play these retro games using the peripherals as intended, and cost aside, it’s been a mostly painless journey. There’s never been a better time to relive the glory days of the arcade, and with a little help from well-made peripherals, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune or take up too much valuable living space.

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