I’m in love. The Dream Arcades Magic Arcade is that good. It’s a $999 DIY arcade cabinet with two controllers and a rollerball that can play any game ever, within reason. It is a font of joy, a source of fun, and it’s a great product from folks who have been building these things for years.

Yeah. You can say I’m stoked.

What is it?

The Magic Arcade is a 61-inch tall stand-up arcade kit with two joysticks, a rollerball, and twelve player buttons. Inside it runs a 21.5-inch wide-angle view HD monitor coupled with a tiny Windows 10 PC with a 2.8Ghz processor and 4GB RAM. That’s more than enough for the games you can throw at this thing including, but not limited to, almost any arcade game, NES games, Dreamcast, and even some electronic board games like Mattel’s original Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game. Cool, right?

The kit comes disassembled and it took us about an hour to put together. The parts fit together cleanly thanks to a very nice set of pre-drilled boards and easy to drive screws. The “brains” of the system is hidden inside the controller and the wiring is dead simple. We receive the “neon” sign in the package which uses a set of white LEDs to light up the Magic Arcade logo. A button on the bottom of the controller bar turns the system on and off with one touch and you control the PC with wireless or wired keyboard or the scroll ball.

Even since I was a kid, way back in the 1980s, I’ve always dreamt of having a stand-up arcade game in the house. Imagine! The possibilities, back then, were limited to expensive and bulky Centipede cabinets and the like and my parents, knowing that I’d probably get bored playing Dig Dug for a decade, rightfully refused my entreaties. This thing, however, is far superior. The build quality is excellent and the controls are first rate. I was playing with a friend’s kid recently and he was literally hanging off of the controller and it didn’t break. That’s quality.

How do you get games?

This is the interesting thing about the console: the games are surprisingly easy to get. First, Dream Arcades sells packages of classic games including Midway titles and even some NES games.

The system also comes with 250 public domain games including a full set of Atari titles like Computer Math (!!).

Obviously that’s not enough to keep everyone in the house happy so the system also supports downloads of titles that you have legal rights to access. For example, you can search for Street Fighter, find a list of titles, and grab them from open sources on the Internet. Obviously you’re going to want to remain on the right side of the law here, but let’s just say you can easily download thousands of games in seconds.

The game quality is excellent. Everything from modern titles to classic Star Wars cabinets worked perfectly. You can simulate a coin by tapping a button on the side of the controller so you’ll never run out of lives, allowing you to finish games like The Simpsons and TMNT without having to bother your mom for another dollar.

Should you buy it?

I’ve spent years trying to find the perfect handheld emulator. I think I’ve gotten multiple devices just to play classic games on new hardware and I’ve probably spent hundreds on hardware just to get Legend of Zelda II working correctly on some obscure processor. Yeah, I’m addicted.

So this is a no-brainer. If you have any desire to play classic games, this is the best way to do it. For less than $999 you’re going to have a device that plays better than any classic arcade game and holds more games than the beach holds grains of sand. If I’m being hyperbolic it’s because I’m excited.

I’ve build Dream Arcades cabinets before and this one was a breeze. The whole thing is nicely finished and quite cleverly assembled. The controls are great and the screen is more than acceptable.

Obviously this thing is big. It is a bit smaller than a standard arcade cabinet but it still takes up a lot of room. If you have a den or game room it will fit perfectly but I wouldn’t recommend it for a studio apartment. That said, it looks cool and the light up sign gives it that lovely arcade glow.

I’m honestly surprised the company has reduced the price of this thing to something accessible by everyone and it’s a great office toy (although they do sell a 4-player model that looks amazing). No matter how you slice it, this thing is great.

So yeah, I’m a bit biased: I’ve wanted something like this since I was a kid. But now that I finally have it I can happily report that I’m not bored of it at all. There’s just something about that warm CRT glow that makes this thing worth every penny and I can highly recommend it to anyone who has ever longed to hear “Use the Force, Luke” while firing at vector-drawn TIE fighters in the comfort of their own home.

Red Five standing by!

By John Biggs

John Biggs is an entrepreneur, consultant, writer, and maker. He spent fifteen years as an editor for Gizmodo, CrunchGear, and TechCrunch and has a deep background in hardware startups, 3D printing, and blockchain. His work has appeared in Men’s Health, Wired, and the New York Times.

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