Best Upright Arcade Machine: Ultimate Buying Guide

An upright arcade machine in any man cave or game room will without a doubt impress! Nothing beats an arcade classic that brings you back to when the most exciting pastime was a trip to the corner shop for a game of Pac-Man or Mortal Kombat.

You can relive the nostalgia right at home with an upright arcade machine. More than a decoration, this timeless gaming equipment can be included in your rotation, should you find yourself playing something other than darts or pool.

What is an Upright Arcade Machine?

An upright arcade machine or an arcade cabinet is a classic gaming machine that is typically coin-operated. It is electronic hardware with a monitor encased in a bulky cabinet designed with game-related art.

The upright cabinet is mostly made of wood and metal. It stands up to six feet with a monitor and a control panel placed a bit above waist level. A marquee often overhangs above the monitor, bearing the title of the game.

The control panel typically consists of a joystick and several action buttons. In other versions, a trackball replaces the joystick to control the movement in-game. Some upright arcade machines featuring driving gameplay use a steering wheel and throttle pedal instead of the usual setup. Others will have light guns in place if it’s a classic shooting game.

Arcade Machines: Upright vs Cocktail

Don’t confuse Upright Arcade Machines with Cocktail Arcade Machines.

An upright arcade machine has the monitor at almost eye level, a cocktail arcade machine features a monitor that faces upwards in the middle of the table. A cocktail cabinet is shaped like a rectangular table with control panels at either end. 

Besides the distinctive design, both arcade machines consume space differently. Cocktail cabinets generally have a larger footprint because of their form. It’s typically placed in the middle of a gaming area so that players can sit comfortably. On the other hand, upright arcade machines can fit corners and take up less space.

Additionally, the viewing angle for upright cabinets is more convenient than the cocktail versions. Players must hunch over to see the monitor in the middle. 

Things to Consider Before Buying

When picking the best upright arcade machine, you must consider several things before you go ahead with a purchase.

Personal Preference

Arcade machines are a top choice if you want to add more entertainment options for your man cave or gaming den. When picking a game, it has to be heavily influenced by the genre you love playing the most. Whether it’s a shooting, racing, survival, or others, what matters is that it’s a game you won’t get sick of playing for hours on end.

Size

In general, larger machines are more expensive, but you can get a wider screen and better gameplay experience with them. Most large upright arcade machines allow multiplayer modes, making it more enjoyable for you and your family or friends.

Many gaming machines are designed to fit into modern-day doorways, about 32 inches wide. You must also consider these cabinets’ height since you might have trouble fitting in a six-foot machine if your space has a low ceiling. 

Build Quality

When you’re trying to build a themed gaming den, ensuring that your arcade machine matches the aesthetic is vital. More than that, you also must ensure that the cabinet is made of high-quality materials such as plywood or MDF particleboard. These builds are long-lasting and worth every penny you spend.

What Games are Included?

You’ll get value for money when you choose arcade machines that have more than one game titles included. It’s one of the initial things to look for when shopping for these gaming systems. Multi-game arcade machines can often have hundreds or thousands of games, giving you more variety.

What System Does it Use?

All upright arcade machines have their own operating system that lets the machine boot up straight into game mode, just like a console would.

Knowing what system the arcade machine runs is only useful if you plan on running your own games.

Best 5 Upright Arcade Machines

Here are our top picks for upright arcade machines and why you should consider buying them.

Arcade1Up Mortal Kombat Arcade Cabinet

Mortal KombatThe Mortal Kombat Arcade Cabinet from Arcade1Up deserves top spot on this list because it has an excellent price for such a classic game. It emulates the original fighting experience minus the bulk since it’s just three-quarters the traditional machine’s size. At around four feet, this machine is perfect for limited spaces.

The LCD screen offers crisp and clear images, upping your gaming experience.  The overall design provides retro vibes that scream classic all the way. 

What we really like about the Arcade1Up machines is the build quality. So much thought has gone into small details. Nothing about these machines looks cheap… and to be honest, that’s what you want in your man cave.

Pros

  • Almost perfect replica of the original arcade cabinet
  • Includes the original Mortal Kombat along with MK II, Ultimate MK 3, Joust, Defender + more games
  • Miniature version of the original design (although a riser can be purchased separately to increase the height of the cabinet)
  • Coinless operation

Cons

  • Quite a large $$$ investment
  • Takes time to assemble

4 Player Upright Arcade Machine with 4,708 Games in 1 32" Monitor Trackballs
  • 32" LED Monitor
  • Dimensions: 70" H x 34" L x 37" W 300 Lbs
  • 4,708 Games in 1 * Play Classic 4 Player Games

You might have grown up playing one of these awesome 4,708 games on this Prime Arcade machine. All these games are pre-loaded in one, so there’s no reason to get bored of playing the same game over again. 

It also allows you to play with your friends in the multiplayer mode for Street Fighter, Sunset Riders, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and other games.

Pros

  • Huge collection of games
  • five-year warranty
  • Plug-and-play with no setup necessary
  • Voice control and amplifier are included

Cons

  • Heavy at 300 pounds
  • Games are duplicated and can be confusing
  • Scores are not saved

Creative Arcades Full Size Stand-Up Commercial Grade Arcade Machine | 4 Player | 3500 Games | 32" LCD Screen | 4 Sanwa Joysticks | Trackball | 2 Stools Included | 3 Year Warranty
  • ✔️ FULL-SIZE COMMERCIAL GRADE: Equipped with the Highest Quality SANWA Joysticks, Trackball, 32" LCD Monitor, Thick Tempered Glass, and more! We stand behind our products because we are industry leaders in quality craftsmanship and design.
  • ✔️3500 CLASSIC GAMES INCLUDED: Feel like a kid again while playing the pre-installed 80's and 90's classic games! Whether playing for fun or competitively with your friends and family, this arcade machine is guaranteed to be a big hit!
  • ✔️ PLUG AND PLAY: No setup necessary. Simply plug the game machine in and choose from a comprehensive game list. Supports free and paid gameplay with no setup required. All of our Arcade Models also include a commercial grade custom Volume Control Module with Bass, Treble and Balance inside the cabinet.
The Creative Arcades Full-Size Commercial Grade Cabinet Arcade Machines make it to the list because of their impressive 32-inch display and SANWA high-quality trackball and joysticks. You’ll be able to enjoy your favorite 80’s and 90’s games all in one machine!

This arcade cabinet also impresses with its aesthetic value. The woodgrain edition achieves a vintage feel to the machine. It’s plug-and-play with support for both paid and free games. Audio and video are up-to-date, making a superb modern twist to a classic.

Pros

  • Multiplayer mode
  • Woodgrain design completes a vintage aesthetic
  • System can be updated with new games

Cons

  • Expensive 
  • Plenty of duplicated games 
  • Scores are not saved

Ms. Pac-Man/Galaga Class of 1981 Arcade Gaming Cabinet
  • Ms Pac-Man and Galaga plus four hidden bonus games: Pac-Man, Speedy Pac-Man, Speedy Ms. Pac-Man, and Rapid Fire Galaga
  • Real arcade controls, full sized cabinet and 24" commercial arcade monitor
  • Identical to coin-operated machines, with deactivated coin-door
If you’ve spent countless hours playing this classic game, you’d love to have the Ms. Pac-Man/Galaga Class of 1981 Arcade Gaming Cabinet in your man cave. This machine will make you relive your childhood with its close to original graphics and feel. 

Besides Ms. Pac-Man, you will also get the iconic 80’s classic Galaga to double the fun. The 24-inch monitor is housed in a double-sided retro art cabinet with a quick-response joystick that fuels your adrenaline. 

Pros

  • It boasts the precise feel of the original Pac-Man games
  • Wide monitor and fast-paced joystick
  • Four bonus games on top of the two classics

Cons

  • More expensive than other arcade machines
  • Deactivated coin door
  • Few glitches on the screen

Chicago Gaming Arcade Legends 3 Upright Arcade Game Machine
  • Arcade Legends 3 is a full sized arcade game for the home
  • Coin-door has been permanently deactivated; Arcade Legends 3 is for home use only; Commercial use is prohibited
  • Featuring a full sized cabinet; commercial quality arcade controls and a 26-Inch LCD display
Also worthy of the man cave or games room is the Chicago Gaming Arcade Legends 3 Upright Arcade Machine. This machine is also packed a bunch of games and although there aren’t as many as some others machines in our list, many classics are included like: Asteroids, Golden Tee, Berzerk and Bubble Bobble.

Pros

  • Excellent list of popular games
  • Ability to save high scores
  • 26-inch LED monitor

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Coin door is a dummy door and can’t be operated
  • Heavy at 380 lbs
  • No volume control

Final Thoughts

The best upright arcade machine will complete the look and feel of any gaming den. Before you buy that arcade cabinet, make sure it will fit in your man cave or game room AND have the games that you actually want to play!