I’ve been going back and forth on where to start with the $600 AtGames Legends Ultimate arcade cabinet. If I had to sum the thing up in three words, I’d say “near endless options.” If you want an arcade, but space or finances limit you to just one, then this might be the perfect arcade for you.
You’ve probably heard of Arcade1Up and its excellent entries in the home arcade market. AtGames is the closest you’ll get to a true Arcade1Up competitor, but the companies couldn’t have taken a more different approach to the concept.
While Arcade1Up focuses on beautiful replica arcade machines that host a few games each, AtGames went with a very generic-looking machine filled to the brim with titles. And if the 300(!) video games don’t do for you, AtGames made it incredibly easy to add your own. You can buy add-on dongles, add a Raspberry Pi, subscribe to more games, or stream games straight from your PC. This thing is a modder’s dream.
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I can almost assemble an Arcade1Up machine blindfolded because, until recently, they all followed the same formula. You build an entire cabinet Ikea-style and route cables from the control deck to display and lights. It’s a tedious process.
And while the AtGames Legends Ultimate is still tedious, the company managed to make the process easier. When the Legends Ultimate arrives, you get in a box at least twice the size of an Arcade1Up box. The reason becomes obvious quickly—the entire upper half of the machine comes preassembled.
You don’t have to put a display in place or wire up speakers or the lit marquee. Instead, you’ll build the lower half of the cabinet (effectively a hollow box), connect the two halves, then attach three cables to the control deck. The most tedious part is the artwork.
Instead of printed directly on the MDF sides, the Legends Ultimate artwork arrives as two rolled-up vinyl pieces. In the video above, you’ll see me take the logical step of inserting all the screws from top to bottom. But that was a mistake and will leave the vinyl pieces floppy.
Instead, you need to follow a set path of driving the screws to get a tight fit. Once you do, the artwork looks great. But I found myself annoyed at the final result until I discovered the proper instructions on the AtGames website instead of in the box.
Still, altogether it took me about 30 minutes to build a near full-sized arcade machine, and that’s not bad.
The big draw to the Legends Ultimate machine is the sheer number of games you get with the device. While lots of arcade machines come with three or four games, the Legends Ultimate comes with 300. Surely with multiple hundreds of games, you’ll find something you like, right?
Yes, probably. But don’t get your hopes up about giant swaths of quality. The vast majority of the collection are ancient games from the likes of Atari. You probably won’t find Soccer or Basketball all that inspiring. But that does mean a few classics like Pong, Missile Command, and Asteroids. Speaking of Asteroids, that “300 games” claim feels a little inflated when you get doubles of games like Asteroid and Tempest, once in the console version and once as an arcade version. No one is ever going to play the inferior console versions of those games.
On the newer end, you’ll find some Sega entries. That led to some confusion on my part. I was excited to see Aladdin and Lion King from my SNES days, but these are the SEGA versions. For Lion King, that isn’t much of a difference, but the SNES version of Aladdin is vastly superior, in my opinion. Oh well.
Despite that, there’s plenty of gems to be found—Disney’s Fix-it Felix Jr. game is a favorite in this house, and if you don’t already own Arcade1Up’s Burger Time machine, this machine has all of the games from that machine: Burger Time, Karate Champs, Caveman Ninja, and Bad Dudes.
Check out the whole list, but chances are you’ll find at least six or seven games you’ll really like, which is pretty great, especially when you consider the excellent control deck.
The Legends Arcade comes with a 24-inch horizontal LCD display. It is, in a word, fantastic. Colors are bright and vivid, viewing angles are good (considering you play on top of the thing), and games look great. Because it’s horizontal, some vertical layout games, like Burger Time, get smooshed slightly to fit. But I prefer what Arcade1Up did; it’s the better compromise.
A good display doesn’t matter if your arcade machine’s controls are mushy, and I’m happy to say AtGames nailed this one. The joysticks get an eight-way octagon restrictor, and it feels solid. When you need into the diagonals, it locks properly. That’s the best choice to make considering the large swatch of games that call for different controls.
They may not quite be Sanwa quality joysticks, but they feel close. The buttons are fantastic, too. You can hear the springs when you mash the buttons, and they push back with confidence. I don’t feel like I’m going to break them in an intense session.
AtGames went a bit further than other arcades and included spinners and a trackball. Precious few games take advantage, but those that do benefit. The spinners are wonderful. Give them a quick flip, and they’ll spin practically forever. Yet, they feel weighty and solid, and the indent for your finger is a great touch. They’re almost a fidget spinner that you don’t even need a game to enjoy.
The trackball is pretty good. It’s a trackball, so it’s hard to complain. It has a gritty feel when you use it, which I don’t love but doesn’t seem to slow it down. If you prefer a little texture when you slide a trackball, you’ll probably like it.
One weaker point in the hardware is the speakers. The Legends Ultimate has a couple of decent-sized speakers just above the display, and while they get plenty loud, they don’t have any bass. That’s fine for all the retro games, but you’ll notice when you start to mod the thing.
Oh yes, you can mod this arcade.
Despite coming with 300 games, in some ways, the real strength is in what you can add to the Legends Ultimate. Look closely at the top left corner of the control deck, and you’ll find an HDMI port, two USB ports, and a channel button.
You can connect a device like a Raspberry Pi or an Android phone to the HDMI port and output its video to the Legends Ultimate’s display. Then you can use Bluetooth to pair up the arcade controls to your device. Meaning with just a couple of cables, you can easily add your own (legally acquired) games to the Legends Ultimate. If you have a RetroPie setup or games you love on your mobile device, you can play them on the Legends Ultimate’s excellent screen and controls.
But it doesn’t stop there. If you buy any of AtGames’ Blast game dongles, you can add those games to the system. Or you can subscribe to the AtGames ArcadeNet service, which will add more games to your Arcade through streaming. You can subscribe for free to get access to 10 games and a limited playtime or choose from several paid levels that top out at $60 a month for 80 games and unlimited playtime. And if you’re interested in playing pinball games, AtGames sells optional pinball controls that easily connect to the sides of the control deck.
Do you already own your games on a gaming PC? Then you can install AtGames’ streaming software and play them on the Legends Ultimate machine. I’ve tried all those methods to add games except the Blast dongles, and they work surprisingly well—depending on your internet speeds.
To help with that, you can connect either over Wi-Fi or ethernet. But a warning on the former—the Legends Ultimate doesn’t like some routers, especially if you use a complicated password with symbols. I can’t maintain a stable connection to my home’s Wi-Fi, even after hours with customer service and several firmware update tests. But connecting to ethernet (or changing my password to something without symbols) solves the problem. I’m not willing to change my internet password, so I either use ethernet or my phone’s hotspot.
In one final neat trick, once you get your internet connection up and running, you can stream your gameplay to Twitch, Facebook, and YouTube. It’s a fun party trick, but because the arcade doesn’t have microphones or a camera, it seems like you’ll want to rig your own setup if you’re serious about streaming.
So, down to brass tacks. Should you buy the Legends Ultimate Arcade? If you’re in the market for an arcade machine, then yes. If you have limited space and can only get one arcade cabinet, this is the one to get. You’ll get the most bang for your buck, even if it does look a little more generic than Arcade1Up’s entries.
The fact that you can mod it so easily and add your games makes this the dream machine that does all the things in a solid package. If you want a beautiful machine to look at, maybe turn to Arcade1Up instead. But for maximum value, it’s hard to beat the Legends Ultimate.
If $600 is too much for a full-sized arcade, you could spend less on one of AtGames Legends Gamer entries. They’re essentially just the Legends Ultimate control deck without the rest of cabinet. You won’t get as many games, and you need to provide your own TV and speakers. However, depending on the model you get, you can still benefit from the excellent joysticks, buttons, and spinners.
But if you want a full-sized arcade, put the Legends Ultimate on your shortlist. It’s a solid entry in the burgeoning retro arcade cabinet market.
Here’s What We Like
- Fantastic controls
- Loads of games
- You can mod this easily
And What We Don't
- Kind of expensive
- So-so speakers