So I’ve decided that getting the controller working with the Cabinet is going to be by far the hardest part so I am going to start smaller. If I can manage to get this to work I’ll then go on to the full size machine. Thankfully, the software is going to be easy. There is a nifty little product called RetroPi. It is a standard Linux install with some console emulators installed and Emulation Station, which allows the user to select an Emulator and ROM using up/down/left/right. Once this is running, setting up a script to run Emulation Station (Or even creating your own) is super easy. As I alluded to earlier, the hardest part is going to be getting controls installed. I have read some various ideas including soldering arcade controls to the controller board from an xbox controller. Or failing that, using a mechanical keyboard for the same functions. There is also a little controller card that uses a board from a SNES controller to give you the buttons you need, although the dpad on a SNES is only 4 way, not 8 which you would really want.
Anyway, if I can solve the control issue, I will build a small box with controls on the top, the pi inside and an HDMI out directly into my TV. Makes it a portable old school games machine with literally thousands of games on it thanks to RetroPi’s emulators.