Fight sticks are special video game controllers tailor-made for, well, fighting games. They typically duplicate the feel and look of the classic, Street Fighter-inspired panel, which features the joystick and two-button-row layout commonly seen on arcade uprights. In fact, the fight stick market was essentially birthed when ridiculously popular fighting games like Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat received home console ports.
"Fighting games started in arcade cabinets that used joystick and buttons for controls, and using an arcade stick replicates the arcade experience at home," according to Kaz Ohira of Hori, a premier fight stick manufacturer. "Joystick and buttons allow for extremely accurate input, and these parts are what players look for in an arcade stick."
It's that arcade feel of gripping a lollipop- or baseball bat-style joystick in one hand, and manipulating buttons with the other, that draws people to adopting fight sticks. It's not a nostalgic feeling, either. There's an actual tactile reason why you see many fighting game players lugging fighting sticks to local and international tournaments.
Reyes bought a PCB for the stick's interior, and found someone to wire it for multi-system compatibility. "It feels like second nature, as I grew up in the arcades," he said. "You don't get a [console] controller in an arcade."
The most important thing you should do before buying a fight stick is determining the platforms on which you'll use it. Some fight sticks are designed exclusively for PlayStation use; others are designed with Nintendo or Xbox in mind. Fortunately, PC players don't have to dwell in such walled gardens. Due to the open nature of the Windows platform, you can use Nintendo, PlayStation, or Xbox fight sticks out of the box or with a bit of software tinkering. If you have a Steam Deck, your fight sticks should work with Valve's handheld gaming PC, too.
I experienced this firsthand when I used the Qanba Obsidian arcade stick to play The King of Fighters XV and other fighting games without issue, despite the fact that the PC isn't one of the listed compatible platforms. Naturally, some of the stick's PlayStation 4-centric features, such as image sharing and touchpad functionality, didn't work with the PC.
If you're in the stick game for the long haul, you'll want to find one that uses real arcade-quality parts (Sanwa Denshi and Seimitsu are the two titans in the field) that will handle the wear and tear that comes with long play sessions. Thankfully, there's quite some distance between now and the 1990s and early 2000s, when buying a stick meant dealing with suspect parts that couldn't handle intense fighting game action.
Though fight sticks are literally made with fighting games in mind, they are perfectly viable controllers for other arcade-style video games, such as Ikaruga or Metal Slug 3. Basically, any game that doesn't require dual analog sticks is rife for fight stick enjoyment.
"[A budget] stick may not have all of the bells and whistles compared to our premium arcade stick lineup, but we have made sure that quality isn't compromised with the lower cost," Ohira told us. "We recommend this stick for the novice players who want to learn to play on stick, as well as more experienced players that are looking for a portable stick to take on the road."
There are cheaper arcade sticks on the market, but few entry-level models match the PS4/PS3/PC-compatible Qanba Drone's overall quality. At $79.99, the Drone exists in the higher end of the sub-$100 budget arcade stick category, but it doesn't make the typical sacrifices that you find in lower-price sticks.
Officially licensed by Microsoft for use with the Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC, the $199 Hori Fighting Stick is a tournament-ready arcade stick with many user-friendly features. On the Xbox side, you'll find the familiar Profile and Share buttons. On the Hori side, you'll find the company's own Hayabusa lever and matte-finish buttons that are designed for faster response times and cleaner inputs (the company claims that the stick cuts input loads by up to 15 percent).
The Obsidian was such a success for Qanba that the company used it as the base for another arcade stick: The nearly all-white, $199 Qanba Pearl. The Sony-licensed Pearl is compatible with the PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 3 video game consoles (plus PC), so it comes as no surprise that it features a touch panel for games that support swipe gestures.
Measuring 5.0 by 18 by 10 inches and weighing 6.6 pounds, The Qanba Pearl is hefty controller that won't budge when you're furiously executing moves. That steadiness comes courtesy of aluminum-alloy side panels and anti-slip pads. Under the hood you'll find a Sanwa Denshi arcade-quality, ball-top joystick and Sanwa Denshi buttons.
Sometimes you've just got to floss. Priced at a whopping $349 (the cost of a 1TB PlayStation 4 console!), the Victrix Pro FS doesn't come cheap. However, if you're looking for a premium fight stick experience that has arcade-quality parts and lets you stunt on rival tournament entrants, drop some shekels on this bad boy.
The lovechild of a fight stick and a mechanical keyboard, the $269 Mixbox may be the ultimate best-of-both-worlds solution. Featuring Cherry MX WASD keys and arcade-quality Sanwa Denshi buttons, the Mixbox offers the precise controls that fighting game fans desire. The Mixbox measures 2.4 by 14.9 by 9.0 inches, and weighs 5.5 pounds.
The 8Bitdo Arcade Stick, the follow-up to the N30 Arcade Stick, tops its predecessor in almost every way. The $89.99 arcade stick has a heavier, more substantial build, and comes with a 2.4GHz USB wireless adapter and Bluetooth connectivity for wireless play with the PC or Nintendo Switch. That's not something you see in many fight sticks.
The Arcade Stick measures 4.4 by 11.9 by 8 inches and weighs 4.6 pounds. That shaves off nearly an inch from the N30's depth, but adds approximately 1.5 pounds. However, that's a benefit; a good arcade stick should feel secure wherever you place it, whether on your lap or a table. You'll find four, anti-slip rubber feet on the stick's bottom that prevents sliding. Unfortunately, the stick lacks cable storage.
8Bitdo's stick lacks genuine arcade parts, but the ball-top stick is satisfyingly clicky, and the buttons are sturdy, silent, and feature a shallow throw for quick reactions. In an enthusiast-friendly move, 8Bitdo makes it easy to pop the stick's top, so you can swap in your preferred parts. On the topic of customization, the 8Bitdo Ultimate Software lets you remap buttons or create macros (reminder: controllers with macros are often banned from tournaments).
ConsNoneBuy From Amazon: F500 ($85.98), F500 Elite ($129.96)2. HORI Real Arcade Pro 4 Kai (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360)The HORI Arcade Pro 4 Kai is another highly used high-end arcade stick, with many features to back up its comparatively lower price of about $145. This arcade stick is beautiful while maintaining a lightweight despite the bottom being metal.The joystick is an original Hori Hayabusa, providing very fast and accurate inputs once mastered. The Arcade Pro 4 ditches Sanwa buttons in favor of Hori Kuro buttons, which are harder to master than Sanwa, but when mastered provide remarkable durability and response.
The arcade stick is an 8-button stick with a start button on the right and L3 and R3 buttons on the side. The Arcade Pro 4 Kai also has a precise touchpad, and a turbo functionality as well.Like many other high-end arcade sticks, the Hori Arcade Pro 4 Kai can also be modified quite easily, and the buttons can also be replaced by Sanwa buttons. The Arcade Pro 4 also has good compatibility, covering the PS3 and PS4 in consoles, and PCs as well.ProsHigh-end materialAccurate touchpadReplaceable buttonsCompatible with major consolesConsFalse inputs once in a whileBuy From Amazon: PS3/PS4/PC ($149.99), Xbox/PC ($164)
ProsMod the buttonsFeels premiumAdjustable clampReplaceable buttonsConsUSB cable is shorterBuy From Amazon: $67.904. Madcatz Arcade FightStick TES+ (PS3, PS4)Madcatz covers all the different budgets, and the Arcade FightStick TES+ is certainly one of their high-end fight sticks. With a price tag of $130, this arcade stick is surely made for the enthusiasts who will utilize all the features this fight stick comes with. The Madcatz TES+ is a tournament edition fight stick made for competitive gaming.
The build quality of the TES+ sets the bar high, with the fightstick being constructed of metal, plastic, and glass, with rubber for a good grip on the surface. The fight stick features an 8-button layout, like many other high-end arcade sticks with high-quality parts. Both the buttons and the handle are Sanwa Denshi parts, with the buttons being extremely responsive with a little resistance to make it ideal for fighting games.It brings a 3-way button that enables the joystick to emulate a left or right analog stick or D-Pad. I also love the 9.8ft/3m USB cable on this Street Fighter arcade stick which keeps me at a comfortable distance from your TV while enabling low latency gameplay. Overall, this is a great arcade stick and you should definitely check it out.ProsPowerful fight stickHigh-quality partsExcellent performanceVery responsiveConsSlightly expensiveBuy From Amazon: $169.99
ConsNo Sanwa buttonsBuy From Amazon: $52.396. Razer Panthera (PS4) / Razer Atrox (Xbox One)If you are looking for a premium arcade stick for your brand new PS4 or Xbox One then these are the arcade stick you should look at. Both the Razer Panthera and Razer Atrox feature almost similar features with the only difference being their compatibility.While the Razer Panthera is compatible with PS4, the Razer Atrox is compatible with Xbox One. By the way, both of them are compatible with PC. Both of these arcade sticks use high-quality Sanwa hardware components (joystick and buttons) so you know that you are getting quality material here. 2b1af7f3a8