Whether you play Super Smash Bros, Street Fighter, or Injustice, fighting games are best played without a mouse and keyboard in sight. You need proper buttons for all that chain-combo action, along with a stick to enable loose and dynamic movements. While many gamers do well enough playing fighting games with a gamepad, with its analog sticks, thumb buttons, and triggers, most serious aficionados refuse to partake in digital hand-to-hand battles without a proper arcade fight stick in tow.
There’s just nothing else like old-school arcade controls for executing combos, performing block strings, and pulling off special moves. A big joystick you can grab with one hand and large action buttons you can mash with all your fingers on the other just allows for so much more control when it comes to fast-paced battles that require perfect timing and flawless executing to win the upper hand.
These are the best arcade fight sticks to help you get that KO.
If you don’t want to spend over a hundred dollars on a fight stick setup and you plan to do your gaming on Sony consoles (PS3, PS4, and PS5) and PCs, this affordable option offers a sleek-looking rig that gets the job done. Is it as good as more expensive flight sticks? Not for the long haul, as it uses its own buttons and joysticks for the controls. While they work good for the most part, they don’t quite have the hair-trigger sensitivity you get with Sanwa parts, which is still fine. The joystick, on the other hand, feels less fluid, as you’ll have to really push it towards a direction to get the right response. Suffice to say, the buttons work well, but the joystick will take some getting used to. With that said, it can be modded with a Sanwa stick if you prefer. It comes with a Tournament Lock switch, by the way, to keep you from accidentally hitting non-game buttons during a game, as well as a built-in storage slot for the USB cable if you’re bringing this thing to a competition.
For Switch gamers, this fun-looking fight stick offers a feature-packed option with plenty of style in tow, coming in with aesthetics that resemble the original NES. It works on Windows, too, in case you tire of all that Smash Bros action and want to play something else you already have on Steam.
As you can imagine at the price, it doesn’t use Sanwa controls. However, both the joystick and buttons work pretty well as is, so unless you’re a really discerning fighting enthusiast, we doubt you’ll have much issues with it. The joystick, which comes with a square gate, has a great clicky feel while being very responsive, with the buttons just feeling slightly less satisfying if you’re used to Sanwa controls. Again, it works well enough that we wouldn’t mind playing with the stock setup, although you can, of course, mod it if you want (beware: it requires a fair bit of work and some soldering).
What sets the 8Bitdo apart, though, is the inclusion of two dedicated macro buttons that you can program using the companion software. That’s right, it lets you bring up macros in fighting games, which, let’s be honest, will get you kicked out of competition, but should make for a lot of fun all the same. It also supports Bluetooth and 2.4G connectivity (using the included dongle) for wireless gaming, complete with a 1,000mAh rechargeable battery onboard.
While many arcade sticks out there support one console and not the other, the EGO from Mad Catz just takes on all platforms with equal aplomb. That’s right, this fight stick works with the Xbox, Playstation, PC, and even the Nintendo Switch, allowing you to use just one controller whether you’re playing Killer Instinct, Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown, or Super Smash Bros Ultimate. Do note, you’ll have to plug in your console controller for the whole ting to work, which is a bit of a nuisance, but a worthy hassle if you want an arcade setup that can work across any system.
It’s not all about the cross-platform compatibility, either, as it offers top-notch controls with a Sanwa ball top joystick on an eight-way gate and Sanyo face buttons. The ball top is especially impressive with how comfortable and responsive it is to handle, allowing you to control your character’s movements with reassuring clicks, while the buttons are all very responsive, relaying inputs in a timely and accurate manner. The chassis stays in place the whole time you’re mashing, too, so you won’t be distracted by any sliding movements during more intense moments. And yes, it comes with a screwdriver, so you can open the chassis and replace parts if you so wish.
Some people have called it the best fight stick for the Xbox platform. We’re inclined to agree, with its eight-way Hayabusa joystick and buttons allowing for excellent in-game control. We love both the sensitivity and responsiveness of the stick, as well as the smooth functionality of buttons. Granted, they feel different to Sanwa controls, so if that’s what you want, there are plenty of fight sticks that offer that as stock, but in our experience, this doesn’t even require getting used to, as the controls really work well off the bat. It has a Key Lock mode that disables the non-gaming buttons, so you can avoid accidental presses during serious competitive matches, while easily removable top plate lets you easily customize it with new designs.
Yes, the chassis makes it look like it delivers flight controls for a spaceship simulator rather than a fighting game controller. However, it is a fight stick and it is one of the best you can get if you do your gaming on a Playstation or a PC. It uses Sanwa Denshi joystick and buttons, so you can get the classic tactile feel of old-school arcade controls, with a design that makes it easy to swap out parts, in case you need to replace anything down the line. All the bells and whistles are onboard, including condensed system buttons (center of the top front edge), fancy LED lighting, anti-slip pads, and even a clickable touch pad on the bottom for handy use with the PC. At the size, though, it’s way inconvenient to bring along during tournaments, but it will make for a dazzling centerpiece in your main gaming corner at home.
If you’re willing to shell out any price for the best fighting game peripheral you can get your hands on, then it’s time to embrace the Victrix. One of the most thoughtfully-designed arcade control setups out there, it brings a curved chassis for ergonomic wrist placement and a semi-hollow aluminum body that makes it lightweight enough to carry with you when playing in-person tournament matches, as well as non-slip pads on the bottom designed to rest securely on both flat surfaces and players’ laps alike. It uses Sanwa buttons to ensure the familiar feel and responsiveness, as well as a removable Sanya joystick, so the whole thing can pack flat when you travel. Some finer details like customizable LED lighting, full audio controls, and programmable buttons are also in tow, but, of course, that all takes second rank to just how well this thing plays. Suffice to say, it’s well worth that astronomical asking price. Do note, it’s not universal, so you can either get one that works on Xbox or Playstation consoles, but not both.