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If you’re a hardcore, competitive gamer or just one who loves fighting games, you’ll want to take the next step in improving the experience by investing in a fight stick. Whether you’re duking it out against Sub-Zero in Mortal Kombat or launching your umpteenth Hadouken in Street Fighter, everything is taken to the next level with an arcade stick. In fact, it’s generally accepted that without a fight stick, there’s a definitive cap to how well you play any fighting game.
5 Best Fight Sticks / Arcade Sticks Reviewed
Fight sticks are an essential part of anyone who considers themselves as a part of the active fighting game community. It’s a weapon that greatly enhances what you can achieve in fighting games thanks to the thoughtful button layout and more arcade-like experience.
We’ve reviewed our 5 favorite fight sticks available right now. Some of these names have existed for a while and are tried and tested, while others were only released recently.
The Mayflash F500 is a multiplatform fight stick that uses great build quality. The fighting stick is highly modifiable and comes with various neat features like a headphone jack, a compartment for the USB cable, and the ability to use Magicboots that eliminates the need to connect your gamepad or controller to it.
Mayflash F500 is neither the most expensive fight stick you can buy nor the most innovative. However, everything it succeeds in doing is just right, and its great value, reliable construction, and high modifiability make it our favorite fight stick for consoles and PC alike.
The Mayflash F500 combines great affordability with excellent performance. It also has incredible multiplatform compatibility, making it one of the most versatile and widely applicable fight sticks you can buy. You can use it with just about any gaming platform of your choice. This fight stick is compatible with PS4, PS3, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, Android, and NEOGEO mini. Yep, you probably won’t ever need to buy another dedicated fight stick for a separate console once you own the Mayflash F500, and we’re fans of that.
This arcade stick is not only almost universally compatible, but it is also highly customizable. From the artwork that hides behind the plexi panel to every button on the stick, you can opt to mod it to your liking. Although the included buttons are really good, if you’re an extensive user you’ll want to swap them out for Sanwa ones after a while, and Mayflash F500 lets you do that with ease.
Furthermore, there’s the nifty inclusion of features like a headphone jack and a dedicated compartment to slot in your USB cable when you’re not using it. Mayflash F500 also comes with an additional octagonal restrictor gate.
There’s also an additional addon called MagicBoots that can connect to the USB port on the arcade stick. It removes the need to connect your controller to it. However, you need to buy this separately, and there is a different one for each console.
The F500 is our top overall pick because of how well it improves upon the massively popular Mayflash F300 in every way. It’s not outright the best arcade stick money can buy – we’d give that accolade to the Razer Panthera. However, the combination of platform compatibility, great price, great construction, and modding potential the F500 our most recommended fight stick for any gamer.
The Razer Panthera is an expensive investment, but one that suits every e-sport enthusiast who loves to display their skills in fighting tournaments. This is a premium product and certainly the best one for Sony PlayStation 4.
The Panthera Evo is the latest iteration of the flagship fight sticks made by the gaming peripheral company Razer. Razer is a polarizing figure in the gaming peripheral market – many view their products as top-tier, while others frown at the exorbitant pricing. Regardless of where you stand, it’s hard to deny that many of Razer’s products are top-notch, and the Panthera Evo is no exception.
Sure, it does demand a premium price tag, but it is arguably one of the most coveted fight sticks by competitive gamers. Like its predecessor, the Panthera Evo is originally designed for the PS4. The fight stick also works on PC. Unlike the older Panthera though, the Panthera Evo limits itself to the PS4, which means it is incompatible with PS3. Given the stage of this console generation, we don’t necessarily think that’s a negative.
From a technical standpoint, this arcade stick has it all. Even though Razer has opted to use their own set of buttons instead of Sanwa buttons, the difference you’ll feel between the two is negligible. It is without a doubt that Panthera Evo’s buttons are designed to function almost exactly like Sanwa ones, and their build quality is high-end, ensure they have the durability to match Sanwa’s. Razer does, however, retain the tried and tested Sanwa joystick here.
One of the more welcoming additions to this fight stick is the integrated headphone jack, something that was missing in the previous iteration. Razer has also made it incredibly easy to customize the artwork to your liking thanks to the sturdy but easily removable plexiglass up top. The ergonomics are also improved, with a slant at the bottom for you to comfortably rest your forearms during long sessions.
Razer has however made the modding of this fight stick a little trickier than the regular Panthera. You’ll need tools to access the internals of the fight stick. However, given the high quality of the components, most gamers won’t look to mod anything beyond the fight stick’s artwork.
If you’re looking for a great alternative to the Razer Panthera Evo that adds a bit more classiness and bling to the mix, the Qanba Obsidian is an excellent option.
Despite its appeal, great aesthetics, and admittedly hefty price tag, the Qanba Obsidian is actually not the company’s flagship fight stick. That would be the Qanba Dragon. While the Qanba Dragon is certainly a fantastic fight stick, the Obsidian offers much better value because of its sensational design and high-quality components. It almost makes the Qanba Dragon seem obsolete.
Beautiful design and fantastic performance make the Qanba Obsidian an essential consideration for any PS4 or PC owner looking for a great arcade stick. This standout performer sports a phenomenal look. The shiny top doesn’t look gaudy at all despite the odd-looking motif around the joystick. The key standout is the white contrast of the rest of the body.
Black and white seems simple, but Qanba adds an extra bit of appeal to the mix with LED accents on the side panels. It’s a sleek and modern implementation of integrated LED lights, which are controlled by a button on the top panel to switch between a constant ambient glow, flashing as a response to the vibration control signal from software, or flashing to respond to button inputs. In addition, there is also a 3.5mm headphone jack integrated into the case.
Qanba is using high-quality Sanwa Denshi pushbuttons and a Sanwa JLF lever that is square gated, all arranged in an industry-standard Vewlix positioning. The build quality is undoubtedly phenomenal, and this fight stick is designed to withstand impacts and last.
Of course, this high-quality design comes at a price (literally and figuratively). It costs plenty, and it’s shut tight, designed to prevent access and easy modding. Qanba hasn’t designed to give the user easy access to the internals, which is a negative for anyone looking to mod it out Regardless, with the setup and the high-quality buttons available here, it’s hard to imagine why most who buy this arcade stick would even consider modding it.
Best Value for Money
The HORI Real Arcade Pro V Kai is the arcade stick that is officially licensed by the Sony Company. The new Hayabusa buttons are a welcome upgrade from the previous ones making this stick a choice of a pro.
Here’s another stylish and high-functioning arcade stick from one of the most popular manufacturers of fighting sticks, Hori. The Hori Real Arcade Pro V Kai is a worthy successor to the highly popular RAP 4, which for the longest time was considered as the go-to fighting stick and weapon of choice for many competitive gamers. The extra-wide design is both appealing and practical, with good consideration of ergonomics all across the fighting stick. Rest your palms and/or forearms on this fighting stick makes it easy for long sessions.
Hori uses its own special Hayabusa joystick and Kuro components with this fighting stick. Though they aren’t the coveted Sanwa components everyone wants to upgrade their fight sticks to, they’re incredibly well built and designed to last for a long time. For those who don’t know, the Hayabusa parts used in this fight stick are also used in Japanese arcade stands. Japanese arcade stands get abused for hundreds of hours every month and still maintain their tactile feedback and reliable performance.
The Hori Real Arcade Pro V Kai is primarily designed with Microsoft’s gaming platform in mind. You can use it with your Xbox One, Xbox One X, and Xbox 360. PC users can also greatly benefit from this fight stick by downloading software.
Hori Real Arcade Pro Kai isn’t as easy to open as some of the other sticks you can by. Like the offering from Qanba, it requires a screwdriver and some steady hands to remove the panel at the bottom. Thankfully, once you’ve gained access to the insides, you can customize the exposed components rather easily. This is however not true for the plexiglass and artwork, as it has a protective covering due to the adhesive used in this fight stick.
Do you love your gaming days from back when you had a SNES and NES? Then this is the stick for you, featuring the classic controller design of the 8Bit era, this controller has a perfect arcade button layout and a round top joystick for good grip.
If you’re not a fan of the modern looks of most fight sticks and prefer the classic, Nintendo-inspired designs, the 8Bitdo N30 may be right up your alley. This is an “affordable” fight stick that eschews the modern approach to arcade sticks and instead takes a more laid back approach. It’s isn’t as bulky as some of the more expensive sticks out there, nor does it demand a hefty price tag for what it has to offer.
It has a simplistic yet appealing design that doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. Furthermore, it is wireless, which we’re a fan of, and attempts to appeal to the average consumer who wants a fight stick for the fun of it instead of becoming an integral part of the fighting game community.
The 8bitDo has 8 buttons and is highly customizable thanks to its mod-friendly design. The joystick is well made for the price you’ll pay. Replacing it with higher quality parts in the future shouldn’t be any problem either given its simplistic design. The stock buttons do feel a bit spongy and aren’t’ designed to last very long, but 8Bitdo understands the advantage the modular design of modern fight sticks has, and it offers easy modding options to enhance the experience if you choose to do so.
The N30 is predominantly designed for the PC gamer. It is compatible with Mac, PC, Nintendo Switch, and Android devices. The N30 arcade fight stick is Bluetooth compatible. This fight stick doesn’t have any support for Xbox or PS4.
What are the best arcade fight sticks?
There is plenty of arcade fight sticks out there that you can play your favorite arcade games on. If you are going to pick up an arcade fight stick, always give it a trial go before you decide on one. If it sits right in your hand and you can pull off those combos you want to without problems, then it is the one for you. However, there are some factors that may help you decide on what arcade fight stick to buy. One is the quality of their parts, some would argue that the Japanese Sanwa parts are best in the market, while others prefer the Korean Crown parts. Regardless of the competition between both the parts, it is safe to assume if any stick comes with these parts, it means that the arcade stick will be top tier. However, QANBA Obsidian, the Razer fight stick Panthera EVO, ETOKI Omni and Mad Katz TE2+ arcade joysticks are top tier ones available in the market. Or you can go out of the way and make your own custom fight stick with quality parts from Sanwa and Crown.
Why are fight sticks better than controllers?
Fight sticks are better than controllers in the aspect that you have more control over your fighting character on an arcade stick than you can on a controller. Since they can be plugged in the most common consoles out there via USB, a lot of people replace their controllers with arcade joysticks. The compact size of a controller is what makes it difficult to play on and prone to accidental button presses. The analogs are just too small and delicate, sometimes some combos require some really fast movements. Like speed dashing for those combos may be a little bit too heavy for the analogs of the controller. But the arcade stick buttons are distanced from each other in an arcade stick layout. Meaning no accidental button pushes. The stick itself is heavy-duty meaning it can endure a ton of abuse before you need to replace. The best part? You can easily mod them yourself if you ever find yourself in a situation where your buttons or stick becomes unusable. Or you can just replace the buttons and modify them with high-quality parts like Sanwa or Crown. While a gaming controller is delicate and buttons and analog are not replaceable with other companies’ sourced parts.
Where to buy the best fight sticks?
You can buy these arcade sticks at a game shop nearby or you can order them from their respective sites. Some sites like Amazon also have these sticks on sale and sometimes they are even on sale there. You can also visit the respective sites of the arcade fight stick makers as well.
What fight sticks do pros use?
The list above has some of the arcade sticks used by pros already. Like the Razer Panthera EVO is used by pro-Tekken 7 player Knee while the QANBA obsidian is used by Saint who is neck to neck with JDCR the former EVO champion. Daigo Umehara the former Street Fighter 4 prodigy, who dominated the EVO scene with his unrivaled gameplay of Ryu uses the Mad Catz FightStick TE2+. JDCR the former EVO champion of Tekken 7 uses modded Etokki Omni Arcade Stick which is modified with premium Korean Crown parts. However, most of these pros keep switching and make custom fight sticks for till they achieve the desired results.