What are the best arcade sticks on the market today? I answer that question and many others in this article as I share my picks. Before I show off the best arcade sticks, though, let’s discuss what makes a good arcade stick.
What Makes a Good Arcade Stick?
Aside from the general quality of the build, an arcade stick’s main components are its buttons and stick of choice.
Arcade stick buttons can come with low or high noise levels, resistances, etc. To emulate the traditional feel of Japanese arcade games, many people prefer Sanwa-type buttons on their arcade sticks. A Sanwa stick is preferred by most on the high end, as it will snap back to neutral fairly quickly, making it ideal for precise motion inputs. Other sticks from other manufacturers can be good, too – especially HORI’s Hayabusa hardware.
One important thing to keep in mind, even if you aren’t familiar with arcade sticks, is whether the one you buy can be modded. If you don’t like the feel of the stick or the buttons you end up with, they can often be replaced without breaking the bank on a more expensive model, saving you much money.
With these things in mind, let’s dive into the best on the market!
1. Best Budget Arcade Stick – Mayflash F300 Arcade Fight Stick
- Compatibility: Xbox Series consoles, PS4 consoles, PS3 consoles, Xbox One consoles, Xbox 360 consoles, Nintendo Switch, PC
- Modding Support: Yes
- Stick Type: Mayflash Octagonal Gate
- Button Type: Mayflash
The Mayflash F300 Arcade Fight Stick might be a budget option under $80, but it’s actually quite a powerful piece of kit. It supports PlayStation and Xbox consoles alike, as well as PC and Switch. It’s completely moddable, meaning if the feel of the default joysticks and buttons aren’t to your liking, you can simply replace them rather than having to buy an entirely new arcade stick.
The F300 may not be the best piece of arcade stick hardware, but it’s fairly affordable and from a brand that excels at making affordable peripherals. With the ability to mod it in mind, you can adjust it to feel nearly the best for you. The feel of the default buttons and sticks are just okay, though – as one would expect in this budget price point.
2. Best Arcade Stick for PlayStation 5 – HORI Real Arcade Pro 4
- Compatibility: PS4 consoles, PS5 consoles, PC
- Modding: Yes
- Stick Type: HORI Hayabusa
- Button Type: HORI Hayabusa
The HORI Real Arcade Pro 4 Kai is my pick for the best Arcade Stick under $150. It has an extremely high-quality build and is an officially licensed PS4 arcade stick. According to Sony, that also makes it an officially licensed PS5 arcade stick that should be plug-and-play with your PS5 after a firmware update. It’s also easily used with a PC.
HORI’s Hayabusa stick doesn’t offer as much resistance as a Sanwa stick but does offer extremely accurate inputs. HORI’s Hayabusa buttons are similarly responsive and high quality – definitely a different feel from the traditional Japanese-style Sanwa buttons but still a fairly good one.
Besides the higher pricing than a budget option like the Mayflash F300, there isn’t much to dislike here. This is a fairly solid arcade stick with official PlayStation support, and if you’re new to arcade sticks for your console fighting experience, this is a wonderful place to start.
3. Best Arcade Stick Under $150 – Mayflash Arcade Stick F500 Elite
- Compatibility: PS4 consoles, PS5 consoles, Xbox One consoles, Xbox Series consoles, Nintendo Switch, PC
- Modding: Yes
- Stick Type: Sanwa
- Button Type: Sanwa
The Mayflash F500 Elite is, as the name implies, a truly elite arcade stick. It boasts compatibility with just about everything and has an incredibly solid, polished build quality.
With a high-quality Sanwa stick and buttons, it’s providing a much better out-of-the-box experience than the Mayflash F300. Even if you don’t want to use Sanwa for some reason, the Mayflash F500 Elite is just as easily moddable as the Mayflash F300, making it easy to tweak this board to your preferences.
As long as you have the money, the F500 Elite is the current leader in arcade sticks and handily deserves its place on that throne. Not being an official stick like the Hori Real Arcade Pro makes it less ideal for playing with PlayStation consoles, though – even if it works, you’ll need to use your PS4 controller to carry the signal.
4. Best Arcade Stick for Keyboard Users – Hit Box
- Compatibility: PS4 consoles, PS5 (via PS4 games), Nintendo Switch, PC
- Modding: Yes
- Stick Type: Converted to four buttons
- Button Type – Sanwa
The Hit Box is a unique button-only arcade stick. It’s still using Sanwa buttons, but since the actual stick has been replaced by four buttons, the way that you handle movement and motion inputs in fighting games will greatly change – unless you’re coming from a keyboard, of course, where individual buttons-per-direction are the norm.
Even if you aren’t coming from a keyboard, a Hit Box is very much worth your consideration. The design is fairly ergonomic and can help reduce the stress on your hands that would normally come with long play sessions on a gamepad or other arcade stick. Additionally, many claim that motion inputs are easier on the Hit Box, but there will still be a learning curve if you’re coming from another control method – and no controller will make you good on its own.
While the Hit Box is generally considered a great choice, it is worth noting a few major downsides: no Xbox console compatibility and a high starting MSRP of $200. If either sounds like a turnoff, you may want to consider one of the other options.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is there an advantage to using an arcade stick instead of a controller?
It all depends on personal preferences. Ultimately, the best control method for any given game, especially fighting games, is whatever feels best to you. If you are curious, try a variety of gamepads and arcade sticks before settling on just one. You never know how a particular peripheral is going to feel until you have it in your hands, and you won’t know which control method is perfect for you until you’ve tried it.
2. Are arcade sticks only useful for fighting games?
No, you can actually use arcade sticks for most controller-based games. The issue lies with games that require manual camera control on the right analog stick. Since there’s only one stick available, you won’t be able to use this controller with those games particularly well, if at all.
Besides fighting games, other genres that can particularly benefit from the arcade stick experience include platformers, shoot-em-ups, and beat-em-ups.
3. Is the Hit Box legal for tournament play?
Despite some controversies that the button-only design makes certain inputs easier, the Hit Box arcade stick is completely legal for tournament play, even at EVO. No one has won EVO with a Hit Box yet, though, and ultimately, you still have to be good at the game.
4. Are there arcade sticks for Smash Bros.?
Yes, but they aren’t currently available. The makers of the Hit Box made the Smash Box, but it’s out of stock and is preorders-only at the time of writing.
The B0XX is still being developed as well, with an apparent slated release date for Summer 2021. Summer’s nearly over at the time of writing, and the BOXX still has yet to be released, so there’s no telling when it’ll be out.
If you’re still feeling nostalgic, consider checking out our roundup of the best arcade cabinets.