While traditional controllers are fine for many types of games, when you need better control, more directional accuracy, and greater tactile feedback, only the best fight stick will do.
It’s always important to make sure you’ve got the best PC controller for the job, and just as a PC steering wheel can make a huge difference for racing games, fight sticks, or arcade sticks, can enhance your experience in racing or retro games.
They’re much more comfortable, natural and satisfying to operate, sharing out the button and stick inputs across your arms and hands rather than relying primarily on your thumbs. Trust us, when you’re spamming hadoukens on Street Fighter, your thumbs will be thankful for a fight stick.
For our money, we’d plump for the Nacon Daija, a pricey stick that exudes quality and craftsmanship. Its Sanwa quality parts also offer that unmistakable arcade feel. However, you can get your hands on decent sticks for a fair bit less, such as the 8Bitdo Arcade Stick or Hori Fight Stick Alpha. Additionally, the Qanba Drone is our pick of the budget options, and handily you can swap out the parts for better components – you can find overviews of them all below.
Here’s our shortlist of the best fight sticks in 2023:
- Nacon Daija — best overall
- Hori Fighting Stick Alpha — best for Xbox/PC
- Mayflash F500 Elite — best for multiple consoles
- 8Bitdo Arcade Stick — best for Switch
- Hit Box — best non-stick alternative
- Qanba Drone — budget choice
1. Nacon Daija
The best fighting stick overall.
Nacon Daija specs:
|Compatibility||PC, Xbox, PlayStation|
|Dimensions||456 x 324 x 168 mm (17.9 x 12.7 x 6.6 in)|
- Premium build quality
- Removable faceplates
- Lock button for tournament play
- Not very portable
- Wired-only connection
This seemingly simple-looking fight stick is a real beast in functionality, design, and heft. Designed in collaboration with Kayane, a premier French esports player, the Daija clearly has its sights set on attracting professional and competition-level gamers.
On the surface, there’s a textured palm rest, swappable sticks, and a button lock feature to prevent accidental presses. The right side houses the auxiliary inputs such as L3, R3, and the PS5’s trackpad, which takes some getting used to, but is well worth it if you want to game a competitive level.
The Daija is also hugely customizable, with plenty of space within its innards for swapping over button profiles and components. It’s also super responsive, with Sanwa parts replicating that arcade experience. That makes it our controller of choice for competition players, even if its weight makes it less than ideal for carrying it around. Additionally, the Daija’s high price might make it a hard sell for entry-level players who want to casually enjoy retro games or fighting games.
2. Hori Fighting Stick Alpha
Best for Xbox/PC.
Hori Fighting Stick Alpha specs:
|Compatibility||PC, Xbox, PlayStation|
|Dimensions||480 x 365 x 165mm (18.9 x 14.3 x 6.5in)|
- Excellent alternative to Sanwa parts
- Tournament lock button
- 3.5 mm headphone jack
- Uninspiring Xbox design
- Can feel bulky
- Cable not detachable
Though Sanwa parts are the gold standard arcade components, there’s room at the top for another brand. Hori’s Hayabusa stick and buttons are highly regarded even among the most discerning competition players, and that’s a tradition that continues with the Hori Fighting Stick Alpha. Its button profile and layout make it ideal for Xbox use.
The stick is extremely sensitive, but once you get used to it, you’ll be pulling off ultra combos with ease thanks to its short travel, pin-sharp accuracy, and responsiveness. The matte buttons are also hardworking and solid, while the auxiliary buttons are held near the top of the unit, making accidental presses almost impossible.
While the blue color scheme of the PlayStation version is nice enough, we’re a little underwhelmed by the Xbox version’s slightly drab white and gray design. Thankfully, the panel is removable, and you can easily get your hands on replacement custom art, thanks to Hori’s templates.
The Alpha is also one of the easier sticks to customize. Flipping a latch lets you access the stick’s internals, so replacing the buttons and stick is a breeze.
3. Mayflash F500 Elite
Best for multiple consoles.
Mayflash F500 Elite specs:
|Compatibility||PC, PlayStation, Xbox, Switch, PC|
|Cable length||90 – 100cm|
|Dimensions||362 x 233 x 115mm (14.2 x 9.1 x 4.5in)|
- Universal compatibility
- Sanwa parts
- Good value
- No L3/R3 buttons
- Design could be better
There aren’t many fight sticks that offer cross-console compatibility for those who play across both PC and home consoles, but even then, why should you need to buy more than one? Thankfully, Mayflash has your back with its F500 Elite.
It features buttons labeled with both PlayStation and Xbox input sets, with its respective Select and Home buttons wisely placed well away from the fray.
Though it’s not the most intimidating stick, there’s something wonderfully analog about the F500’s design, right down to the 80s-style white lettering in the bottom corner. However, we must admit to preferring the sharp red button and black panel design of the standard F500. That said, gamers can also swap out this design with their own custom art by removing the acrylic panel.
Thankfully, unlike its cheaper brother, the F500 Elite features Sanwa arcade components, instantly boosting its build quality and accuracy. The unit is also easily customizable, with removable metal panels allowing access to its internals. The lack of the L3 and R3 buttons is a weird omission, however. Despite this, the controls are responsive, and the unit is nicely balanced.
4. 8Bitdo Arcade Stick
Best for Switch compatibility.
8Bitdo Arcade Stick specs:
|Connectivity||Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, wired|
|Dimensions||303 x 203 x 111.5mm (11.9 x 8 x 4.4in)|
- Easily programmable
- Decent build quality
- Multiple connectivity options
- No support for PlayStation/Xbox
- Design might feel too retro for some
- Not quite arcade-quality construction
Let 8Bitdo take you back to a simpler, more pixelated time with its Arcade Stick. We’re big fans of this stick’s retro Famicom-esque design (which will appeal to PC gamers with a soft spot for Nintendo), which blends its familiar red, gray, and black styling for an instantly recognizable look. Robust rubber feet adorn its 2kg body, which is decent, though we’ve seen heavier sticks. The last thing you need is the unit slip-sliding around while you’re mid-combo.
The Arcade Stick is also super versatile in function. Not only does it come with a generously lengthy 3m cable, but you can also use it wirelessly via the Bluetooth connection or 2.4Ghz USB receiver. Buttons are easily reprogrammable, and the platform itself is open for tinkerers to customize at will.
While there are cheaper options out there, the 8Bitdo Arcade Stick is a solid mid-range fight stick. It just misses out on a grand slam home run as this model is only compatible with Nintendo Switch and PC, meaning cross-platform users will need to look elsewhere.
5. Hit Box
Best non-stick alternative.
Hit Box specs:
|Compatibility||PC, PS4, Switch|
|Dimensions||406 x 179 x 49mm (16 x 7 x 1.9in)|
- Cuts down on human error
- Less likely to cause hand fatigue
- Rock solid build quality
- Takes some getting used to
- Not yet fully compatible with PS5
- Limited personalization options
Seasoned gamers beware — the Hit Box will break you like a wild horse. But those resolved to master its alternative playing style might find a highly rewarding fight stick, even if it won’t turn you into a beat-em-up guru overnight.
Yes, the Hit Box lacks the traditional stick, instead opting for four directional buttons partly intertwined on the unit’s surface, differentiated with a deep red or brilliant white. And yes, these buttons consist of Sanwa parts for best-in-class components, while the unit itself oozes quality with its slim steel frame and acrylic surface. Its clean, minimalist design flies in the face of more outlandish fight stick graphics.
For veteran stick users, there’s a fair learning curve to mastering the Hit Box. However, many now swear by them for fighting games, as this unit involves less travel distance in its inputs, minimizing human error and giving you confidence in pulling off chain attacks in the heat of battle.
As a caveat, note that some competitions have outlawed the use of certain button profiles, so ensure you review all guidance if you’re buying one for tournament play.
6. Qanba Drone
Best budget fight stick.
Qanba Drone specs:
|Dimensions||326 x 221 x 115mm (12.8 x 8.7 x 4.5in)|
- Highly affordable
- LED indicators
- Very portable
- Not the best build quality
- Buttons can feel loose
- Can feel too light
The Qanba Drone has been around for a good few years — its successor, the Drone 2, is new for 2023, but for its tempting price, we’re sticking with the original for this list. At under $80, it’s an absolute steal.
We’re fans of the Drone’s design, with a yellow honeycomb aesthetic that is both bright and striking. It’s built for portability too, with a weight that still feels solid but not a nuisance to carry around. There’s even a compartment to house the USB cable, meaning it won’t get tangled or worn down while inside a bag. Love it.
The shell does have a plasticky and light feel to it, but again, for the price, we can’t mark it down too harshly for that. However, we will say that the unit’s glossy surface collects fingerprints like nobody’s business, and you’ll be forever wiping away smears to maintain its sheen.
Though the stick feels fairly decent, and the buttons are responsive enough, there’s some looseness to the controls, so we’d recommend investing in some Sanwa parts if players want the best. Thankfully, swapping components out is relatively easy.
The Qanbra Drone is a great budget stick that still holds up pretty well, especially for casual play, but esports competitors might want to look elsewhere.
How we chose the best fight sticks
The key factors to consider are function, design, customization, weight and connectivity. Some may work for certain consoles but not others, while some might not even feature sticks. We wanted to encompass options that covered all the bases
For premium quality and that arcade experience, you’ll want a stick with Sanwa Denshi components. These globally-renowned parts from a Japanese gaming hardware manufacturer exude quality and the very best arcade feel, providing tangible stick resistance and buttons that feel satisfyingly springy and responsive.
Design and customization are important. Arcade sticks tend to take up sizeable desk space, so measure up what you have to play with and go with a stick with suitable dimensions. Customization is all about whether you want to swap out sticks, buttons, and faceplates — there are options that offer easy swapping. And there are also programmable buttons and profiles to consider. You might want to swap button configurations around for easier or enhanced play during certain games, and the best sticks tend to make this process as painless as possible.
Weight and size are also factors. Sure, you’ll want a chunky unit to help minimize slipping, though weight can become a hindrance if you want to carry one to a tournament or even have it resting on your lap as you play. Many arcade sticks also provide options for wired or wireless play, and while it’s nice to go wireless for convenience, professionals always go wired for minimal input lag.
Lastly, an obvious one, but don’t forget about compatibility with your chosen system. Many work on a PC and another console, but cross-console compatibility is rare in fight sticks, so choose the one you’ll be using the most. Read our how we test page to learn more about how we decide how we decide what to include in these lists.