The Best Arcade Sticks

Finding The Best Arcade Stick

For most of us, arcade sticks are part of our embedded memories of younger years. For the more geeky, like me, you could still recognize the feel of the buttons in your hands. That Japanese component, whack a billion times and still work and feel like new, quality.

Gaming has been relegated to console gamepads and computer keyboards. We have been tricked into believing that we should play games, and even fighting games, with our thumbs. Our THUMBS!

What most gamers don’t know is that arcade sticks still exist! Not as some super expensive, custom-made toy for rich kids with an arcade in their basement. Arcade quality fight sticks, with the same Japanese components, are being made for every major gaming console and PC gaming.

Arcade sticks are serious hardware for serious gamers or die-hards that refuse to twiddle their thumbs. We’ve profiled the 4 best fight sticks being made today. Because we’re geeky like that.

Mayflash F500 Arcade Fight Stick

Mayflash F500 Fight Stick

The Mayflash F500 Universal Arcade Fight Stick is Mayflash’s most advanced model to date. It is the premier entry level fight stick. It is priced under $90, and there is no quality to be found at a lower price point, so this is where we start as our baseline. It’s actually really good value for the money and, if your budget is tight, this and the KINGTOP stick are the only 2 arcade sticks to consider buying.

  • Compatibility – Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, Android, Switch, and PC.
  • Arcade Style Interface – 8 face buttons, one start button, 2 switches, 4 advanced option buttons, and a mic mute button.
  • Control – D-Pad or Analog.
  • Audio – Headphones and microphone support for online play.
  • Turbo Functionality – One button press can do the work of 15 presses per second.
  • PS4 Functions Supported – Includes all the functionality of a regular PS4 controller; even the touchpad, Share, and PS button.
  • Add-ons – Compatible with a vibration wrist strap for added rumble feature. (Wrist strap sold separately).
  • Storage – Includes a built-in compartment on the side to store the USB cord.
  • Restrictive Plate – Square and octagonal restrictive plate included

Although we regard it as an entry level arcade stick, the Mayflash does provide room for customization and upgrades. The F500 supports using Sanwa Denshi buttons and joysticks, which are generally regarded as the best because they are used in real Japanese arcade games.

Japanese arcade games are considered the gold standard by which all other arcade style gaming is measured. So, you can upgrade later without buying a whole new platform.

A feature that we particularly like is that the Mayflash F500 is weighted down with two metal plates (one at the base and one for the cover), and mounted on rubber feet to keep it from sliding around and keep you in the game.

KingTop Arcade Fight Stick

KingTop arcade stick

The KingTop Arcade Fight Stick is other 8 button entry level arcade stick that we would recommend.

Personally, I like the Mayflash better. It feels a little more substantial to me than the KingTop, and it’s also upgradable and cheaper. But, it wouldn’t be right for me to leave out the only other stick within the price range that is worth taking home when my preference is not very strong.

What should probably make the most difference to you is the button layout. This is totally a subjective preference, so look closely at the button layout and angle on the KingTop and the Mayflash before making your decision.

  • Compatibility – Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, Android, and PC.
  • Arcade Style Interface – 8 Arcade Buttons.
  • Turbo Functionality – Multi-Speed.
  • Storage – Includes a built-in compartment on top to store the USB cord.

The KingTop also has rubber anti-slip pad ensure that the fighting stick will stay firmly in place during gameplay, but it lacks some of the weight of the Mayflash. This should be considered as a good thing if it is going to be sitting on your lap, but not that good if it will be sitting on a solid base.

HORI Real Arcade Pro 4 Kai

HORI Real Arcade Joystick

The HORI Real Arcade Pro 4 Kai is a Sony licensed intermediate arcade stick with noticeably better build quality than entry level sticks.

The HORI uses a HAYABUSA joystick and the new HAYABUSA buttons. The HAYABUSA buttons are a little lower profile, have a matte finish, and more rounded edges to enhance gameplay and reduce reaction time.

The HAYABUSA parts are used in Japanese arcade machines, which is the standard by which to measure component quality.

The step up in quality can also be seen in the extra buttons and functions the HORI Real Arcade Pro 4 Kai features. This includes a touchpad for navigating menus, multi-speed Turbo controls, L3/R3 buttons, and a cable that’s just under 10 feet long.

Critically, button function is not locked in and is fully assignable.

  • Compatibility – XBox One, XBox 360, PS3, PS4, and PC.
  • Arcade Style Interface – 8 face buttons plus a start button
  • Turbo Functionality – Adjustable to 5, 12, or 20 times per second.
  • PS4 Functions Supported – Includes all the functionality of a regular PS4 controller; even the touchpad, Share, and PS button.
  • Storage – Cable storage compartment on the back for the USB cable.
  • Restrictive Plate – Square but replaceable

We found 2 problems with this arcade stick, though these problems may not matter to everyone.

The HORI stick comes with only a square restriction plate so doing some circular combinations can be difficult. The restriction plate can easily be replaced with an octogonal plate, but it would have been nice to have it in the box.

The other issue is that the buttons are a bit sensitive. If you have a tendency to play lightly on the buttons, then this should not be a problem for you. However, if you are prone to brushing across them as you play, you would be better served by another arcade stick.

Both of these problems are really a matter of taste and playing style. Overall, the HORI made an excellent impression and is well worth the money.

Razer Panthera Arcade Stick

Razer Panthera Fight Stick

Razer is known for making top end gaming hardware, and the Razer Panthera Arcade Stick is no different. It is a lightweight, smooth, and feature-rich joystick with top-notch parts in terms of hardware and internals in addition to being customizable for each gamer’s needs.

This arcade stick is a device that has been created with very precise specifications for comfort, speed, and movement. Pro gamers and the Razer community provided feedback to help develop and perfect this arcade joystick. There was also a lengthy series of tests conducted and prototype models created in order to arrive at the final model.

That final model includes a number of impressive benefits. Most importantly, it uses authentic Sanwa components. Having components that are found in Japanese arcades is what generally separates inexpensive sticks from the premium models. Sanwa buttons and joysticks are the best components that you will find in any Japanese arcade.

  • Compatibility – PS3, PS4, and PC.
  • Arcade Style Interface – 8 face buttons plus start and select buttons
  • Turbo Functionality – None
  • PS4 Functions Supported – Includes all the functionality of a regular PS4 controller; even the touchpad, Share, and PS button.
  • Storage – Cable storage compartment inside.
  • Restrictive Plate – Square but replaceable

The Razer Panthera is the 1st of our 3 premium arcade sticks. As such, it’s irritating that they did not include an octagonal restrictive plate, though that is cheap and easy to change.

And that was our only complaint with this fight stick, which is quite an accomplishment! The buttons are the highest quality that you will find anywhere, the layout feels good and much more true to the arcade feel we are seeking.

Our final 2 arcade sticks feel more truly Japanese in nature, both in design and actually feel. For those of us that grew up in western arcades, the Razer Panthera will feel the most like your arcade memories.

Let that make your decision, as these final 3 are all truly excellent sticks.

Qanba Obsidian Joystick

Qanba Obsidian Arcade

The Qanba Obsidian is a true Japanese fight stick. The styling, component choices, and feel are out of a Japanese arcade, not an American one.

Upon unboxing, the most striking things are the metal ball top joystick and aluminum alloy sides. Even for us, this had a feel unlike any other gaming device we have touched.

If you want the arcade experience that your hands remember from your youth, this is not the arcade stick for you (unless you grew up in Japan). But, if you want a top end Japanese style arcade experience, this is what you have been looking for.

The Qanba Obsidian features a Sanwa JLF joystick and Sanwa OBSF 30mm buttons. Translated, that means that it uses the best Japanese components that have been proven in Japanese arcades.

It is also Sony licensed so it will be fully compatible with all games on PlayStation 3 and 4, while being PC compatible too.

The Qanba Obsidian is equally striking when you examine the accessory controls, like the Turbo, L3, and R3 buttons, as well as the touchpad.

  • Compatibility – PS3, PS4, and PC.
  • Arcade Style Interface – 8 face buttons
  • Audio – Headphones and microphone support for online play.
  • Turbo Functionality – Multi-speed.
  • PS4 Functions Supported – Includes all the functionality of a regular PS4 controller; even the touchpad, Share, and PS button.
  • Storage – Includes a built-in compartment to store the USB cord.
  • Restrictive Plate – Square, but easy to switch to an octagonal restrictive plate
  • LED accent lighting

Though only around 7 pounds, the Qanba Obsidian feels like you are resting your hands on an arcade game cabinet. There is no flex.

There is zero lag with this arcade stick. As hard as we try to find something wrong with everything, because we are picky, the only thing we can find to grumble about is that it does not come with an octagonal restrictive plate. Yes, it’s easily changed, but I want my octagonal restrictive plate!

For the best Japanese arcade-style experience, this and the Qanba Dragon are the only choices.

Qanba Dragon Joystick

Qanba Dragon Fighting Stick

The Qanba Dragon Joystick is the best truly Japanese style arcade stick made. It is both a collector’s piece and a tournament-worthy joystick. The Dragon has been used by professionals and e-athletes around the world, including EVO champions, who hold it in high regard.

  • Compatibility – PS3, PS4, and PC.
  • Arcade Style Interface – 8 face buttons
  • Audio – Headphones and microphone support for online play.
  • Turbo Functionality – Multi-speed.
  • PS4 Functions Supported – Includes all the functionality of a regular PS4 controller; even the touchpad, Share, and PS button.
  • Weight – A solid 11.6 pounds!
  • Cable -Braided and reinforced 8′ 5″ USB cable
  • Storage – Cord wraps around hooks on the rear.
  • Restrictive Plate – Square, but easy to switch to an octagonal restrictive plate
  • LED accent lighting

The Qanba Dragon is officially licensed through Sony, meaning it is compatible with a wide range of titles and games. It can also seamlessly transition between different games and consoles with minimum setup time or delays.

What both the Qanba Obsidian and Dragon offer, more than anything else, is superior build quality that is made to Japanese home-market arcade standards.

It feels almost foreign at first because in the United States we are not used to a gaming device, or gaming in general, being held in such high regard that a component feels more like a luxury item. We would never put this level of thought, detail, craftsmanship, and money into developing something this fine.

The aesthetics, durability, function, and build quality of this arcade stick just really doesn’t leave anything to be desired.

I would still complain that it doesn’t come with an octagonal restrictive plate. But, quite frankly, I don’t care. It’s easy to swap out, and I get to admire the beauty of the inside while I do it!

How special is it? They even make an $80 padded carrying case that is specifically designed for the Qanba Dragon.

For gamers that want the absolute best, the Qanba Dragon is the best arcade stick that money can buy.

If you can afford the price tag, buy it!

About The Author
Katrina O'Reilly
Kat goes by her gamer handle MissTRex. Born in Jaynesfield Wisconsin, she studied game design at Full Sail University. She has a penchant for anything "geeky" and is still a huge gamer.