It’s so easy to hate on the Nintendo eShop. I’m no big fan of it. From horrendous input delay to its woefully uncurated special offers section, it’s a storefront that’s in dire need of an overhaul. It unfortunately means that you often have to do some real digging to unearth its hidden gems. But hidden gems there certainly are, many from the hallowed halls of arcade’s past.
Enter publishers like SNK and Capcom, both of which have effectively been archiving their back catalogs on the Nintendo Switch eShop, and it just so happens that many of these classics are fighting games. It’s never been easier to pick up legendary fighters like Garou: Mark of the Wolves, The Last Blade, or indeed the Capcom Fighting Collection for the price of your lunch.
Even better, one of the best Nintendo Switch accessories is ideal for exploring these games with; either for the first time or as a returning veteran. And that’s the fantastic 8BitDo Arcade Stick. Here we have a pairing that’s more convenient – and cheaper – than owning a massive arcade machine.
As I mention at the top of my review for the 8BitDo Arcade Stick, the device immediately sets itself apart from the pack with its slick retro aesthetic. The bold NES-like design is one reason why I consider it to be one of the best fight sticks around. But of course, the aesthetic alone wouldn’t be much to write home about if the stick itself wasn’t of excellent quality.
The stick’s price point may border on the mid-range at $90 / £82, but like many of its controllers, 8BitDo hasn’t skimped on the build. The arcade stick feels somewhat premium despite its relatively competitive price, with a nice weight to it that rests easily on your lap or on a hard, flat surface.
But what makes the 8BitDo Arcade Stick so special as a Nintendo Switch stick? After all, there’s plenty of universal fight sticks, like the Mayflash F500, that are compatible with a variety of platforms including Nintendo’s handheld hybrid.
The main thing is that there’s really not that many fight sticks tailor-made for the Switch. And while 8BitDo’s also works on PC, you’re getting a Switch-first product here that mimics the notation of its button layout. What that means is the stick works superbly for classic arcade titles, too, or any game that doesn’t require the use of a second analog stick.
What’s more, the pad and its 8BitDo Arcade Stick for Xbox counterpart are fully customizable. So long as you have a screwdriver, you can pop open the fight stick and replace its default components with, say, high-quality Sanwa modules if you’ve got the hardware and know-how to swap them. There’s no shortage of custom wraps for the stick available online, too, if you’re not overly keen on that default retro look. I’m a big fan of this Pikachu / Naruto crossover skin that’s perfect for a Nintendo-themed stick.
The Switch has fighting games?
Now, there is a reason why you don’t see many Switch-first fight sticks, and that’s because many of the best fighting games in recent years just aren’t available on the platform. The likes of Street Fighter 6 and the upcoming Tekken 8 are a fair bit above what Nintendo’s console can handle.
But as mentioned, there’s no shortage of classic fighting game ports on Nintendo Switch that have primarily been available in arcades, making them a perfect fit for the 8BitDo Arcade Stick. Ultra Street Fighter 2, for example, still boasts a small but dedicated online community.
And it’s not the only one. Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R is the definitive version of Arc System Work’s metal-fueled 2D fighter, complete with rollback netcode for mostly seamless online battles. The recent Melty Blood: Type Lumina is also available on Switch, and is still receiving periodic free content updates. Other contemporary fighters on Switch include Persona 4 Arena Ultimax and BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle, so there’s plenty to play on the system if you know where to look.
Looking towards the near future, Nintendo is likely on the cusp of revealing its next-generation hardware. Whether this be a Switch successor, or something entirely new, there’s a conversation to be had around its increased power allowing for a broader range of fighting games to land on the as-of-yet-unannounced system.
That means there’ll be even more reasons to own a fight stick for a Nintendo platform. And if 8BitDo’s current hardware won’t be compatible with the future console, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the brand manufacture a new and improved stick in preparation for it.
The 8BitDo Arcade Stick is an excellent controller for more than just fighting games. Many of the best Nintendo Switch games will feel just as good with one as it would one of the best Nintendo Switch controllers.
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Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.