With Street Fighter 6 on the way next year and a successful closed beta behind it, you might be looking at investing in an arcade stick in anticipation of Capcom’s upcoming fighting game.
There are many reasons to get an arcade stick. With one you can play many of the best fighting games in a more ‘authentic’ capacity – the most common type of arcade stick mimics the 6-button layout you’d find on arcade cabinets, and they’ll work great with upcoming fighters like Street Fighter 6.
Arcade sticks, with their large plastic buttons and clicky joysticks, are immensely satisfying to use. They’re also highly customizable; many stick owners opt to switch between ‘ball’ or ‘bat’ tops for the joystick itself and concave or convex buttons. If you’re the aesthetically-minded type, you can buy these in pretty much any color you can imagine.
Much like the service Microsoft offers with its Xbox Design Lab, you can make an arcade stick your own unique beast. They’re also a fantastic way to support independent creators, with custom arcade stick faceplates a common service on sites like Etsy.
So arcade sticks look and feel great. But when it comes to playing fighting games competitively, they don't really give you a clear advantage over modern controllers like the DualSense.
Purely a preference
As the influence of arcades continues to wane in the modern era, many fighting game makers now develop for consoles first. Custom control schemes in fighting games account for certain combinations of buttons, allowing for shortcuts to special moves or defensive utilities, for example. This isn't exclusive to controllers, of course, but allows them to be far more viable in the competitive space.
This means that pad players have the option to access more of their character’s toolkit while using fewer buttons. Certain commands that usually require a more complex button input, then, like Guilty Gear Strive's Roman Cancels or Tekken 7's Rage Arts, can instead be accessed with a single button press.
Above all, it’s a matter of comfort and preference: you might feel more at home using an arcade stick over a controller if you regularly play fighting games. A stick player isn’t at a disadvantage when facing a pad player, and vice versa. And it’s not uncommon to see controller players win at major tournaments.
However, there is a type of controller that might just have both arcade stick and pad players beat.
A type of controller that’s grown in popularity in recent years is the Hit Box, which trades the joystick for a set of buttons, similar to arrow keys on a keyboard. There are multiple advantages here, primarily that a button press will move your character instantaneously whereas with a joystick there’s some travel time between the neutral position and your desired direction.
The Hit Box eliminates that delay almost entirely, meaning you’ll technically be able to move and react faster than an opponent on a pad or stick. It’s why some tournaments won’t allow Hit Boxes, though they’re generally considered a viable controller option within the fighting game community.
If you want pinpoint precision in your movements, you should look into a Hit Box. They’re instrumental in 3D fighters like Tekken 7, where fast and constant movement is key to victory.
Stick with it
You won’t know whether or not you prefer an arcade stick (or a Hit Box) unless you try one for yourself. And you don’t need to break the bank to find good options.
Brands like 8BitDo, Hori, and Mayflash all sell great entry-level sticks to help you find your feet. And if they’re not to your liking with fighting games, know that they’re also a fantastic control option for classic arcade games, tons of which come bundled in collections like Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection.
Plus, there’s no better time than now to see if arcade sticks are right for you. Street Fighter 6 is just around the corner, and Tekken 8 looks like it’ll follow not long after. There's a bunch of quality fighting games on the horizon, then, perfect for testing the waters with a new peripheral.