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If you’re trying to reach the next level in competitive fighting games like Mortal Kombat 11 or Dragon Ball FighterZ, playing on a traditional controller might be holding you back. It’s time to put your nimble hands on a high-quality arcade fight stick, and the Hori Real Arcade Pro 4 Kai is one of the best you can get. Its price also makes it a nice value whether you're an advanced player or a new fight-stick user.
A big part of the Kai’s popularity comes from its tournament-grade Hayabusa components, which are top of the line along with Sanwa and Seimitsu parts. The joystick’s action is smooth and makes light, satisfying “clicking” sounds. It comes with a square restrictor gate that you can easily replace with an octagonal gate if you prefer it for easier circular motions. The Hayabusa buttons are newer matte-finish ones, beveled at the edges and low-profile for extra speed and responsiveness. And there’s plenty of space below the buttons to rest your wrists, without getting too bulky in overall size.
Officially licensed by Sony, the RAP 4 Kai is compatible with PlayStation consoles, namely PS4 and PS3. Like most fight sticks, you can use it on Windows PC through XInput. If you're an Xbox One and Xbox 360 player, Hori’s Real Arcade Pro.V Kai is essentially the same stick but made for Microsoft’s consoles (along with PC), and the Real Arcade Pro V Hayabusa offers similar hardware for the Nintendo Switch.
The low-cost Mayflash F300 makes a great introductory fight stick for those stepping away from regular controllers for the first time. With its basically universal compatibility, you’ll be able to test it out with games on PC, PlayStation, Xbox, Switch, Android, and more. One extra wrinkle, though, is that connecting to a PS4, Xbox One, or Xbox 360 requires a wired connection to the console as well as directly to a controller for the system at the same time. You can bypass this inconvenience with a Magicboots USB adapter, which is available separately or in a bundle with the F300.
Those with larger hands may struggle with the F300’s smaller size, and competitive gamers will feel limited by its standard stock parts. The buttons aren’t as responsive, reliable, and springy as arcade-quality ones from makers like Sanwa. But the appeal of a budget stick is to see if you like it before diving into eSports tournaments, or if you just like casual play on a retro feeling arcade stick.
If you do find yourself getting more serious about the arcade life and wanting to draw some more performance out of your F300, you can mod it relatively easily with those Sanwa components or whatever configuration you want to try. With those added costs, though, you may want to consider upgrading to a higher-end fight stick entirely.
For an arcade stick under $100 that still delivers solid performance, Qanba’s budget-level Drone model is worth a look. The officially licensed Sony accessory works with PS4, PS3, and PC, and it runs with the bee-inspired theme through its black-and-yellow honeycomb design. It’s on the small side and rather light in weight at three pounds, making it a bit harder for some people to handle, even with non-slip pads on the bottom. The size is great for portability, though, with an easy-to-access storage compartment in the front for its USB cable.
The Drone is equipped with a decently responsive stock Qanba stick and buttons, along with a standard panel of Home, Share, and Turbo buttons and a lock switch. It’s a great starter stick that will serve you well right out of the box. Those more accustomed to higher-end components may find the joystick too “loose” and should feel free to upgrade the pieces. If that’s the case for you, mod to your heart's content; a panel door opens up at the bottom and the buttons and stick are easy enough to switch out.
A high-quality fight stick is meant to help you play like a serious competitor, but with one as stylish as the Qanba Obsidian, you’ll look like you mean business, too. Aluminum alloy bevels accentuate the sleek angles of the sturdy, glossy black case, and a shining metallic ball stands tall atop the Sanwa joystick. Blue LED accent lighting on the sides can be set to flash along with your inputs or controller vibrations—they’re not in a position that can distract you while you play, but they’re a little something extra to catch spectators’ eyes.
A lot of gamers like to personalize the look of their arcade sticks with custom designs and artwork, and you can certainly get custom front plates for the Obsidian. Considering the already striking design, though, you may want to stick with what you have, but it's up to you.
But the Obsidian (compatible with PS4, PS3, and PC) isn’t one of the top mid-to-high-range fight sticks solely for its looks. The Sanwa Denshi joystick and buttons are among the most highly regarded and familiar to arcade gamers around the world. The control panel area at the top includes a touchpad, share and turbo buttons, plus a lock switch to avoid accidental presses in the middle of the action.
Razer’s fight sticks are specifically designed to be customizable, and you can do quite a bit of basic modification without voiding the warranty. The Panthera Evo is the latest iteration of the Panthera fight stick for PS4 and PC, with a slimmer, lighter case design and a number of functional changes. A transparent top panel makes it easy to swap in custom designs and artwork. You can download and print pre-made designs or use the skin template to create your own.
The interior is a bit tougher to access than before, requiring you to unscrew the bottom panel to reach the components. But once you’re in, you’ll find a roomy storage area that includes two extra buttons and a screwdriver so you can jump in and get modding.
The Evo also adds a 3.5-mm audio port for your headset or headphones, and its buttons now use the same mechanical switches as Razer’s gaming keyboards. They’re springy, very quick to react, and durable—Razer touts a lifespan of 30 million taps. The eight buttons are accompanied by a Sanwa joystick for an overall very responsive, lag-free arcade experience.
Xbox owners don’t have quite as wide a selection of fight sticks as PS4 owners do, but the Razer Atrox can have you covered just fine. It comes with tournament-grade Sanwa parts, including eight buttons and a joystick with both a ball top and a bat top option. There’s plenty of room below the buttons for your hands to rest comfortably. It connects via a 13-foot USB cable that gives you a whole lot of freedom to move, but it can also be detached and stored to stay out of the way.
Like other Razer arcade sticks, the Atrox is extremely mod-friendly. At the push of a button, the top cover opens up with the help of a hydraulic bar that keeps the lid from slamming down on your fingers. Inside, there’s storage space that includes dedicated slots for parts like extra buttons and the included screwdriver. You can easily mod the buttons and stick from here, too, swapping them for parts to suit your preference. Even changing the artwork on the lid is simple, so you’re not stuck forever with the Razer design (or the Dragon Ball FighterZ branding if you opted for that version).
Nintendo’s Switch console now has a fair share of fighting titles, and the 8Bitdo N30 fight stick with retro NES styling lets you enjoy the genre with a touch of nostalgia. Besides the Switch, it’s compatible with Windows, Mac, and Android and able to connect wirelessly with these diverse platforms through Bluetooth. The battery lasts for a listed 18 hours of play time, and wireless connectivity works well (though pairing can sometimes be tricky). The downside of a wireless controller is it can open the door for input lag, but most users report not noticing any lag to speak of.
If you want to be more competitive using the N30, upgrading its stock parts to a more premium joystick and buttons should make a noticeable difference, and modding the device to make the change is fairly simple. As a whole, though, the affordable N30 is meant to serve as a more casual, fun controller upgrade for Switch gamers rather than as hardcore gaming hardware.
You won’t see the tiny Hori Fighting Stick Mini 4 used in any serious e-sports competitions, but it’s an inexpensive stick that’s ideal for traveling or for beginners to try out. The PlayStation- and PC-compatible controller fits its basic joystick and eight buttons in about an 8 x 6-inch base roughly an inch tall.
Everything about it is compact, and the slightly smaller parts, tight layout, and reduced hand space mean those with larger hands will likely find it somewhat awkward to use. It also includes an 8-inch USB cable that’s plenty long for most situations, but it’s not detachable and there’s no storage area for it.
The Mini 4 isn’t moddable, so you’ll have to work with what you get. But even though the parts aren’t quite pro-caliber, Hori provides enough quality to give many a step up for minimal investment. Plus, if your hands are on the small side, it might just be a perfectly sized, comfortable setup for you.
Price tag and portability not a factor for you? Enter the Qanba Dragon. The Sony-licensed fight stick for PS4, PS3, and PC is as high-end as they come, and the way it looks and feels leaves no doubt on the matter. It has serious heft at 11.6 pounds and 20 x 12.5 x 5 inches, so it’s not the easiest travel companion, but it’s easy to tell this stick is built to last. With a glossy black finish and a glowing strip of red LEDs across the top control panel, the Dragon inspires awe and intimidation worthy of its name.
A convenient feature it comes with is Dragon’s “one-touch” modding capability. That means you can easily open the top to reveal the aluminum “dragon-scale” interior and get quick access to your components, just in case you need to swap out parts on the fly. You probably won’t mind the Sanwa joystick and buttons the Dragon comes with, though, as they’re tournament-grade standard setters in terms of precision and responsiveness.
Also included is a headphone jack, a touchpad, and an 8.5-foot-long braided USB cable that can be stored on hooks at the back of the case, ready to whip out when it’s time to connect. It’s an altogether well-assembled piece of hardware but priced more as a collector’s item or serious equipment for eSports pros.