Updated: Jul 28
2023 is shaping up to be a hell of a year for fighting game fans, with the impending release of Street Fighter 6 just under a month away and heavy hitters like Tekken 8 and Mortal Kombat 12 due out later in the year. Things haven’t been this rosy for fighting game fans since the late 2000s, when we got gems such as Street Fighter 4, Marvel vs Capcom 3, and King of Fighters 13. And despite these franchises being on their nth iteration, it has never been easier getting into them. Street Fighter 6 is more beginner friendly than any other previous entry, and there’s no better way to play a fighting game than with a fight stick (AKA arcade stick).
To help out newcomers and returning veterans alike, we’ve put together a list of budget arcade sticks for fighting games that don’t sacrifice on quality. These options won’t break the bank nor will they break during the middle of an online match. The list includes options for most major platforms, including PC, Switch, Xbox Series S/X, and PlayStation 4/5.
Qanba Drone 2
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
This entry-level fight stick is a follow up to their popular Drone 1. It features a matte black finish with a lightweight body that looks sleek and makes carrying around to local tournaments easy. Compared to the original, the joystick on the Drone 2 feels better with more audible clicks. The buttons however, are carried over from the original. Other upgrades found on the Drone 2 are the touchpad and headphone jack.
Inside the Drone 2, you won’t find Sanwa buttons or joystick, but those can be easily added in later if needed. But something that can’t be modded in later is the odd cable management. While most fight sticks have an enclosed storage compartment for the USB cable, the Drone uses a cubby hole under the wrist rest. It isn’t the best-looking option, but it does the job.
8BitDo Arcade Stick
Platforms: PC, Switch, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Classic, Super Nintendo Classic
If you have a Nintendo Switch or any of the Classic consoles, the 8BitDo is a great option for only $90. It also happens to be one of the best-looking options with a retro Nintendo styling that will fit right into any 8-bit décor or console. And while it doesn’t come with a Sanwa joystick or buttons, which are the gold standard of fight sticks, the ones it does come with are decent enough.
The advantages of the 8BitDo are that it features wireless connectivity via Bluetooth or included 2.4 GHz USB dongle. The latter option allows it to be compatible with the PlayStation Classic and Super Nintendo Classic consoles. At $90, it is one of the best all-in-one wireless options for most consoles, with the exception of the PlayStation 5. Being a wireless joystick, no cable management to worry about!
MAYFLASH Arcade Stick F300 Elite
Platforms: PC, Switch, Xbox One/S/X/360, macOS, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4
The F300 Elite is the upgraded version of the F300 and comes equipped with Sanwa buttons and joystick. For any fighting game player that will spend hours upon hours leveling up in training mode or playing against real human players, Sanwa hardware offers better tactile response and feel. It’s akin to typing on a high-end Corsair mechanical keyboard with Cherry switches versus a cheap rubber membrane keyword.
HORI Fighting Stick Mini 4
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PC (Via firmware update)
The HORI Fighting Stick Mini 4 is the cheapest option on the list from one of the best arcade stick manufacturers of all time. As you’d expect from a fight stick with “Mini” in the name, it is one of the smallest options on the market. It also happens to be one of the feature-bare options, with no support for turbo macros or selectable D-pad or analog stick modes. Another downside is non-Sanwa parts and an inability to easily swap out those inferior parts. Cable management is also a pain, with no storage cubby or detachable USB cable. But at $50, it is the cheapest way to get into fight sticks.
Brook Fighting Board
Platforms: PlayStation 3/4/5, Xbox Series X/S/One/360, PC, Wii U
You might be thinking, “That’s an odd-looking joystick”, and you're right!
The Brook Fighting Board is not a joystick per-se, but rather a way for you to build your own. If you happen to have an old Mad Catz Fight Stick from the PS3 era for instance, you can get it PS4 or even PS5 compatible by replacing its guts with the Brook Fighting Board. Installation is a cinch using small screwdriver with hex and Phillips bits, along with some electrical tape—no soldering iron needed at all! You can even use an old SNES or Sega Genesis joystick if you happen to have one of those lying around.