Just about every genre in gaming can be played competitively, but fighting games are essentially entwined with competitive play. Each match is a direct test between two players’ skills, reactions, understanding of the game mechanics, and ability to predict their opponent’s next move. This is all conveyed through inputs that need to be as intuitive to perform as breathing. If you have to think about how to do something — or worse, you accidentally do something else — then you’ve already lost.
Fighting games require a completely different setup than most other genres. Unlike FPS games, for example, there’s no need for two analog sticks or triggers. Based on the genre’s origins in arcades, many players feel most comfortable with a controller that mimics that stick and button style layout, but over the years, there have been tons of innovations to cater to all types of fighting game players. No matter what your preference, we’ve listed all the best fighting game controllers available.
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For all you competitive players out there who are willing to spend a little extra for a sturdy stick that will last the generation, the Victrix Pro FS Arcade Fight Stick is among your best options. Not only does it look and feel great, but it also comes packed with additional features and is built with maintenance in mind. Aside from just having a nice sleek design, this stick also comes packing neon purple cords and RGB lights inside to give it some personality. Looks aside, this stick comes standard with Sanwa Denshi buttons and a joystick, all of which are easy to detach for cleaning or replacement. You also get three macro buttons along the top that you can customize however you like, plus they can be turned off so you don’t accidentally hit them during play.
The Victrix is nice and heavy at just under 8 pounds, so there’s no chance of slipping or sliding while you have it on your lap or table. When it is time to move, you’ve got convenient handles and strap attachments if you want to sling it over your shoulder. Since this is such a high-end stick, they also made it incredibly easy to pop open and tool around with the components or adjust the stick. You even have little areas to store tools and spare parts right inside, so you’ll never be caught with a busted stick.
The other high-priced option on this list is the Qanba Dragon. This stick is a little less well-designed in terms of ease of transport, but once you’re set up, there’s not much to dislike about this stick. It is arguably a little too heavy, even for those who like a hefty stick, coming in at just under 12 pounds. That heft isn’t for nothing, though, because this stick is about as durable as they come. It is a fully aluminum case with Sanwa buttons and a joystick that feel just as good, if not a little better, than the Victrix. The buttons are snappy and responsive, and the joystick has a comfortable chrome head.
This stick is made for the PS4, so one of the extra buttons is the touchpad, making it that much easier to navigate with without having to swap between a normal controller when setting up games. Popping the hood is also a breeze, with more storage space for parts but also plenty of room for a few other things too. You could realistically pack in everything you need for the day just in the stick itself, which is good because of how awkward it is to travel with otherwise. Oh, and if you’re a stickler for fingerprints, you’ll hate the glossy surface that picks them up better than a detective on a murder case.
Okay, we’ve looked at the two big boys, but what about some smaller options? The Hori Fighting Stick Mini 4 is, obviously, a much smaller and lower-priced arcade stick that is a much better entry point for those who don’t want to make a huge first investment into an arcade stick. This little guy is a mere 8 inches by 6 inches and weighs in at only 2 pounds, making it the easiest by far to bring to events or friends’ houses. It rides that line between being compact but not to the point where your hands will feel cramped using it. The stick and buttons will feel just fine, nothing special, and it does have rubber grips to help keep it in place. That being said, if you’re an aggressive player, you might find yourself chasing this stick around due to how light it is.
This stick is also not all that friendly when it comes to customization. You have all the buttons you need, but there are no bells or whistles here. You’re also not going to be modding this stick since there’s no easy access to its guts, and the buttons are actually soldered right onto the circuit board. All in all, this is a completely serviceable arcade stick for anyone who needs a simple and easy-to-transport backup or wants to test one out at a lower price before checking out the more costly options.
Starting to get into the more unique controller options, we have the Mixbox Universal Edition. As you can already see, the unique feature of this arcade controller is the lack of a joystick. Instead, the Mixbox caters to players who are more comfortable controlling their character’s movement with an arrow key setup. This completely changes how difficult — or easy — various inputs are to perform. But the reason behind this design, and the controller following this one, wasn’t to give players an edge. Aside from personal preference, many longtime fighting game players suffer from wrist pain from prolonged play on a joystick due to repetitive motion, and the arrow key setup of this controller gives them a way to play pain-free.
In terms of parts, you’re getting the best of the best with Sanwa buttons, plus Cherry MX for the directional buttons. There are plenty of extra customizable buttons and even a handy switch on the inside to quickly swap between two movement options. It’s a nice weight, right at 5 1/2 pounds, and has a really generous cable at almost 15 feet long. This Universal Edition, as the name suggests, is a little more pricey, but if you want a stick that will work no matter what you plug it into, this is the one to go for.
Similar, and yet quite different, to the Mixbox is the Hit Box. Just looking at it might seem a little puzzling, but the design is actually incredibly intelligent and intuitive once you get your fingers on it. Rather than the triangular orientation of the previous entry, the Hit Box lays out the movement buttons in a very organic and natural position to how your hand will rest on the pad, just like the normal attack buttons. It should go without saying at this point, but yes, every button here is a Senwa, so everything feels tactile and satisfying. Again, this is a godsend for players with hand or wrist issues.
Just like learning how to properly hold and swing a golf club, there is a learning curve with the Hit Box. Until you become accustomed to it and the button inputs become second nature, you probably will suffer a bit. Also, there is still some contention about this controller giving unfair advantages since you are able to immediately transition from, say, holding back to forward without going neutral like you would if you were pushing a stick from back to forward. If you’re looking to compete, just make sure the events you’re interested in don’t ban this particular controller before you dump time and money into it. Otherwise, this is among the best innovations in fighting game controllers ever created.
Some people call them crazy, but there have been plenty of top competitors out there who stick to more traditional pad-style controllers. For anyone who likes to have a firm grip on their game rather than mimic an arcade cabinet, the Hori Fighting Commander series of controllers are tailor-made for fighting games. Unlike most default controllers, the Hori has an actually good-feeling D-pad, six buttons right on the face, a turbo button, and all the other necessary inputs. The buttons, and controller in general, are a bit bigger than normal ones and flat rather than curved to prevent slipping or accidental inputs.
Hori has an entire line of these controllers for each console, with ones like the PS4 version being compatible with the PS5 and PC as well, so you’re covered no matter where you play. It is also light and ergonomic enough that if you wanted to play with the “claw” grip, using your thumb and index finger on the face buttons, you could do so reasonably without cramping up. Plus, you can still use it easily for other 2D games, and you probably will want to after feeling what a good D-pad is like compared to a standard controller. It’s fairly low-cost and frankly worth having, even if fighting games aren’t your primary genre.
Okay, this is kind of a cheat. This isn’t a controller itself but just lets you use your existing keyboard and mouse setup on your console of choice. If you’re already accustomed to playing on your existing — and perhaps even expensive and customized — keyboard, why go through the trouble and expense of buying and learning a new controller when you can just use what you like on a console? That’s the entire point of the Skywin Brook Sniper Converter. Just slap in your USB keyboard, and you’re good to go — in most cases, anyway.
Technically, this is marketed toward FPS games since keyboard and mouse controls are the preferred methods for so many players in that genre and not officially supported by consoles, but it works just as well for fighting games. There are also those players out there who use even crazier controllers to play, like piano keyboards, which, as long as they connect via USB, this converter will work, no problem.
Razor will round out the list with another fightpad. The Raion Fightpad is simple, straightforward, and to the point. You get your great-feeling D-pad, responsive and flat buttons with a mechanical switch to toggle them on and off, and a comfortable and sturdy shell. It does run on the more expensive side compared to some other pads, including the Hori Fighting Commander, but it’s a little more versatile and comes with some extra functionality, such as the touchpad and share buttons, plus a dedicated switch to go from PS4 to PC depending on where you’re playing. You can also deactivate these buttons to avoid accidental pauses, which is always a great feature.
Another bonus is the headphone jack, which many dedicated fighting gamepads lack. Razor also claims this to be one of the most resilient gamepads and gives each face button a rating of 80 million presses. We didn’t test that out ourselves, but the promise is comforting at the very least. This is essentially the high-end option for those looking for a gamepad, while the Hori is more the entry-level. It isn’t a massive leap from one to the other, but if you’re invested in the extra functions and the general feeling of quality, this one will be worth it.
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