The best arcade sticks you’re lucky to get your hands on

It has been 7 years since Street Fighter 4’s release, and within that period there has been numerous opinions on the best arcade sticks you’re lucky to get that are suited nicely to fighting games. Let’s face it, 7 years is enough time for manufacturers to release multiple iterations of their products, each time finding ways to improve the fighting gamer’s overall experience.

It’s in this time frame as well where the average fighting gamer would have found and stuck with the arcade stick for the long term – something that they’ve grown accustomed to in terms of comfort and mileage. And while others have gone through several arcade sticks and modifications, there are, in my opinion, a couple out there that are worth keeping and using for the long haul.

I’ve based these on my experience with the stick – how it felt when I used it, why I think it’s a keeper, and what I think it could use for improvement.

The long reliable


madcatz-te1-best-arcade-sticks

One of the earlier arcade sticks that appeared and is still being used in current times is the MadCatz TE1 (TE stands for Tournament Edition). Dated as it may be based on the decal on the surface, the TE1 definitely set the standard for durability.

I remember when I held a TE1 for the first time and it really felt like I was playing on an arcade machine – there is a great deal of authenticity with this stick, and it makes you feel right at home.  Credit goes to using Sanwa parts (you can view this for my thoughts on arcade stick parts), and it’s compatibility to Sanwa parts that makes it the consensus stick for future modding.

This is a great stick to have, if you’re able to find it. The aspect that I feel is worth improving would be more for the PCB – there were versions of the TE1 that had issues with the PCB’s, and with the advent of the newer-generation consoles, it’s definitely worth investing in a newer PCB to cater to newer-generation consoles.

Before owning my own stick, I enjoyed using the TE1 whenever I borrowed from other players, and I’d like to tell you why.

The extremely sleek


hori-fighting-edge-best-arcade-sticks

Not to sound bias at all, but when the Hori Fighting Edge came out back in 2012, I wanted it so bad! It’s got a nice, streamlined look, a touchscreen panel on the right with different functions (start, back/select, disable/button switch and tournament.. which turns on the side lights, which extremely cool), and not to mention stick/buttons specifically designed by Hori which they claim “will improve your execution”.

Ever since I got it last year, I still keep telling myself that this is an amazing piece of work – the Hayabusa stick and Kuro buttons have very good input and feedback that I can honestly feel a sense of precision when I play. It feels like there’s no wasted movement, and it kinda teaches you to be precise with your motions. And hey, every time I activate tournament mode on the stick, I feel like I’m the coolest person in the room!

This is definitely a stick you could carry with pride. The only setback for me is that a wrongly-positioned right arm while playing could inadvertently turn off your controls during gameplay (or enable the lights.. which is not bad, unless your console uses a usb extender, in which case there surge of power going to the lights messes things up).

Here’s some information about the Hori Fighting Edge that makes me love it so much!

A staple for cross-platform


 best-arcade-sticks-qanba-q4

Then there’s the Qanba Q4-RAF. Qanba was one of the first sticks to have multi-platform features (that would be the Q4-RAF version, the standard Q4 is platform-specific). Just like the Madcatz TE’s, the Q4’s also come with Sanwa parts, which also makes it a candidate for stick/button modding or upgrades.

What I remember distinctly with the Q4 in the times I’ve used it it felt very similar to the TE1, except that I had less worry about banging on the surface (I’m a generally noisy when it comes to using my arcade stick), which is credited to the plexiglass surface (although to be honest, you can have that made and placed on your arcade stick of choice). I also felt that it gave off a “new arcade cabinet” feel, as if it always felt clean in both feel and motions.

I feel the one thing that the Q4 would definitely need improvement on is the cord storage – the door that has the cords neatly kept breaks pretty easily and should be taken care of over time. Other than that, the Qanba Q4-RAF is a great stick to have.

Read this if you want to know more about the Qanba Q4-RAF!

The most accommodating


razer-atrox-best-arcade-sticks

The final piece would be the Razer Atrox. Admittedly, if I didn’t have my Fighting Edge, this would have been the next stick of my choice. Razer has always been known to manufacture exemplary peripherals for gaming, and their foray into fighting games did not disappoint at all.

I will say that this is the stick I had the least experience with, but despite that I will say, based on what I see firshand, is that the overall performance of the stick makes the brand proud – it’s got good precision, the stick/buttons are very reliable (again, Sanwa parts!), but what sets it apart from the others is that the Atrox is really built for modding – there is a button on the stick that gives you full access to its internals and storage, giving more convenience when upgrading the stick.

The only letdown would be the break-away part of the stick’s cord – the Atrox’s break-away, well literally, breaks away pretty easily compared to others. Not too big a deal since the break away is meant to prevent the cord from pulling/detaching from the PCB, but one too many occurrences of this can result in a broken connection later on. Good thing Razer has a great warranty/product support to take care of replacement break-aways!

(Come have a look at what made the Razer Atrox such a game-changer.)

Let’s wrap this up!


I honestly believe that you’d be in a good place if you chance upon any of these 4. But I’m sure that other sticks (as well as later sticks) are similarly great as well – I’m just fortunate that I got to try products across different competitive brands, and at the end of the day, it’s all about personal preference and making your stick your own.

 

Have you tried an arcade stick that is not mentioned here? Let me know in the comments section, and I’ll do my best to review it!

 


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10 Comments

  • Adam says:

    I am just getting back into gaming and did not realize there is so many choices. Your review has helped me.

    Thank you,

    Adam

    • Raphy says:

      Glad that my review could help, Adam! Yeah, one of the bigger challenges when getting into/back into gaming is how much you pay – obviously you pay for the console, but for controllers like arcade sticks it’s a different story altogether. The newer sticks are definitely premium price point, but there are definitely older and reliable sticks like the MadCatz Tournament Edition Round 1 in the market that you can do with at lesser cost. 🙂

  • Shane says:

    Omg I did not realise there was still a market for these. I spent years in my teens in a local fish and chip shop smashing buttons and pouring coins into Street Fighter. I need one of these. Great article and I feel well informed. I think the Hori Fighting Edge is my pick. Thanks

    • Raphy says:

      Hey Shane! Oh man, nothing like those good old days when you’d run to the local gaming place and bump shoulders all day just to play a couple of rounds in Street Fighter! Ah, I remember them like it was only yesterday – I guess that’s a lingering feeling that fighting gamers have when they use their arcade sticks, lol!

      What’s even more interesting is how the fighting game community has grown over the years, and how publishers like Sony, Arc System Works and Netherrealm Studios have really put their efforts in putting fighting games in the same vein as League of Legends or DOTA 2. And with that exposure coupled with accessible game mechanics, there would be more players (consequently, more arcade sticks) to keep the scene running strong for years to come. So there’s definitely a market for arcade sticks!

      I’m so glad you like the Hori Fighting Edge, it’s definitely my favorite arcade stick by far in its generation of arcade stick products in the market. Hori did such an amazing job when they put this together – the Hayabusa Stick performs so nicely – no matter how violently you wiggle it, it still gives the same exact motion inputs as you would have coming straight from its box (I have 2 kids who have banged my Fighting Edge a lot, both when playing and otherwise), and the Kuro pushbuttons are definitely at par with the performance you get from the Sanwa line of products. Much love to the touchscreen panel and the competition mode lights, too. And save for some chipping on the side, it’s a very durable product – the Hori Fighting Edge is an arcade stick that I will always recommend others to buy.

      Have fun with your Fighting Edge when you get it, and more Shoryukens in the near future!

  • Jurgen says:

    Those are some awesome controllers! It takes me right back to the arcade halls in the 90’s where I played Street Fighter II. The Razer stick looks great! I love their products. I have a Deathadder and a Tarantula myself 🙂

    Nowadays I’m not much playing fighting games, but if I would, I sure wanna get one of those sticks!

    Thanks for the great info!

    • Raphy says:

      Razer has definitely done an amazing job over the years, and given that the Atrox was their first foray into fighting games, it quickly became a go-to product due to the amount of customization and modification that can be done. They’ve always been open-minded when it comes to future technology, which is why I’m glad that the Atrox provides performance and flexibility for a reasonable price.

      Hopefully this will convert you back into playing fighting games, Jurgen!

  • Yerko Fernandez says:

    Hello Raphy,

    I’ve been a fan of SF4 tournaments since it came out, even though I’ve never played myself (not enough time). I’ve always wondered if the people that went to tournaments had their favorite stick brands, but I never gave a thought to the quality of the sticks so I just thought that people solely chose them for the design. This is a nice review and if I ever get into SF4 (or SF5 now) I’ll buy one of those 🙂

    • Raphy says:

      Fighting game players can be particular to a certain brand not just because it’s a prominent name, but also because to them, the brand is synonymous to the quality of their products. Nowadays, though, stick manufacturers use the same quality Sanwa parts, so it’s become a combination of quality parts, performance and comfort that players want to have, hence their choice of brand.

      If ever you want to jump into SFV, I highly recommend the MadCatz Tournament Edition 2 sticks that are up for pre-order – it’s definitely at the forefront, and a top recommendation by pro players. Cheers and Shoryuken!

  • Destin says:

    I never knew there were arcade sticks for new consoles and PC. I would love to get one of these to play some Galaga, Dig Dug, or even some good old Pac-Man. These all seem like really good choices for arcade sticks. I think I would choose the Hori Fighting Edge mainly for the lights on it and the touchscreen it comes with. I also might look into the Razer Atrox because of the look of it and I really like that you are able to mod it and replace buttons and joy sticks for whatever other ones you wanted, which really changes the perspective of this device for me.

    • Raphy says:

      The two sticks you mentioned are 2 of the nicest sticks I’ve seen in the past years. Both sticks have such great craftsmanship. And while MadCatz’ recent line for the current generation are a little more on the pricey side, those 2 sticks won’t feel like spending an arm and a leg to purchase.

      Besides, you can always look at getting a multi-platorm converter so you can still use them for the PS4 or Xbox One. Thanks for the feedback!

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