Fighting games have seen a huge resurgence this console generation. Since the launch of the PS4 and Xbox One, we’ve seen returns to classic fighting franchises, like Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition and Tekken 7, as well as exciting new franchises, such as Dragon Ball FighterZ. And there’s more to come, from long-awaited sequels such as Soul Calibur VI to cool indie fighters like Punch Planet.
But if you’re tired of watching the pros play on Twitch and actually want to start competing seriously, we recommend acquiring a good fight stick or controller. And with so many options on the market, it can seem overwhelming for any newcomer. Here’s a rundown of some of the best controllers for throwing out hadoukens like a master.
What to consider
Buying a fight stick will not make you the King of Fighters. Quite the contrary. Learning how to use a fight stick takes time, and depending on your familiarity with using one, your experience can vary greatly. Luckily, many companies are starting to understand that many younger gamers have grown up with D-pads, dual analog sticks and keyboards, and thus now give players more options.
Pad Warrior: Hori Fighting Commander
The Default: Standard PS4 or Xbox One Controller
Old-School Cool: Original PlayStation Controller + Brook PS2/PS1 Adapter (PlayStation 4)
There are still a few fighting-game players who prefer to use the original PlayStation controller. No, not the dual-shock with its analog sticks, like the first PlayStation controller. At this point, it’s more of a novelty to show up at tournament with a PS1 controller, but a player did win Evolution 2014 in Ultra Street Fighter IV using the old gray pad. And thanks to the popular Brook converter (which comes in a variety of flavors for just about any controller), you can make that happen.
The Stick-Curious: Hori Fighting Stick Mini 4 (PS4, PS3, PC)
Top-tier fight sticks can easily jump past $200. But if you just want to ease yourself into the world of fight sticks, Hori’s Fighting Mini 4 is a great jumping-off point. At $50, it doesn’t have the fanciest buttons or the smoothest gate, but it gets the job done. It’s light and portable, but its size is also. one of the biggest knocks against it: It’s far too small for many fighting-game players. Having a wide area is really important to many players, as it gives buttons adequate spacing and ample room for wrists to sit on. So, only jump on this if you don’t want to drop a lot of cash.
The Porsche: Razer Panthera (PS4, PS3, PC)
If you want some serious hardware, look no further than the Razer Panthera. This is a popular stick among many fighting-game pros, mainly for the smoothness of its gate, ample room, use of Sanwa Denshi buttons and an easy-to-open board. And, of course, it’s fully customizable. The PCB (printed circuit board) is also flashable, meaning that Razer can push out updates that you can download, and make the stick even better. The only downside is a purely cosmetic one: It’s very difficult to change the art. Many fighting-game players love to update the art on their fight sticks, making it their own. While it is possible on the Panthera, it’s a lot of work. Razer also has a slightly more expensive Xbox One version called the Atrox.
The Ferrari: Qanba Dragon (PS4, PS3, PC)
There are plenty of high-quality fight sticks that cost less than the Qanba Dragon, but very few look quite as good. The Dragon is a 10-pound aluminum beast. It’s incredibly sturdy and will not squeak or creak after hundreds of hours of play. Of course, it uses a Sanwa Denshi stick and buttons and is fully customizable.