In the fighting game community, there’s a never-ending debate that’s been raging on for years. Nobody can seem to agree on what the most helpful controller is. Many players will tell you to just pick what you like best While that is a valid statement, I feel it’s not completely honest. I played fighting games on a gamepad for years, but I recently made the leap to using a fightstick, and I am glad I did. After having a decent amount of experience with it, I have reached the conclusion that it is better than fighting on a gamepad. I know, not exactly a hot take, but I feel the need to dive into it. In honor of Tekken 8 coming out this month, here’s why any serious fighting game player should go for the arcade stick (or hitbox) controller.
It Makes You See Where You’re Lacking
I thought I had the basics down. I know how to play neutral, I have quarter circles and unique inputs down, and I’ve got an excellent anti-air game. Anyone will tell you there’s more to it than this, and that’s obvious. But as much as you need to learn what to do, you need to understand what not to do, and you may not even realize you’re doing a lot wrong. You can smooth out those rough edges in your skills with a fight stick. Changing the way you use the controls, along with more tactile responsiveness, can teach you a lot about yourself.
I thought I wasn’t too bad about mashing buttons in a panic. However, after a few hours with my Mayflash F300, I realized I was dead wrong. Hearing the buttons being pressed more let me audibly know I was pushing buttons way more times than was necessary. I could feel and hear the errors in my play. Seeing it on the screen is one thing, but when you can feel how clunky you’re playing, it becomes self-evident. It’s opened my eyes to how much I need to change and learn.
It Feels Satisfying
There’s no denying that if something feels good, you’ll likely use it a lot. And while playing on a pad can feel nice, there’s a different vibe with a fightstick. It’s like being a musician and getting your first microphone to record with. You feel like you’ve leveled up. I found the air of professionalism that the controller had to be a confidence booster. I was learning my characters all over again, but I felt great doing it. There’s also a satisfying feeling to the sound and function of the buttons and stick. Every button press and movement feels more precise and sounds like a classic arcade game. And if you find a little detail uncomfortable, you can always customize it!
Fightsticks and hitboxes are some of the most easily and even affordably customizable peripherals, and that’s a huge plus. In most cases, you could buy an affordable stick and upgrade it over time to fit your preference. This also makes repairs a whole lot easier. Are your buttons or sticks too noisy? Get some with dampened sound. Is the casing a little dull? Order a custom case! Did your light punch button start sticking? You can replace it with ease! You could begin with the internals and work outward to build your own. The possibilities are endless with the arcade-style controllers.
Gives Your Gamepads a Break
If you play fighting games seriously, then you know how easy it is to burn through controllers. Thumbsticks drift, directional buttons stop working, the bumper buttons aren’t responding, it’s all going to happen to you at some point in life if you play games. And oh man, do fighting games do this quicker than any other genre. You’re constantly rotating the thumbstick and smashing the directional and face buttons. Even a high-quality pad will give out one day, and unless it’s an expensive pro controller, changing out any of the parts won’t be easy. Using a fightstick relieves your gamepads of the burden of being used in Street Fighter, allowing more of its life to be spent on other games. Plus, they’re usually universal, so you won’t need more than one between most consoles.
If you are a dedicated fighting game player, I highly recommend using a fightstick or hitbox over a traditional gamepad. Not to discredit classic console controllers, they’re still an optimal choice. But the stick is a controller style that has withstood the test of time and continues improving. If you have asked if you should try it, the answer is yes. You will not regret it. It can even open up the door to a new tech hobby, as it did for me.