Quarter-circles to victory
Playing fighting games with a controller isn't exactly an ideal solution. Sure, you can do it, just like you can grab food out of a fryer with your bare hands, but you probably shouldn't. Most fighting games have at least six buttons for attacking, and with only four face buttons on a typical controller, that leaves the rest to the shoulder buttons and triggers. Inelegant is putting it mildly.
But with a proper fighting stick, all of the attack buttons are laid out for you, just like in the arcade. You even get a proper joystick for those reflex-intensive precision special moves you have to pull off. Once you're ready to ditch the controller, check out these amazing arcade sticks for your favorite platforms.
The Xbox 360 is a surprisingly versatile platform for fighting games, from the appearance of Dead or Alive 4 at the system's launch to HD remakes of Street Fighter 2. So of course you're going to need a proper fight stick to take advantage of all of these games. Check out the officially licensed Hori VX (opens in new tab), complete with Xbox 360 headset adapter. No need to button mash, the turbo function is included. If you really want to splurge, the fully moddable Razer Atrox (opens in new tab) even features an internal storage compartment.
There aren't too many fighting games on the Xbox One yet, but with Dead or Alive 5 Last Round and Mortal Kombat X (opens in new tab) on the way, there's more than enough in store to grab one of these arcade sticks in advance. Heck, Killer Instinct is reason enough to splurge on the Mad Catz Arcade FightStick (opens in new tab). It's just begging for customization. Save a few dollars with the officially licensed Hori Real Arcade Pro Hayabusa (opens in new tab) and its sleek redesigned chassis. You'll be pulling off c-c-c-combo breakers in no time.
Like the Xbox 360, the PlayStation 3 has no shortage of fighting games, and no shortage of arcade sticks to use with them. Slap around some fools in Virtua Fighter 5 or Tekken 6 with the Mad Catz Arcade FightStick Pro (opens in new tab). It features a Japanese-style joystick and buttons and a heavy metal base that feels like winning. The Hori Fighting Stick V3 (opens in new tab) gives an authentic arcade feel and a built-in turbo function. Your opponents won't know what hit them.
There are fewer fighting games on the PlayStation 4 than there are on the Xbox One, and the number of fightsticks available reflects that. Currently, the only arcade stick officially available on the PS4 is the Hori Real Arcade Pro V4 Hayabusa (opens in new tab). While the Skullgirls developers are working on a driver that will allow PS3 sticks to work on a PS4, this one will have to suffice until some competition comes along. At least it's worth the price.
The Wii is chock-full with great fighting games, and it remains the only system where you can play Tatsunoko vs. Capcom and clean house as Dead Rising's Frank West. Despite the number of quality fighting games on offer, there are only a few choices available that won't break the bank, like this Arcade Fighter from dreamGEAR (opens in new tab), or this generic-looking fightstick from Hori (opens in new tab). If you're looking for something a bit more special, though, this Tatsunoko vs. Capcom-branded arcade stick (opens in new tab) will do nicely.
With a grand total of two traditional fighting games available on the Wii U, it's no wonder that there's only one proper fightstick available. This one (opens in new tab) comes courtesy of Bandai Namco, and it's specifically designed to work with Tekken Tag Tournament 2, though it'll work with Injustice: Gods Among Us as well. It's a bit hard to find, but if you're dying for a traditional fightstick for your Nintendo console, this is really your only option. But if you're into Nintendo's other fighting game
Super Smash Bros.
Want to play Super Smash Bros. for Wii U without having to wield the massive GamePad or adjust to the weird button layout of the Wii U Pro Controller? Then you're in luck, because Nintendo has made GameCube controllers available as an option for the most hardcore of the hardcore. Why is this important? Two reasons: one) the control scheme that has persisted since Melee is a perfect fit for the GameCube controller, and two) there are so many GameCube controllers out there that it should be easy to track some down for cheap. All you need is the GameCube Adapter (opens in new tab) and a controller (this one (opens in new tab) is specially made for the new release, but any ol' controller will do), and you'll be smashing with the best. You can even use the Wavebird (opens in new tab), one of the greatest wireless controllers ever made.
Consoles aren't the only ones getting fighting game love. Lately, many developers have made great strides putting their flagship fighting game franchises on PC. This means that you'll need a proper fightstick to enjoy them as they were intended. Luckily, there are plenty of universal options that will work on either a console or a computer, like the hefty Mayflash Universal Arcade Stick (opens in new tab). The Mayflash is also the most compatible across other consoles. Qanba's Q1 (opens in new tab) comes with an adjustable/removable table clamp for a true arcade feel. And Q4 (opens in new tab) has an Xbox 360 headphone jack
Fightsticks aren't cheap, especially if you're looking at a halfway decent one. Luckily, there are a few bundles out there that can get you started with a solid arcade stick and a game or two. Bandai Namco has a limited edition bundle (opens in new tab) containing a HORI wireless fightstick and a copy of Tekken 6 that's still pretty easy to find. And if you're looking for some retro goodness, check out the NEOGEO X GOLD Limited Edition bundle (opens in new tab) that combines a decent universal arcade stick and 20 old-school NEOGEO and SNK games like Samurai Showdown to sweeten the deal.
Here we are: the rarest of the rare. These arcade sticks are likely out of production, so whatever you're able to find will have its price jacked up by the collector's market. Still, if you want to boast that you've got a limited edition fightstick designed specifically for the new Killer Instinct (opens in new tab), or you've got a tournament-quality Street Fighter IV stick (opens in new tab) that replicates the arcade feel almost exactly, well, more power to you.
Kick, punch, it's all in the mind
Any one of these fightsticks for your console of choice will leave you a dragon kick above the competition. Well, as long as you practice your kung fu, of course. Do you have any suggestions on how best to replicate that true, arcade experience? Let us know in the comments below!