The Best Controller for Fighting Games – We Explain

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The Best Controller for Fighting Games – We Explain

Are you looking for the Best Controller for Fighting Games but are completely overwhelmed with the options? We explain the strengths and weaknesses of each of them to help you find the right one.

Fighting Games are hotter than ever. Tekken 8, Street Fighter 6, Mortal Kombat 1, and Guilty Gear Strive have cemented this new era of the genre. And with more games than ever, even more folks are looking to get into these heated competitions.

This begs the question, which controllers are the best to play fighting games with? We've tested a lot of them and run all the different types through their paces. So here's a handy guide to all of them and everything you need to know about picking the right one for the job.

The Best Controller for Fighting Games Explained

But first, you'll need to know what's out there. When it comes to Fighting Game controllers it is the Wild West out there. Generally, we differentiate fighting game controllers into 3 broad categories: Stick, Levelerless, and Pad. All of them have their strengths and your mileage may vary depending on the game you're playing.

Let this be the first and only real guide you need. Every type of controller is valid and you should first and foremost play with whatever you're comfortable with. We had EVO champions winning with PlayStation One controllers so everything is possible. And you don't need to spend hundreds of dollars on a fancy premium controller when you can get decent ones for around 100$ USD.

But here is a quick rundown of all the controllers.

Fighting Game Pad

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Image: Sony

A pad is your standard controller that comes with every console. PlayStation, Xbox, Switch Pro, or premium brand controller, the options are limitless. These are perfectly fine to play fighting games on. The precise movement might be a little more difficult on a joystick + D-Pad combo but is more than manageable.

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Most of the issues regarding inputs can easily be remedied by setting up Macros in a game's settings. Depending on taste, you might want to go into controller modding to get more clicky or sensitive buttons.

Fighting Game Arcade Stick

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Image: Nacon

The Arcade Stick is the kind of controller you used to find at Arcade's before the rise of the home console. Many Arcade Warriors still prefer these over your regular Pad which is why you now have a huge market of Arcade Sticks out there. Despite common belief, these don't make you better at Fighting Games but they do have their upsides over the Pad.

A stick makes motion inputs you'll find in games like Guilty Gear and Street Fighter way easier and having access to 8 buttons in two rows can make a difference. They are also highly customizable. Sticks, buttons, layout, and even their weight can all be adjusted to a user's taste. They are the easiest type of controller to maintain if you're looking for something that'll last you a lifetime.

If you want to start your Arcade Stick journey, you're spoiled for options with brands across all price categories. The major choice you will make is between Japanese and Korean leveler which comes down to taste. As long as it has Sanwa buttons and works on the platform of your choice, you're good to go.

Fighting Game Levelerless Controller

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Image: Razer

The Leverless Controller or Hitbox has been around for the better part of 10 years and is the new kid on the block. They come in either the chunkier Hitbox format or the slimmed-down Levelerless Controller which uses buttons more similar to what you'd find on a mechanical keyboard than an arcade controller.

The main difference between these and the other types is motion inputs that are more similar to a WASD setup. Being able to hold down two opposite directions at the same time is pretty useful in games like Tekken which will make backdashing a lot easier.

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If you want to play tournaments you have to make sure your controller comes with a SOCD cleaner which makes sure your controller isn't sending two opposing inputs at the same time.

Their only downside is motion inputs, which require a little more finesse and timing compared to a stick. Being able to throw out an uppercut or 720° throw in a fluid motion rather than several inputs can make all the difference. But that will always come down to the player and the character they play.

There is a variety to choose from just like the Arcade Sticks. We recommend going for something cheaper first before splurging big on a premium brand. As long as the parts are of decent quality, it works on your platform, and has a SOCD Cleaner, you should be good to go. Just keep in mind that the smaller variant uses Keyboard parts that are a lot harder to maintain.


When it comes to the best controller for fighting games, there is no real answer. All of it comes down to taste, game, and type of player so giving a definitive answer seems impossible. Just don't fall into the rabbit hole that makes you believe you need a certain type of controller to succeed.

The best players in the world use all kinds of controllers and it comes down to what you're comfortable with. Just don't go out and purchase something you won't end up using. Head to your locals and ask if you can try other people's controllers before buying an expensive controller you won't use.

For more on Fighting Games check out our picks for Fighting Games and Indie Fighting Games you should check out.

The Best Controller for Fighting Games – We Explain
Timo Reinecke
Has once claimed that FSH is the only job in FFXIV worth playing and stands by that firmly. Top Guy, Smart Guy, Educated Speaker. (sometimes) Writer of all things FFXIV, FGC, News, Reviews and More