From Pac-Man to Mario, arcade cabinets have been home to some of the most iconic video game characters of all time... but while the age of the arcade is all but over, the classic control system many of us grew up with is still viable in many modern games. Fighting game fans in particular seem to enjoy the feel of the arcade stick, and many hardcore fighters claim it's the "only" way to enjoy and excel at a title such as Mortal Kombat or Tekken.
Why Are Arcade Sticks Perfect for Fighting Games?
The DualShock 4 is a fantastic controller for almost every genre of game, with the major exception being 2-D fighters. In these games you really only need to move in eight directions (up, down, left, right, and the diagonals between them), and the DS4's analog stick is a little too free-flowing while its D-pad is a little too restrictive to make those movements precise. Arcade sticks, on the other hand, make it easy to nail all eight directions every single time. The button layouts also serve a purpose- each button is placed comfortably under your right hand so that you can hit each one (or multiples) without having to stretch or twist your hand too much- the result is more comfort, faster input, and therefore deadlier combos.
Let's go into which specific fighting games benefit the most from arcade stick play.
Mortal Kombat 9 brought the series back to its 2-D roots, and X perfected the style even more. Playing with a DualShock 4, however, will result in one too many botched "kombos" for serious players and will make the learning curve way more frustrating than it needs to be for newer gamers. Plugging in an arcade stick almost immediately makes the game a hell of a lot easier to control and therefore makes the whole experience feel so much more natural that it's hard to go back.
It's hard to believe that this game marks the 15th title since Budokai, but here we are. The Dragon Ball universe is perfect for fighting games, and while XenoVerse isn't necessarily hailed as the best fighting game of all time, it's hard for DBZ fans not to love. It's not really a 2-D fighter, but the arcade stick still brings a certain element of charm to the gameplay, whether you're fighting on the ground, in the air or underwater.
Made by the same people that brought you Mortal Kombat, Injustice is less of a "hardcore" experience and more about pitting your favorite DC heroes and villains against each other amidst a myriad of gorgeous interactive backdrops from the DC universe. Whether you're calling in the Batmobile to smash into Superman or dosing the Green Arrow with some of the Joker's laughing gas, this game is a must-play for any comic fan, and the arcade stick allows you to nail those actions without fail once you memorize their inputs.
Street Fighter is back, and this time it's a PS4 exclusive. SFV is the biggest reason that many gamers are thinking about picking up an arcade stick, and it's probably the best, too. Ken, Ryu, Chun-Li and Blanka will feel like you remember them feeling in the good old days of arcade tournaments, and you'll find it hard to believe that you were ever forced to play this game with anything other than the classic controls. Everything about the combo of an arcade stick plus SFV is worth it.
Tekken 7 hasn't been released quite yet, but when it does come out you can imagine how important an arcade stick will be. Tekken is arguably one of the most technical of the major fighting games, so precision is more important than it is in many other fighters. Everything we know about 7 so far tells us that the title will be bigger and better than any predecessor, so it may be wise to start saving for an arcade stick now in order to have it plugged in and ready when launch day finally comes.