The arcade joystick you use can enhance or destroy your gaming experience. Despite triggering a feeling of nostalgia each time you place it in your hand, your chosen joystick will determine your comfort, the machine’s flexibility, and the game’s responsiveness, which is why you must choose wisely.

If you are building your own arcade, restoring an original arcade machine, or want to make improvements to a kit arcade with poor controls, you might be unsure about the best joystick to use.

Avoid buying the first or cheapest option you can find, as they aren’t all created equal. So, what are the best arcade joysticks out there? Continue reading to find out.


Unlike American arcade joysticks, Sanwa doesn’t depend on as much wrist work, meaning its joysticks are more responsive during gameplay. As a result, you can perform motions in a faster time frame.

The Sanwa JLF is a smart choice for modern arcade and fighting games, as it offers more precision and control. However, it isn’t best suited to many classic 4-way arcade games, such as Donkey Kong or Pac-Man, as you can easily make the mistake of hitting diagonal.

If you want to play a 4-way title, the Sanwa JLW is a better choice, and you can easily switch to an 8-way following a quick twist underneath the joystick.

Due to the quality of the arcade joystick, many of the top fight sticks feature Sanwa-made controls. For example, the Mayflash F500 Elite has become a popular fight stick, as it provides plenty of wrist space during gameplay and is easy to replace. Plus, the arcade stick has an acrylic panel you can remove with ease. Another superb option is the Nacon Daiji, which features a Sanwa joystick and buttons, as well as a textured palm rest for added comfort. Plus, the screw-on system makes it a breeze to remove the ball top and bat top.


Happ Suzo Competition might not be every gamer’s first choice, but the arcade joystick can have its benefits. The more you use the handle, the looser it will become.

If you are patient, the spring will eventually loosen, or you can speed up the process by changing the microswitch. The latter will allow you to adjust the tension and actuation to match your specific needs.

Happ, originally manufactured by an American company, resembles an upside-down bowling pin, offering a classic joystick and button style compared to other joysticks.

Another option is the Suzo Happ Super 4 or 8 way, which is ideal for 4-way games. The biggest benefits are that it is simple to install and use, as it offers plenty of flexibility. Yet, it might feel a little stiff during gameplay.

If you love hitting an arcade joystick in every direction and riding the gate as hard as you can, Happ might be the perfect choice for you.


The Seimitsu LS-32 arcade joystick is a lot looser than a Happ or Sanwa JLW arcade joystick, but it is a little more restrictive than the Sanwa JLF. Many fans of fighting and shooter games often opt for this option, as it provides more precise, smaller movements.

For instance, it has a short lever, offers little short throw, and provides a proportional range for every direction. It is a great option for many arcade genres, and it is quite versatile thanks to its configurable restrictor in two-, four-, and eight-way modes.

The Seimitsu LS-40 is another option to consider. It has a tighter throw compared to the LS-32 and provides a large range of diagonals. However, you will need a tight grip to avoid sliding on the diagonals. For this reason, it is a wise pick for games that depend on a complete half-circle movement, such as Street Fighter Alpha 3, Samurai Shodown, and Art of Fighting 2.


If you love to play Hollow Knight, Vampire Survivor, or titles traditionally played in arcades, such as Pac-Man, you would be wise to invest in the finest arcade joystick. As you can see, there are plenty of options to choose from above, which will determine gameplay on a custom arcade machine.

If you love fighting games, you are better suited to a Japanese arcade joystick, such as Sanwa JLF. However, if you prefer a more sensitive option that feels responsive during gameplay, you cannot go wrong with the Happ Competition, which will naturally loosen the more you play. Alternatively, the Seimitsu LS-32 arcade joystick provides smaller movements as you play, allowing for more precision.