8BitDo Wireless Arcade Fight Stick (Xbox And PC) Review – Punching Up

With the recent release of Street Fighter 6, and a new Tekken and Mortal Kombat on the way, it’s safe to say fighting games are on the come up in 2023. And while modern fighting games are designed with gamepad controls in mind (and several pro players use a gamepad), virtually throwing hands with an arcade stick is still the preferred way for many. Whether it be for ergonomics and comfort or for the advantage of swifter, more accurate command inputs, the right fight stick can be a game-changer. Personally, I find they just feel right–especially when using one like the 8BitDo Arcade Stick.

I spent several hours using the new 8BitDo Arcade Stick for Xbox and PC and it performed fantastically–with springy buttons and a responsive joystick–which is the top priority of course. Beyond that, it also has a number of features that round out the package, like simple toggles to switch input modes, a steel plate to give the compact box solid weight, and smart design choices for modding. More importantly, it holds up in competitive environments when used wirelessly.

The thing is, it’s nearly identical to the 8BitDo Arcade Stick for Switch and PC that came out two years ago. So if you’re strictly a PC player (and don’t mind the NES-inspired color scheme), you can get the previous iteration for cheaper and not miss out on much from a performance standpoint. However, $120 USD for a high-quality fight stick with great wireless capability is still a solid deal, so if Xbox is your main fighting game platform, this one should be in top contention.

Measuring in at 303 mm / 11.93 inches wide, the 8BitDo Arcade Stick is a compact li'l fella.
Measuring in at 303 mm / 11.93 inches wide, the 8BitDo Arcade Stick is a compact li’l fella.

Gallery

Features and Design

With this version of the 8BitDo Arcade Stick being officially licensed for the Xbox platform, it comes with some small but nice features specifically for Xbox users (and it comes in either a black or white color scheme, same as the Xbox controllers). As expected, the buttons all match the platform, including the power button and the dedicated screenshot/video capture button found on the Series X|S controllers. One thing to note is that it does not use Xbox’s proprietary wireless technology, so you’ll have to use the 2.4GHz USB dongle that comes with the stick.

To charge the stick and/or play wired, you can use the included detachable 10-foot USB-C to USB type-A cord. There’s also a 3.5mm audio jack on the board, a mute toggle, a toggle switch for the stick to act as left stick, right stick, or D-pad, and a button to activate turbo button inputs (which I’d never use anyway).

A feature you don’t get with the Xbox version of the 8BitDo Arcade Stick is Bluetooth, though this too is not a feature I’d use on a fight stick considering the latency. I suspect it was included as a feature for the Switch version with the idea of playing undocked or running through retro arcade games in mind, where the slight latency is not as much of a factor.

The backplate (which has the weighted steel plate attached) is bolted on by six Philips head screws and easily comes off once they’re loosened, which is a plus for modders. Inside you’ll see the PCB and pins neatly laid out, and there’s a little label to show the mirrored button arrangement to help when swapping out new buttons. You’ll also see the 8-way joystick’s square gate held in place with clips as it’s not screwed in–if you wish to swap to a octogonal gate, it can be done easily.

Inside the 8BitDo Arcade Stick--buttons, pins, PCB, lever gate.
Inside the 8BitDo Arcade Stick–buttons, pins, PCB, lever gate.

As with other 8BitDo controllers, you can tinker with the Arcade Stick’s button mappings and create macros through Ultimate Software. (For now, the software recognizes the stick but does not have customization options yet as it likely needs an update since it has not officially launched as of this review.) Like the Switch version, the two buttons on the top right are the only ones available for macro mapping. However, they also function as RS and LS inputs by default. You’re able to download the software via the Microsoft Store as well so you can customize it even on your Xbox consoles.

Performance

The main question with any stick, though: How does it perform? When it comes to the 8BitDo Arcade Stick, the answer is wonderfully. As someone who’s used and modded the Hori Real Arcade Pro 4 over the past five years, I can be particular about button feel and form factor, but the 8BitDo Arcade Stick checks all the boxes for me. With its springy buttons for fast, repetitive inputs and responsive joystick that provides just enough resistance, it feels great to use out of the box with stock parts.

I tested it out by spending several hours in each of my current favorites–Melty Blood: Type Lumina on PC, Guilty Gear Strive on Xbox Series S, and Street Fighter 6 on PC. Starting with Melty Blood, which is definitely the fastest fighter of the bunch, I was able to hold my own online with my main, Noel. There are a bunch of jump cancels, directional changes, and quick crouching inputs that happen at breakneck speed in Melty Blood matches, and it felt comfortable to keep up using this stick.

Guilty Gear Strive places more emphasis on big directional inputs, requiring double quarter-circles and half-circles often for heavier moves, so having a strong joystick is important. I had no problems with the 8BitDo stick playing a ton of rounds online with Ramlethal as my main. And with Street Fighter 6 being the hottest game on the block, I had an easy time with Lily, Kimberly, and Juri in the lab–these are all characters who play quite differently from each other, but I’m happy to say that my many losses online were due to a skill issue, not the stick.

Getting ranked match Ws in Melty Blood: Type Lumina with the 8BitDo Arcade Stick in wireless mode.
Getting ranked match Ws in Melty Blood: Type Lumina with the 8BitDo Arcade Stick in wireless mode.

Now, I love the simple chassis design and compact form factor, but something to keep in mind is that the stick isn’t very wide, measuring in at 303mm / 11.93 inches. While I prefer the small footprint, it may be a bit uncomfortable on your lap if you have a wider seating position. Another thing to note is that there is no slope in the wrist area–it’s not uncommon for fight sticks, but this could be a dealbreaker for folks who have specific ergonomic needs.

As for its wireless capabilities, I spent most of my time with the stick using the 2.4GHz dongle. I’m not a pro-level player, but I can attest to the responsiveness of the wireless mode in competitive matches I’ve played online. Between my wired Hori RAP 4 and the 8BitDo Arcade Stick, I didn’t notice any glaring difference in input latency. The other factor here is battery life; I put in roughly 10 hours total with it after a full charge and haven’t had to plug it back in yet (and it’s worth noting 8BitDo rates the stick to last up to 30 hours).

Verdict

The 8BitDo Arcade Stick is an all-around great fight stick and a solid choice if you want to get somewhat competitive in the fighting game scene. Its straightforward, practical design and excellent button/stick feel make it fantastic out of the box. There might be some hesitancy with a wireless stick, but in my experience, input latency was not an issue. At $120 MSRP, it’s a fair price considering the quality and features you get.

Like many gaming peripherals, whether or not a particular product is for you comes down to preference, especially when it comes to form factor and platform of choice. Such is the case with fight sticks, including the 8BitDo Arcade Stick. For this SKU in particular, the question of whether or not you should pick this one up just comes down to what platform you play on. If it’s PC, you can save a decent chunk of cash by going with the Switch/PC version, but if you are indeed an Xbox main, this is the one you’ll want.

The products discussed here were independently chosen by our editors.
GameSpot may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.

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