The N30 Arcade Stick, a Bluetooth controller that fitted with PCs, Android devices, and the Nintendo Switch, was launched four years ago. Its successor, the 8Bitdo Arcade Stick, is a vast upgrade in almost every way. The $89.99 joystick features a 2.4GHz USB wireless adapter, Bluetooth compatibility, and a mod-friendly interface, as well as a larger, more substantial construction than its predecessor. Although the 8Bitdo Arcade Stick isn’t compatible with Android devices or most game consoles, it’s a small price to pay for better results on PC and Switch.
Although the Arcade Stick is slightly smaller than the N30 stick, it has a far more dense and sturdy feel to it. It’s 4.4 by 11.9 by 8 inches (HWD) and weights 4.6 pounds, shaves about an inch off the depth of the N30 while gaining another 1.5 pounds. This is a plus; a strong arcade stick can feel safe no matter where you put it, whether it’s on your lap or on a table. To resist slipping, the bottom has four thick rubber boots.
The Arcade Stick has a more angular, technical appearance than the N30 stick. The corners are a little sharper (but still somewhat rounded), and etched lines form an irregular grid that separates the joystick, key buttons, programmable buttons, and device controls. It looks a lot like the NES Advantage joystick for the NES, but with a lot more controls.
The joystick is an eight-directional control mechanism in the arcade style, with a spherical “balltop”-style knob and a square gate associated with the cardinal directions. For the traditional Vewlix style, the key buttons are red and slightly concave, and are placed in two rows of four. Two slightly recessed programmable macro buttons numbered P1 and P2 rest above these buttons, against the Arcade Stick’s upper-right corner.
The controller’s behavior is dictated by a control cluster in the Arcade Stick’s upper-left corner. The left knob activates the joystick and selects Nintendo Switch or XInput mode, while the right knob selects if the joystick is mapped to the left analog stick, position pad, or right analog stick. The stick may be set to attach wirelessly to the provided 2.4GHz USB receiver or to act as a Bluetooth unit with a simple slider switch.
There are the usual Start, Choose, Home (for Nintendo Switch), and Capture (for Nintendo Switch) keys, as well as a wireless pairing button. A tiny door on the back edge of the Arcade Stick hides a USB-C port that can be used to charge the controller or attach it to a wired network (a lengthy 10-foot USB-to-USB-C cable is included). When not in service, the same door hides a dummy USB-A port that houses the 2.4GHz USB receiver. Unfortunately, the Arcade Stick lacks a tournament-friendly button-lock switch, much like the Hori Fighting Stick Mini: Street Fighter Edition.
The Arcade Stick will attach to a Nintendo Switch or a Windows PC through Bluetooth or its 2.4GHz USB receiver, as previously stated. It comes pre-paired with the connector, so all you have to do to get it to function is connect it into your Switch dock or computer and push the knob on the stick in the right direction. Bluetooth is also easy, but it does enable you to connect the stick with your smartphone of preference. The Arcade Stick isn’t compatible with most game consoles or Android devices, unfortunately.
When using the 2.4GHz link, 8Bitdo claims that you’ll get 40 hours of battery life (30 hours with the Bluetooth connection). It takes four hours to completely charge the battery.
Customization is easy
The Arcade Stick lacks “genuine arcade bits” for fight stick purists, but the buttons are sturdy and sensitive. The joystick has a pleasing click to it, and the controls are quiet yet strong (with a shallow throw for quick reactions). If you’re a fan of arcade-style components, you’ll be pleased to learn that 8Bitdo built the Arcade Stick with modding in mind. The Arcade Stick comes with a universal joystick mounting plate for changing out the stick, as well as basic 30mm arcade buttons (for the key buttons, 24mm for P1 and P2), allowing you to use Sanwa bits.
Through connecting the Arcade Stick to your PC and using 8Bitdo’s Ultimate Software, you can configure the button mappings. The P1 and P2 buttons can be remapped and custom macros can be programmed using the software. Because the Arcade Stick doesn’t have those inputs by default, and Capcom Arcade Stadium uses R3 to add credits to its games, I assigned the P1 and P2 buttons to the L3 and R3 inputs on the Switch.
Performance in the Game
I used the Arcade Stick to play many retro arcade games on my Switch, including 1943, a classic shoot ’em up. The Arcade Stick’s joystick and buttons feel solid and sensitive, and its weight meant that it remained steady in my lap (and more stable on a small table). To play the game, I had to program the P2 button to act as an R3 input, but it worked perfectly after that extra step.
In testing, the Galaga ‘88 from the Namco Museum worked flawlessly, and the joystick was responsive enough for me to dodge most falling enemies and missiles. The Arcade Stick also performed admirably in Tower of Druaga, despite the fact that the game is extremely slow.
The Arcade Stick worked well with Ultra Street Fighter II. All controls worked as they should after I adjusted my inputs in the fighting game to better suit the layout of the buttons. Instead of occasionally missing the proper motion and throwing a fireball or a spiral arrow, I could consistently deliver dragon punches and cannon spikes. I couldn’t chain complex combos together in the game, but I couldn’t do it in the first place; no arcade stick could help me with that.
Wireless, accessible, and ready to upgrade
The 8Bitdo Arcade Stick is a fantastic follow-up to the N30 Arcade Stick, offering a more solid heft and customizability for only $10 more than its predecessor. With a price tag of under $100, it’s a budget-friendly option for those searching for an entry-level combat stick with space to rise. The Arcade Stick lacks the arcade-quality feel of Hori and Qanba sticks, but that’s a simple repair with a screwdriver and spare bits. The joystick is a capable wireless controller even though you don’t redesign it yourself, and it’s perfect for playing retro arcade games on the PC or Switch. The 8Bitdo Arcade Stick is an Editors’ Choice for budget joysticks because of this.