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Joystick controllers are very popular among people who enjoy playing computer or console video games. Not all joysticks are born the same and there are unique physical characteristics that make some models very different from others. Most designs usually include some form of base and handle though. A computer joystick can have suction cups on its base for increased stability to hold the joystick in place during intense gaming sessions. The most advanced features are offered by flight simulator joysticks and there are some models that come with force feedback functionality for adding vibrations or other physical movements as the joystick can react to the on-screen action. Two-handed gaming controllers are a bit different from standard joysticks but they operate in a similar way. They can be found more commonly for consoles games but there are some PC-compatible models too. You might be interested in our articles about the best laptop docking stations or the best capture cards.
No matter the game you need it for, it’s important to analyze the market options well before you select the right model because not all joysticks provide the same level of functionality and sensitivity. Some of the things that you need to consider are:
Before you evaluate the features of a particular joystick, you need to make sure that it’s compatible with the device intended to be used with. For PC joysticks it’s always essential to check the system requirements.
Some joystick controllers offer more comfortable grips and materials that will improve the overall experience in time. This is especially important if you plan to use the device for extended periods of time. It’s probably a good idea to look for a left-handed model if that is your most comfortable grip because there are a few variants available specifically to accommodate left-handed users.
Both wired and wireless units populate the market for PCs and game consoles joysticks. Choose according to your preference here because the prices aren’t usually very different.
The more expensive joysticks aren’t necessarily always recommended. If you have a more limited budget, you can take your pick from some models with less advanced functionality that can still provide a solid gaming experience.
Now that you have a general idea about how your future joystick should look like, check this list of the best products currently on the market. Only the most cost-effective joystick controllers have been selected for your convenience. It doesn’t matter if your budget is limited or suited for a more premium model, you should discover some great joysticks in this list.
Best Joystick For PC
Logitech is a well-known manufacturer of various electronic products and they also have quality joysticks in their arsenal. The Extreme 3D Pro is a good example of a twist handle joystick for Windows that comes with 12 programmable buttons and has been designed for optimal control. Priced very fairly for what it offers, this model should definitely be considered.
This model comes with a custom twist-handle rudder which results in a more natural one-handed control. There’s also the added advantage of a smaller device footprint. Advanced flying comes down to reaction time and good instincts and Logitech seems to have designed this joystick to assist pilots in the best way possible.
There are 12 configurable buttons though you will need the Logitech Gaming software for certain profile settings. Having every command at your fingertips will allow you to get rid of the distractions and only focus on the horizon. Each programmable button can be programmed to execute basic single commands or more complicated macros that involve multiple keystrokes or mouse events.
Switching from weapons to points of view or more can be done more quickly with the help of the 8-way hat switch that’s designed to capture specialized input, typical of flight simulators, much more accurately. The trigger of this joystick can be pulled as fast as you need and it feels like you can depend on it like each and every twitch of your finger will be registered.
In terms of comfort, this model has sculpted curves support and a very ergonomic form to enjoy hours of comfortable flying. The weighted base was designed with stability in mind, to keep it from sliding all over the place.
Considering the great features overall and the balanced price, the Logitech Extreme 3D Pro is a joystick that won’t let you down and it’s fully recommended as it looks like it’s worth the cost. It’s responsive, simple to use, and the controls are very intuitively placed. It will definitely give you a relaxing gaming experience because it’s such a reliable and performant piece of equipment.
- USB driven
- Button customization
- Rapid-fire trigger
- 12 action buttons
- Eight-way hat switch
- Multiple controller configurations
Best Joystick For Star Citizen
With so many dedicated flight simulation features and considering how comfortable it is to use, the Thrustmaster T-Flight Hotas X Flight is a highly attractive choice. It operates using the ”plug and play” principle and is very ergonomically designed working well for Windows and PlayStation 3 platforms.
Nobody likes to waste too much time with the installing process or figuring out how to configure their joysticks. This model comes directly pre-configured to remove the need for complicated setups. Just plug it in and play without limits.
Comfort-wise, this flight has a very ergonomically-designed throttle control. The aerodynamic control uses a dual system by rotating handle or by progressive tilting lever. The hand rest is quite wide and offers a solid level of comfort. It has a detachable base and you can put the stick and throttle on different sides of many keyboards.
Precision is also another important factor in enjoying a more quality gaming experience. This joystick has adjustable resistance and trigger for brakes or for rapid fire. There’s also a multi-directional hat.
Customizing this device is a breeze. Just use the exclusive mapping button which immediately switches all the functions between each other. The preset button is also useful to go from one programme to another during playing. The internal memory of the joystick allows you to save all of the programmings. In total, you can configure 12 buttons and 5 axes to your liking.
The Thrustmaster T-Flight Hotas X Flight provides stable control during difficult flight maneuvers and taking into account all its features, it’s clear to see that this product is fully worth the price. It’s a budget stick but a solid one considering the ability to customize and configure everything according to your preferred gameplay style. If you feel that 1 hat switch is not enough, you should probably look for more advanced models though.
- Wide hand-rest for optimal comfort
- Dual-system aerodynamic control
- 12 buttons and 5 axles programmable
- Internal memory
- Ergonomically-designed throttle control
- Adjustable resistance
The Mayflash F300 is a high-quality Arcade Fight Stick Joystick that’s compatible with many platforms and delivers a fun gaming experience without breaking your budget. There are some interesting features in this model especially the arcade style layout of the buttons and the overall design choices.
The joystick has a good weight to it, mostly due to the metal plate on the bottom. If you have smaller hands, the size is pretty much ideal. The buttons are wired with quick disconnects and the buttons can be swapped with ease. Something that’s worth noting about this model is that it comes with individually soldered microswitches.
The overall build quality is decent as the casing feels sturdy for an entry-level unit. There are lots of modifications that can be made if you prefer. Since the PCB uses a 5-pin connection, the stick can be swapped out. Thanks to the compatibility with Sanwa Denshi buttons, you can modify the joystick quite nicely.
Even though it’s so small, this device can pack quite a punch considering that it’s fully compatible with five platforms (PC, Xbox and PS). It offers both d-pad/analog stick switching and turbo and the only slight downside is that you need to plug a PS4 or Xbox One controller into it before playing. Still, the fact that it’s compatible with so many platforms can add some good value to this arcade stick.
A good value fight stick for entry-level users, the Mayflash F300 earns a top spot on this list thanks to its cost-effectiveness. The stock buttons are pretty responsive but there is also the possibility to mod the joystick and enhance the device for a more customized gaming experience. All in all, this is a solid joystick with the only flaw that it feels a bit harder to use for someone with very large hands but you can get used to it.
- Supports the XINPUT and DINPUT on PC
- Compatible with all popular gaming consoles including Android and Switch
- Compatible with Sanwa Denshi buttons and joystick
- D-Pad and X/Y Analog Axis mode can be exchanged
- Arcade style lever and buttons
Thrustmaster makes some of the best joysticks in the industry and another product worth checking out from them is the T-Flight Stick X Flight Stick that’s geared towards PC users who want something affordable that just does what it’s supposed to do. Some of its highlights include the wide hand rest, the programmable 12 buttons, and the precision – the joystick provides adjustable resistance control.
This model has a rotating handle and its built-in locking system provides flawless control over the plane rudder. The airbrake for civilian flights or rapid fire for the military flights can be triggered with the help of a multidirectional hat with panoramic view.
As with other Thrustmaster joysticks, this one enables their users increased possibilities for customization with a total of 12 buttons and 4 axes that are fully configurable thanks to the exclusive mapping and preset buttons. The first is used to relocate functions from a button to another and the latter is handy when you want to switch from a programmed configuration to another. All your favorite programmed configurations can be stored on the internal memory of the unit even if the joystick is not connected to the PC.
A plug-and-play device, this model offers a straightforward installation and it arrives with all features preconfigured. You can take off very quickly and without having to bother with complicated setups. Thrustmaster implemented an advanced resistance control that can be adjusted to your liking. The weighted base will help to stabilize the action during even the more intense gaming sessions. There are no compromises in terms of comfort either as this joystick provides a wide hand rest and an ergonomic throttle lever.
This is a great all around joystick that is a blast to use after you go over the buttons set-up process for custom controls which is not very straightforward but can be still managed without too much hassle even by beginners. The price is also highly reasonable considering the gaming experience that gives a feeling of a more premium joystick so the Thrustmaster T-Flight Stick X Flight Stick is absolutely recommended.
- Adjustable Resistance Control
- Fully Programmable 12 Buttons & 4 Axis
- Wide Hand Rest
- Mapping Button
- Quick installation
- Weighted base
CH Products have some interesting joysticks to offer and the Fighterstick is loaded with capable features for flight simulation games. It provides a total of 24 buttons and 132 programmable functions as well as a very easy-to-use control software and compatibility for both Windows and Mac computers. The price is a bit higher than others on this list but if you want extra quality, this could be an extremely viable choice.
Due to the fact that it’s designed in the U.S., this device makes use of the same high-end materials used for industrial controllers. You can notice that if you take a closer look at the sturdy base that offers non-slip rubber feet so you won’t have to deal with the joystick moving around the desk in the middle of the action.
In the package for this unit, you will discover a 7-foot USB cable that simplifies the installation process. This unit works flawlessly right out of the box without the need to download drivers or additional software. Compatibility is ensured for all Windows versions from Windows 98 to Windows 10 and Mac OSX.
To be able to fully benefit from the full potential of this controller, you need a dependable programming software and the one offered by CH is called Control Manager and is only compatible with Windows. This software is of course, optional but it allows for more control as you can program macros, assign buttons, and many more useful functions.
Taking into account the nice balance of features per price of the CH Products Fighterstick, the final verdict is a positive one. The design doesn’t look that imposing but it’s certainly one of the most durable joysticks out there as nothing feels cheap and the buttons feel very solid. Besides the fact that it’s clearly built to last, this joystick deserves your attention because of the excellent software that allows you more advanced programming. All in all, this is a winner on the market for flight simulation joysticks.
- 3 axis and 24 buttons
- 132 programmable functions
- Control Manager software
- Realistic F-16 handle
- Compatible with Windows or Mac OS (most versions)
Best Joystick for Elite Dangerous
The VG T16000M FCS from Thrustmaster is a fully ambidextrous joystick that can be tailored with ease for both left-handed or right-handed use. It’s designed according to the manufacturer’s years of expertise for delivering a truly outstanding flight simulator experience. The control offered by this model is one of the most realistic you can find and any advanced flyers can benefit from it.
This model features four independent axes of which one is a twist rudder. There are 16 action buttons that use braille-style physical button identification which is more comfortable. A one 8-way hat switch with an ergonomic trigger completes the attractive package. The striking orange accents also contribute to the overall appeal in terms of design. Thrustmaster included backlighting to go with it and to increase the gamers’ immersion.
One of the best abilities of this model is the patented H.E.A.R.T HallEffect AccuRate technology which delivers incredible accuracy similar to the one offered by the HOTAS Warthog high-end joystick, enabling users to play with surgical precision. Thanks to the helical spring found inside the stick, the tension is linear and smooth but also firm enough.
If you are interested in playing with your left hand, it’s worth mentioning that this device has an ambidextrous design. You can easily switch between right-handed and left-handed use and even though the twisting handle commands the rudder by default, it can also be locked in place.
With the help of the free T.A.R.G.E.T advanced programming software, you can program up to 256 buttons and it can also be used with other Thrustmaster devices. Load or create specific mapping profiles for different games according to your exact preferences.
While the price indicates that this is a budget joystick, the multiple functions, and the superb design choices are certainly surprising to discover. The action is snappy and the stick’s motions are very smooth and the only downside could be considered the set-up which can be a bit overwhelming for unfamiliar users. This is one of the only options that offer a left-handed configuration and that’s why it’s recommended more towards left-handed users.
- H.E.A.R.T technology
- Fully ambidextrous joystick
- 16 action buttons
- Braille style physical button identification
- T.A.R.G.E.T software
Best Joystick for Flight Simulator X
If you want a truly authentic experience, the Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog Flight Stick is the obvious choice for those with generous budgets. It’s a very well-made replica of the U.S. Air Force A-10C aircraft flight stick and it comes from the original creator of the HOTAS concept. As it’s mostly built of metal, it’s heavy but very durable, capable to significantly enhance any flight simulation gaming session.
Due to a metal plate which can be easily detached from its base, this joystick can be used on a desk or mounted in a cockpit. A lot of thought went into the activation pressure on the buttons and trigger because it feels incredibly realistic. There are 19 action buttons in total and one 8-way hat. When considering the weight of 6.6 lbs, this looks to be a really stable device.
Extreme precision is delivered through the addition of the H.E.A.R.T HallEffect AccuRate Technology which uses a complex magnetic sensor system. It provides 16-bit precision with no gimbals. This device is part of a wide range of flight simulation peripherals which work seamlessly together as Thrustmaster integrated it into its own expert flying ecosystem. As an added bonus, it’s also compatible with the T.A.R.G.E.T advanced programming software.
The software is one of the main highlights of this flight stick as it offers a powerful suite of features to configure, test, and program the controller. It works beyond the functionality of a simple interface as it’s capable of simulating virtual devices like a keyboard, mouse or a joystick to see more precisely the actions required for these devices’ use. Via a virtual controller, these actions are sent to software applications after they’re measured on the buttons and axes of the physical controllers.
When you look back over the features you can certainly remain impressed but after you check the price again, the reticence can settle back in. Even though it’s quite expensive, this is one of the sturdiest, and most responsive and accurate joystick on the market. For those really competitive pilots, the Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog Flight Stick is highly recommended. A slight issue is that it requires some force to keep the stick off center and you also have to be very careful when handling it as it is very heavy.
- Replica shape of the A-10C flight stick
- Detachable handle
- 9 action buttons in total
- 8-way point of view hat
- Stable, weighted joystick
- USB connector and upgradeable firmware
CH Products is a recognizable brand name in the ever-expanding flight simulation market and they have lots of products with a focus on durability and precision. The Combatstick offers three axes for aileron, 18 configurable buttons, elevator, and throttle, as well as dual rotary trim wheels. With the help of the advanced Control Manager software, there are in total 128 programmable functions which are certainly very impressive and could be very appreciated by more high-end users.
If you want more realism in your game, you will love the construction of this stick as it promises unmatched durability. It’s obvious that CH Products designed this one with quality materials and the base feels exceptionally stable thanks to the capable rubber feet.
One of the best things about this controller is the intuitive operating. When you plug in the joystick for the first time, you might expect to need to do some complicated installation but in fact, there’s no such thing and the joystick is fully ready to take off. Even though it’s compatible with Windows and Mac, the Control Manager software can only be used with Windows operating systems including Windows 10.
The programming software is where the fun begins. If you like having the best commands right at your fingertips and all the right buttons and macros configured for every game, then this is going to simplify your life a lot. It’s also designed to seamlessly integrate with other CH USB peripherals including the Pro Pedals, Throttle Quadrant, and the Eclipse Yoke.
Considering how solid and good this joystick feels in your hand as well as the multitude of customizing options and the smooth precision, the Combatstick from CH Products shouldn’t be missed by any fans of flight simulation games who want some extra realism. It’s also worth noting that CH Products has good customer support and can handle any reliability issues you might experience without any problems.
- Three axes and 18 buttons
- 128 programmable functions
- Control Manager software
- Dual rotary trim wheels
- Plug and Play USB installation
- Compatible with Windows and Mac OSX