Updated December 20, 2019 by Kaivaan Kermani

The 10 Best PC Joysticks

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This wiki has been updated 25 times since it was first published in July of 2015. One of these PC joysticks can take your gaming experience to the next level. They provide a realistic feel that helps to recreate the sensation of living on the edge as a fighter pilot, battling evil forces in far-flung galaxies, or pushing yourself to the limit as a warrior. You'll wonder how you ever survived with just a mouse and keyboard. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best pc joystick on Amazon.

10. Mayflash F300

9. VKB Sim Gladiator

8. Qanba Obsidian

7. Logitech Extreme 3D Pro

6. Mad Catz V.1

5. Logitech G X52

4. ThrustMaster T16000M

3. Thrustmaster T-Flight

2. Logitech G X56 HOTAS

1. ThrustMaster HOTAS Warthog

Editor's Notes

December 16, 2019:

While I typically avoid oversaturating a list with too many models from one brand, the ThrustMaster is really the exception to this rule here. ThrustMaster continues to release sophisticated models, like the ThrustMaster T16000M, and years after its release, the ThrustMaster HOTAS Warthog is still a top-of-the-line option that continues to deliver on realism (as a replica of the joystick from the A-10C Thunderbolt II fighter jet), durability and sensitivity.

One of the newer models I’ve added is the Logitech G X56 HOTAS, which is basically a more sophisticated version of the recently removed Saitek PS28 X52 - the X56 uses a 4-spring centering mechanism (vs. a single spring for the PS28 X52), and adds more axes of movement and customization options. I also replaced the Saitek PS28 X52 with a newer version – the Logitech G X52.

The G X56 HOTAS is actually more feature-rich than the ThrustMaster HOTAS Warthog, but the latter really takes the cake on design simplicity and ease of use - it isn’t always about the number of configuration options available. I removed the CH Products Combatstick which is still a good product that really delivers on value for money, but whose software was struggling with Windows 10 compatibility issues. CH said that they would no longer update or support software-related issues. I also removed the overpriced and simplistic Microsoft Sidewinder 2, which has, unfortunately in my opinion, not aged as well as the CH Products Combatstick.

Dynamic And Interactive

The main component of the device is a center stick that pivots on top of a base and reports both its angle and direction to whatever it controls.

Whether you play video games or you're testing out a fancy flight simulator on your computer, something gets lost in translation when you're forced to use your machine's keyboard to control and interact with what you see on the screen. A joystick is not only easier and more comfortable to control than a keyboard, but the device delivers a much higher degree of precision and sensitivity to your in-game action, which is something you won't experience from an ordinary keystroke.

A joystick is an input device that makes it possible for a user to control either a character or object within a computer program. The main component of the device is a center stick that pivots on top of a base and reports both its angle and direction to whatever it controls. The device translates the individual movements of a user's hand into a digital format that a piece of software can interpret as a resulting action. The joystick resembles a control device you might find on older arcade style games, but with the inclusion of extra buttons for additional functionality and an ergonomically-designed profile that improves overall user comfort.

Two main types of joysticks include analog and digital. The digital joystick makes use of an electronic switch comprised of a printed circuit board and wires connected to several contact terminals, all of which are located underneath the joystick's base. Ordinary wires also extend from each contact terminal to the PC itself. The printed wires form a simple electric circuit made up of several smaller circuits. These smaller circuits ultimately carry electricity from one contact point to another. When the digital joystick is centered, all but one of these smaller circuits are broken. Each small circuit is also covered with its own dedicated plastic button and small metal disc. When the joystick moves to the left, for example, the corresponding plastic button and disc associated with this directional input will press against the joystick's main circuit board, thereby closing the small circuit, allowing electricity to flow through the corresponding printed and ordinary wires, and making the character or object on the screen turn left in the game or simulator. A similar order of operations will occur when you push one of the joystick's function buttons.

Analog joysticks detect the full range of motion, making them well-suited for use in flight simulators. This improved sensitivity to movement is accomplished through the use of potentiometers designed to measure the joystick's pivoted shaft position along both X and Y axes. The X-axis represents side-to-side (horizontal) motion, while the Y-axis represents up and down (or forward and reverse) movement. When the stick moves along either its X or Y axis, the corresponding potentiometer will either increase or decrease the resistance of the electrical current according to the stick's position along the shaft, thereby converting this position to an electrical signal that travels to the joystick port on the computer. Finally, several built-in springs in the device will also center the stick when you release it.

Getting The Most Out Of Your Experience

There are several considerations to keep in mind when investing in a PC joystick, such as the device's overall durability. Look for an option with a heavy, sturdy base and molded handgrips for additional comfort. If you're interested in having the most realistic gaming experience possible, then a detachable joystick is a bonus, as it will allow you to mount the device on other objects like a gaming chair.

Think about the joystick's ability to perform 3D rotational action with the presence of a Z axis control scheme.

Multiple programmable action buttons are quite helpful, as they minimize your reliance on a conventional keyboard, which could otherwise detract from an authentic flight simulator experience. Consider joysticks with separate throttle controls and adjustable resistance for improved realism. Think about the joystick's ability to perform 3D rotational action with the presence of a Z axis control scheme. By allowing the rotation of the stalk clockwise or in reverse, 3D control space will mimic the operation of a real aircraft’s rudders.

Many joysticks also feature ambidextrous designs with removable components for accommodating both left- and right-handed users. This will come in particularly handy if you share the stick with friends and family.

If total in-game immersion is what you're after, then look for a device with an integrated hat switch, so you can always have a look at the world around you from different angles on the screen.

From Joystick Practicality To Gaming

One of the first electrical two-axis joysticks was patented in 1926 by C. B. Mirick at the United States Naval Research Laboratory as a possible support for the development of radio-controlled aircraft. The Germans developed a similar device in 1944 to control and steer bomber aircraft missiles toward their targets. By the 1960s, NASA employed the joystick as a control device for the Apollo missions.

By the year 1969, the Sega video game company released its first electronic joystick equipped with a fire button for its Missile shooter simulation game.

The first joysticks for video games were invented in 1967 by Ralph H. Baer, and were capable of controlling both the horizontal and vertical positions of a spot on a television screen. By the year 1969, the Sega video game company released its first electronic joystick equipped with a fire button for its Missile shooter simulation game. One of the first digital joystick controllers followed in 1977 as a companion device for the Atari 2600 gaming system.

The 1985 release of Sega's third-person rail shooter game Space Harrier saw the development of the first true analog joystick, which could register a player's movements in any direction as well as the degree of push.

Since the 1990s, the analog joystick has become the standard design for the majority of video game console controllers due to its convenient thumb control, as well as its use of potentiometers for determining the exact location of the joystick along an axis.

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Kaivaan Kermani
Last updated on December 20, 2019 by Kaivaan Kermani

Kaivaan grew up in a little town called York in the north of England, though he was whisked off to sunny Jamaica at the age of 14, where he attended high school. After graduating, he returned to the UK to study electronic engineering at the University of Warwick, where he became the chief editor for the engineering society’s flagship magazine. A couple of uninspiring internships in engineering later however, and after some time spent soul-searching and traveling across Asia and East Africa, he he now lives and works in in Dubai.


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