The 10 Best PC Joysticks

Updated May 10, 2018 by Quincy Miller

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We spent 39 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top picks for this wiki. Live out all your "Top Gun" fantasies (well, maybe not the Kelly McGillis one) with these PC joysticks. They provide a realistic feel that can take your gaming experience to the next level, helping to recreate the sensation of living on the edge as a fighter pilot or pushing yourself to the limit as an actual fighter. You'll wonder how you ever survived with just a mouse and keyboard. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best pc joystick on Amazon.

10. Saitek PS28 X52

The two-piece Saitek PS28 X52 features an advanced multifunction display, just like the ones real pilots use, for a true-to-life gaming experience. The stick can be adjusted to five different positions to contour perfectly to your hand for maximum comfort.
  • customizable to each game
  • two-stage trigger
  • may have software and driver issues
Brand Saitek
Model PS28
Weight 4.2 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

9. VKB Sim Gladiator

Take your dogfighting skills to the next level with the VKB Sim Gladiator, which is designed specifically for flight simulators. It boasts a replica WWII grip, a dial for manipulating the throttle, and dedicated controls to put the flaps down.
  • very accurate and sensitive
  • returns smoothly to center
  • few buttons on the grip
Brand VKB Sim.
Model VKBGLD001
Weight 3.3 pounds
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

8. Mayflash F300

If you're looking for a throwback to your arcade days, the Mayflash F300 has a classic-style stick with 8 buttons that can be mapped to suit your preferences. Upgrading it is simple as well, so if you're the tech-savvy type it will keep you busy for a long time.
  • also works with consoles
  • great for fighting games
  • buttons tend to stick
Brand Mayflash
Model F300
Weight 4.1 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

7. Mad Catz V.1

The Mad Catz V.1 is ambidextrous, so lefties can get in on the flying action too. It's also one of the most straightforward, easy-to-use models, making it perfect for veterans and beginners alike, with a programmable pinkie switch to keep the action at your fingertips.
  • pov switch to quickly change views
  • removable legs for easy storage
  • tends to move during intense gaming
Brand Mad Catz
Model MCB4423700B2/04/1
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

6. ThrustMaster HOTAS Warthog

Simple in its design, the ThrustMaster HOTAS Warthog is actually a replica of the U.S. Air Force A-10C stick, so saying it's a realistic flight sim controller is an understatement. It's extremely durable and can detach from the metal plate to be mounted in a cockpit.
  • entire handle is crafted from metal
  • 19 action buttons
  • installing it can be a chore
Brand ThrustMaster
Model 2960738
Weight 10.4 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

5. CH Products Combatstick

Don't be fooled by the retro design of the CH Products Combatstick. With 128 programmable functions, it offers plenty of versatility to fit your playing style, and it's solid enough to handle it if you accidentally get a little too excited in the middle of a bombing run.
  • dual rotary trim controls
  • scroll wheels on the base
  • needs recalibration frequently
Brand CH Products
Model 200-568
Weight 2.7 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

4. Thrustmaster T-Flight

The Thrustmaster T-Flight features dual-system aerodynamic control that lets you move it by rotation or tilting. The two-part apparatus has a throttle and joystick that can be used in unison or separately for all of your gaming needs.
  • comfortable hand rest
  • very little drift
  • adjustable resistance for joystick
Brand Thrustmaster
Model 2960703
Weight 4.3 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

3. Microsoft Sidewinder 2

The Microsoft Sidewinder 2 provides force feedback, so you feel the effect of every step or missile you fire. It makes for one of the most immersive gaming experiences imaginable, so don't be surprised if you can't go back to regular pads or the mouse after this.
  • usb connection allows plug-and-play
  • handle rotates for superior control
  • durable construction
Brand Microsoft
Model 656-00105
Weight 5.1 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

2. Logitech Extreme 3D Pro

Value-wise, you can't do much better than the extremely affordable Logitech Extreme 3D Pro. It has an eight-way hat switch and twelve action buttons built into it to ensure that you won't be reaching for the keyboard or mouse anytime soon.
  • heavy base remains stable
  • precision twist rudder control
  • intuitive layout and design
Brand Logitech
Model 963290-0403
Weight 2.8 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

1. Qanba Obsidian

You can pay for the Qanba Obsidian with all the quarters you win from your friends, as it's the premier fighting stick on the market. In addition to its smooth movements and intuitive layout, it has LED lighting and an aluminum alloy construction that help it to stand out.
  • good for e-sports competitors
  • tournament lock switch
  • includes a mic jack
Brand Qanba
Model Q3-PS4-01
Weight 8.6 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

Dynamic And Interactive

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.

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.

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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Last updated on May 10, 2018 by Quincy Miller

Quincy is a writer who was born in Texas, but moved to Los Angeles to pursue his life-long dream of someday writing a second page to one of his screenplays.

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