As a child of the mid-90s, I just barely missed the heyday of the arcade scene, but the few arcade cabinets I did find tucked away in the corners of derelict video stores and pizza shops introduced me to a different way of play. Instead of a controller held between my hands, I was given a joystick and eight bright buttons, and my ability to progress largely relied on my (or rather, my parent's) wallet. The stakes were great, but the glory of a high score was greater.
Since then, the gaming landscape has changed dramatically. An authentic arcade experience is nearly extinct, and those classic arcade games that ate quarter after quarter are now readily on nearly every console — including Nintendo's hybrid console, the Nintendo Switch. There are many great controllers available for the Nintendo Switch, fight sticks included, but fans of old-school games will agree that while a controller works just fine, nothing beats playing an arcade game with an arcade stick.
Enter the PowerA Wireless Arcade Stick — an arcade stick that almost perfectly captures the magic of playing on an old arcade cabinet, while implementing a host of modern conveniences. Just don't expect many customization options or modding opportunities.
PowerA Wireless Arcade Stick
Bottom line: The PowerA Wireless Arcade stick is a very solid piece of hardware and is a perfect entry point for those looking for a fight stick or a classic way to play arcade games. Featuring 30 hours of wireless play and a compact and sturdy design, it's easy to recommend.
- 30 hours of wireless play
- 10 foot USB included for wired play
- Compact design
- Able to design your own faceplate
- Works on Switch Lite and PC
- No customization options or mod support
- Glossy finish might not be for everyone
- No Bluetooth
- Requires AA Batteries
Pretty much everything you need
PowerA Wireless Arcade Stick for Nintendo Switch review: What I loved
On its surface, the PowerA Wireless Arcade Stick is standard fare, but there's a lot to appreciate upon a closer look. Weighing in at about 64.5 oz or 4lbs, the arcade stick features a standard 8-button layout, though eagle-eyed gamers will notice that PowerA opted for the domed buttons that are often associated with Japanese-style arcade cabinets. Each button is marked with the corresponding Switch button, and more satisfyingly, both the buttons and joystick let out a satisfying click with every press or motion.
The arcade stick is fairly compact thanks to its boxy shape, with just enough space to support your hand under the buttons. There is also a nifty switch at the top of the fight stick that allows you to toggle whether you want the Joystick to act as a directional pad, the left stick, or the right stick, depending on the game you're playing. It's also supported by a weighed metal baseplate and rubber footing which keep the arcade stick stable during intense play.
Both the buttons and joystick let out a satisfying click with every press or motion.
The arcade stick is wireless and promises up to 30 hours of play on a set of AA batteries, and also includes a USB-c cable to connect directly to your Switch dock if you're looking for absolutely no latency, something that fighting game fans will appreciate. After spending the weekend with Dragon Ball FighterZ, Pokken Tournament, Metal Slug 2, and a slew of SNES games, the arcade stick was still going strong, with no input delay to speak of. You can also use it with your Nintendo Switch Lite, as well as your computer using the USB-c cord.
Rounding out the feature set is the ability to design your own faceplate using PowerA's Do-it-yourself faceplate template. It's a nice bonus to have, but you'll have to have some basic Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop skills to properly use it.
Not as many options as you'd expect
PowerA Wireless Arcade Stick for Nintendo Switch review What I didn't love
While the arcade stick works wonders with arcade games and fighting games, it does omit a few features that might seem standard for players looking to customize their experience. There's no L3 or R3 button, no turbo button, and no additional macro buttons. You can't map buttons to create custom profiles either, and it's not moddable like the 8bbitdo Arcade Stick. All of these features aren't necessary by any means, but those who like to tweak every aspect of their controller will be disappointed.
Those who like to tweak every aspect of their controller will be disappointed.
While you can make use of the arcade stick on your PC, you must do so with a USB connection, since the PowerA arcade stick does not support Bluetooth. I also wish they would've opted for a rechargeable battery instead of relying on batteries. Also, and this is a minor gripe, but I'm not sure if everyone will love the glossy finish on the stick, which would leave prints after a long game session, but that's a minor nitpick on an otherwise excellent arcade stick.
While the PowerA Arcade Stick is a great option, it's not the only arcade stick available for the Nintendo Switch. Hori's Hayabusa Fight Stick and the 8Bitdo Arcade Stick both offer similar experiences with their own bells and whistles. The 8bitdo Arcade Stick, for example, offers many of the customization options that players may be interested in, allowing for the creation of profiles and in-depth mod support. Hori's Hayabusa Fight Stick may cost more, but it offers more surface area and minor changes that may not seem like much but can make or break a player during high-level tournament play.
PowerA Wireless Arcade Stick for Nintendo Switch review: Should you buy?
You should buy this if...
You're looking for an entry-level arcade stick
For the price and the feature set, it's hard to knock the PowerA Arcade Stick. It's sturdy enough that you don't have to worry about losing control during intense play, features good battery life, and a nifty cord compartment for storing the included camera. Also, the clicks of the buttons and joystick are extremely satisfying.
You like designing your own faceplate
A lot of fight stick and arcade stick owners love to adorn their equipment with decals of their favorite characters. The fact that PowerA offers a template that easily available for download is a nice bonus for players who are all about the aesthetic.
You're an arcade game fan
Nothing beats the satisfaction of smash buttons on an arcade cabinet, and anyone who enjoys playing old school games will tell you that there's not much better than playing an arcade game with an arcade stick.
You should not buy this if…
You enjoy customizing your stick
The PowerA Arcade Stick is a nice package, but for gearheads who like to swap gear, set up profiles, or customize each game experience individually may feel limited by this arcade stick.
You take your fighting games very seriously
I played a good amount of Pokkén Tournament and Dragon Ball FighterZ in my testing of this stick, but I'm by no means a pro fighting game player. This stick is an Arcade Stick first, and I think fighting game fans who compete on a higher level may want to look elsewhere.
You want a Bluetooth option
This means you'll have to tether your stick to the PC if you want to use it on that system. While that's the way to ensure zero latency, other sticks offer Bluetooth support for roughly the same price as the PowerA Arcade Stick.
The PowerA Wireless Arcade Stick is an excellent arcade stick that plays arcade classics and fighting games flawlessly. Featuring 30 hours of wireless play and a compact design, this a great entry point for gamers looking for a solid fight stick or for an authentic way to enjoy their arcade classics, just as long as you're not interested in modding your device.
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