8Bitdo Arcade Stick Review

OVERALL VERDICT
Whilst the 8Bitdo isn’t as ultra moddable as the manufacturer claims this is still the best wireless arcade stick on the market and a definite improvement over its predecessor.
PROS
+ Great design
+ Hefty weight emphasizes quality
+ Easy to mod buttons
+ Great feeling joystick
+ 40 Hour battery life
CONS
- Stock buttons may feel slightly mushy for veteran stick players
- Difficult to modify joystick for beginners

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There aren’t a ton of options when it comes to wireless arcade sticks. That’s because in fighting games especially, latency is everything and could be the difference between pulling off a successful combo or dropping it and losing the game.

In 2017, 8BitDo released the N30 Arcade Stick, aimed primarily at the Nintendo Switch platform. Whilst it was a great wireless alternative, it had a few issues like the higher latency via the Bluetooth connection, the lack of modability, and a lackluster design.

Fortunately, 8BitDo has aimed to fix these problems with its latest iteration simply titled: 8BitDo Arcade Stick.

Unboxing and set up

Inside the box, you get the fightstick, a decently long USB-C cable, and the manual.

The 8Bitdo can be played on the Nintendo Switch, PC (Xinput), and Android devices. Unfortunately, it can’t connect to any other console and it also has some issues with IOS on iPhone devices but a future software update may fix this.

Connecting to the aforementioned platforms is simple enough. You’ll first want to use the switch toggle in the top left-hand corner to determine which mode you’re in depending on what platform you want to connect to.

For example, on the Nintendo Switch, you need to flick the button to ‘S’ mode and for PC and other devices, it’s ‘X’ mode.

The 8BitDo has the ability to connect wirelessly or wired depending on what you prefer.

In wireless mode, the 8BitDo can connect via Bluetooth or with the 2.4 GHz USB dongle included with the stick. The stick pairs up fairly quickly with no problems on PC and Switch.

You also, of course, have the option to connect the stick via the USB-C cable. This also charges the stick as well.

The design and feel of the fightstick

The design of the arcade stick is similar to 8Bitdo’s previous arcade stick. But, whilst the N30 looked like a carbon-copy of the Mayflash F300 just with a different fightstick cover, 8Bitdo’s latest arcade stick looks a lot more unique.

For one, the rectangular shape of the case is a lot closer to the original NES controller which is what it’s supposed to resemble. In addition, I like the colored function buttons and switches which add to the cool retro effect.

At 4 pounds the stick feels reasonably weighty for its size even though it’s smaller than its predecessor. It definitely feels better in the lap than the previous version which tended to move around a bit.

Overall, the 8Bitdo feels like a solid arcade stick and the heavier weight reinforces its great build quality.

What does it feel like to play?

The buttons used in the 8Bitdo are pretty much standard like it’s predecessor. So in that sense, they feel the same, which is slightly mushy. They are nice to touch though.

It would have been nice if these were swapped for Sanwa buttons but at this price point, it’s understandable. Besides you can easily modify the stick yourself to do this which I will come on to later.

The Joystick is also standard but surprisingly feels quite good. Almost similar to a Sanwa JLF I daresay. This means that the arcade stick, as it is, is great for old retro style games, less so for modern fighting games, however.

In terms of performance, I tested the stick on a variety of games both on the PC and Nintendo Switch. These were mostly on games like Street Fighter V, Tekken 7, Super Smash Bros, and Pokken.

Overall, it performed perfectly fine. On the 2.4GHZ wireless connection, there was little to no input lag. On the wired connection, which is supposed to provide better latency, it was pretty much the same. I didn’t really notice a huge difference between the two connections which is impressive.

There isn’t really anything else to complain about. The arcade stick functions as it should. Yes, I would have preferred higher quality buttons but like the Mayflash F300 most casual players will get on perfectly fine with the standard setup.

Modding

If you’re not happy with the standard setup then you can easily modify the 8BitDo. In fact, this is how the stick is being marketed. How does it work in practice, however? pretty good, but not as good as 8Bitdo claim.

One issue I ran into was actually trying to get the case open. You see, 8BitDo opted to used Torx screws to secure the case. Fortunately, I had a Torx screwdriver to open the arcade stick but I realise that not everyone may have this.

Once the stick was open, however, changing the buttons, at first glance, seemed to be pretty easy. One thing to mention is that you’ll need to use snap-in buttons instead of screw-in ones due to the lack of space. Not really a dealbreaker but worth mentioning nonetheless.

Changing the joystick is a little bit more difficult due to the fact that the connectors are soldered on. You’ll have to desolder or cut the connectors in order to fit another joystick. 8BitDo also has a traditional 5 pin connection that you can solder wires to. Whilst it not particularly difficult to do, it hardly beginner-friendly and an annoying extra step.

Finally, I think it’s worth mentioning the button mapping and macros you can set up on the 8Bitdo arcade stick.

8Bitdo provide some software that you can configure on your PC to map the buttons and record your own macros. It’s relatively easy to set up and one cool thing I noticed when mapping the buttons is the labels, which are above the buttons, actually change depending on what platform you’re on. It’s definitely a nice touch.

The Good

  • Great design
  • Hefty weight emphasizes quality
  • Easy to mod buttons
  • Great feeling joystick
  • Wireless option provides little to no input lag
  • Can modify button mapping and assign macros easily
  • 40 Hour battery life

The Bad

  • Stock buttons may feel slightly mushy for veteran stick players
  • Difficult to modify joystick for beginners

Overall Verdict

Whilst the 8Bitdo isn’t as ultra moddable as the manufacturer claims this is still the best wireless arcade stick on the market and a definite improvement over its predecessor.

8Bitdo Arcade Stick

8.3

Design

9.3/10

Performance

8.0/10

Modding

8.0/10

Value for money

8.0/10

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