Korean Fightstick vs. Japanese Fightstick – What is the difference?


When it comes to fighting games, the debate between Korean and Japanese fightsticks is never-ending. Each has unique features, design, and feel that cater to different players and their preferences.

In this article, we’ll explore the key differences between Korean and Japanese fightsticks to help you make an informed decision when purchasing your next arcade stick.

Differences and similarities Overview (TLTR)

Feature Korean Fightstick Japanese Fightstick
Lever Design Rubber or silicone grommet Spring and square or octagonal gate
Lever Feel Smooth, fluid motion Tactile, precise control
Neutral Return Quick Moderate
Popular in Games Tekken Street Fighter, Guilty Gear
Button Types Crown or Samducksa Sanwa or Seimitsu
Button Shape Slightly convex Slightly concave
Button Activation Requires more force Requires less force
Accidental Presses Less likely More likely
Popular Brands IST, Makestick, Crazy Dongpal Hori, Qanba, Mad Catz
Customizability Yes (depending on the fightstick) Yes (depending on the fightstick)
Price Range Approximately $100 – $300 Approximately $100 – $300

Fightstick Anatomy

Before diving into the differences between Korean and Japanese fightsticks, it’s essential to understand the basic components that make up a fightstick.


The lever, or the joystick or stick, is the primary control for movement in a fightstick. It translates the player’s inputs into on-screen actions in a fighting game.


Fightsticks typically have eight buttons, representing a fighting game’s various attacks and functions. The buttons are typically arranged in a 2×4 layout, although some configurations may vary.

Korean Fightstick

Korean fightsticks are known for their unique lever design and button types. So let’s take a closer look at these components.

Lever Design

The lever in a Korean fightstick typically features a rubber or silicone grommet, which provides a smooth, fluid motion with a quick return to the neutral position. This design is ideal for executing precise and fast movements, making it popular among Tekken players.

Button Types

Korean fightsticks usually use crown or samducksa buttons, which have a slightly convex shape and require a little more force to activate than their Japanese counterparts. This design helps prevent accidental button presses during intense gameplay.

Popular Korean Fightstick Brands

Typical Korean fightstick brands include:

  1. IST
  2. Makestick
  3. Crazy Dongpal
  4. Myoungshin
  5. Taeyoung

These brands are well-known for their high-quality Korean fightsticks and components, such as levers and buttons, which cater to the preferences of players who enjoy the unique feel and performance of Korean arcade sticks.

Japanese Fightstick

Japanese fightsticks are known for their distinct lever design and button types. So let’s examine these components.

Lever Design

The lever in a Japanese fightstick generally uses a spring and a square or octagonal restrictor gate, which provides a more distinct feel between the different directions. This design is popular among Street Fighter and Guilty Gear players, as it offers tactile and precise control.

Button Types

Japanese fightsticks typically use Sanwa or Seimitsu buttons, which are slightly concave and require less force to activate than Korean buttons. This design allows for quicker, more responsive inputs during gameplay.

Popular Japanese Fightstick Brands

Typical Japanese fightstick brands include:

  1. Hori
  2. Qanba
  3. Mad Catz
  4. Sanwa Denshi
  5. Seimitsu

These brands are renowned for their high-quality Japanese fightsticks and components, such as levers and buttons, which cater to the preferences of players who enjoy the distinct feel and performance of Japanese arcade sticks.

Comparing Korean and Japanese Fightsticks

Professional gamers 

Professional gamers’ preferences for fightsticks vary greatly based on personal choices, the games they compete in, and their playing styles. However, some of the most commonly used fightstick brands among professional gamers are:

  1. Hori (Japan)
  2. Qanba (Japan)
  3. Mad Catz (Japan)
  4. Sanwa Denshi (Japan)
  5. Razer (International)

It’s important to note that many professional gamers tend to customize their fightsticks, mixing and matching components from various brands (like Korean levers with Japanese buttons or vice versa) to create a setup that best suits their individual preferences and playstyles.

As for the country, there isn’t a definitive answer since the popularity of specific fightstick brands can vary depending on regional preferences and the games being played.

Although Korean fightstick brands are popular among some professional gamers, particularly those who play Tekken, they may not be as widely known or used as the Japanese brands mentioned.

Japanese fightstick brands, like Hori and Qanba, are often widely popular among professional gamers across various countries due to their quality, performance, and versatility.

It’s important to reiterate that many professional gamers customize their fightsticks, and it’s not uncommon for them to use Korean components (like levers and buttons) combined with fightsticks from Japanese or international brands.

Lever Feel and Gameplay

The primary difference between Korean and Japanese fightsticks lies in the lever design. Korean levers offer a smooth, fluid motion with quick returns to the neutral position, while Japanese levers provide a more tactile and precise control with distinct directional feedback.

The choice between the two largely depends on the games you play and your preference.

Button Responsiveness and Durability

Regarding buttons, Japanese fightsticks typically have more sensitive and responsive buttons, requiring less force to activate. This can be beneficial for quick and precise inputs during gameplay.

On the other hand, Korean fightstick buttons require a bit more force to activate, reducing the chances of accidental button presses.

As for durability, Korean and Japanese buttons are designed to withstand extended periods of intense gameplay. However, some players may find that Japanese buttons wear down slightly faster due to their more sensitive nature.

Choosing the Right Fightstick

When deciding between a Korean and Japanese fightstick, there are two main factors: personal preference and the games you play.

Personal Preference

Ultimately, the right fightstick for you will depend on your personal preferences. For example, some players may prefer the fluid motion of a Korean lever, while others may appreciate the tactile feedback of a Japanese lever.

Similarly, some players might prefer the more forceful activation of Korean buttons, while others may enjoy the sensitivity of Japanese buttons.

Games You Play

The games you play can also influence your fightstick choice. For example, Korean fightsticks are particularly popular among Tekken players due to their lever design, which allows for quick and precise movements.

On the other hand, Japanese fightsticks are favored by Street Fighter and Guilty Gear players, who value the distinct directional feedback provided by the square or octagonal restrictor gate.


In conclusion, the choice between a Korean and Japanese fightstick ultimately comes down to your preferences and the games you play. Each fightstick type offers unique features that cater to different playing styles.

By understanding the differences in lever design and button types, you can make an informed decision when purchasing your next fightstick.


  1. Can I switch between Korean and Japanese parts on my fightstick?

Yes, many fightsticks allow for customization, enabling you to mix and match parts to suit your preferences.

  1. Are Korean and Japanese fightsticks compatible with all gaming platforms?

Most fightsticks are compatible with multiple platforms, such as PlayStation, Xbox, and PC. However, check the manual, box, or website before purchasing.

  1. Do professional players prefer Korean or Japanese fightsticks?

Professional players’ preferences vary; many prefer Korean or Japanese fightsticks based on their playstyle and the games they compete in. There is no definitive answer, as it ultimately comes down to individual choice.

  1. How much does a quality Korean or Japanese fightstick cost?

A quality fightstick can range from around $100 to $300, depending on the brand and features. While more affordable options are available, investing in a quality fightstick can provide better performance and durability.

  1. Can I use a Korean or Japanese fightstick for non-fighting games?

You can use a fightstick for non-fighting games, although the experience may differ from a traditional game controller. For example, some players enjoy using fightsticks for classic arcade games or even certain platformers and shooting their ups.


  1. FocusAttack.com (n.d.). Arcade Parts. Retrieved from https://focusattack.com/arcade-parts/
  2. SRKX.com (2018, March 1). The differences between Japanese and Korean arcade sticks. Retrieved from https://srkx.com/guides/japanese-vs-korean-arcade-sticks
  3. EventHubs.com (n.d.). Player Database. Retrieved from https://www.eventhubs.com/players/
  4. TekkenWorldTour.com (n.d.). Players. Retrieved from https://tekkenworldtour.com/players/
  5. Arc System Works (n.d.). Guilty Gear Strive. Retrieved from https://www.arcsystemworks.jp/guiltygear/db/en/
Tom "Button Master" O'Neil
Tom "Button Master" O'Neil

Tom fell in love with fight sticks after realizing that mastering the mechanics could give him an edge in competitive gaming. He's since devoted countless hours to perfecting his inputs and understanding the nuances of different fight sticks. As a result, Tom has become a force in both online and local tournaments. Now, he's on a mission to help others unlock their full potential with the right fight stick.