Between the stealth re-release of Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown on PS4 (free for PS Plus members) and the launch of Guilty Gear Strive, you could say it’s been a good month for the fighting community. Like, really good.
But if you want to play these two intensive fighting games the way they were meant to be played, you have to get yourself a proper arcade/fight stick. There’s no shortage of arcade sticks to choose from — entire YouTube channels have sprung up around reviewing them — but it’s slim pickings if you’re on a $100 budget. Though nowhere as feature-packed or tournament-grade as pricier arcade sticks, the 8BitDo Arcade Stick that launched last November for $90 is a great choice for playing fighting games.
I’m big into the retro design, which is clearly inspired by old-school hardware like Nintendo’s NES. More importantly, the 8BitDo Arcade Stick is well-built and has a nice heft to it so that it sits firmly planted on a table surface or your lap. There are no Sanwa parts, which are considered the best, but the arcade stick can be customized. Other features include two macro buttons that can be configured on PC; the option to use the joystick as the left stick, D-pad, or right stick on a controller; and LED button guides that change depending on the mode. At $90, the 8BitDo Arcade Stick is one of the few fight sticks with wireless functionally, offering the option between Bluetooth and a 2.4GHz connection via a USB dongle. A USB-C cable of decent length is also included for wired mode.
The 8BitDoArcade Stick is almost perfect if not for one big, glaring issue: it’s not compatible with the PS4. It’s designed for the Nintendo Switch and PC. But don’t remove it from your Amazon cart just yet because I’ve got just the fix to make it work with the PS4 and it only costs $40.
Input may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article. We only include products that have been independently selected by Input's editorial team.
Wingman XE to the rescue
Out of the box, the 8BitDo Arcade Stick works perfectly with the Switch and PC. It also works with the PlayStation Classic via 8BitDo’s wireless adapter. It’s a simple enough arcade stick; controls are self-explanatory and there’s a dial on the top left corner to switch between inputs. Why 8BitDo chose not to make it work with PlayStation and Xbox is beyond me. Thankfully, 8BitDo’s shortcomings are another company’s opportunity. Specifically, Brook, a company that makes console peripherals and controller adapters.
Brook has a ton of converters for just about any retro and modern console. Want to use an Xbox 360 controller on a Wii? Sure, why not. How about a Switch Pro controller on the Dreamcast? They got that too. They even have a NeoGeo converter that accepts PS3 and PS4 controllers. But we’re not here for these. We’re interested in the Wingman XE ($40), a hot pink converter that makes the 8BitDo Arcade Stick play nice with the PS4 for fighting games like Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown and Guilty Gear Strive. Brooks claims the Wingman XE is compatible with the PlayStation 5 when playing PS4 games on the console, but I don’t own a PS5 so I wasn’t able to test this. Another adapter, the Wingman XB, is compatible with the Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.
You won’t see any mention of the 8BitDo Arcade Stick (or any 8BitDo products for that matter) listed on the Wingman XE website or manual. Technically, the 8BitDo Arcade Stick is not officially supported, but it works because the converter is compatible with the Switch Pro controller, which the arcade stick pretends to be when put into “S” mode. It looks a bit clunky, but essentially you’re inserting the 8BitDo Arcade Stick’s USB dongle into the Wingman XE, which then plugs into your PS4’s USB slot. The Wingman XE converts the dongle’s 2.4GHz wireless connection into a PS4-compatible signal. Alternatively, it’s easier to use Bluetooth. All you have to do is flip the switch on the arcade stick to BT and press the buttons on either side of the Wingman XE until it flashes blue. Make sure your 8BitDo Arcade Stick is in “S” mode when using either wireless mode or it won’t work.
I wish I could say that plugging in the Wingman XE into your PS4 and wirelessly connecting to the 8BitDo Arcade Stick is all there is to it, but there are a few more steps. Before you do anything, it’s highly recommended you update your Wingman XE to the latest firmware, which adds support for more controllers and addresses bugs. Some users have experienced a peculiar bug that caused the adapter to shut off after eight or so minutes, but Brook has since patched it so you definitely want to make sure your firmware is up to date.
After updating the firmware, I tried connecting the 8BitDo Arcade Stick to my PS4 using the Wingman XE but I had no luck. I tried the dongle, Bluetooth, and wired connection. No dice. I’m ashamed to say I gave up that night, figuring that the lack of 8BitDo support on the site was probably for a reason. Thinking I was out $40, I tried one more time before spending even more money on a made-for-PS4 fight stick. It worked flawlessly, except for the wired connection. I realized I made several mistakes, which I’ll now explain so you don’t make them, too.
First, I had plugged the Wingman XE in my PS4’s second front USB port instead of the first one because I had an external SSD connected to it. I later learned you can plug the Wingman XE into your PS4’s second USB port, but the connection might not hold — I lost connection after a few minutes when using it. My advice: stick with the first USB port.
Second, I inserted the Wingman XE into the USB slot after I turned the console on, which would sometimes turn the 8BitDo Arcade Stick’s LED solid red (a telltale sign of an error or issue). For whatever reason, it’s more likely to work if you plug in the Wingman XE before turning your PS4 on. Don’t ask me why — I’ll take it.
And third, on the 8BitDo Arcade Stick, you need to press the blue button with the heart on it to properly activate the fight stick. This blue button is the equivalent of the PS button on a DualShock 4. I discovered this last one after randomly mashing buttons (hey, it worked).
Thankfully, my boneheaded attempt to troubleshoot the connection worked out in the end. Since there are no instructions on how to pair the 8BitDo Arcade Stick to the PS4, I’m not sure what exactly caused it to not connect initially, but the three issues listed above stuck out to me.
8BitDo and PS4 together at last
After finally getting my 8BitDo Arcade Stick to connect to my PS4 via the Wingman XE, I played Guilty Gear Strive and Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown for hours across several days. Lack of fighting awareness and skill notwithstanding, I’ve had a great time playing these two fighting games with the 8BitDo Arcade Stick.
For the least amount of lag, set the 8BitDo Arcade Stick’s dongle to 2.4GHz wireless mode, which in theory offers a more stable connection. I fared the same with the Bluetooth connection, however, but take my experience with a grain of salt. Bluetooth connections, in general, are notoriously finicky and can often have more latency if you’re out of range or there’s interference from other wireless signals like from a microwave or other Bluetooth devices.
Usually, if you’re concerned about lag, you just go with a wired connection, which in this case would mean plugging the USB-C cable into the Wingman XE — problem solved. But since the 8BitDo Arcade Stick isn’t an officially supported peripheral with the Wingman XE, there’s no telling if it will work for you — it didn’t for me. I tried to get the wired connection working multiple times and all I got were flashing blue LEDs on the 8BitDo Arcade Stick. I tried a different arcade stick — the Mayflash F101 wired arcade stick — on the PS4 via the Wingman XE converter and everything worked properly, so I’m unsure what the issue is other than, perhaps, some kind of firmware incompatibility in the 8BitDo.
I didn’t encounter as much as a whiff of lag in either wireless modes.
I wouldn’t be too concerned because in my experience, I didn’t encounter as much as a whiff of lag in either wireless modes. When playing both Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown and Guilty Gear Strive online, the lag was never a concern. That may be different at a tournament with dozens of people milling about, but for non-competitive play, the 8BitDo Arcade Stick is more than up to the job. If you’re expecting a tournament-grade arcade stick, the 8BitDo ain’t it; it’s nowhere near as spacious as a Hori RAP 4 and the palm rest to the left of the joystick is cramped. But for casual play at home, there’s no better arcade stick for around $100 with this many features.
You can upgrade it
While you don’t need an arcade stick to improve your game (as proven by Sonic Fox, arguably the best fighting game player in the world, who uses a controller) there’s a reason why it’s the go-to input device for a majority of fighting game players. An arcade stick won’t magically make you better without tons of practice, but it is more precise, allowing you to nail those quarter-circle, half-circle, and dragon punch moves more effortlessly every time. The 8BitDo Arcade Stick can be even better if you decide to invest a few bucks and upgrade the parts. In my opinion, the buttons are just as good as the Sanwa Denshi buttons, but you can replace them with either 24mm or 30mm buttons.
The joystick could be better, but it’s harder to replace, especially if you’re replacing it with a Sanwa JLF one, because it requires soldering. It is doable, but if you don’t already have the equipment or know how to solder, it may be best to skip it. That’s okay because there is one relatively simple and inexpensive mod you can do to customize the arcade stick to suit your play style: change out the square gate on the arcade stick to an octagonal one. The gate is a physical component that sits under the joystick and restricts the movement to whatever the shape is, hence why it’s also called a restrictor gate or restrictor plate.
Each has its perks and it all comes down to personal choice. The square gate, for example, is perfect for charge characters such as Street Fighter V’s Guile because of those hard 90-degree angles that make it easier to find the corner. Octagonal gates, because they have a more circular layout, make it easier for some people to pull off quarter-circle motions and dragon punches, but it requires riding the gate more, a habit that can cause the parts to degrade over time. Having tried both gates on the 8BitDo Arcade Stick, I prefer the stock square gate, which is commonly found in Japanese arcade machines and arcade sticks. I just can’t for the life of me consistently pull off moves when using an octagonal gate.
As someone who believed for most of his life that fighting games were a combination of button mashing and luck, I have a long way to go to “git gud.” The level of complexity in fighting games, especially Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown and Guilty Gear Strive, is on a different level than other game genres, but the 8BitDo Arcade Stick has made things better. With neither of these games being available on other consoles, and with no other wireless fight sticks like 8BitDo’s for the PS4, the Wingman XE has been a savior.
The Wingman XE has been a savior.
Recently, I spent three hours learning combos and advanced moves for Giovanna, who I think I will be maining in Guilty Gear Strive. Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown on the other hand is a much different game that works on three buttons (punch, kick, guard), but it’s still a very complex game that requires precise button combinations and timings. I’ve fared a little better in the online lobbies of Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown, though I attribute that more to the precision of the 8BitDo Arcade Stick’s joystick and buttons than my skill level.
I’ve never spent this much time or had this much fun learning moves with a controller — it’s a completely different kind of thrill and intensity playing with an arcade stick. The combination of the 8BitDo Arcade Stick and the Wingman XE converter make for an absolute knockout of a fighting game experience. Totally worth every penny.