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The Best Arcade Buttons and Joysticks

by Arcade Man
Happ Buttons

Are you a fan of arcade games and looking to build your own arcade cabinet? Or perhaps you already have an arcade kit with subpar controls that need an upgrade? Maybe you’re even restoring an original arcade machine and want to find the perfect joystick and buttons to bring it back to its former glory. Look no further! In this Geek Pub Recommendation, we’ll guide you through the best arcade joystick and buttons you can buy.

Before we dive into the top picks, it’s essential to understand the different types of arcade controls available on the market. Not all arcade controls are created equal, and having a good grasp of the options will help you make an informed decision.

Two major manufacturers dominate the arcade control scene: Sanwa and Happ. Sanwa, a Japanese company, and Happ, an American company, offer distinctive designs and features. If you’re restoring an original arcade machine, sticking with original parts is crucial. For example, if you’re working on a Pac-Man arcade, Sanwa (or at least Sanwa-style) controls would be ideal. However, the brand name isn’t the only difference between the two.


Sanwa joysticks typically feature a round ball design, which provides a firm grip and reduces the chances of accidental releases. On the other hand, Happ joysticks have a bat-style design that somewhat resembles an upside-down bowling pin. Some enthusiasts believe that the Happ style makes for the best arcade joysticks and buttons. It ultimately comes down to personal preference, so choose the one that feels right for you.

When comparing Sanwa and Happ controls, there are additional factors to consider. Sanwa controls often incorporate a restrictor gate on the bottom of the joystick. This gate creates a pattern and allows the joystick to move only into specific positions. It simplifies engaging the diagonal positions and can affect the game dynamics. Various types of Sanwa restrictor gates are available, with four common options being circular, square, octagonal, and diamond-shaped.

If you opt for LED-lit buttons, you’ll need to power them. For retrofitting an original arcade machine, you might have to add or find an existing 5V power source inside the cabinet. In the case of a custom-built arcade, most controller kits come with a USB controller board that provides 5V pins for powering the LEDs.

Another aspect to consider when selecting arcade controls is the shape of the button cap. Sanwa buttons tend to have a rounded-over shape, while Happ buttons are usually sunken in. The difference in shape can be a matter of tactile preference and personal sense. However, regardless of cap shape, both buttons perform equally well.

One key feature to look for in arcade buttons is the ability to remove the button caps. This may seem like a small detail, but it can greatly enhance customization options. If your arcade control panel lacks silkscreened button labels, being able to remove the button caps allows you to place labels or artwork inside them. This feature is particularly advantageous for LED backlit buttons, as you can add various information such as player selection, coin symbols, or fire graphics.

Happ Joystick

Happ Suzo Joystick

With this information in mind, you’re now equipped to make an informed decision when choosing the best arcade joystick and buttons for your project. Whether you’re building your own arcade, upgrading an existing kit, or restoring an original machine, finding high-quality controls is essential for an authentic and enjoyable gaming experience.

Remember, arcade controls are not just buttons and joysticks; they’re an integral part of the arcade gaming nostalgia. Take your time, explore the options, and select the ones that suit your preferences and requirements. Now, get ready to immerse yourself in the world of arcade gaming with controls that elevate your gameplay to the next level!

Note: The Geek Pub article mentioned in this blog post provides further details, recommendations, and visual references for those interested in exploring the topic further. Be sure to check out the original article at The Best Arcade Joystick and Buttons.

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