For the first time, a Street Fighter game is launching on PC at the same time as its console counterparts. And even better, PC players aren't segregated to their own platform — Street Fighter 5 allows players to go head to head regardless of where they're playing the game, be it on Playstation 4 or Windows PC.
This development should mark the first time that Capcom and its partners at Mad Catz get serious about bringing their well-regarded arcade sticks to the PC as well. Unfortunately, that's not quite how things have worked out. For a variety of reasons, several of which pertain to an archaic set of policies and politics around old and new Windows driver standards, getting a fighting stick that works on PC and with Street Fighter 5 is a little harder than it should be. But as it happens, I've spent the last week tweaking and testing five different arcade sticks with Street Fighter 5 on PC. I've come out of this haze with recommendations, and, as importantly, configurations to get you up and running with sticks you can buy in a store now.
The easy way
Right off the bat, the easiest way to play Street Fighter 5 with an arcade stick is to use an Xbox 360-compatible accessory. Out of the sticks I tested, the only one that just worked — requiring no external tweaking or configuration — was a Hori fight stick included with the Collector's Edition of Tekken 6 that I had sitting in a cabinet. This stick isn't amazing, but it is indicative of a general trend: Street Fighter 5 likes Xbox 360 arcade sticks on PC. Anecdotally speaking, this applies across brands, including Mad Catz's excellent Tournament Edition line, as well as its Fightpad series of controllers. And just as importantly, there are a lot of really great arcade sticks from companies like Hori, Mad Catz and Razer for the 360.
There's just one problem: They can be hard to find if you don't have one. I tried shopping online and at local retail in the Bay Area to find a 360 fight stick and came up empty-handed. What I found was often secondhand and severely marked up, due in part to Mad Catz's tendency to make its releases collector's editions with limited runs, and for their competitors to sell smaller production runs in general. So if you don't have a stick yet, then a 360-specific stick may not be the answer you need.
There was another controller that Street Fighter 5 recognized instantly without requiring any tweaking: an official Xbox One pad (and Xbox One Elite Controller, to be specific). This wasn't the way I wanted to play Street Fighter 5, but honestly, it was perfectly serviceable, and the D-pad on the Xbox One controller is worlds better than anything the 360 ever saw, Mad Catz's Fightpads notwithstanding.
With the Xbox One controller working perfectly, I assumed I'd find the same luck with Xbox One arcade sticks, which, despite a pretty serious lack of fighting games on Xbox One, do exist — there's a Mad Catz Tournament Edition 2 stick for Xbox One, though I was unable to acquire one in time for this piece. However, accessory maker Razer was kind enough to send along its very nice Atrox Xbox One controller to try. It's a beautiful stick with a good amount of weight to it, and the buttons and stick are modifiable as well.
Unfortunately, it doesn't play well with Windows 10.
I'm not totally clear on the particulars here, but the problem is well-documented. There's some quirk or limitation with Microsoft's Xbox One controller for PC drivers that restricts certain accessories, and arcade sticks have been a chief victim of the issue. I had to first trick Windows into installing the stick via the Device Manager with a generic Xbox One controller driver, and use third-party software to make the stick work at all — more on that later — and even then, the LT and RT buttons on the Atrox, which correspond with the left and right triggers of an Xbox One controller, weren't recognized. These buttons on the face of the Atrox take up prime real estate, and while the Atrox does allow for some rewiring if you know what you're doing, this was well outside of my comfort zone.
Reading up on other Xbox One-specific sticks yields similar results. I don't want to speculate too much on why this is, but my advice is less equivocal: Avoid them for now for PC use.
The ones that work — if you also use JoyToKey
Mad Catz and Capcom have released a special PS4 edition of their popular Tournament Edition 2 FightStick specifically for Street Fighter 5. It's very pretty, very durable and very, very expensive, retailing for around $230.
It's also not officially supported on PC, per Mad Catz (though it does officially work with the PS3). Trying to get it to work on PC started this entire article in the first place, as I refused to accept that the official Street Fighter 5 arcade stick wouldn't work with the PC version of the game, and, it turns out, it does, if you're willing to install some other software.
I know many readers will stop me here to talk about the various utilities that they've used to get their PS4 controllers such as the DualShock 4 recognized and functioning with Windows. For whatever reason, this absolutely would not work with either the TE2 or any other PS4/PS3 stick I tried, no matter what I tried.
However, JoyToKey, a third-party application that allows users to remap controls on devices using the older, less-supported DirectInput driver standard — rather than the more current Xinput standard that Microsoft introduced to Windows with the release of the Xbox 360 controller — serves as a functioning intermediary between windows and Street Fighter 5. JoyToKey also allowed me to use Hori's RAP Pro V Kai for Xbox One/360/PC and its RAP Pro 4 Kai for PS4/PS3/PC.
The rub here is that each of these controllers will require a specific setup within JoyToKey to work properly — there's no universal configuration file that will magically make every stick work. This is in large part because of a strange lack of standardization; with DirectInput, every button is assigned a number that Windows recognizes, and so, in turn, does JoytoKey. However, those numbers might correspond to different face buttons from stick to stick. And you'll need to properly configure your stick before you even start Street Fighter 5 — otherwise you won't even be able to navigate the game's menus.
How lucky for you that I have already done this, then! You can download a configuration file for the Hori RAP V stick in Xbox 360 mode here, and a config file for the RAP 4 stick in PS3 mode here. A config file for the Mad Catz Street Fighter 5 CE TE2 stick can be downloaded here. To use these, download the config and drag them to your JoyToKey folder and restart the program.
After spending time with all of the sticks in question, I found myself gravitating toward the Hori hardware, in case you were curious. The stick feels a little taller, and the button that serves as "start" for all intents and purposes is on the top face of the stick, making it much easier to reach than it is on the TE2. That said, the build quality of the TE2's base and chassis feels more durable and premium, which makes sense, given the $70-80 price premium. As importantly for fence-sitters, the Hori sticks appear to still be in stock online, though given Hori's generally low production runs, you might want to jump on them soon.