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Best PC Gaming Joystick 2016

If you're looking for a budget gaming joystick, the Thrustmaster T-Flight is a decent option. Find more of our favorites below.
If you're looking for a budget gaming joystick, the Thrustmaster T-Flight is a decent option. Find more of our favorites below.

My Top Joysticks for FPS, Flight Simulation, and Racing

If you spend a lot of time playing first-person shooter games (FPS), then you know just how important a fraction of a second can be to your virtual survival.

I'm an avid Battlefield 3 player and have noticed that while a good gaming mouse gives me an advantage in many situations, it's simply not ideal for some vehicles like jets and helicopters.

If you're looking for a joystick for PC racing, flight simulation, fighting, or FPS games, I’ve got you covered. Here's a look at my top joysticks for PC gaming.

What to Look for in a Joystick

When purchasing a joystick, you obviously want to get the best choice for your money. Here are some things you should consider according to PC Gamer Magazine:

Throttle control

You need throttle control if you're trying to engage in serious flight simulation, and it's the foremost factor that separates a joypad from a joystick setup. By making sure your joystick comes with a decent throttle, you'll be able to access speed and granularity that can be the difference between life and death.

Though it's not necessary, the most respected flight controllers do come with a separate control for the throttle, including extra toggle switches and LEDs.

Others have throttle control built onto the base of the joystick, but as long as there's a decent amount of travel in the throttle, you'll have good in-game control. Another benefit of a separate throttle is that it minimizes or removes your dependence on using your keyboard.

Button configuration

Sims demand a lot of in-flight controls and having plenty of buttons can be extremely useful. Obviously you can use your keyboard if you need extra controls, but it's nice to not be dependent on it.

You'll need at least four buttons on the stick itself and ideally a hat switch on top of it.

Z-axis control

Traditionally, joysticks just have pitch and roll control and can move forward, back, left and right. However, some are configured for 3-D movement, which means that in addition to controlling the X- and Y- axis, you can also twist the stick clockwise or anti-clockwise to control the Z-axis.

This is generally used to control yaw and replicate the rudder controls of an aircraft.

In space, the 3-D control can be crucial for accuracy. While this function isn't as necessary on a stick with other controls that can mimic the rudder, on budget sticks its absence is noticeable. The rudder can also be replicated and controlled using pedals.

Terms You Should Know

HOTAS: This acronym stands for "Hands-On Throttle and Stick" and indicates a dual controller where one hand rests permanently on the throttle and the other remains on the stick.

Hat switch: A multi-directional button akin to the d-pad on a modern controller. On a flight stick, the d-pad has a hat on top which the thumb can easily push to activate the levers. They come in either 4-way or 8-way styles.

With that introduction, here are my top picks for PC gaming joysticks. You'll notice that Thrustmaster somewhat dominates the list.

Joystick
Cost
Best for...
Throttle Information
Buttons, Hat Switches, Etc...
Amazon Reviews and Ratings
Other
Logitech Extreme 3D Pro
$34.99
Bang for buck
Lever, smooth control on stick
12 buttons, 1 8-way hat switch
1020 reviews, 4.1 avg rating
Possible durability issues
Thrustmaster T-16000M Flight Stick
$68.02
Lefties + budget
Throttle slider on stick
16 buttons, 1 hat switch
107 reviews, 4.5 avg rating
Ambidextrous design makes some things awkward for righties
Thrustmaster T-Flight Hotas X Flight Stick
$44.88
Entry-level HOTAS
Detachable
12 buttons, 1 hat, 5 axles
553 reviews, 4.4 avg rating
Joystick has a dead zone, does not work on Xbox 360
Thrustmaster Hotas Wharthog Joystick
$419.99
Top of the line
Dual throttle system, dual throttle control
55 buttons, 2 4-direction hats
115 reviews, 4.5 avg rating
Shipping weight: 20.5 lbs
CH Products Fighterstick and Throttle
$207.43 (together)
Durability
Sold separate from joystick
24 buttons, three 4-way hat switches and one 8-way point of view hat
102 reviews, 4.4 avg rating
Looks aren't everything
Mad Catz Cyborg F.L.Y.5 Stick for PC
$59.99
Backup
Twin throttle
12 buttons, POV hat
149 reviews, 3.3 avg rating
Durability issues
Mad Catz Saitek Pro Flight X-55 Rhino HOTAS
$199.99
Realistic design
Twin throttles with friction adjuster and throttle lock
Tons of buttons, 2 8-way hats, 1 8-way POV hat
110 reviews, 3.8 avg rating
QA issues with buttons
Saitek X52 Pro Flight Control System
$156.99
Saitek afficionado
New throttle design
Buttons galore, 2 8-way hats
206 reviews, 3.8 avg rating
Needs to be secured
Saitek Pro Flight Yoke with Three-Lever Throttle
$125.84
Flying
3-lever throttle; throttle quadrant
POV hat, 14 button controls, and 3-position mode switch
428 reviews, 3.9 avg rating
Some binding issues but best flight yoke for the price

Logitech Extreme 3D Pro Joystick

A Good Budget PC Gaming Joystick for FPS

If you simply want a joystick to use with the occasional vehicle, then this is a worthwhile option. One of the top sellers on Amazon, the Logitech Extreme 3D is durable and fits the mold for FPS, but isn't quite something you'd want to use if you're spending hours every day on a flight simulator.

It has X,Y and Z axes, throttle axis, a hat switch, and enough buttons to not have to use the keyboard with most games, in addition to being a great value.

I've owned one for a few years and will probably just purchase a new one when it wears out because it is so affordable. In this price range you could also consider the Logitech Attack 3, but I like how well-placed all the buttons are on this particular model.

Retail price: $34.99

Logitech 963290-0403 Extreme 3D Pro Joystick for Windows
Logitech 963290-0403 Extreme 3D Pro Joystick for Windows

I like the Extreme 3D because it plays well in addition to being affordable and durable.

It has features like 12 programmable buttons and an eight-way rubber hat switch for additional control and precision.

 

Demo: Logitech Extreme 3D Pro on Battlefield 3

Thrustmaster T-16000M Flight Stick

considered one of the best budget flight sticks - perfect for starters

For gamers looking for a budget option that does some serious heavy lifting, this is definitely a flight stick to consider. It's one of the only cheap joysticks that has hall sensors instead of potentiometers, which does wonders for its sensitivity.

The T-16000M features great tension, zone control and return to center. Unlike many of the other options on this list, it's built for both right and left-handed players (to some success).

Some reviewers on Amazon commented on the short and awkward position of the throttle, so that's something to be aware of before purchasing. That said, with a rudder twist and plenty of buttons for programming and customizing, like the Logitech 3D Pro, it is a well-liked budget option.


Retail price: $68.02

Thrustmaster T-16000M Flight Stick
Thrustmaster T-16000M Flight Stick

A popular, budget option with hall sensors and ambidextrous sensibilities.

For bonus points, it's also an easy-to-install plug and play device that helps get you gaming faster.

 

Review: Thrustmaster T-16000M

Thrustmaster T-Flight Hotas X Flight Stick

An affordable flight stick with plenty of flexibility

It's made out of plastic (instead of metal like the Warthog which is reviewed below) and has less buttons and hats, but this joystick is still a Thrustmaster steal.

Some of its best features include a detachable throttle, Z-axis rotation for rudder control, and plenty of programmable buttons.

One reviewer at PC Gamer Magazine commented that the action on the stick and throttle leave something to be desired and that in the heat of a fight you'll hear plastic grinding on plastic, but overall the joystick still feels solid and is worth the price.

Retail price: $44.88

Thrustmaster T-Flight Hotas X Flight Stick
Thrustmaster T-Flight Hotas X Flight Stick

While it's no Warthog, this flight stick is a great option for the price and still has plenty of programmable buttons, Z-axis control and a detachable throttle to allow for flexibility in how you use it.

It's also a best seller on Amazon.

 

Review: Thrustmaster T-Flight Hotas X Flight Stick

Thrustmaster Hotas Wharthog Joystick

A High-End Joystick for Realistic Flight Simulation

If you want the best of the best for flight simulation, then the Thrustmaster Hotas Warthog Joystick (released in 2011) is where it's at.

The Warthog is pricey, but it also gives you a unique replica set of the U.S. Air Force A-10C's joystick, dual throttle system, and control panel. Weighing in at 20.5 lbs shipping weight, this is one joystick you will not have to worry about flying off your desk in the heat of action.

CH Products Fighterstick and Throttle

It's not fancy, but it works and will probably last forever.

With a retro-style design, this flightstick might not immediately scream heavy duty dogfighting action, but it's still a very functional stick with extensive flightstick travel that enables fine-grain control (according to a reviewer at PC Gamer Magazine).

The stick itself has three axes of control and 24 buttons, including X-,Y-, and Z-axes for aileron, elevator, and throttle control. You can switch between three modes for a total of 128 programmable functions with the included Control Manager software (PC only).

It's a plug-and-play device that's built to last, and it will get the job done if the job is destroying enemy aircraft. That said, it's more expensive than some of the other models out there and for the money, you might want to have something that looks more like the real thing than a Game Boy.

A note on the throttle: the throttle has linear motion instead of arching, which can take some getting used to and isn't as desirable as the throttle action from Saitek and Thrustmaster.

Retail price: $109.57

CH Products Fighterstick USB
CH Products Fighterstick USB

You can plug and play this badboy, which has light springs and a throttle wheel at its base (this function can be mapped somewhere else if you choose to buy the throttle.)

You'll have to get over the toy-ish design, but as soon as you do, get ready to play hard.

 

Retail price: $97.86

CH Products Pro Throttle USB
CH Products Pro Throttle USB

With plenty of hat switches and buttons to keep you busy, this throttle features linear instead of arching movement which can take some getting used to.

It doesn't have a trim wheel, which left some reviewers disappointed, but overall most were very satisfied with their purchase.

 

Review: CH Fighterstick, Pro Pedals, Pro Throttle

Mad Catz Cyborg F.L.Y.5 Stick for PC

Cheap stick with cheap construction that's good for travel

A word to the wise on this stick: one of the most frequent comments on Amazon is that the buttons are prone to breaking quickly and for no reason at all. That said, there are some good things about it.

It's an adjustable stick with a dual throttle and 10 programmable buttons and a foldable base. Some of the negative aspects of the stick include an intense blue light just beneath the hat switch, and the fact the base tilts up when you're pushing the stick forward.

However, the drivers are easy to install, the design of the stick makes it easy to save space, and it has a good feel and texture with lots of buttons. Given that it does seem to break easily, this might be the best option for a back-up or travel stick.

Retail price: $59.99

Mad Catz F.L.Y.5 Stick for PC
Mad Catz F.L.Y.5 Stick for PC

Despite its cheap construction, there are still some positive elements to this stick like its adjust-ability and its space-saving design.

That said, serious gamers will probably only want to consider this as a back-up joystick.

 

Review: Cyborg F.L.Y. 5 Flightstick

Mad Catz Saitek Pro Flight X-55 Rhino HOTAS

An Upgrade to the x52 that's worth the money

The X55 Rhino from Saitek features a stick layout almost identical to the Warthog except with three hat-switches rather than four and interchangeable coil springs which allow you to tailor the resistance to your taste.

You can alter the resistance on the fly with the throttle—even to a greater degree than the Warthog—and it comes with plenty of mini-joysticks, hat switches, flick switches, and rotary switches that allow you to fully customize it.

The stick is, however, made out of plastic and some reviewers on Amazon have complained about QA issues, with buttons breaking and the parts simply not fitting together correctly. There were also some comments about difficulties getting the software to work.

Those who don't have manufacturing or software issues, however, really love the stick and are happy with their purchase.

Retail price: $199.99

Saitek Pro Flight X-55 Rhino H.O.T.A.S. (Hands on Throttle and Stick) System for PC
Saitek Pro Flight X-55 Rhino H.O.T.A.S. (Hands on Throttle and Stick) System for PC

For $30 more than the previous version, this flight stick is an upgrade that pulls some serious weight (barring the chance of manufacturing or software issues which some people have experienced).

 

Review: X-55 Rhino H.O.T.A.S.

Saitek X52 Pro Flight Control System

A good option (if slightly dated) for an entry-level fully-customizable HOTAS.

If you can't afford the Thrustmaster or the updated version of this joystick, then this is a solid bet.

With the Saitek X52, you can program your controller for each game. The system also features precision centering mechanisms, with no-contact technology on X- and Y- axes and a constant spring force to improve control. The light-up buttons are also a plus.

Review: Saitek X52 Pro Joystick

Bonus Yoke: Saitek Pro Flight Yoke with Three-Lever Throttle

A Yoke Worth Considering

It may seem somewhat expensive but for the money the Saitek Pro Flight Yoke with Three-Lever Throttle will get you as close to reality as you can be for around $100. It features a POV Hat, 14 button controls, and a 3-position mode switch.

Like other Saitek models, some reviewers on Amazon have complained of manufacturing issues and the need to send their units back or get a refund, so do your due diligence on this product before purchasing.

Another option if you're considering a yoke would be the CH Flight Sim Yoke, which (like the CH flight stick and throttle) looks less legitimate but has excellent manufacturing standards and is cheaper.

Review: Saitek Pro Flight Yoke and Throttle

Which PC gaming joystick is your favorite?

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What Joystick do You Use for PC Gaming?

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