A Basic Introduction To Arcade & Fight Sticks Modding

Being an old school gamer, I do enjoy using an arcade joystick when playing retro MAME games and modern fighting games featured at EVO events; unlike gamepads, they are very easy to mod and personalize. If that sounds interesting to you, here are what you need to know.

What’s Under The Hood?

As Arcade/Fight sticks are becoming more and more popular, it is important to understand that even if the cheapest options cannot be modded, there is a growing number of affordable options that can easily be personalized by removing the bottom plate.

You will usually see a a joystick with a flat head shaft that can be used to swap ball tops, a restrictor gate screwed on its bottom, a bunch of colored cables, in pairs, hooked up to the buttons, all of them connected to a printed circuit board (PCB).

Just to be clear, this is an introduction and I will only cover what can be replaced without soldering; so I will not cover PCBs.

Should You Mod It?

Before asking if you should, you might want to check if you can: some of the most affordable sticks out there cannot be modded without a certain level of expertise and might require special tools and parts. For the should question, sometimes modding might devalue your stick if it’s from an original console accessories that isn’t manufactured anymore or if it’s a stick coming from a game limited edition.

Injustice Fight Stick

This is a modern fight stick and I got it as a reasonable price but it’s very difficult to mod as the buttons’ cables aren’t colored and swapping them without damaging the LED PCBs and keeping the lighting functions intact is extremely difficult; this is the reason why, I would not recommend modding it.

Neo Geo X Arcade Stick

If the Rolls-Royce of 90s consoles came with a pad in its later years, the arcade stick is the one that is the most iconic. Unfortunately, it’s quasi-impossible to mod and it doesn’t have the colored button seen on screen its pad counterpart has.

NES Edge

This is one of the simplest and cheapest arcade controller I have; unfortunately, this one cannot be modified but for the thrill of playing NES games with a stick; this is a good solution.