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Arcade stick/button recommendations

  • Hello. I have my RPi 3 and just got my ControlBlock. I also just ordered one of these to use to power on and off everything. My goal is to build an old school arcade cabinet and I would like to use some sticks and buttons that would fit with such a build. Does anyone have any recommendations? I honestly don't know what I should be looking for to get something that will work with the ControlBlock. I plan to have a two player system so I'll need to have enough sticks and buttons to accommodate that. Any info that you can provide would be very much appreciated.

    Thanks in advance.

  • @christh0mas My system is a 'cocktail' style table with arcade controls on three sides. I am not sure if you wanna go that route with just two players, or a more typical stand-up or bartop design, but you have a lot of options for the actual equipment. I would take a look at the Ultimarc website to see what I would call the advanced options for joysticks.

    Once you have seen the cream of the crop, take a look at HAPP brand for the opposite end of the spectrum. HAPP has been around since the beginning of real arcade systems and they are a standard name for arcade parts. There are also clones of HAPP sticks. I have HAPP Super joysticks in my system. These are the simplest, cheapest style you can buy. They also make the Competition model which is very similar and cheap. We are talking less than $10 US. One decision worth thinking about is if you want fighter-bat style grips, or ball grips. There are other joystick and button makers too, like Sanwa.

    I bought my joysticks and buttons over a decade ago from Groovy Game Gear. My buttons are from their product lineup and they are clones of a standard HAPP microswitch button. I have no complaints whatsoever about them. Great service. These days there are many arcade part sellers including some on eBay and on Amazon.

    When it comes to pushbuttons, you have a lot of options. Buttons are often microswitch based, or have integrated switches inside, and there are some retro 'leaf' switches which are quieter and more authentic. Some folks like leaf style switches for the way they feel with repetitive presses. Pay attention to depth, as some buttons work better through a thinner substrate like sheet metal while others are built for 3/4" plywood or MDF. You will need to investigate the games you want to play to determine how many buttons you need and their layout, but you should be thinking about each player also needing a START button and a Insert-Coin button. The Coin button is sometimes overlooked, but you need it for arcade games. It also doubles as the SELECT button in Emulation Station and console emulators.

    Finally, consider an admin button or two on your panel. These can come in very handy for actions like EXIT, PAUSE, and so on. I have them out of normal reach in the corners of my cabinet and two more that I use for volume.

  • Wow, thanks very much. This is extremely helpful. One thing I am confused about is how I am going to hook the sticks and buttons to the ControlBlock. Are they all pretty standard in that I should be able to just insert them into the corresponding places on the block or is there something specific I should be looking for?

    Thanks again.

  • Global Moderator

    You can get an idea about how to connect them to the ControlBlock with the image at, Section "Getting Started - Hardware Setup" - "Connecting Game Controllers". It is pretty standard. You just need a screwdriver that fits the terminal blocks to tighten the screws :-)

  • Hey @christh0mas and welcome to the forum!

    Cool to hear that you're planning an arcade build - it's so much fun, both to build, use and maintain! Don't forget to share some build-photos eventually :)
    I don't know much about the ControlBlock, but I can tell you what made me choose the hardware for my setup:

    Sanwa JLW-8 joysticks, because these were widely recommended, and because Seimitsu LS-32 are too short for my mounting method: from the underside of a 3/4" wooden plate. Many japanese joysticks are made for mounting on thin steel plates, and are therefore shortshafted. To be honest, I found the actuators on the Sanwas were leaving the joystick with quite a lot of deadzone before activating the switches, so I made some new slightly wider actuators on a lathe, but spares can be bought online, it's just something to consider before buying.

    My buttons are classic arcade types like the HAPPs that @caver01 mention, but read somewhere that IL buttons were superior to HAPP, and they are quite long, so also works with mounting in wood. If they're better than HAPP as suggested, I don't know though. They don't seem like anything special, but I'm overall very satisfied with them, and they come in many shapes and colors.

    All my microswitches are cherryswitches. The actuation force on these are quite low, so you don't get sore fingers after longer play sessions. Standard switches should be quite tiring to use in a longer time.

  • @andershp I have some IL start buttons in my cab. They look just like the happ design (long shafts for thick panels) and quality is excellent. They also come in a wide variety of colors. Mine are crystal clear and solid black. I stuffed a graphic inside to denote players 1-4. I used to have actual player start buttons from somewhere, but the white paint rubbed off the black plastic quickly on those, so I replaced them with clear IL and the graphic.

    Anyway, IL are great pushbuttons of the microswitch type. My switches are also cherry.

  • Wow, thanks everyone for the info. Looks like I have some thinking to do. I appreciate all of the advice. This seems to be a really great community.

    I'm sure I'll be posting back here as I hit speed bumps and I will definitely post pics.

    Thanks again!

  • @christh0mas You should also check out the BYOAC forums and website. BYOAC has been raging on for years (decades maybe?) with the focus on arcade cabinet builds and everything that goes along with that. You will find lots of examples of cabinet projects, product reviews, software and so on. It is a valuable resource for details that go beyond the fact that you happen to be using RetroPie and it is where many people started, myself included. My original setup was built using an Intel Mini ITX motherboard running Windows XP and the Maximus Arcade frontend. Ahh, the nostalgia.

  • @caver01 I second this. On the BYOAC forums there's lot of advice to find regarding the build itself, but note that not everyone thinks very highly of Raspberry Pi's there, so questions regarding this is better asked in this excellent site :)

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