Picking the best Star Citizen joystick is a challenge. Do you want the best quality joystick or perhaps you’re on a budget? Do you need a single-stick, dual joystick (Hands On Stick And Stick), HOTAS, HOSAK or maybe HOSAM?
And what about the flight models? Space and atmosphere flight will both be in the game, although the latter will take a while.
The best Star Citizen flight stick really depends on your personal preferences and how much you are willing to spend. It’s 2017 and there are some excellent PC gaming joysticks on the market. Many are suitable for space sims like Star Citizen and Elite Dangerous. For those looking for a custom Star Citizen HOTAS, we can only hope and wait until we get an update.
I’ve divided the joysticks in by price range so you can see which sticks fit your budget. If it’s your first joysticks go for cheaper stick and consider reading my basic joystick buyers guide.
|Budget||TM T16000 FCS||Best budget joystick. Review|
|Mid-range||VKB Gladiator||Excellent mid-range stick. Review|
|High-end||TM Warthog||Best joystick but expensive. Review|
|Budget||TM HOTAS X||Cheapest Hotas (poor quality). Review|
|Mid-range||TM T16000 FCS HOTAS||Best overal HOTAS price quality wise. Review|
|High-end||TM HOTAS Warthog||Best HOTAS but lacks an analogue stick (strafing). Better to combine a stick with a separate HOTAS like the CH pro throttle. Review|
The best joysticks to play Star Citizen
I’ve picked a few joysticks and HOTAS setups which I think are the best considering the price, build quality, precision and internal sensors. I’ve divided them into budget, mid-range and high-end joysticks. I also looked at dual sticks and HOTAS setups based on price quality ratio.
To save you some reading I’ve put them all together in one image, but you’re welcome to read about all the sticks if you want to learn more.
Best budget flight stick
The best budget joystick is the Thrustmaster VG T16000M FCS Joystick which has all the features you need. Recommended by the Star Citizen community and this edition is designed for Elite dangerous. If you want a slightly more accurate stick you might also consider the VKB Gladiator. There are currently 2 versions of this stick, the older greenish model and the latest. The main differences are improved sensors and the rubber material used on the stick and buttons to improve grip.
Again the winner is Thrustmaster, with their recently released HOTAS Controller which features an analogue stick. It’s a really cheap setup compared to the quality you get. It’s not the best in regards to components but really all you need if you’re looking for the best budget HOTAS. If you want the very best quality, you need to get the Warthog hotas (and pedals) or de VKB Gladiator pro combined with a CH Throttle.
Best dual joystick setup
I’ll leave this up to you but you’ll need an ambidextrous(left-handed and right-handed) stick, and another stick with great precision. Thrustmaster T16000M is an ambidextrous stick which you can combine with the Thrustmaster Warthog or the VKB Gladiator pro. Two T16000M is also an excellent dual joystick combo if you don’t want to burn your wallet. You might also want to consider to buy pedals if you want to wield two sticks. Read my joystick guide to get an idea about what you need.
Best mid-range joystick
The VKB Gladiator is a great mid-range joystick to play space sims. The stick has better precision than the T16000m and a decent amount of buttons. It also has twist which is great for single-stick usage combined with a mouse or keyboard. VKB may be somewhat unknown to the general public, but has top quality products. I am personally trying to get my hands on the pro version.
Best High-end joystick
The best available high-end joystick is the Thrustmaster Warthog.The Warthog is an excellent aiming stick with great precision. This is a replica of a fighter jet stick and very popular among flight sim gamers. The ergonomics and precision are great and build quality is outstanding.
Special mention- VKB Gladiator Pro
The Gladiator pro is hard to obtain due to limited production capacity but actually is a superior stick. It’s better than the Warthog and comes close to the high-end custom sticks that flight sim enthusiasts build themselves. The great thing about this stick is the ability to customize resistance by changing out springs and cams and he metal gimbal.
Keep an eye out for VKB sticks as they’ve shown interest in space sims and we might see something special in the near future.
Budget joysticks under $100
I’m not going to review all the flight sticks but you’ll be surprised that in this range you can actually get a great Star Citizen joystick. Of course you can just pick one of the cheapest to see if you actually like flying this way and move on to a better stick another time. At least that’s what I did. Note that pricing may vary depending on your region or discounts.
Mad Catz/Saitek FLY 5
- Highly customisable
- Good precision
- More buttons than the V1
- Hall sensors
- Two independent throttle controls
- Bad internal wiring
- LED on the stick is very bright
- Buttons may fall off after extended use
An ergonomic and highly customisable (handle height, angle etc) stick and comes with 21 buttons. It has a shift button which allows you to change everything, meaning you have about 42 buttons! Great throttle placement which feels natural when used and you actually have two that can work independently. There is a minor dead zone on the twist but this could actually work for you as you don’t want to twist the stick by accident. There’s a good amount of feedback on the spring to tell you when you’re twisting it.
Nice stick in general but I’ve heard many stories that it breaks down after a while. Buttons tend to fall off and it’s not uncommon for the internal wiring to break.
If you are a casual gamer and are looking for an entry-level stick with decent precision, this might be a good choice. If you are a heavy gamer you should consider other options. Excellent choice for single-stick users!
Thrustmaster T16000M – Community choice!
- Solid build, doesn’t feel cheap
- Hall effect sensors
- Good amount of buttons on the base
- T.A.R.G.E.T software compatible
- Button placement on the stick could be better
- Precise aiming is a tad difficult (modding is an option)
This is the best joystick when you’re on a budget, without a doubt. It’s an excellent stick and very cheap considering the quality. If you ask the Star Citizen community which joystick to buy, they usually recommend the T16000m.
The T16000m joystick has magnetic sensors (same as the expensive Warthog), it’s fairly cheap, has decent components and a long life-span. Button placement on the stick could be better but you get used to it quickly.
The stick has a very strong return and center snap, so it’s harder to get it out of the center for small corrections. You can however mod the spring by zip-tying the spring to improve accuracy, just search for tutorials on Youtube.
I would recommend this stick as it’s relatively cheap, pretty accurate (after modding) and suitable for single-stick use.
Logitech Extreme 3D
- Great placement of buttons on the head of the stick
- Not very accurate
- Can develop spiking
- Throttle placement feels unnatural
Used this stick for a few months but I had a hard time aiming, precision isn’t all that great. I did like button layout on the stick which is better than the T16000m. It’s a low-budget stick which is known to have calibration issues and can develop spiking. I think it is safe to say that this stick is suitable to fly larger ships, but not for fighter ships where you need accuracy. In all honesty I would look for something else.
Mid-range joysticks between $100 and $200
I selected a few sticks that deserve to be mentioned and I’m sure I forgot some. The joysticks price in this range are between $100 and $200. In general sticks within this price range have better build quality and precision, but not a huge deal. If you only want to make use of one stick make sure you pick one which has twist for controlling the Z-axis.
- Outstanding precision and quality build
- Very smooth movement and handling
- Perfect for dual stick setup
- Hall-effect sensor on twist axis
- Trigger up safety switch
- Should be part of dual setup
Fairly new on the market but VKB already has a good reputation. The stick is of high quality and perhaps one of the best you can can at this price range. The movement is smooth and precision is outstanding, users seem very happy with the handling due to excellent ergonomics. Although there aren’t many buttons available, the pinky shift gives you access to 12 buttons without taking your hand off. Honestly that’s enough buttons if you are going for a dual stick setup.
The stick features exchangeable cams and springs which allows you to adjust the responsiveness and resistance of the stick. Use it as an aiming stick because of its great precision and handling. The VKB has a light return to the centre and can travel into the opposite direction upon return. This makes is perfect for great precision and corrections as there is almost no centre return.
I think this is one of the best sticks you can get considering its price and precision.
CH products fighter stick
- High precision
- smooth handling, throw resistance is very low
- Superior build quality
- Two distinct axis of movement
CH products is a manufacturing and engineering company who build high-end industrial level products. At first I wanted to leave this stick out of this review because the stick has two distinct axis of travel. This may feel strange when you fly around in space.
This stick features great precision, low throw resistance and therefore moves very smooth. The buttons are precise and hardly wobble. The software (CH Control Manager) is perhaps the best available on the market.
My personal preference is a gimballed stick but I know of many citizens that aren’t bothered by the distinct axis. The stick is quite big and less suitable for people with small hands. Some people don’t like the aesthetics , but I rather buy a quality stick and choose function over looks. Many people prefer Hall effect sensors but the high-quality pots CH uses are just as good.
High-end Joysticks over $250
When it comes to high-end flight sticks your options are limited. These sticks are from a different category, built to last, high precision and great quality components. A high precision stick should generally be used for aim, flying with two high-end sticks would be overkill. The sticks selected lack twist, consider buying pedals in case you’re going for HOTAS or dual stick.
VKB Gladiator Pro
- 29 Total Logical Buttons Using Shift/Mode Functions
- Aluminum gimbal with changeable springs & cams
- Superior quality, unmatched precision
- Throttle on the base
- Great movement and handling
- 2 SHIFT modes and 13 buttons on the base
- Save and load Profiles
- Not always available
- Lacks twist
Based on a real fighter stick and a very cool and authentic design, the Gladiator pro is probably the best flight stick you can get. Superb quality and precision/accuracy and enough weight to prevent it from moving. This is the kind of stick you can let go to press some buttons at the base, without deviating from your flight path. If you want the best, this is it! Unfortunately the stick isn’t always available, hopefully they will produce another batch soon.
Thrustmaster Warthog joystick
- Superior quality
- Heavy weight, can be bolted
- Real fighter stick replica
- Great precession and accuracy
- Lacks twist
The design is a replica of the A-10C Thunderbolt II airplane and considered one of the best high-end flight sticks. The sticks feel is solid and very comfortable compared to the budget sticks . This is the most expensive stick (depending on your region) you can get but worth the money if you can afford it. On the other hand you probably won’t buy another one because this stick is made to last. The Warthog has quite some weight on the base which prevents it from moving and you’re able to bolt the plate.
Star Citizen HOTAS
There aren’t many options in the space sim genre when you’re looking for the best Star Citizen HOTAS. Most of them don’t have analogue sticks which you’ll need to make use of the six degrees of freedom (6DoF). Many HOTAS users that play Star Citizen also play other flight sims and use pedals to make use of 6DoF.
With the increasing popularity of the space sim genre a few manufactures added analogue sticks to fill the gap in this niche market. CIG also announced a dedicated Star Citizen HOTAS at Gamescom 2015, but Madcatz went out of business and Logitech took over. This means it’s going to take a while before we hear anything so let’s see which flight sticks and throttles are available.
Thrustmaster HOTAS X:
- Cheapest you can get
- Can’t make use of T.A.R.G.E.T software
- Breaks down easily
- Short cable between the two pieces
If you just want to experience what it’s like to fly a HOTAS without burning your budget you can consider this HOTAS setup. This isn’t my favourite and it has lots of issues but it’s a cheap HOTAS, a decent HOTAS starts around $130. Main problems are large dead zones, no resistance in the throttle and cable is a little short.
The pro of this set is pricing, it has twist, programmable buttons and you can separate and attach the two pieces. It works as advertised but tends to break down easily, it’s perhaps a bit too delicate for playing space sims like Star Citizen.
Thrustmaster T.16000M FCS HOTAS
- Analogue mini stick is a big plus
- Easy to setup, T.A.R.G.E.T software is great
- Cheap in comparison to other setups
- The throttle doesn’t glide well
- Button layout on the stick could be better
This HOTAS is one of the few which comes with and analogue mini stick. The placement however is questionable as you need to control it with your left index finger, which feels very unnatural IMO. The throttle feels a bit cheap and is inaccurate due to friction, you can solve this by slightly modding it with Velcro strips. If you’re looking for a better throttle you should checkout the CH throttle but it’s more expensive.
Both the throttle and stick come with TARGET software which allows you to configure the set very easily. Great thing is that it works straight out of the box! This is a very good Star Citizen HOTAS considering it’s price, you can also buy them individually or go for the flight pack which includes pedals. Recommended when you’re on a budget or looking for a decent entry-level setup!
T16000m + Ch throttle
- One of the best throttles, CH quality product
- Throttle comes with an analogue thumb stick
- Throttle isn’t always available
A good setup as the CH Pro throttle has an analogue thumb stick on the throttle. CH is known for it’s quality builds but the throttle isn’t always available.
You get twist on the stick, and analogue control on the throttle thumb stick. This combination of throttle and joystick basically covers all you need to play Star Citizen. In comparison to the T16000 FCS throttle the CH Pro throttle is of better quality but also more expensive. The throttle slides in a horizontal direction which may feel bit strange when you’re use to an arc like movement.
Downside is that you’ll need to make use of two different programs, TARGET and CH Control Manager.
Logitech G Saitek Pro Flight X56 Rhino HOTAS
- 2 analogue thumb sticks
- Accurate stick, decent button layout, interchangeable springs
- 3 modifier buttons to switch profiles
- Can develop problems when heavily used
- Stick is rather large, hard to reach button on the top
- More expensive compared to the FCS
The X56 Rhino HOTAS looks like an updated version of X55 Rhino with RGB led and analogue thumb sticks attached. The X56 is the only HOTAS on the market that comes with 2 analogue sticks. One located on the joystick and the other is located on the throttle. This setup is the last product from Madcatz/Saitek (before Logitech took over) and designed for space games like Elite dangerous and Star Citizen.
I have mixed feelings about this setup as it seems like the perfect HOTAS to play a space game. You have control over al 6DoF and it’s pretty accurate. The thumb sticks really are a great addition and two thumb sticks is are a unique feature. The manufacturing quality however could use some improvements (just like its predecessor) and the wiring in the throttle are a concern. On the other hand it’s half the price of the Warthog, but almost double the price of the T16000 FCS hotas.
The stick is rather large and not suitable for smaller hands but you can mod the stick to adjust it to your needs. Modding the stick will break warranty so do it at your own risk.
The throttle feels great just like the X55 and moves in an arc like direction. The is quite some tension on the throttle but this gradually becomes smoother.
Thrustmaster Hotas Warthog
- High-end stick, quality build and internals
- Very precise
- Very ergonomic, copied from A-10C Thunderbolt II airplane
- Heavy weight, ability to bolt and attach
- Can be bought separately
- Very expensive, one of the most expensive sticks and throttles
- Lack twist and analog thumb stick means you need pedals
This is the most expensive HOTAS, has a very solid mostly metal exterior and excellent internal components (although some are plastic). The set is a copy of the A-10C Thunderbolt II airplane and looks amazing.
Because the stick has no twist you also need pedals which will make the set even more costly. In general the Warthog is better for flight sims and less suitable for space sims like Star Citizen and Elite dangerous. Although people are very satisfied with the quality and accuracy some report the stick having stiction (static friction) issues.
The weight is impressive, you’ll notice this immediately when you unbox the package. You could consider just getting the stick for aim with a dual setup and pedals.
Star Citizen joystick buyers guide
The best joysticks aren’t cheap, in most cases this is because of the build quality which you don’t see on the outside. Another reason is probably the niche market, supply and demand.
There is a huge difference between a low-budget stick and a more expensive one. Think of a cheap mouse compared to a gaming mouse, they both work but you just notice the difference in quality and accuracy. The same goes for the best HOTAS, build quality is everything.
When it comes to space simulators in general for best precision you need fine control at the centre . There are some sticks where you can replace the spring (x55 and x56) with a lighter one and even adjust the strain (like the Warthog and VKB Gladiator pro). You can also mod a stick like the T16000m to give you more centre control, but this is probably not needed when you’re just starting out.
Keep the following things in mind when you’re looking to buy a flight stick to play Star Citizen
- Durability, internal and external build quality
- Motion and precision
- Gimbals should move smoothly across the axis
Single joystick VS dual joystick VS HOTAS
If you’re going for a single joystick make sure it has twist. You’ll also need a throttle on the base and a good amount of buttons. Downside of a single-stick is that you have less control than double stick users. You often see single joystick pilots using a mouse (HOSAM) or keyboard (HOSAK).
Many fighter pilots recommend using a dual joystick setup. Two flight sticks give you great control over your ship, thrusting however might become a bit more challenging. There are ways to avoid this problem by assigning the throttles to one of the sticks. Some assign it to a hat control, others use the forward and backward movement. Dual flight sticks are great for small and nimble fighters. If you’re new to the game and/or joysticks, a dual setup is probably the best solution.
When it comes to Star Citizen, HOTAS is better for larger ships and atmospheric flight. Star Citizen will also have atmospheric flight so keep that in mind. Some HOTAS users use additional pedals to control strafing and/or forward/backward movement. but fortunately there are some devices on the market which have analog controls. If you’re also playing other flight simulators (non space) you’re best pick would be a HOTAS.
Twist versus no twist
Another thing to consider when buying a joystick (especially space sims) is stick twist. If you buy a stick without twist you also need to consider getting pedals or get a second stick with twist to control the Z-axis. The benefit of not having twist is better precision.
Joysticks that feature twist are usually weaker in comparison and suffer from axis bleed. Last disadvantage is the unnatural motion which causes strain on the wrist. I notice it can start to hurt after a long period of gaming.
The advantages of having twist is that you don’t need pedals for yaw movement, it saves desk space and is easier to use.
Cheap joystick vs Expensive joystick
Obviously they key here is quality, a joystick is a mechanical device which gets to endure a lot more than a keyboard. Cheaper joysticks can’t handle ‘abuse’ very well, especially in the long run. Quality joysticks can last for over a decade easily when properly used. Some sticks break just after a few months by simply using them, buttons fail and accuracy decreases.
Cheaper joysticks tend to have low quality components, lack precision, are harder to calibrate and can suffer from ’spiking’. Spiking means a stick will slightly ‘move’ without giving it commands, some sticks develop spiking over time.
Some tips to improve ergonomics
Many joysticks and HOTAS users report that the devices move when being used. There are a couple of simple solutions you can try yourself. Some setups can be bolted to your desk, but most of the sticks don’t have this option.
You can attach Velcro or 3m dual lock to the bottom of the base to stop movement. Another simple solution you often see is to attach pole mounting brackets to a chair and Velcro on the base. If you’re handy you could consider building a construction to support the sticks or HOTAS like this example or go crazy and build this awesome setup.
Choosing the right HOTAS or joystick for Star Citizen is a combination of nuance and personal preferences. With the comeback of the space sim/arcade, joysticks seem to get more popular. This blogpost is based on personal experience and from what I’ve heard from other Star Citizens. I did a fair amount of research, used many sticks and tried to narrow down throttle and sticks specifically suitable for Star Citizen. Good setups aren’t cheap but if you do your research you can get a great flight stick or HOTAS to play Star Citizen.
- Dedicated fighter pilots should use a dual joystick setup.
- HOTAS setups are more suitable for larger ships and the atmospheric flight model.
- Single stick users need to make sure their stick has twist and a throttle. Either use a mouse or a keyboard to complement your stick.
If anything is incorrect, outdated or could use improvement, please let me know.