7 Non-Fighting Game Genres You Can Play With an Arcade Stick

Looking to get some more use out of your poor neglected arcade stick? These games will keep it from gathering dust.
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If you’re a hardcore fighting game fan, or maybe even a casual one, you probably have an arcade stick or two lying around. These are great for fighting games, but sometimes they feel like too specialized a controller. After all, you’re not going to play Call of Duty with an arcade stick.

That said, fighting games aren’t the only type of game you can play with an arcade stick. There are multiple genres that easily lend themselves to the arcade stick play style. You may not love playing every type of game here with an arcade stick, but at least you’ll get some ideas.

1. Shoot ‘Em Ups

Arcade style shoot ’em ups (aka “shmups”) are usually known for their punishing difficulty, but that isn’t due to a crazy control scheme. These games often use simple controls, making them great for playing with an arcade stick.

Ikaruga may be around 20 years old, but it still holds up as a great example. That said, any side-scrolling or vertical-scrolling shooter will likely play pretty well with an arcade stick.

2. Beat ‘Em Ups

If you’re old enough to remember arcades, the beat ’em up is probably one of the styles of games you remember the most. No matter how well balanced the difficulty was, these games used simple control schemes. If you ever played them in an arcade, the arcade stick will likely feel more familiar than a controller.

Most beat ’em ups with support for modern controllers will work well with an arcade stick. For a single recommendation, try the Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle, which plays extremely well with an arcade stick.

3. Run & Gun

If you played 8-bit or 16-bit consoles, the run and gun game will likely be a familiar concept. While you may know them from home, many of these games initially got their start in arcades.

Contra may be one of the best-known examples of early run and gun games, but there are plenty of others. If you prefer the arcade side of things, try the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection, while the Sega Genesis Classics collection has plenty of action for console fans.

4. Puzzle Games

The puzzle genre is so varied that you might as well just say “games.” That said, most puzzle games, especially retro puzzle games, will play well on an arcade stick, mostly thanks to their arcade roots.

Puzzle Bobble, the predecessor of the popular bubble shooter genre, plays well on an arcade stick. So do most puzzle games you’ll find in the Nintendo Switch Online library of NES and SNES games.

5. Side-Scrolling Platformers

Speaking of Nintendo and the Switch Online service’s game catalog, side-scrolling platforms like Super Mario Bros. play quite well on an arcade stick. Getting the feel of it might take a while if you’ve played a game for hours with a controller, but it often works well once you adjust.

The Mario platforms are a great example, but Sonic The Hedgehog works surprisingly well with an arcade stick as well.

6. Old-School Arcade Games

“Arcade games” as a whole is difficult to break down, and it may seem like an obvious choice. That’s true, but how do you categorize games like Pac-Man and Dig Dug?

Because most of these games started in arcades, it’s an easy assumption that they would play well with an arcade stick, and it’s also a correct assumption.

7. Modern Indie Games

This is another “genre” that is tough to describe. How do you link Super Meat Boy, Downwell, and Monaco together without using umbrella terms? It’s tough.

Not every modern indie game is going to work with an arcade stick, but it’s worth trying out. In many cases where you feel like you need more precise directional control, an arcade stick can help.

Looking for More Retro Goodness?

If reading over this article has left you wanting to play some retro games with or without your arcade stick, you’re probably not alone. Fortunately, now is a great time to be interested in retro games because there are so many great collections. For an idea of where to start, take a look our list of the best retro game collections.

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