Yes, arcade sticks are generally better than controllers. Most fighting games are better played with an arcade stick. Instead of trying to pull off complex moves with a compact controller, an arcade stick gives you plenty of room to use your hands and fingers. You can do much more with your hands and fingers than when you are gripping a smaller controller. If you get nervous during play, an arcade stick makes it harder to mash unintended moves, and it is also harder for sweat to make everything slippery.
The Pros’ Choice
There is a reason why most professional players use an arcade stick. Fighting games often require sophisticated directional movements and button presses, which you can do more easily with a joystick you can move with your whole hand and when you have big buttons spread out for your convenience.
The Razer Panthera was the most used arcade stick at EVO 2019, the world’s most prestigious fighting game competition. It also won the most tournaments there.
Exceptions to the Rule
Admittedly, you can still perform well without an arcade stick. Dominique “SonicFox” McLean is a dominant US player who has won tournaments in games from Mortal Kombat to Dragon Ball FighterZ with a mere controller. He even owns his own line of controllers. However, SonicFox is an exception, and he would probably perform even better if he makes the switch to an arcade stick.
Some games like Mortal Kombat are more suited for controller use, and some characters in games that usually work better with arcade sticks, like Street Fighter, are more suited for controller use as well. Zangief is a Street Fighter character who thrives on 360 motions that are easier to execute with a controller’s D-pad. That is because hitting three to four directions on a D-pad is faster than wiggling a joystick. However, generally speaking, arcade sticks work the best.
Good Alternatives to Arcade Sticks
You can also improve your gameplay by going for a hitbox or mixbox. A hitbox is like an arcade stick, but it has buttons to the left instead of a joystick. A mixbox has keyboard keys to the left instead of a joystick. Read more about this subject here.
If you are ready to finally take the plunge and improve your gameplay, here are some useful resources: