Star Citizen – Best Joysticks, HOTAS, Controllers (2021)

To fully enjoy the BDSSE (Best Damn Space Sim Ever), you need the best damn controllers ever. While keyboard and mouse works for Star Citizen, its not the ideal way to play it (except for the first person parts). This is because space sims like Star Citizen and Elite Dangerous have 6 dof (degrees of freedom) which means you need 6 axes to control your space craft optimally (plus another axis for engine power). Not all of these axes are used all the time, but you do need to bind them for optimal combat maneuvering and even for fine maneuvering when mining and docking. So what are your options?

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HOTAS (Hands on Throttle and Stick) – This means one joystick and one throttle with a bunch of buttons on both. This is the preferred method for flight sims. And while it works for space sims as well, it is not ideal because airplanes and fighter jets can’t strafe unlike space ships. So space sims need extra axes with a single stick can’t provide. But if you are not too much into small fighter combat, this setup works just fine for explorers, traders, and capital ship owners who don’t have to engage in extreme dog-fights all that often.

HOSAS (Hands on Stick and Stick aka Dual Joysticks) – Here, you use two joysticks and that doubles the axes you have available to you. Perfect for space sims. Dual joysticks are the preferred method for controlling virtual spacecraft. However, if you aren’t too much into PvP combat, you can survive even with a single joystick with the rest of the less important axes being bound to your HOTAS hat switches etc.

HOSAS + Throttle (Two joysticks plus a throttle) – This is my preferred method as it gives you the best of both world. I use dual joysticks for arena commander only and prefer my HOTAS for the PU. But that’s because I am not much of a PvP’er and mostly focus on trading, mining, exploration and economy game-play. That may not be you so pick the method best suited to your play-style.

1. Best Dual Joystick (mid-range)

Thrustmaster T16000M FCS (Windows)
  •          The T.16000M FCS is compatible with PC via USB in Windows 10, 8, 7 and Vista...
  •          The T.16000M FCS offers you a precision level greater than current systems, which...

Thrustmaster T.16000M are the absolute best bang for your buck when it comes to dual sticks. Each 16k is ambidextrous, which means you can use them with your left or right hand without issue. There are three detachable components that you can swap around to make it a left-handed stick. This feature alone makes the T.16000 the most popular choice for space simmers.

The 16ks have a lot more going for them in addition to just the ambidexterity though. The throw of the stick is very smooth which allows for precise movement and control. Some of the premium joysticks are pretty heavy which makes them a bit harder to use. That is fine for flight sims since you can trim your plane and usually fly in a straight line most of the time. But for space sims like Star Citizen or Elite Dangerous which require constant adjustment, those heavy joysticks can get tiring. Which is why the T.16000 hits the sweet spot.

The joysticks have plenty of buttons – more than you’ll ever need for Star Citizen. There’s even a little throttle that you can map to various functions in Star Citizen like speed limiter, mining laser power and so on. There are a total of 16 buttons, a 8 way hat switch that you can use for looking around and 4 total axes. The twist axes is pretty useful for space sims and essentially replaces the rudder.

One concern with mid-range components is build quality but the T.16000M does not disappoint on that front either. It uses a patented H.E.A.R.T technology which ensures superior precision levels that does not decrease over time. This joysticks in the dual configuration would be my top recommendation for 90% of Star Citizen players.

2. Best HOTAS (mid-range)

Logitech G X56 H.O.T.A.S Throttle and Joystick Flight Simulator Game...
  • Military-grade Space and Flight Sim Precision. Customizable options including all the control...
  • New Mini Analog Stick Control Surfaces: Control pitch, roll, yaw, backwards, forwards, up, down,...

The Logitech X56 is my top recommendation for best overall HOTAS for Star Citizen. The X52 Pro is good too but the X56 has some extra thumbsticks that will appeal to space simmers in particular. The difference between the X52 Pro and X56 two is not that big, and you can go with either one of them. Its just that the X56 was built with space sims in mind so it does have an edge in terms of additional axes that are more useful when strafing in space.

There are more than enough buttons, hat switches and analog sticks to appeal to the most discerning Citizen. There are 5 hat switches, 13 axes of movement and 30 customizable controls which is more than you will know what to do with! The buttons themselves have a nice feel to them with good haptic feedback. Flipping one of those always feels more satisfying than a mouse or keyboard click.

The joystick feel good right out of the box and you can customize it even further if you so desire. It’s easy to achieve precise movements and pressure on the stick thanks to the additional springs that come with the package. Th3 X56 uses an advanced 4 spring system to control stick force and even has friction adjusters and throttle lock for the throttle. Those are usually only found on top end throttles.

The X56 also comes with RGB lighting, if you are so inclined. The stick and throttle themselves are dark grey which looks good on my oak desk. Overall, the X56 is the only HOTAS built specifically for space sims and it ticks all the right boxes.

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3. Best HOTAS (budget)

Thrustmaster T.16000M FCS HOTAS Controller (Windows)
  • The T.16000M FCS HOTAS is compatible with PC via USB in Windows 10, 8, 7 and Vista (32-bit and...
  • 16 action buttons with braille - style physical button identification

The Thrustmaster T16000M FCS HOTAS finds itself on this list again but this time it’s the HOTAS variant. Its the best budget/ entry level option for Citizens who want to go with HOTAS instead of dual sticks. That being said, you can also go all out and get a two T.16000M sticks along with this throttle to get the best of both HOTAS/ HOSAS.

If you are not too much into PvP combat and mostly just intend to do trade runs, exploration, mining etc. in Star Citizen then a HOTAS is a perfectly fine option. In fact, I use my HOTAS most of the time since PvP is so laggy in the game right now. This HOTAS setup will also give you enough axes to achieve the 6 dof needed for flight sims. I have already discussed the T.16000M stick so won’t rehash that again and instead focus on the throttle.

The throttle feels ergonomic with a nice low positions allowing for more precise and comfortable operation compared to many of the taller/ harder premium throttles. It uses advanced slide rails to achieve smooth sliding and can’t say I had any issues with that. There are a total of 5 axes, 14 buttons and a 8-way hat switch which you can use to look around the cockpit. There is even a small rudder-like thing which is very convenient and a unique addition.

The biggest advantage though, is the price. The T16000M HOTAS is a steal considering the price of competing HOTAS setups. If you are looking for a budget option, look no further. This is pretty solid and the money you save may be used for upgrading your GPU or CPU because we all know how resource hungry Start Citizen can be. Check out my other guides for GPU/ CPU recommendations.

4. Best Dual Joystick (premium)

Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog Flight Stick (Windows)
  • Joystick replica of the U.S. Air Force a 10c attack aircraft flight Stick
  • Stand alone HOTAS warthog joystick, from the creator of the original HOTAS concept and the worldwide...

The Warthog has been the gold standard for flight simmers for decades. I have had mine for close to 10 years and its still going strong. I am not much of an outdoorsman, but if I ever get attacked by a wild animal, hitting it with my heavy metal Warthog is probably my best option for survival! This thing is build like a tank. The construction quality and build materials are top notch. The spring is still as good as the first day I got it.

The movement action is super and you get smooth movement all the way. The buttons are good and clickily with unmatched haptic feedback. In fact, the Warthog trigger is the best trigger of any joystick I have ever tried and I have even tried some of those $500 sticks. The best part is that given the popularity of the Warthog, there are plenty of aftermarket mods available for the it. This includes things like stick extensions (which allows for more precision in flight sims) or various springs than you can use to adjust the movement and sensitivity of the stick. The Warthog is the gold standard that all other premium sticks are built around and compared to.

The best part about the Warthog is the build quality. Its solid metal and feels amazing in your hand. It is  compatible with several mounting options like the Wheel Stand Pro and J-PEIN desk mounts. You can also just place it on your desk and its weight means it wont go anywhere. Its so heavy that it makes weaker desks wobble with its throw. So make sure you have a solid desk that is worthy of mounting the venerable Warthog.

The only possible issue is that the Warthog does not have twist. Such joysticks are actually preferable for flight sims because they are sturdier and less prone to failure. But not having twist means you will need another axis on your throttle or a pair of rudder pedals. It’s not a big deal as I use it just fine, but just something you should be aware of. I have had no issues using the Warthog with either hand. The hand-rest goes all the way around the stick which means you can use it with your left hand as well.

Oh and unlike other premium joysticks, you can actually find it in stock. That is always nice.

5. Best HOTAS (premium)

Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog Dual Throttles (Windows)
  • Dual replica throttles 3D magnetic sensors on the 2 throttles allow you to enjoy surgical precision...
  • Dual throttles, featuring a Metal hand rest, Locking system, Adjustable friction system, Realistic...
Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog Flight Stick (Windows)
  • Joystick replica of the U.S. Air Force a 10c attack aircraft flight Stick
  • Stand alone HOTAS warthog joystick, from the creator of the original HOTAS concept and the worldwide...

The ultimate Star Citizen setup would be dual joysticks and a Warthog Throttle. I have been using the Thrustmaster Warthog for a decade now without issues. Its the pinnacle of flight sim control and translates decently well to space sims as well. I already talked about the Warthog stick so here I will focus on the Throttle.

It has a number of flip switches which give a very nice tactile feedback. I use them for things like engine start-stop, power on and so on. There are plenty of hat switches as well which you can use for other stuff like closing doors, retracting landing gear and whatever else you need.

The hat switches, slew control etc. can be used for strafing movement as well. This works fine for stuff like mining and docking. The main drawback of the Warthog sticks for space sims was the lack of twist and the multitude of axes on throttle make up for it as you can map some of them here. The build quality is excellent with metal flip switches and  a metal body and the whole thing is a rather heavy piece of equipment. This is definitely the best throttle ever made.

There is also a friction slider which increase the friction of the throttle. This is a unique feature and you can use it to further fine-tune the force required to move the throttle. I have set it to minimum friction and it feels perfect.

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6. Rudder Pedals

logitech Pro Flight Rudder Pedals
  • Smooth and accurate self-centering rudder pedals add another layer of realistic control to your...
  • Whether you prefer the lighter response of a small aircraft or the more robust feel of a heavy jet,...

Rudder pedals are not terribly important for space sims if you have setup all the axes to your dual joysticks or HOTAS but it’s still a nice immersion factor. This is especially true if you are short on axes on your HOTAS or a joystick without a twist. In that case, I would recommend you bind yaw to to your rudder pedals and fly like the real flyboys. It’s especially fun if you like zipping around on planets and moons.

My top recommendation is the Logitech G PRO . If you want more details, check out this article reveiwing rudder pedals (it’s for DCS but the same logic applies).

7. Steering Wheel for ground vehicles

Sale
Logitech G920 Driving Force Racing Wheel + Logitech G Driving Force...
  • Wheel: The definitive sim racing wheel for Xbox One: Realistic steering and pedal action for the...
  • Wheel: Responsive floor pedal unit: Accelerate, brake and change gears with the feel of an actual...

Ground vehicle physics are still pretty wonky in Star Citizen. But CIG seems committed to them with over a dozen vehicles  announced (and most of them already in-game) including the Tonk, Cyclone, Cyclone, Ursa, X1, Nox, G12, ROC and others. A good steering wheel is highly recommended for the discerning Citizen and its the best way to drive around in style. I have a ton of fun with steering wheels in racing sims and I can’t wait for improved vehicle physics in Star Citizen.

The best option is the Logitech G920 which I have owned for close to half a decade now without issues.  Check out this link if you need a more detailed review of this wheel.

Sale
Logitech Gamepad F710
  • 2.4 ghz wireless connectivity
  • Customizable controls with profiler software (requires software installation)

I also use a Logitech F710 (Xbox controller) when driving ground vehicles like the Tumbril Cyclone, Nox, etc. Its a decent option if you don’t want a steering wheel. The gamepad is miles better than the keyboard, so it has become my mainstay when I am too lazy to use the wheel. I just keep it on my desk and grab it when it’s time to roam around on the desolated moons of the Stanton system.

The right trigger is the accelerator, the left trigger is the brakes and the left thumb stick is used for steering. The Gamepad is much better than using a joystick or a keyboard and is especially comfortable for couch gaming. Not the most accurate, but certainly the most comfortable.

Still on the fence about Star Citizen? Here’s my comprehensive state-of-the-game review as of 2021.

Star Citizen sign-up Bonus!


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About the Author

Gary (Flanker)

Gary has been "hard landing" into runways and driving his Mitsubishi Evo off of cliffs since the early 2000s. These days, he spends most of his precious hobby time with his favorite flight, racing and space simulations in VR. He also has an Engineering Degree in Computer Science which helps a lot with his obsession with optimizing PC hardware like CPUs, Graphics Cards, VR Headsets, HOTAS, Racing Wheels etc. for high end sims.