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?
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)
- 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 in either your lefty or right hand without issue. There are three detachable components that you can swap around to make it a left-handed stick. This alone makes the 16ks so popular amongst the flight simming community.
But the 16ks have a lot more going for them in addition to just the ambidexterity. The throw of the stick is buttery smooth. The build quality is decent and sometimes I wonder why I paid so much for my Warthog?!
There are also more buttons that you’ll even need for Star Citizen. The Thrustmaster software isn’t the best but I never used it anyway. You can configure everything in-game.
2. Best HOTAS (mid-range)
- 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. The difference between these two is not that big, and I recommend you go with either one of those. The X56 is the one that was built with space sims in mind so it does have an edge in terms of additional axes.
There are more than enough buttons, hat switches and analog sticks to appeal to the most discerning Citizen. It’s also easy to achieve precise motion of the stick thanks to the additional springs that come with the package.
I don’t care much for RGB lighting, but the X56 has that option if you do. I do like the dark grey colour of the stick and throttle though.
There are 5 hat switches and 15 axes of movement so more than enough even for flight sims.
3. Best HOTAS (budget)
- 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 definitely the best budget option for Citizens who want to go with HOTAS only.
If you are not too much into PvP combat and mostly just intent to do trade runs, exploration and stuff, then you can’t go wrong with a HOTAS. You can also get this HOTAS and then buy another 16k to get a dual stick + throttle setup.
This HOTAS setup will also give you enough axes to achieve the 6dof needed for flight sims.
The biggest advantage though, is the price. The T16000M HOTAS is a steal considering the price of competing HOTAS setups including the Logitech X56 or the Warthog. Which is why I don’t think this is a bad option at all for a beginner or if you want to save your ash for a PC upgrade or something. We all know how resource hungry Star Citizen can be.
4. Best Dual Joystick (premium)
- 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 just going strong. Its great for flight sims as well as space sims.
The Warthog is a right-handed joystick, but I am able to use it with either hand quite easily. The hand-rest goes all the way around the stick which means you can use it with your left hand as well. You lose access to one button and a hat-switch, but you don’t need them anyway.
You get smooth movement all the way and the buttons are good and clickly. Given the popularity of the Warthog, there are also plenty of aftermarket mods available for the Warthog (like stick extensions or springs).
Lastly, unlike other premium joysticks, you can actually find it in stock.
5. Best HOTAS (premium)
- 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...
The ultimate Star Citizen setup would be Dual joysticks and a Throttle. I have been using the Thrustmaster Warthog for a decade now without issues. 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.
The hat switches, slew control etc. can be used for strafing movement as well. This works fine for stuff like mining and docking. The build quality is also quite good with metal flip switches and body and the whole thing is a rather heavy piece of equipment.
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.
If you are looking for a budget option, then you should consider the Thrustmaster TWCS Throttle .
6. Rudder Pedals
- Self-centering pedals with adjustable damping / Foot rests adjust to fit all sizes and include...
- Precise rudder and braking control / Tension adjustment - choose resistance to suit the way you fly
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 to have feature. Especially if you are short on axes on your HOTAS or a joystick without a twist. I recommend you bind yaw to to your rudder pedals and fly like real flyboys.
7. Gamepad for ground vehicles
- 2.4 ghz wireless connectivity
- Customizable controls with profiler software (requires software installation)
I use a Logitech F710 (xbox controller) when driving ground vehicles like the Tumbril Cyclone, Nox, etc. I do own a steering wheel setup as well but that doesn’t work well in Star Citizen yet. The gamepad is miles better than the keyboard, so it has become my mainstay. 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 control is much better than with a joystick, a wheel or a keyboard and its my preferred method for ground vehicles.
To be honest, I use the gamepad for walking and running around as well. It is definitely more comfortable than a keyboard/ mouse. But obviously it does not work well when you are in a combat situation. You need your mouse for aim when in FPS combat. So use the gamepad for driving around or running errands.