On a quest to find the best retro 90s gameport joystick for your retro gaming PC? I made a list of the top six PC gameport joysticks from the 90s. How do you determine the best gaming joystick for a 90s retro PC? I’m looking at four factors: Looks, feels, function and value for money. Whichever gameport joystick scores the highest out of these categories will become my regular retro PC gaming joystick.
A couple of points – I’m looking for a gaming joystick, not a full HOTAS setup. Secondly, these retro 90s joysticks are gameport joysticks, not USB. This means they’ll work far better in both DOS and Windows and should be a lot easier to install on my Windows 98 gaming PC. Lastly I will be testing these joysticks with the excellent Windows shooter Fury 3, for no reason other than it’s an awesome game. Going to head to head we have the Microsoft Sidewinder 3D Pro, the Logitech Wingman, the ThrustMaster Top Gun, the Gravis Blackhawk and the Saitek Cyborg 2000. We have a last-minute new challenger in the guise of the CH Gamestick, which I won on eBay for 83p delivered!
Retro PC Gameport Joystick Review
1. Saitek Cyborg 2000
The most contemporary joystick on this list, the Saitek Cyborg 2000 was released in – you guessed it – the year 1999. Saitek have been making PC peripherals forever and the Cyborg is something to behold.
Immediately, the Cyborg 2000 is the most futuristic-looking stick. All those bolts and screws, the metal plating, that big utilitarian spring… Top marks for looks, Saitek.
This is where it gets interesting. Those bolts aren’t just for looks. Using the included Allen key, the Saitek Cyborg 2000 can be completely customised; hand rests can be moved, the head angle can be adjusted and the whole operation can be changed from right-handed to left-handed. Top marks!
In addition to the customisation, the Cyborg is choc-a-bloc with buttons. The thrust handle is a lovely feature and the stick installs perfectly under standard Windows drivers with no additional software.
The Cyborg was dead in the middle when it came to value, costing me £4 delivered. A modern Cyborg will run you around £50, so again the price is really aggressive.
2. Logitech Wingman Extreme
Next we’re looking at the Logitech Wingman Extreme. The Wingman is probably one of the most iconic items from the entire 90s. Nearly all PC gamers had a Wingman in one form or another.
Face it, the Wingman looks ace. Whether you had the beige budget version or this top-flight joystick, the Wingman was just a marvel of nineties curvy plastic. An absolutely top colour scheme, with bonus points for being purple.
It looks good, it feels good! The Wingman’s super-ergonomic gameport joystick just sits so right in my hand. It’s a good job I’m right-handed as this would likely be a nightmare for a southpaw. As for me though, this is a shoe-in, probably the most comfortable stick on the list.
Very good points for function too. There’s a good chunk of buttons, a direction hat and a slider control, all in easy reach and all with a nice clicky response, even after all these years. The stick does feel a little spongy though, that’s probably from too many good times.
In its heyday the Wingman was the go-to joystick, with OEM sticks being given away with new PCs, as well as a budget line just missing a few features. This stick cost me £4.50 in Sue Ryder in Northampton which I think is about right, for what is still considered the everyman’s gaming joystick.
3. Microsoft Sidewinder 3D Pro
Next up is the Microsoft Sidewinder 3D Pro. Microsoft have always made good gaming hardware and the Sidewinder PC peripherals from the 90s are amongst the best.
Looks-wise the Sidewinder does it for me. The 3D Pro is a game-agnostic gameport joystick and that shows in its design. It’s effortlessly simple, with clean lines and a tasteful colour scheme making this probably the coolest-looking stick on the list.
When it comes to feel though, the 3D Pro falls a little short. That minimalist geometric design starts to hurt your hand after a while, and so the Sidewinder falls short of some of the more ergonomic joysticks in this list.
Functionally, the 3D Pro is a mixed bag. The joystick features a ton of buttons, an 8-way POV hat, a throttle slider and a z-axis rudder control. The 3D Pro also has clever optical tracking components, opposed to an analogue gimble, which means that the joystick isn’t as subject to drift over years of use. However, installing this stick was a headache. Due to poor future-proofing, the standard drivers for this need a bit of jiggery-pokery to get the joystick working. Not the end of the world but other sticks work right out of the box.
In terms of value, the Sidewinder is fab. Released around the $95 mark, it was intended for everyone. I picked mine up for 99p local collection on eBay, so that’s a huge plus!
4. CH Gamestick
The last stick tested but by no means least, the CH Gamestick. CH are famous for being one of the first manufacturers out of the gate making gameport joysticks and some of the real vintage sticks are immensely expensive. The Gamestick though was intended to be a budget stick for all-comers.
Christ alive, this is by far the ugliest stick on the list. The CH loses about a million points for actually looking like a massive dildo. Seriously, playing with this thing on your lap is just embarrassing. If someone comes in the room which you’re waggling this thing about, you will never live it down.
Okay so looks aren’t everything. It’s actually pretty comfortable and it’s ambidextrous which is definitely a plus point.
Three buttons, no hat and that nasty little throttle control make this stick no fun to play with. Using that throttle is like trying to use the volume wheel on a tape Walkman, for those who remember it. For those who don’t TL;DR: It sucks.
Actually one thing this stick has is value. It was designed as a genuine entry-level stick, and it certainly succeeds in that. These don’t come up too often, but when they do they never command a high price. The poor bloke who sold me this got 83p delivered, and he shipped it from ISRAEL.
5. Thrustmaster Top Gun
Number five is the Thrustmaster Top Gun. This officially-licensed gameport joystick was released some ten years after its namesake, but comes from arguably the biggest name in simulation gaming.
Starting out, this joystick looks like it was ripped right out of a fighter jet, and that’s almost the case. Thrustmaster are famous for their attention to detail and the Top Gun is straight out of Maverick’s F-14 cockpit. With that oversized hat and the big red buttons, the Thrustmaster certainly looks the business.
As for feel, it’s not quite for me. This joystick was bought brand new, still in the packaging, so is the only stick that was a virgin before I got my hands on it. The stick feels too stiff for my tastes and the weighted bottom needs a firm grip in the turns. It might need some breaking in, but off the bat it’s all too tight for my liking.
Functionality seems to be quite sparse on the Thrustmaster Top Gun. It has a four-way hat, a trigger and three buttons. It’s certainly a bit spartan if you’re looking to do more than just fly around, so it loses marks here too.
As a brand-new-in-box joystick, this was the most expensive joystick on the list, costing £8 delivered. The modern equivalent is probably the Thrustmaster Warthog, which costs around £130, so that seems fitting. The stick did come bundled with a free copy of Tomb Raider though, which is ace.
6. Gravis Blackhawk
Last on the list is the Gravis Blackhawk. Gravis are well-known for their line of sound cards, gameport cards and PC gaming peripherals and the Blackhawk is well-known to flight sim aficionados.
It needs to be said, this is an ugly joystick. The giant molded base and the short stick makes the Blackhawk look dumpy and bottom-heavy. It’s a nasty stick BUT I am almost certain that the Manual Steering Column used by Riker in Star Trek Insurrection is a Gravis Blackhawk. Obviously absolutely loads of bonus points for that.
Those ugly looks belie a pretty decent-feeling gameport joystick. This must be why so many people still swear by their Blackhawk. The gimble is lovely and smooth and that lower centre of gravity is more forgiving on the wrist, which is lovely.
The Gravis Blackhawk is a three-axis, four-button stick. Even more spartan than the Top Gun, the Blackhawk even lacks a POV hat. Supposedly this heightens its compatibility with modern machines but that’s not what I’m after today.
As for value, the Gravis stick was £6 delivered, making it the second most expensive stick on the list. Gravis still sell this joystick with an RRP of $60. Considering that I’ve picked up better sticks for much less, the Blackhawk loses a lot of points for value.
Old PC Joysticks Roundup
The best gameport joysticks are:
- Saitek Cyborg 2000
- Logitech Wingman Extreme
- Microsoft SideWinder 3D Pro
- CH Gamestick
- Thrustmaster Top Gun
- Gravis Blackhawk
The Gravis Blackhawk scored 9 points, the Thrustmaster Top Gun came in with 10. The CH Gamestick scored 11 points and the Microsoft SideWinder 3D Pro scored 13. In second place with 15 points is the Logitech Wingman Extreme but the all-round best gameport joystick is the excellent Saitek Cyborg 2000. A fantastic combination of looks, functionality and value for money, the Saitek Cyborg is officially The Game Show’s choice for best PC joystick for retro PC gaming.