Guys who are into classic arcade games tend to talk about leaf switches quite a bit. You see, back in the good old days, arcade controls usually used leaf switches. A joystick would use four of them, and each button would use one of them. They were silent and were the perfect game controls.

In the mid-80s the industry began switching over to microswitch based joysticks, because they were more reliable. But older gamers said that they felt horrible, and no one seemed to like the clicking. Thus began the myth about leaf switch joysticks being far superior to microswitch based ones.

I own a lot of arcade joysticks, and in general it does seem that the leaf switch based sticks have a much better feel. But, the real reason that leaf switch sticks feel superior is that most microswitch based joysticks are incredibly cheaply produced. Most leaf switch based sticks have rubber centering grommets, while microswitch based sticks will only have a weak spring that centers the stick. This makes all the difference in the world.

Currently it seems that leaf switch based arcade joysticks are out of production. But Wico was making them until fairly recently, and it is still rather easy to find NOS examples. Stock up now while you still can.

Older leaf switch joysticks (and buttons), can often be brought back to life with a new centering grommet and some new leaf switches. The switches themselves are quite easy to replace, although they are kind of difficult to find.