Review of Thumb Soldiers accessibility thumbsticks from I Can Play That

Thumb Soldiers accessibility review - Can I Play That?

Incredible review from the fantastic @CanIPlayThat . Extremely considered, informative and insightful, awesome! Thank you very much guys.

#disabilitygaming #accessibility #controller #thumbsoldiers #inclusive #AdaptiveGaming #gamingcommunity #gaminglife

Review in short

Thumb Soldiers provide a flexible system of analog stick attachments. They can benefit players looking to improve the accuracy or accessibility of their default controllers. With certain specialized attachments they can also be helpful to those working with disabled players professionally. While slightly more expensive than simple grip caps, they are much more affordable than specialized or custom controllers.


  • Securely attach to controller
  • Many attachments to choose from
  • Compatible with many controllers
  • Cheaper than custom controllers


  • Not (yet) available outside the UK
  • Some attachments can interfere with other controls or rebound slightly
  • More expensive than simple grip caps

Full review

Recently David, the founder of Thumb Soldiers in the UK, reached out to Can I Play That. He was excited to let us know about their system of thumb stick attachments. After a short look at their product and their attention to accessibility, I was interested in giving them a try. Despite me being in the Netherlands and the Thumb Soldiers currently only being available for sale in the UK, David agreed to send over a selection for review.

What are Thumb Soldiers?

Two parts make up the Thumb Soldiers system. The first part consists of the Knuckles, the part that connects to the thumb sticks (or analog sticks) on the controller. The second part, the Soldiers, are where the flexibility of the system comes into play. The Soldiers are interchangeable attachments which connect to the Knuckles. For this review I received two sets of Knuckles, one for the Switch, and the other for PlayStation. I also received several different Soldier kits. I’ll take you through unpacking and installation first before elaborating on those.

Unpacking and materials

The packaging as I received them was the same for each set of Knuckles or Soldiers. They come shipped in quite simple boxes, similar to matchboxes. No blisters or other plastic waste here. Sealed on one side with a small sticker they were held closed well enough for delivery. I found it most easy to open by simply pushing in on that side to slide out the inner box. The sticker detached in this same movement. A small card with a web address and QR-code was inside, along with a small pouch containing the products. Unpacking was a breeze, as it didn’t need much dexterity or strength. The lack of plastic packaging made it easy and is more environmentally friendly as well.

A black box is slid open, next to it is a card directing to the Thumb Soldiers website. In front is a folded pouch with two Knuckles: circular attachments for the tops of thumb sticks. One is folded open.
A Knuckle kit and its packaging.

Because I received two sets of Knuckles, I noticed the boxes for them only differed due to a colored dot. While the Knuckles themselves are marked with a letter, this could make it difficult to identify the right box. This is something I’ve already given feedback on and this might be addressed in the future. 

Both the Soldiers and Knuckles are made of a sturdy yet light plastic. The surface is textured providing grip without the need for a rubber or silicone coating. I’ve had to throw out grip caps before because the coating went from dry and grippy to wet and sticky. No such risk with the Thumb Soldiers it seems. At time of writing, none of the attachments they sell feature a coating.

Installation and compatibility

Installation can be a bit more tricky, and some people will certainly need assistance with this. The Knuckles open up to clamp around the sticks on the controller. Closing the ring around the stick required a fair amount of pressure. Once on, they completely enclose the top of the stick, preventing it from popping off mid-game. A drawback I experienced with grip caps that merely clip on.

Installing the Soldiers themselves means lining up the locking arms on the attachment with the hole in the Knuckle. It locks into place by twisting it. This needs little strength, provided you can grip the attachment. Some may be easier than others due to their shape. When attached, the Soldier can rotate slightly on the Knuckle if adjustment is needed.

A DualSense controller with a circular attachment enclosing the left stick. It has a hole matching the key-like bottom of the stick shaped attachment which is held above it.
Lining up the Soldier with the Knuckle.

Both the Knuckle and Soldier attach very securely. When installed on the appropriate controller, I couldn’t rotate the Knuckle on the stick at all. While I didn’t receive Knuckles for Xbox, I did try the PlayStation version on Xbox One and 8BitDo Ultimate controllers. The sticks on those are slightly smaller than the PlayStation ones, but even there it worked. I was able to rotate the Knuckles on these controllers, so I would recommend the appropriately sized Knuckles.

The PlayStation Knuckles fit well on PS4’s Dualshock 4, and PS5’s DualSense, but not on older PlayStation controllers. It’s important to note that PlayStation Knuckles are also the correct size for the Switch Pro controller. There they attach as securely as on the PlayStation controllers. As expected, the Switch Knuckles fit the small Joy Con sticks very well. I also have a Hori Split Pad Pro, but found the sticks on this are too large for any of the Knuckles.

Using the Thumb Soldiers

As mentioned I received several Soldier kits to try out. These were the Step up kit, Racer kit, Sticks kit, and Rest kit. I’ll go through each one of them here and touch on the other options currently available as well. Knuckles and Soldiers are sold in separate sets. This means you don’t end up with extra Knuckles when you want multiple sets of Soldiers. At time of writing, a set of Knuckles is around £14 ($17 USD). Soldier kits range between £16 and £20. A starter set with Knuckles and a Studs kit is available as well for £26 ($35 USD).

Step up kit

The Step up kit adds another tier to the sticks on the controller, literally. It provides a slightly larger than default surface, with a decent lip around the rim. It also has a second, smaller, pad raised on an arched stem. This raised pad allows for more delicate and precise movements when needed. It also takes less strength to move the stick when using the raised pad. For competitive players, the main draw for the Step up kit are no doubt shooters. I opted not to insult them with my lack own of competitiveness and tried them out with several different games, such as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2

A DualSense controller held by two hands in front of a screen, it has two-tiered attachments on the thumb sticks, the lower part is similar to a normal stick while the upper part on a curved stem is much smaller.
Holding a DualSense controller with the Step up kit.

In normal use I found this second pad was a nice addition, but the lower pad gave me enough extra control. So much so that I often didn’t need or even think of the higher one. The stem curves away enough so that I never accidentally hit it. Even though my play style didn’t extract the full potential of this kit, I definitely see myself using these more. The larger size and upstanding lip alone helped me control the sticks more accurately.

Racer kit

For me, this kit was the real winner. The Racer kit has an attachment with an upright steering wheel for one stick. For the other stick a curved attachment, with a profile like a gas pedal for additional grip. I immediately knew I had to test these out on Mario Kart 8. That often hectic racing game is usually dreadful for my hands. While using joy cons doubly so.

A DualSense controller held by two hands in front of a screen, it has a steering wheel shaped attachment on the left stick with a thumb through the middle pushing it to the right. The right stick has an attachment shaped like a pedal with a thumb resting on it.
Easily steering fully right by moving my thumb within the ring of the Racer kit.

While the pedal provides some extra grip, the real champion here is the steering wheel. It allowed me to steer without having to put any downward pressure on the stick. I could simply lightly rest my thumb in the middle. With the wheel encircling my thumb I could turn left and right easily, without slipping off the stick. I also used these attachments on a DualSense controller with Gran Turismo 7. There I found it slightly less impactful, but admittedly my thumbs generally are more suited for controllers with offset sticks. Due to the shape of the wheel, it can also be controlled by grabbing the ring from above. This may accommodate players with permanently curved fingers for example.

Sticks kit

The Sticks kit predictably comes in the form of two sticks. One of them is just a bit wider than most sticks on default controllers, while the other is a bit slimmer. The slim one is slightly higher than the other stick. With my long thumbs I could still use them as extra long thumb sticks, but only just. The strength of this kit is being able to control the thumb stick like you would a joystick. Both have a few rings near the top that can help with grip. Especially with flying games this type of control can be helpful, one of the games I tried it with successfully was No Man’s Sky.

A white 8BitDo controller with two differently sized vertical sticks attached to the thumb sticks. The left one is slightly shorter and thicker than the right.
An 8BitDo Ultimate controller with the Sticks kit.

What this kit does especially well, is provide a way to move the joystick without much grip or strength. They reduced the amount of force I needed to move the stick a lot. The larger movement it allows provides more precision if you lack the fine dexterity needed with a standard stick. The drawback here is that the sticks can wobble more easily when moving the controller. Especially the shorter, thicker, stick can rebound in the other direction when the stick is suddenly released. Whether this is an issue depends on the game and how the player uses the sticks. The rebound was strong enough to turn my character around in Stardew Valley, for example.

Rest kit

The Rest kit is the only kit I specifically requested for this review, as it has very specific accessibility use cases. This kit comes with two very different Soldiers. One, the Albatross, is a wide bar with slightly upturned ends. This is specifically designed for people who have limited use of their fingers. The attachment allows them to use their fist, palm, or wrist to control the stick. Especially in the side-to-side movement this needs very little pressure to move the stick. There is no flex in it without using so much force that would likely break the stick of the controller first. Because it is so wide it can overlap other controls, and will work best on controllers with offset sticks. On the DualSense for example it almost hits the other stick when pushed in that direction. Some more clearance could help, but more on that later.

A white 8BitDo controller with an Albatross, a long horizontal bar with upturned tips, on the left stick and a Shroom, an enlarged thumb stick pad, on the right stick.
The Albatross and Shroom on an 8BitDo ultimate controller.

The second attachment in the Rest kit is the Shroom. It is slightly domed with a rounded rim, resembling the top of a standard stick. Unlike a standard stick, it’s about twice as big. Like the Albatross, the larger surface of the Shroom makes it possible to use other parts of the body to move it. It also makes movement much lighter. Like the higher pad of the Step up, I found the Albatross and Shroom made a stick click slightly harder. But then again, is a stick click ever easy to do?

Studs, Shrooms, Navigation, and Rock n Roller

There are several other kits available that I haven’t tested myself, so I’ll only describe them briefly. All of these kits consist of two identical attachments. First up, Studs are Thumb Soldiers’ approach to grip caps. They slightly raise the height of the stick and have a profile to provide more grip. Shrooms is a set of two Shroom attachments, the same Shroom as included in the Rest kit I described earlier.

The Navigation kit provides a tiny joystick on top of the sticks. This aims to provide more precision while allowing easy control by flicking the sides, holding the top, or simply using it as a raised stick. I feel like these could be a good alternative to the Step up kit. Lastly the Rock n Roller has a curved raised edge in the middle allowing more grip rolling the stick on that axis. The sides of this edge are smooth, providing a surface that makes it easier to push them from the side.

Who would benefit from Thumb Soldiers?

When it comes to controllers, there is no one-size-fits-all. The default controller for a gaming system is understandably a compromise between ease of use, ergonomics, and economics. At best this results in a one-size-fits-most result. Anyone with needs that don’t quite fit the norm has to deal with discomfort at best, or additional hardware purchases. The strength of Thumb Soldiers is that its flexibility can give more players a chance to effectively use the default controllers. On its own, or as part of a more expansive adaptive setup, it can be more financially accessible than alternatives.

Several controllers on a desk with stick attachments. A DualSense had two-tiered attachments and a pair of joy cons have a steering wheel and pedal attachment. Other loose attachments are a long horizontal bar with upturned tips, an enlarged thumb stick pad, and two differently sized sticks.
The Thumb Soldiers I was able to test.

For occupational therapy or assessments for adaptive gaming equipment, Thumb Soldiers can also be a welcome addition. Making it easy to quickly try out several different attachments, it may help getting players back to gaming sooner. Maybe without the need for additional specialized or bespoke equipment. A bonus in these circumstances is that the attachments seem relatively easy to clean as well, when hygiene between multiple users is a concern.

Of course, any player who doesn’t experience barriers using can benefit from Thumb Soldiers as well. There is enough choice in kits to fit many play styles for players looking to improve their gaming experience.

Is there anything to improve?

I am very positive about my experience with Thumb Soldiers, but isn’t there always some room to improve? The Knuckles are compatible with more than the default controllers. This is great but can be a bit of a gamble for buyers. A confirmed compatibility list, or sizing specifications, could help potential buyers make the right choice.

As mentioned, there are some soldiers that can interfere with other inputs. Perhaps some variants with a bit more clearance can account for this when needed. Or a system of spacers to adjust the height of existing attachments. Of course making attachments taller should take potential wobble and rebound into account. Talking about the rebound, perhaps reducing the weight of the thicker stick can help prevent this.

In general I would say the system as a whole could benefit from even more attachments to choose from. For these it’s best to seek feedback from players and adaptive hardware professionals. In terms of cost, I think many players would be happy to be able to buy a single Knuckle and Soldier combination. If their issue with controllers is limited to one hand, buying one set may be more affordable.

A close up of the Albatross attachment, a long horizontal bar with upturned tips, on a DualSense controller. It is pressed down on the right, almost touching the right analog stick.
The Albatross almost hits the other stick on a DualSense controller.

After writing up my experience with the Thumb Soldiers I reached out to David for some additional information. I mentioned some of my findings to see if there are already plans that may address these questions. He explained that they made the current selection to cover a lot of needs, but keep the selection manageable. As they get more established, they welcome feedback and look forward to working with the community to further develop the system with more Soldiers. Spacers, and even selling single Thumb Soldiers were once considered, and may still become an option in the future. Even small production runs for more specialized attachments may be possible in the future as well. So while I can’t judge a product on what the future may bring, it does sound promising.


I’m obviously excited about Thumb Soldiers, and its potential accessibility benefits. It’s a flexible system, and feels sturdy and well designed. While it’s more expensive than simple grip caps, I think it is a price difference worth considering. The system attaches very securely to the sticks, and has attachments to fill many needs. Especially when the alternative is more expensive adaptive equipment, for me the choice is easy. It will be interesting to see the system expand, and hopefully become available in more regions soon. I know I’ll be getting a set of Xbox Knuckles when that happens. For now, I’m tearing up the track in Mario Kart without hurting my hands in the process.

Can I Play That was sent the reviewed product at no cost, for the purpose of this review.