Flight Simulation games/flight sims are without doubt the best alternative to experience flying without stepping out of your home and into an aircraft cockpit!
These games have even inspired individuals to opt for their dream careers in the aviation industry. Flight simulation games are rapidly gaining momentum now and forcing companies to churn out even better games.
These games have evolved from just navigating planes to a comprehensive flight training experience.
The abundance of flight simulators in the market can be a tad confusing. But we got your back!
We have analyzed and ranked the best 10 flight simulators ranging from PC to Xbox one, to help you find The One.
Top 10 Best Flight Simulator Games You Can Play Now
10. ARMA 3
Platform: Windows, Linux, and macOS
Arma 3 is technically a tactical shooter video game but the sheer volume of planes and helicopters available qualifies it to our list. It was released in 2013 for Windows and later extended across 2 more platforms, macOS and Linux in 2015.
It is easier for companies to play it safe and design games focusing only on aerial dogfights. ARMA 3 refused to do that and focused on everything related to combat.
In the game, you can just enter the battlefield in your plane and help your comrades on the ground by launching a fusillade of bullets and missiles. ARMA 3 doesn’t disappoint you regarding the weapons system, there are laser-guided missiles and anti-armor cannons that can easily obliterate the enemy tanks.
Stunning graphics and modernized weapons truly make it one of the best flight simulator games for air combat you can buy today. ARMA 3 also has an intriguing story that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
However, there is one major flaw in the game, mechanics. ARMA 3 has lesser accuracy concerning the physics of flight and mechanics. Definitely worth playing if you are new to the genre but there are games better at this than ARMA 3!
FlyInside is an incredible flight sim with an ace up its sleeve. It is one of the first and best flight simulators for PC to support virtual reality or VR. Just slip on your VR device and headphones, step inside the cockpit of your favorite aircraft and fly away.
VR is the future of gaming, and with games like Flyinside adapting to this platform, you can expect more games to follow suit. VR elevates gaming to the next level by providing a superior immersive experience.
Once you enter the cockpit, you find elegantly crafted controls, a treat to the eyes. It also offers a better physics engine that emulates real-life flying conditions. You can also play it on your desktop if you are not into VR. FlyInside is an apt game for beginners as the VR experience will propel them towards flight sims.
However, the game could have offered better graphics as it is positioned as a VR preferred flight simulation game. Hopefully, there is a sequel en route that focuses on improving the surroundings.
If you haven’t got your VR ready PC yet, check out our post on how to build one.
8. Aerofly FS 2
Platform: Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android
After the success of Aerofly FS, the company launched its sequel in 2014. This flight sim will not sweep you off your feet, but it will surely grow on you. There are over 200 airport destinations across major cities in the USA.
You can not only fly across different states but perhaps the best part of the game is that you perform stunts as well. There are also special stunts for every aircraft that will make you love the game even more.
Several add-ons released by the makers enhance the in-game graphics. If you don’t want to download them, you can still play with the default scenery package and enjoy every second of it.
But even with the add-ons designed to make the graphics stand out, it still falls short in some areas. Many flights require more features rather than just flight and navigational skills. Let us hope that future add-ons take care of all these issues.
7. Take on Helicopters
Unlike other flight sim games, this game is solely focused on helicopters. Take on Helicopters is a unique blend of flight sim and business development.
Set in 2013, 2 civilians take over their father’s business after his demise. The business is on the brink of closure and to add to their troubles, it’s a slow economy. Now, your goal is to take on contracts and bring the business back to profit.
It’s a flight sim with a nail-biting plot. The drama breathes a new life into an otherwise average simulation game. The missions in the game are remarkably interesting and keep you on the edge of your seat.
Listening to missions on air while simultaneously gliding the chopper is what makes this gameplay easily above-par. Take on Helicopters was released back in 2012 and was a great game back then. It still is but there are better games now.
It would be wrong to exclude combat flight simulators on the list as they are the best of both worlds.
Combat flight sims elevate the simulator games to a whole new level with gripping stories. We have cherry-picked the best 4 available on the market right now.
6. Rise of Flight
Rise of Flight takes you back to 1914 when World War 1 had just begun. It was launched back in 2009 but the makers release updates frequently that will make you fall in love with the game.
Many gamers have agreed that it is the true successor of Red Baron, the best WW1 flight sim back in the old days. Rise of Flight is synonymous with authenticity as you get the most accurate detailing of planes from chassis to gauges and controls inside the plane.
It supports both multiplayer and the single-player versions. You can recreate many historic battles with the help of campaigns. There is one catch though, as it is based on WW1, you get planes only from that era.
But for several gamers, this is exactly what makes the game stand out from the rest. There is a plethora of aircraft available for tryouts if you adore WW1 planes.
You can simply just fly around and enjoy the beautiful scenery if you are not in the mood for combat.
5. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One
How many of you love reading manuals? Not a big fan, right? Most flight sims require you to read the manual before going in, but not Ace Combat 7.
You can just dive-in and have an epic dogfight with the enemy without the manual. Blow up your enemies, engage in dogfights, obliterate the enemy base camp with missiles, and much more with Ace Combat 7.
Although it has brilliant graphics and better gameplay, some flaws can’t be overlooked. The previous installment of the game came years ago, and it is unfair to expect gamers to remember all the controls.
The absence of a manual is a double-edged sword as it’s difficult to remember everything in the game. As you might have guessed, this game is not a hardcore flight sim and focusses most of its attention on the combat.
But it is still one of the best flight simulator games for PS4, Xbox, and PC with an adrenaline-pumping dose of air-to-air combat!
4. IL-2 Sturmovik: Great Battles
Initially launched as IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad, this popular game is now known as Great Battles because of the frequent battle releases. All games in this series are set in the WW2 period.
Every battle contains 8 aircraft, you can either opt to play via mouse or upgrade to a joystick. This is one of the best flight simulator games for PCs simply because of the brilliant 4K textures, intuitive AI, and the additional VR as well.
This game focuses on both simulation and combat with emphasis more on the combat side. The graphics are well designed with frequent updates to the gameplay.
If only the makers also concentrated on improving the physics engine as they did for combat, this game would be hard to beat. You should check out the latest installment of the game, the Battle of Bodenplatte.
3. War Thunder
Platform: PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox One
War Thunder is one of the best combat airplane simulators for Xbox One, PS4, and PC to date. The game gives you the option of flying high with planes or rampaging through rough terrain on a tank or other armored vehicles.
You must complete a list of objectives, earn points, and get ready for wilder new ones.
There are 3 modes of gaming, Arcade, Realism, and Simulation. In Simulation mode, you can easily get killed, all it needs is one simple mistake.
Realism mode relaxes rules a little bit and you get limited ammo and respawns. If you don’t like restriction, then choose Arcade, where you have unlimited ammunition and multiple respawns to neutralize the enemy.
War Thunder has many levels filled with plenty of planes, tanks, and bugs. Unfortunately, there are a lot of bugs in this game that some called it bug thunder.
Controls used to stop working, authentication issues, progress loss, and much more but the makers stepped in and provided fixes. Some bugs persist but they are not that big of a deal now.
The one thing that doesn’t stop you from gaming is the outstanding visuals and detailing on the planes and tanks. War Thunder certainly offers one of the best free flight simulator game experiences you can find today.
Now enter the endgame, the top 2 flight sims in close competition.
2. X-PLANE 11
Platform: PC, Mac, Linux
X-Plane 11 almost made it to the top but lost out due to one small reason (coming to that later.) This game has one of the best graphics you can find, easily one of the best gaming graphics you may find.
The detailing is aptly supported by accurate physics engine and flight dynamics. The maps in the game are rendered with real-life data including small in-roads for authenticity.
Feeling adventurous? Select any disaster simulation such as a snowstorm or anything else you like. The game is designed to generate any scenarios that you wish.
With great graphics comes great hardware requirements. Sadly, the only you can genuinely enjoy playing this game if you have a serious gaming desktop setup.
Recommended Hardware Requirements
- CPU: Intel Core i5 6600K at 3.5 GHz or faster.
- RAM: 16 GB or more
- OS: Windows 7, 8, or 10, 64-bit.
- DEDICATED VIDEO RAM: 4 GB
The reason it comes in the 2nd place is due to fewer aircraft. You are provided with only a few commercial airliners and missions to complete. If you do not have a powerful system to handle the graphics, just select “minimal” in graphics settings and enjoy the game.
There are always some games which are better than most games available in the market, but they aren’t good enough to make it to the top. Before revealing the best flight simulator, we will go through sims that were good but did not make the cut.
Air Missions: HIND
Platform: PC, PS4, and Xbox One
Air Missions: HIND is a combat flight simulator where you are deployed into a battlefield alone or with a partner. It offers good graphics, online multiplayer gameplay, and completely customizable scenarios. The game has an intuitive control system, rated one of the simplest but also one of the best when it comes to combat games.
HIND is a fairly good game if you are looking for a quick pastime. If you are a hardcore flight sim fan, you will find it a tad difficult but not impossible.
However, many gamers do find it as an overly realistic game. Other than that, this is not typically a flight simulator as it offers too limited a gameplay with just the single aircraft (Mi-14 HIND) available.
Kerbal Space Program
Platform: Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Kerbal Space Program is a game that’s out of this world, literally. It is a game based on space travel, where you can land on Mun (Planet Kerbal’s closest moon) by building your own rocket. The game is centered around building rockets and flying to various outer space destinations. The controls work fine if you manage to design it perfectly otherwise it’s a sacrifice.
The game gets most things right but goes horrendously wrong in the graphics department. You are provided with designs and sceneries that are simply below par compared to the most other games you have available. The good thing is that it has minimal bugs that aren’t a hindrance to the gameplay.
1. Microsoft Flight Simulator X and the 2020 Version
Platform: PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox One
Microsoft Flight Simulator is the best flight simulation game. The game has been around for a long time and has aged like wine. The icing on the cake is the latest version of the game – the Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 will release on 18th August 2020!
If you trust reviews from the beta version of games, we have a new champion in the market. Microsoft hit a home run with the previous installment, Flight Simulator X. It consisted of more than 24000 flying destinations with numerous planes to try out.
Microsoft upped the ante with the latest iteration of the game. As per rumors, it will have superior graphics and extensive detailing. However, what will set this instalment apart from any other game is that you can fly anywhere in the world in FS 2020.
Complete global mapping other than gameplay like open-world gameplay available in multiple other genres is slated the make this one of the most audacious and anticipated game launches ever. Worth the wait!
What Makes It Better Than Others?
The graphics are insanely accurate and so realistic that you forget you are in a game. Other than that, this game has the best physics engine for the ultimate realistic experience of flying an aircraft. Further, Microsoft recently announced that the latest iteration of the game will get VR support too.
Flight Simulator X was the previous benchmark as the best flight simulator game but it met with serious competition from X-Plane 11. Microsoft didn’t hold back and gave us a game that transcended our expectations.
Beta phase testing was plugged off in July and although there are some bugs, most of them will be resolved by the software giant for sure. High-quality graphics might be overwhelming for some PCs and we are yet to receive any intel regarding the recommended performance requirements.
Check out the trailer for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 here!
That brings us to the end of this list. We have covered the best flight simulator games you can play right now. Check out the trailers to get a glimpse of what you can expect from the gameplay. If this is your first time at flight simulators, make sure to get a hang of it first with free-to-play flight sim games before going for a full-on purchase!