Joysticks were once essential for Atari consoles during their 1980s heyday. They were also a-big PC gaming accessory in the ’90s for space and flight simulator genres.
Then joysticks were and still are, designed to emulate the flight control sticks in military and civilian aircraft. Joysticks enhance the realism of flight and space simulator games.
However, things have changed a bit since the joystick’s heyday as the flight and space simulator genres have declined. Gamepads are now much more prevalent game controllers.
Nevertheless, there are still some great joysticks for PC gaming that remain an alternative to gamepads. Few gamepads can match joysticks’ flexibility and throttle control for flight and space simulators.
These are some of the best PC joysticks for 2020.
What are the best PC joysticks for an epic gaming experience?
- 12 action buttons
- Multiple controller configurations
- Eight-way rubber hat switch
- Precision twist rudder control
- Doesn't include a separate thruster
The Extreme 3D Pro is a highly rated joystick that’s the controller of choice for many gaming fanatics. The joystick includes 12 programmable buttons that you can configure for single commands or macros with multiple keystrokes and other mouse events.
You can also easily switch between alternative points of view and weapons in games with the 3D Pro’s 8-way hat switch. The rapid fire trigger is another great addition to the joystick that’s ideal for aerial dogfights and frantic blasting in first-person shooters.
The Extreme 3D Pro doesn’t have a separate throttle, but it still includes smooth throttle settings. With a twist-handle rudder, this is a great joystick for fast-paced action games that provides better precision and control than many alternative controllers.
Check out the Extreme 3D Pro joystick at the Logitech website.
- Fully programmable 12 buttons
- 2 configurations for PC and PS3
- Adjustable resistance control
- Hand rest wide area
- Can be very sensitive
Thrustmaster T-Flight Stick X is a plug & play joystick. Not only that you don’t need to perform any installation but all the features are preconfigured for immediate take-off.
It’s a very precise stick with adjustable resistance control and weighted base for better stability. It also features a wide hand rest for confortable gaming.
If you want to remap functions you’ve got a dedicated button so you can quickly swap them. You will also find extremely useful the Preset button for easy switching between different configurations.
Lastly, all the programmed configurations are stored in the internal memory of the joystick so you will still have all your settings with you if you play on another PC.
- Illuminated buttons and enhanced gameplay
- Progressive throttle with resistance adjustment
- 5 position handle adjustment system
- Extremely strong build
- Can be considered expensive
The Logitech G Saitek X52 is a HOTAS (Hands-On Throttle And Stick) joystick that includes a separate throttle with an LCD display that provides button configuration details.
The joystick itself includes a grip adjustment system so that you can configure it for your grip. It also includes novel illuminated critical buttons that light up the joystick and enhance the gameplay.
The G Saitek X52’s adjustable throttle further enhances the controller’s realism as you can alter the throttle’s resistance for games.
Another great thing about the G Saitek X52 is its extra Windows software with which you can configure the controller for specific games. So this joystick has some unique features few other controllers can match. Check out the G Saitek X52 at the Logitech website.
- 16 action buttons with braille
- Hall Effect - magnetic sensors located on the stick
- 4 independent axes, including twist rudder
- Advanced flight experience
- TFRP rudder pedals and MFD cockpit panels are sold separately
The Thrustmaster T.16000M is a joystick for Windows 10/8/7/Vista with comprehensive and realistic controls. The joystick incorporates H.E.A.R.T technology with magnetic sensors that ensures it has higher precision controls for games than most alternative controllers.
As this is a HOTAS joystick, it comes with a separate TWCS throttle that includes 14 buttons in addition to the joystick’s 16 buttons, which amounts to 30 buttons altogether.
You can set up separate mapping profiles for games and combine the T.16000M with other Thrustmaster devices with the joystick’s TARGET software.
In addition, the T.16000M also has removable components so that you can utilize it as a left or right-handed joystick. Check out the T.16000M joystick at the Thrustmaster website.
- Illuminated buttons
- 5 position handle adjustment system for all hand sizes
- Smart Technology software to program the controller for each game
- Precision centering mechanism
- Can be considered expensive
The Saitek PS28 X52 Flight Control System is one of the most customizable joysticks for Windows desktops and laptops. It includes an adjustable spring system so that you can adjust the frictional play by adding one of four alternative springs to the joystick.
The throttle controller has resistance adjustment and incorporates a lighted screen that can show you a lot of important information from the simulator.
The stick has a 5 position adjustment system so you will find the perfect preset no matter how big is your hand. The lever also has a soft-touch, contoured grip for maximum gaming comfort.
- Replica of a U.S. Air Force aircraft flight stick
- Crafted entirely of metal
- 19 action buttons in total
- Over 6 lbs (2.7 kg)
- Can be too sophisticated for regular gamers
The Thrustmaster Warthog is an amazingly precise and robust joystick that has the same H.E.A.R.T technology which makes the Warthog so special.
However, this joystick’s greatest appeal is that it is a replica of the flight stick included in the U.S. Air Force’s A-10C ground-support plane. Thus, the Warthog looks much the same as the A-10C flight stick, and with a total of 19 buttons it has more buttons than most joysticks.
The Warthog is also a HOTAS controller with separate throttle control. The throttle component has a dual throttle system that enables you to control two motors.
That throttle includes a disengageable afterburner detent so that players can adapt their throttle control to more specific aircraft piloted in games.
The throttle’s control panel includes five customizable LEDs for extra lighting effects, a friction wheel to adjust throttle resistance with and a further 15 action buttons.
So the Warthog is undoubtedly one of the most realistic joysticks for flight simulators, but it’s also retailing at a hefty price. Check out the Warthog joystick at the Thrustmaster website.
So who needs gamepads for Windows gaming? The aforementioned joysticks are precise, realistic and customizable controllers that take flight games to an exciting new level.
For further details about some of the best flight simulators for joysticks, check out this software guide.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in ANovember 2019 and has been since revamped and updated in October 2020 for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.