- With the launch of Microsoft's Flight Simulator, flying games took the headlines of the gaming world.
- So it's about time we refreshed the list of the best flight simulator games out there.
- Stay tuned to our guidelines and tutorials in the Gaming Hub.
- Gaming is also about the gear you're using so take a look at our Tech Gadgets recommendations.
PC flight simulators are PC games that, obviously, simulate flying. These are games that include a wide range of civilian or military planes for players to fly over glorious 3D landscapes with.
The simulators should not be confused with general aerial shoot em ups that have more basic arcade controls.
Flight simulators are much more realistic than your average flying games for consoles that tend to place greater emphasis on frantic blasting action instead of emulating real-world aircraft flight with aerodynamic models or empirical data.
How to choose the best flight simulator game for your PC?
There are many specific features that you might look for when choosing a flight simulator, and we have managed to gather the main of them in our article.
Here you will find answers to such questions as :
- Does a flight simulator allow plane creation?
- Can you simulate an open space flight from your PC with a flight simulator game?
- Can you play it in multiplayer mode (online)?
- How realistic a flight simulator game can be (detail level)?
- Can you fly on other aircraft?
|Rating (1 to 5)||Paid/Free||Plane creation/customization||Combat/Civil||Multiplayer|
|Microsoft Flight Simulator Standard||4.5||Paid||No||Civil||No|
|Il-2 Sturmovik : 1946||4||Paid||No||Combat||Yes|
|Rise of Flight United||4||Paid||No||Combat||Yes|
What is the best flight simulator for PC?
The 2020 version of Flight Simulator is the most recent, and best addition to the franchise with an amazing breadth of content and excellent graphical quality.
The game received impressive reviews from the launch day, being praised for the highly detailed and stunning aircraft, as well as for the incredibly realistic world that it creates.
The game comes in three editions, with a different number of aircraft that you can choose from, starting with light planes, ending with massive jets.
The Standard edition features 20 aircraft available to all players, while premium editions reach 30 aircraft models, including Cessna Citation Longitude or Pipistrel Virus SW 121, for instance.
You’ll be allowed to land at any of the 36,000 airports included in any of the game’s editions.
As a matter of fact, the premium versions only bring a few extras, such as the number of available planes. But you can start with the basic version and upgrade at any time, if necessary.
Should you encounter any trouble with the installation or launch of the new game, a lot of the issues have been fixed by Microsoft in various patches since the launch, but we also have a few recommendations.
Microsoft Flight Simulator: StandardTake it to the skies and land anywhere across the globe with the new Flight Simmulator.
With its terrific visuals and immense playability, the game was (and still is) a stormer and had a number of expansion packs and add-ons that expanded its content with new theaters, maps, and planes.
IL-2 Sturmovik: 1946, launched in 2006, is a compilation pack that brings together all the content from the original IL-2 series, including the Forgotten Battles, Pacific Fighters, and Ace Expansion Pack.
As this is more of a compilation pack, IL-2 Sturmovik: 1946 has extensive content.
Players can fly up to 229 aircraft from the Soviet, German, Italian, Japanese, U.K., and U.S. air forces in Eastern Europe, Mediterranean, Pacific, and Western Front maps.
IL-2 Sturmovik: 1946 also has nine exclusive campaigns of its own with 200 detailed missions.
Those missions aren’t just aerial dogfights as someplace more emphasis on bombing or strafing a variety of ground targets, such as airfields, tank columns, and bridges.
This game also includes a few alternative history campaigns with air battles that never happened in 1946 and a full mission builder.
Il-2 Sturmovik had groundbreaking graphics when it first launched, but its graphical quality has inevitably diminished over the years.
However, the game still retains its super realistic flight mechanics and fantastic damage model that made it a classic.
If you’re looking for some blasting action in a flight simulator, look no further than Rise of Flight United. This is a historical simulator based in World War One, which was the first war to widely include aircraft.
Rise of Flight now has a free-to-play model, but that’s limited to three planes only.
Additional planes, modifications, and a Channel Map expansion are retailing on the game’s website.
In Rise of Flight United, players get to fly some legendary biplanes. They are accessible in a quick mission, missions, campaign, and multiplayer modes.
There are 40 planes for players to fly in aerial dogfights over the Western and Eastern Front, which include the Nieuport 17.C1, Felixstowe F.2A, Sopwith Camel, and Albatros D.Va.
The planes are rendered in amazing detail with fully dynamic components and terrific damage modeling, and they also feel very real as the game amplifies aerodynamic effects such as torque, g-force, stalls, and wind buffet.
Rise of Flight has fantastic graphics with High Dynamic Range lighting and detailed World War One landscapes. The experience is additionally enriched with rendered skylines and realistic weather effects.
The game’s scaling is spot on and gives players a real sense of altitude.
The simulator also includes a variety of customization options to adjust the realism. You can configure landing modes, fuel supply, gun convergence, radiator airflow, etc.
So Rise of Flight is undoubtedly one of the most realistic air combat simulators for Windows.
X-Plane 11 is perhaps the most realistic flight simulator for Windows that’s a research tool in the aviation industry.
This is largely due to its blade-element theory aerodynamic model that determines the actions of real planes in flight based on their actual design parameters.
X-Plane 11 has more than 40 aircraft for players to choose from. The list includes Concorde, the F22 Raptor, and Boeing 747.
In fact, they’re not all exactly planes as one is the Space Shuttle, which is a great novelty.
Players can fly outside the Earth’s orbit and over Mars with the Space Shuttle, and the publisher has recreated the atmosphere of the Red planet and shuttle controls with NASA data.
Air Traffic Control further enhances X-Plane’s realism as it provides actual voice audio and guides all planes to the runways.
X-Plane 10 is one of the most flexible flight simulators as it has tons of user-created aircraft and scenery add-ons, editable maps and also includes in-game options to fully customize the weather with.
As both Microsoft Flight Simulator and X-Plane 11 are proprietary software, FlightGear is a good open-source alternative.
The best thing is that the game is freely available, and you can add it to Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux. Besides, developers can expand it with third-party extensions.
The core software includes only a few aircraft, but there are more than 400 planes you can add to it. The list consists of helicopters, airliners, warbirds, modern and historical military models, and light civilian passenger planes.
The software includes 20,000 airports, diverse scenery, and accurate global landscapes; and users can also download more terrain from FlightGear’s database.
One novelty the game has is its accurate sky models that adjust the sky to reflect your actual time.
Variable runway elevation, approach lighting, and scenery that lights up at night further enhance the simulator’s realism.
FlightGear’s graphical quality is also pretty decent as the game has some great weather, atmosphere shading, and water reflection effects.
So these are a few of the best flight simulators that bring the thrill of flying to your Windows PC.
Have you tried any of them so far? Use the comments box to share your experience with us.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2017 and was completely revamped and updated in September 2020 for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.