Microsofts newest incarnation of
__Flight Simulator__ has made us fall in love with the skies again. We're Googling for HOTAS setups and yokes and learning about ILS approaches. But it's also got us hungry for more. Flight Simulator is majestic, but but there are things it just doesn't have. Lock-on missiles, for example. **2023 games Upcoming releases
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Its got us Googling HOTAS setups and yokes (yes, you need pedals too). Searches for ILS approaches have spiked the world over. But leaving theconfines of the earthly plane only makes gravity more unbearable. Microsoft just got us hungry for more

This list of the best flight sims is dedicated to the breadth of experiences you can have in an imaginary cockpit, like dogfighting instead of cruising between airports. Or dogfighting, but in space. Or piloting a helicopter. There are some great flight games out thereplay them to keep your HOTAS from getting sad and lonely

## Best civilian flight sim
## Microsoft Flight Simulator
**Release date: **2020 ** Developer: **Asobo __Steam__
Okay, before I get to the rest of those recommendationsthis is the first game anyone with even a passing interest in flying planes should check out right now. Flight Sim 2020 feels like its skipped a generation and given us a glimpse into a future built from cloud AI grunt and, oh, just the entire worlds map data. Petabytes of it

Azure AI and Bing Maps combine to create a world map that even those completely ambivalent to a Cessnas power-down procedure are drawn to explore. Its rich and gorgeous, if not quite perfect, but if anything its glitches, like the lone 600-storey house in
__Melbourne Australia add to the thrill of exploration

The flight models rewarding for those using a pad, but itll definitely feel more immersive the more bespoke peripherals you throw at it

## Best space combat flight sim
## Elite Dangerous
**Release date 2015 | **Developer Frontier Developments | Steam
How Frontier Developments must have laughed when we all struggled to get our heads around Flight Sim 2020s 1:1 scale replica of Earth. They did, after all, manage a 1:1 scale replica of our entire milky way in Elite Dangerous, and they released it before 2014 was over and done with

Granted, you cant fly over your house, but what you

*can* do is genuinely too varied to detail. Suffice to say the combat gets *very* intense with a good HOTAS setup, and even moreso if youre in VR

But there's so much more to do

__Trucking__ and __trading Soon, even __getting out of the cockpit Theres a stoic satisfaction to just nailing a docking procedure or successfully navigating the yawning black infinity and landing at the hunk of rock you actually intended to. Preposterously vast in scope and wonderfully accomplished in the small details, this is a flight sim for big picture types

## Best dogfighting flight sim
## War Thunder
**Release date 2013 | **Developer Gaijin Entertianment | Steam
There are also tanks and naval vessels blowing each other to smithereens below you, but in War Thunder the real joy has always been aerial combat

Part of what makes the experience is the sense of ownership, which is an ironic thing to say about a free-to-play game. But rather than just picking a plane out of the hangar, you really invest in hardware, upgrading it over time and learning its quirks in the skies

The other part is a truly detailed combat model which simulates armour penetration on a level that even real bullets probably cant be bothered with. When you actuallyanother plane out of the sky in War Thunder, you know youve really pulled off something to be proud of

## Most realistic flight sim
## X-Plane 11
**Release date: **2017 | **Developer Laminar Research | Steam
Hoo boy. This will be a contentious denomination for a while, but in the current state of release of both sims, X Plane-11 simply goes into more detail than Flight Simulator 2020. ATC, in particular, has a full working model that many professionals have used as a training aid, and particulars like fuel burn and engine behaviour at precise angles of ascent are modelled with greater precision

Of course, X-Plane 11 has the advantage of a vast modding database and a passionate community, so well see where this debate goes as Flight Simulator 2020 enjoys user-created content of its own, but if youre prepared to trade off some of the gorgeousness for detail and add-on options, this is the one

## Best arcade combat flight sim
## Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown
**Release date 2019 | **Developer: **Bandai Namco | Steam
This is about as different as it gets from X Plane 11. Ace Combat is bonkers, and yes, you can control its planes with one hand while cooking dinner with the other and holding a phone call on speakerphone. To even begin to attempt any understanding of its plot is to stare at madness itself. But simplicity and eccentricity are no bad things

It has such an eye for spectacle, from absurd experimental planes spewing drones at you to perfectly timed collapsing building, as if they were waiting for Michael Bays cue when you fly past. These flourishes make every mission memorable and challenging. Theres a hangar full of authentic planes, too, whose loadouts are customisable to the nth degree

## Best space flight sim
## Kerbal Space Program
**Release date 2015 | **Developer Squad | Steam
This ones a bit different, isnt it? For as much as its a game about cute big-eyed characters getting into slapstick escapades, its also probably the most rigorous simulation of actual rocket science weve ever had. Anyone with Scott Manley vids in their YouTube suggestions bar can attest to how incredibly detailed the simulation of ballistics, drag, gravity, and other things I wasnt paying attention to in physics lessons gets here

The twist is that youre not just hopping into a spacecraft, but also devising it beforehand too, which makes eventual success feel like a truly tremendous accomplishment. Wed like to see you try and match that, Flight Simulator 2020

## Best helicopter flight sim
## Digital Combat Simulator World
**Release date 2013 | **Developer Eagle Dynamics | Steam
Theres a commonly repeated falsity that helicopters shouldnt be able to fly, and if you ever want to know where the origins of the notion came from, load up DCS and have a go in a UH-1. After a few minutes spent trying to wrestle its opposing forces into something resembling sustained flight, the only natural conclusion to draw is that little pods suspended by whirling blades have been a massive hoax all along

DCS does much more than rotor-blade flight, providing one of the most detailed combat flight sim experiences out there in spite of its advancing years (the original version dates back to 2008). But the helis are particularly well done here

## Best flight sim that isn't really a flight sim
## The Crew 2
**Release date 2018 | **Developer Ivory Tower | Steam
Can it train a budding pilot to understand the interior of an airliner cockpit? Not in a million years. In fact, a good portion of The Crew 2 is spent very much on land, in a car, nowhere near a jet engine or a wing. Still, thoughand hear me out on thiswhen it comes to virtual tourism, its up there with Flight Simulator 2020

The Crew 2's condensed version of America is a wonderful thing to explore by air, particularly with a few mates in co-op. Take in the sights, do a few loop-de-loops, race to this landmark or that, and when you get bored, transform into cars or boats at the press of a button. Unique, imperfect, and still a curiosity worth shouting about.