Top 10 Best Flight Simulators For PC
Throughout its history, man has striven to fly. Millennia have passed from the ancient myth of Icarus to the first flight of the Wright brothers, and now aviation has become a part of our daily reality.
Airplane flight simulators for PC
However, learning to fly is not easy, and only a few manage to sit at the wheel of a real plane. For the rest, not striving for military or civil aviation, there are flight simulators and arcades on the pc, which will allow you to experience the feeling of flight at least on the screen of your monitor. Today we have the best airplane simulators and arcades about aviation in the games list of 2020.
Air Conflicts (arcade simulator)
We will start our top 10 with the simplest WW2 arcade flight simulator released in 2006. You choose one of three sides ‒ the USSR, allied Great Britain, or Nazi Germany and perform combat missions.
Over time, the developers realized their mistake, and added fighters from other countries to the game, and after the Air Conflicts: Pacific Carrier’s add-on, it was already possible to play for all parties to the conflict, including the United States and Japan. Did this make the game any better? Perhaps yes. But is it so good?
The primitive controls, rather one-off multiplayer and simplified physics do not allow you to compare it with serious simulators, and for an arcade game, it is too monotonous to drag on for a long time.
Air Conflicts is not a bad game. You can easily enjoy it by playing with friends or go through an unpretentious plot in a couple of evenings, but it is inferior to the following projects from our list, including those where you can fully feel like a pilot of a Soviet fighter during the Second World War. So we don’t hesitate to place Air Conflicts in the tenth place of our top and move on.
Tom Clancys H.A.W.X. (a Game from Ubisoft)
The arcade flight simulator from Ubisoft Bucharest has a storyline related to Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter and Tom Clancy’s EndWar. But most of all he tries to be like Ace Combat 6, which we’ll talk about later.
What did H.A.W.X. give us? An aircraft fleet of several dozen cars, tolerable graphics, a non-tricky physical model, and a set of story missions about the adventures of US Air Force pilot David Crenshaw, whose squad of special-purpose pilots is disbanded, and he is forced to become a mercenary in the private military company “Artemis” and carry out combat missions in hot points around the world. But everything instantly changes when the leadership of “Artemis” directs its weapons against the United States.
The plot in Tom Clancys H.A.W.X. is not bad, but arcade simulators are not played for the sake of the plot. Alas, the gameplay component leaves much to be desired. All the aircraft models in your fleet only look different, but they behave the same in the air, and this is immediately evident. After going through a decent, albeit slightly monotonous story campaign, you will probably want to cheer up in some other game. So put Tom Clancys H.A.W.X. to the ninth place of our top and move on.
Warbirds 2012 (a game with a large fleet)
This is still a “frivolous” arcade simulator, but in many ways surpasses other brothers in the genre. It is much closer to the “professional” games, and its most important advantage is simply a gigantic selection of aircraft!
In terms of gameplay, this is nothing new. Sit at the helm of the selected aircraft and go on a combat mission, of which there are only 15 in the main Warbirds 2012 campaign, however, they are quite long, and you are unlikely to be able to fly them in the evening. During the passage of missions, you earn points, get ranks, and spend points on pumping your characteristics. Yes, RPG elements have penetrated here as well, but whether an arcade flight simulator needs them is an open question.
The amazing fleet that the developers boast about is not a hoax. There are indeed more than 120 visually detailed models that correspond in appearance to their real counterparts. The feeling of operating various models differs markedly, so the differences are not purely visual, you can replay any mission on another plane and feel the contrast. An understandable training system will allow you to quickly get involved in a process that takes a long time. Warbirds 2012 is a good choice if you’re not looking for detailed airplane controls, but appreciate a wide variety of gameplay options.
War Thunder (online simulator)
Our top continues with the most famous MMO about combat aircraft and other military equipment. The main battleground here is still WWII, but part of the game is devoted to the events before and after the war.
It’s funny that initially the project, tentatively titled World of Planes, which later turned into War Thunder, was taken as an April Fool’s joke, because it was announced on April 1, 2011. But the developers from Gaijin Entertainment confirmed that they are working on a major project, and in 2012 a beta test began, in which they presented a modern and interesting war game.
Strictly speaking, War Thunder is not a flight simulator in its purest form; it would be more correct to call it a combat simulator. A wide variety of military equipment is involved in the battle, and combat in the air is only part of the overall picture of the battle. The game lacks the system of health points familiar to many, instead, special attention is paid to the point of impact of the vehicle’s hull and the consequences of this damage.
The destruction of any module affects the way the vehicle behaves in battle, not only the aircraft, but also its crew can suffer from enemy hits, and critical damage to the hull destroys the vehicle instantly.
The creators have a bright and dynamic multiplayer game. Now players are regularly pampered with patches and updates that bring new content to the game. Even though War Thunder has a high user rating, this is not a flight simulator in its purest form, and therefore it could not take a higher place in our top.
World of Warplanes (a game from the authors of World of Tanks)
King of arcade flight simulators of our time continues our top. Plus, it’s also a massively multiplayer online game set in the same universe as World of Tanks.
What happened to the developers from the Ukrainian company Persha Studia, one of the main partners of Wargaming.net? It turned out … World of Tanks in the air! More than 250 aircraft models, distributed according to the “class tree” depending on the country of manufacture and combat purpose, from old biplanes to powerful jet fighters.
Add to this the wide possibilities of customizing the aircraft, from installing weapons, equipment, and various modules on it to painting and applying emblems. Yes, in this game you can create your dream plane. And then smash him within a minute during the online battle.
The game has both PVP and PVE directions, several game modes, bright and dynamic battles, physics, which is quite realistic for an arcade simulator. But, like all free games, it has one known flaw, and its name is microtransactions. If you want to quickly upgrade your team and get on a brand new plane, get ready to pay, because, as you know, free MMOs pay twice.
But we will forgive this detail to the developers because they also want to eat. World of Warplanes gets sixth place from us, and we move on.
IL-2 Shturmovik (legendary project from 1C)
The legendary flight simulator opens the top five leaders of our top. Just think, this game is already nineteen years old, but it still looks decent and deserves a place in our top!
Developers from 1C in 2001 presented to the world a war game based on the events of the Great Patriotic War. Of course, the game was made in Russian, but localizations for other countries were not long in coming. As a result, there are many awards from Russian and foreign game publications, universal recognition, completely positive feedback from players, and the title of the most high-tech game of its time. Even now in 2020, the IL-2 Sturmovik does not look completely outdated, and at the same time, it is easy to run even on an old PC.
The game is a full-fledged flight simulator that even takes into account the behavior of aircraft with piston engines in various weather conditions. If we chose the most realistic simulator, IL-2 Sturmovik would be among the leaders even now.
Various missions that depended on the chosen side and the aircraft, changing conditions, and being tied to real historical events ‒ these are the main criteria for the success of the game. Add to that multiplayer for 80 players, which is not difficult to find a company for even today. Still, wondering which flight simulator to choose?
A series of arcade simulators from Namco continues our top ten. Ace Combat began with arcade machines, and had revolutionary three-dimensional graphics for those times and albeit the simplest, but still a working physics engine. However, the developers did not try to follow the traditions of realism, their main task was to create arcade entertainment with roaring motors and explosions, and they coped with it.
In order not to offend anyone, Namco created an alternative version of the Earth with different outlines of continents, their own physical and political geography, and non-existent countries, whose analogs in the real world are easily guessed.
You will hardly want to delve into the relationship of the Belka principality with the union of the Yuktoban Republics and the Ocean Federation (you will not believe it, but this is an analog of the United States, and not what you thought!), So grab the steering wheel as soon as possible and go on an important combat mission.
The Ace Combat series includes 15 games, among which there are both real masterpieces of their time, and completely failed unsuccessful projects. Formally, we give the ninth place of our top to the entire series, but if you are interested in our opinion on what to play from all these games, we recommend not even the newfangled and visually sophisticated sixth part, but the good old Ace Combat 2, a 1997 video game for Sony PlayStation.
You can run it on the emulator, and enjoy the authentic 3D of that time on the brand new MiG-29. Most importantly, don’t break your gamepad! In the meantime, we move on to the top three on our list.
Digital Combat Simulator
The creators call this game a war simulator, and the name corresponds to the name for one hundred percent. DCS is a beautiful, realistic, and well-thought-out flight simulator that impresses not only in technical implementation but also in visuals. These are no longer funny arcade shots, everything is serious in DCS.
The game and its add-ons are distributed through Steam or a special downloader from the official website. The basic version of the game is free, and this is an honest step on the part of the creators.
They understand that it is not enough to write about the project from the creators of the Su-27 Flanker, it is worth letting the players feel it, and then, if you want, you can purchase exciting paid campaigns and zip through the real events of the Second World War, such as the landing in Normandy, famous military conflicts of modern times, including the operation in the Persian Gulf, the Vietnam War and other theaters of military operations, as well as some fictional military conflicts with non-existent terrorists and fictional countries.
An interesting solution of the developers was the use of several simulation models, from the so-called professional flight model (PFM), using real aerodynamic models of a specific aircraft and the deepest and realistic flight simulation to a simplified model (SSM) corresponding to a rather good arcade simulator. For each downloadable model of the aircraft, the degree of simulation is indicated, and you know in advance what you deal with.
DCS is one of the best combat simulators of our time, giving players an impressive flying feeling. So he deserves his high third place in our top.
Microsoft Flight Simulator X (the most famous civil aviation simulator)
This, without exaggeration, the phenomenal game was released in 1982 and has become a real classic of the genre. You pilot a passenger plane from point A to point B, flying over real terrain, and … that’s it. But is there anything else you need?
Developers from Microsoft took their flight simulator as seriously as possible. MSFS capabilities allow it to be used as a professional pilot training program. Of course, this does not mean that after learning to fly in a simulator, you can safely sit at the helm and drive a Boeing 737 with passengers, but some educational institutions do use it to teach basic piloting skills.
The game was constantly evolving, new models of aircraft appeared, the physics engine was improved, the player could customize the gameplay for himself using wide customization options. Flight sim fans often put Microsoft Flight Simulator first, and even create virtual airlines. This game is one of the best in its genre and surpasses most of the competitors, allowing you to truly feel in the pilot’s chair.
Still, there are some simulators better than this.
The most serious flight simulator for pc in our top, which managed to bypass even the legendary MSFS X by half a hull. It can be confidently called a professional program because even aircraft designers use X-Plane to solve research problems, the physics of flight is so well implemented here.
Moreover, X-Plane is not limited to many hours of flights over the real surface of the Earth. Only here you can sit at the helm of the space shuttle and fly in the atmosphere of Mars. Moreover, the real data from NASA were used to model the planet. This feature appeared in X-Plane 10, but in addition to the shuttle, more than thirty aircraft models were implemented with the highest degree of reliability in the simulator.
X-Plane is truly the best flight simulator that existed before 2020. But the situation has changed a bit.
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020
The lull that had lasted more than ten years since the release of the legendary Microsoft Flight Simulator X was suddenly broken in the summer of 2019: a trailer for the new part of the series was shown at E3. A huge fleet of aircraft, all airports in the world, photographically accurate landscapes, realistic controls, dynamic weather changes ‒ in short, the dream of any fan of flight simulators. However, some of them were suspicious of the fact that the development was entrusted to Asobo Studio, which had no previous experience in creating games of this scale.
But, as practice shows, the experience is not everything. Thanks to cloud computing technologies and satellite maps, the Asobo team did something almost unreal: they recreated planet Earth at a 1:1 scale. Do you want to land a plane on the street near your home? Or fly to the place of your next trip, which was postponed due to the coronavirus? Everything is at your service.
I must admit that the Asobo team tried to do everything possible to make MSFS as convenient as possible for newcomers. This can be seen already at the first launch of the game, where they offer to select the level of the desired simulation. You can set the setting “I am a real pilot, just do not interfere,” or you can specify “help me in everything” ‒ then the control will be facilitated, and the game will give all the necessary prompts during the flight.
The map in Microsoft Flight Simulator simply amazes with the level of elaboration:
mountains, forests, and plains, rivers and lakes, countless small villages. Well, what can we do without large cities filled with cars and sights that are easy to recognize even from the air? And flying over some savannah, you can see wild animals and birds under the belly of the plane. All this became possible thanks to the Microsoft Azure cloud service, which collects data from Bing maps and generates the game landscape using Blackshark.ai algorithms. The accuracy and quality of the generation do not raise questions, although sometimes there are minor flaws.
This game exalts the old simulator to a new modern level and therefore, without any dispute, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is the best flight simulator at the moment.