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9 Best Flight Sim Games for PC [2024]

9 Best Flight Sim Games for PC [2024]

, by Alex Myastan, 12 min reading time

From ultra-realism in MSFS and X-Plane, to adrenaline-fueled dogfights in Ace Combat and War Thunder, see what's on offer. It's no yoke!

I believe I can fly, 
I believe I can touch my virtual sky, 
I think about it every night and day, 
Spread my wings and ascend away.

Flying is fun, and the beauty of it is there are many different reasons to give it a go. Microsoft Flight Simulator has its reputation for a reason… Stunning visuals based on incredible virtual systems that truly immerse you in a virtual Earth.

Yet, realistic models of motion and accurate cockpit designs may not be what you are always after. Perhaps you want to get into a one-on-one dogfight? Perhaps you want to fly a Cessna, but in a very casual way? What about massive sprawling battles on land, sky and water?

This article will have a look at some of the top flight sim games, and distinguish them into categories, based on core gameplay.

JUMP TO SECTION

Realism

If you want detailed mathematical models to simulate the real world physics of accurately modelled aircraft, consider these games.

Microsoft Flight Simulator

A screenshot from Microsoft Flight Simulator featuring a skyship in-flight.

Exploring the skies in Microsoft Flight Simulator with the majestic skyship.

Developer: Asobo
Latest Release: MSFS 2020 (2020)
Steam Rating: 77%
Price: $35.99
Platforms: Windows, Xbox

The most recent version was released in 2020, and continues the legacy of smart environmental systems that enable exploration of the real world. These systems include real-time satellite imagery, advanced weather systems and real time air traffic.

The stand-alone packages include 29 to 51 aircraft depending on the package you buy (standard, premium, deluxe etc.), with an additional 200+ aircraft available as add-ons. The aircraft range from small general aviation planes to large commercial airliners to vintage fighter planes.

The upcoming Microsoft Flight Simulator 2024 will take things up a notch, and should prove to be particularly attractive to players that want more ‘quest’ based content. It introduces new mission types, including aerial firefighting, air search and rescue, air ambulance services, and more. The addition of varied aircraft types, such as gliders, airships, hot air balloons, and airliners, expands the simulation experience. They’re also adding cool features like snow, tornadoes, auroras, and animal migrations...

There will also be general improvements in the physics engine, aircraft systems, avionics etc., and they have explicitly stated they don’t want hardware requirements to exclude players: the minimum requirements are the same as MSFS2020. And another great feature? MSFS 2020 add-ons (aircraft, airports etc.) will be compatible in the new game.

All-in-all MSFS sets the standard for a flight simulator, accommodating both serious pilots and those that are after a more casual gameplay, especially with 2024, but read on to see how other games could offer a little something different…


X-Plane

A screenshot from X-Plane showcasing a private jet soaring through the air.

High-flying adventure in X-Plane aboard a sleek private jet.

Developer: Laminar Research
Latest Release: X-Plane 12 (2022)
Steam Rating: 77%
Price: $40
Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android

X-Plane is MSFS’ major competitor and edges it out on realistic simulation with their own physics engine, but they can’t compete with the scale and visual detail that MSFS brings to the table. Many flight sim enthusiasts play both of these games, alternating between them for their relative strengths and differing physics.

The latest version, X-Plane 12, features a photometric lighting engine, 3D water rendering, seasonal effects, tropical water colors, 3D forests and vegetation, ambient sounds, and a tower kit for customizable control tower variations. Other additions include animated jetways, localized ATC procedures/voices, pavement effects, volumetric 3D clouds, real weather based on real-world data, wake turbulence, microbursts, thermals, and precipitation accumulation on surfaces.

If you’re interested in being a real fake pilot, check out our flight sim gear products on offer, including yokes, joysticks, avionics and more.

Dog Fighters

Ready to take to the skies and show who's the Top Gun? Then talk to me, Goose.

War Thunder

A dynamic scene from War Thunder depicting a fighter helicopter engaged in combat.

Intense aerial combat in War Thunder as a fighter helicopter takes aim.

Developer: Gaijin Entertainment
Latest Release: War Thunder (2012)
Steam Rating: 61%
Price: Free-to-play
Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, PlayStation, Xbox

War Thunder is a multiplayer vehicular combat game developed by Gaijin Entertainment. While not exclusively a flight simulation game, War Thunder incorporates highly detailed and realistic aerial combat elements. Get ready for a dogfight!

Set during World War II and later periods, the game features a wide range of vehicles, including aircraft, tanks, and naval vessels. The aviation component of War Thunder is particularly noteworthy for its authentic representation of aircraft from various nations, spanning different eras.


Ace Combat

An action-packed screenshot from Ace Combat featuring several fighter jets in formation.

Formation flying and adrenaline-pumping action in Ace Combat's diverse fighter jet lineup.

Developer: Bandai Namco
Latest Release: Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown (2019)
Steam Rating: 86%
Price: $9.59
Platforms: Windows, PlayStation, Xbox

Unlike traditional flight simulators, Ace Combat leans towards a more action-oriented approach, delivering intense and cinematic dogfights rather than strict realism. The gameplay revolves around piloting fictional fighter jets equipped with various weaponry and engaging in high-stakes air battles against enemy aircraft. The series is characterized by its captivating narrative-driven missions, offering players the role of skilled fighter pilots amid conflicts in fictional worlds.

Ace Combat prioritizes intuitive controls, making it accessible to a broad audience, and features visually impressive graphics and dynamic mission scenarios, emphasizing the excitement of aerial combat rather than strict adherence to real-world aviation principles.


IL-2 Sturmovik

A historical moment from IL-2 Sturmovik showcasing a World War II fighter plane.

Relive history in IL-2 Sturmovik with the iconic World War II fighter soaring through the skies.

Developer: 1C Game Studios
Latest Release: IL-2 Sturmovik: Great Battles (2013)
Steam Rating: 77%
Price: $12.49
Platforms: Windows

The gameplay in IL-2 Sturmovik revolves around realistic flight mechanics, detailed aircraft systems, and historically accurate combat scenarios, although its primary focus is on having a wide range of WWII and WWI aircraft and simulating these battles in epic dogfights.

IL-2 Sturmovik has gone through three generations since its inception in 2006, and several updates between the generations. The generations themselves represent updates to the game engine, while the several updates represent new content being added to the game, in the form of aircraft and new battle maps based on real WWI and WWII scenarios.


DCS World

An immersive screenshot from DCS World featuring a detailed fighter jet in action.

Precision and realism in DCS World as a high-performance fighter jet takes center stage.

Developer: Eagle Dynamics
Latest Release: DCS World 2.9 (2023)
Steam Rating: 85%
Price: Free-to-play
Platforms: Windows

DCS World (Digital Combat Simulator World) is a combat flight simulation focussed on authenticity and attention to detail in military aviation. The gameplay in DCS World revolves around piloting a wide range of meticulously modelled aircraft, including modern fighter jets and helicopters. The simulation includes complex and accurate aircraft systems modelling, realistic flight physics, and authentic combat scenarios.

Flight Sim 'Lite'

If you enjoy flying around without the intensity a motion accurate flight sim can have on your and your PC, check these out.

Aerofly FS

A breathtaking scene from Aerofly FS featuring the iconic Concorde departing from Paris.

Experience supersonic travel in Aerofly FS with the legendary Concorde gracefully departing from Paris.

Developer: IPACS
Latest Release: Aerofly FS 4 (2022)
Steam Rating: 80%
Price: $39.59
Platforms: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android

This series provides players with a visually stunning and immersive flying experience, although certainly not with detailed physics models. The gameplay involves piloting a variety of aircraft, from general aviation planes to more advanced models, in a visually appealing and detailed environment.

While not as complex as some hardcore flight simulators, Aerofly FS prioritizes ease of use, making it accessible for users of all experience levels. The series often includes realistic and handcrafted airports, enhancing the overall visual quality.


GeoFS

A serene screenshot from GeoFS featuring a Cessna flying over picturesque landscapes.

Casual flying and scenic views in GeoFS aboard a classic Cessna aircraft.

Developer: GeoFS
Latest Release: GeoFS (2022)
Steam Rating: None
Price: Free-to-play
Platforms: Browser Based

GeoFS (Geographical Flight Simulator) is an online flight simulation platform that focuses on accessibility and user-friendly gameplay. Platform wise it’s a special: It’s browser-based! The gameplay involves piloting aircraft in real-time over satellite-generated landscapes, using information from Bing’s satellite image database.

GeoFS offers an engaging experience with features such as multiplayer interactions, live weather conditions, and day-night cycles. If you’re a casual player, without a power PC, this is a great choice.


FlightGear

A captivating screenshot from FlightGear showcasing a general aviation plane in flight.

Embrace the freedom of flight in FlightGear with a versatile general aviation aircraft.

Developer: FlightGear
Latest Release: FlightGear (2023)
Steam Rating: None
Price: Free
Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux

FlightGear is an open-source flight simulation platform that provides players with a comprehensive and customizable aviation experience. As a community-driven project, FlightGear offers a vast selection of aircraft, ranging from small propeller planes to large commercial jets.

The gameplay involves realistic flight physics, navigation, and various weather conditions. FlightGear stands out for its commitment to open-source principles, allowing users to modify and contribute to the development of the simulator.

Summary

❱ ❱ ❱   SCROLL TO THE RIGHT ON MOBILE   ❱ ❱ ❱
Game Developer Latest Release Price Steam Rating Platforms
MSFS Asobo MSFS 2020 (2020) $35.99 77% Windows, Xbox
X-Plane Laminar Research X-Plane 12 (2022) $40 77% Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android
War Thunder Gaijin Entertainment War Thunder (2012) Free-to-play 61% Windows, macOS, Linux, PlayStation, Xbox
Ace Combat Bandai Namco Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown (2019) $9.59 86% Windows, PlayStation, Xbox
IL-2 Sturmovik 1C Game Studios IL-2 Sturmovik: Great Battles (2013) $12.49 77% Windows
DCS World Eagle Dynamics DCS World 2.9 (2023) Free-to-play 85% Windows
Aerofly FS IPACS Aerofly FS 4 (2022) $39.59 80% Windows, macOS, iOS, Android
GeoFS GeoFS GeoFS (2022) Free-to-play None Browser Based
FlightGear FlightGear FlightGear (2023) Free None Windows, macOS, Linux
❱ ❱ ❱   SCROLL TO THE RIGHT ON MOBILE   ❱ ❱ ❱

In the exhilarating world of flight simulation, the sky's the limit, and the journey is as diverse as the clouds above. Whether you're captivated by the meticulous realism of Microsoft Flight Simulator, the adrenaline-fueled dogfights in War Thunder and Ace Combat, or the accessible joyrides of Flight Sim 'Lite' offerings like Aerofly FS, GeoFS, and FlightGear, each category promises a unique adventure through the virtual skies.

I believe I can soar
I see me banking round that heavy squall
I believe I can fly
I believe I can fly
I believe I can fly (woo)

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