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The 14 Best Standard and Combat Flight Simulators [2023 Guide]

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Jarrod West

Jarrod West

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In a time where global travel has dramatically slowed down, this is an especially tough time for travel and aviation fanatics. Fortunately, there is a way to get a small glimpse into the joys of aviation from the comfort of your home — through flight simulators.

Flight simulators are the perfect option for aviation enthusiasts who are stuck at home. You can take control of your favorite plane with true-to-life cockpits, fly in and out of popular airports, navigate real-life weather models, and experience incredibly detailed 3D graphics.

There are many flight simulators on the market to choose from. Some simulators are incredibly intricate and authentic with a steep learning curve, and others are a bit easy to jump straight into.

Some simulators allow for VR capabilities, and others incorporate combat for those looking for a fighter-flight simulation. Regardless of the play style that you prefer, there is a simulator out there that is perfect for you.

Here are our top flight simulators for aviation enthusiasts and casual games alike.

Best Standard Flight Simulators

Aerofly FS

Experience realistic flight physics in Aerofly FS. Image Credit: Aerofly FS

Platform: PC, Mac, iOS, Android

Price: $20

Aerofly FS is an incredibly realistic flight simulator that sets a high value on realistic flight physics, highly-detailed aircraft and terrain, and smooth frame rates.

The game offers 200 different airport destinations that you can fly into along with planes like the Robin DR-400 for sightseeing, the Extra 330 for aerobatic skills, or the F-18 for high-speed flying.


Fly to space and back thanks to the Google Earth capabilities with GeoFS. Image Credit: GeoFS

Platform: Web browser

Price: Free or €9.99 (~$11.22) annually for the premium version

The GeoFS flight simulator offers a global environment generated from satellite images and digital geographic data from Google Earth.

The graphics aren’t as fluid as other offerings on the list, but this simulator does not require you to download a full game because it runs entirely from your browser! The simulator offers 20 different aircraft to fly, real-time atmospheric conditions, and 30,000 different runways to fly in and out of.

As if that weren’t enough, even the free version supports massively multiplayer interaction, meaning you can get together with friends or come across other players playing GeoFS in real time. In fact, GeoFS has a live map that tracks all pilots.

You can even fly to space! In addition to being able to fly across the Earth, you can also fly over the landscapes of both the Moon and Mars, whose maps are provided directly by NASA.

The paid version offers better imagery with a higher resolution, but the free version is all you need to get out there and start flying.


FlightGear gives players over 20,000 real-world airports to choose from for their flights. Image Credit: FlightGear

Platform: PC, Mac, Linux

Price: Free

FlightGear is an open-source free flight simulator project with over 20,000 real-world airports and a wide variety of aircraft models. The platform is constantly praised for its realism, overall flight controls, and even minute details such as lighting.

FlightGear offers extremely accurate time-of-day modeling with the correctly placed sun, moon, stars, and planets for the specified time and date. This is achieved by tracking your computer’s clock time in order to assign objects to their proper place relative to the earth.

The program is also open-source, so players have unrestricted customization to make any changes to the game that they see fit.


Have an excellent VR gaming experience with FlyInside. Image Credit: FlyInside

Platform: PC

Price: Free trial, full version is $34.99

If there is a single thing that really sets FlyInside apart, it is that the entire game was built for a virtual reality experience!

With FlyInside, you can slip on a VR headset and feel as though you are truly flying your favorite plane. While you can still play the game in the desktop version, the best flying experience comes from the full immersion using a VR motion controller and headset.

To keep the flying experience as realistic possible, FlyInside even offers a physics engine that mimics real-life flying conditions, as well as realistic 3D models and graphics.

Infinite Flight

Infinite Flight is a mobile flight sim for aviation enthusiasts on the go. Image Credit: Infinite Flight

Platform: iOS, Android

Price: $4.99

Want a flight simulator that you can take with you on the go? Infinite Flight is the perfect option, as it is a mobile app that is compatible with any Android or iOS phone.

Infinite Flight has very immersive gameplay, a range of aircraft, locations, and dynamic atmospheric conditions. Furthermore, you can tailor each flight by choosing your time of day, weather conditions, and aircraft weight configuration.

Microsoft Flight Simulator X

Image Credit: Steam via Microsoft

Platform: PC

Price: $24.99

One of the best flight simulators on the market, Microsoft Flight Simulator X features everything from navigation to GPS and airways, 18 planes, 28 detailed cities, and over 24,000 airports.

With Microsoft Flight Simulator X, there is an aircraft for every kind of flying and adventure. You can take control of aircraft like the 747, F/A-18 Hornet, P-51D Mustang, EH-101 helicopter, and others.

Players can take on the role of an air-traffic controller, pilot, or co-pilot and test their skills on over 80 different flight missions.

Take On Helicopters

Prefer helicopters to planes? Give Take On Helicopters a spin! Image Credit: Take On Helicopters

Platform: PC

Price: $19.99

If you’re interested in flying something other than a plane, why not try out your helicopter flight skills?

Learn to master rotor wing flying while traversing an open-world map modeled after real-world terrain and environments. Take on Helicopters allows players to experience high-fidelity flight dynamics and true-to-life helicopters and cockpits, all while competing in a massive range of challenges and missions.

X-Plane 11

A 747 landing at sunset on X-Plane 11. Image Credit: X Plane 11

Platform: PC, Mac, Linux

Price: Free demo, full version is $59.99

If you’re looking for an incredibly realistic flight simulator, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better option than X-Plane 11.

The game features true-to-life cockpits of dozens of different airplane models and detailed 3D scenery for more than 13,000 “living” airports around the world.

The “living” airports even include hangers, pushback tugs, and roaming fuel trucks that are able to service both your aircraft and the simulator’s AI planes. X-Plane even features little touches such as detailed weather modeling and the potential for system failures.

While the game presents a bit of a learning curve, with practice you’ll be flying like a professional in no time.


Don’t have a computer with a strong graphics card? Give YSFlight a try. Image Credit: YSFlight

Platform: PC, Mac, Linux

Price: Free

If you don’t have a computer that can handle some of the more complex offerings on this list, or prefer something a bit less intimidating, YSFlight is a fantastic option — better yet, it’s free!

The visuals aren’t nearly as impressive as other non-free simulators, but still offer more than 70 aircraft to fly, and a wide array of maps encompassing a host of well-known regions from around the globe, along with a HUB that delivers details on in-flight speeds, elevation, direction, and other essential information.

Best Combat Flight Simulators

Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown

Ace Combat 7 is one of the best combat flight simulations on the market. Image Credit: Ace Combat 7

Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One

Price: $19.99

Ace Combat 7 puts players at the helm of some of the most advanced warplanes ever developed.

Experience photorealistic visuals, 360 degrees 3D movement, intense action, and a multitude of authentic and futuristic aircraft to fly, all while playing along with an immersive and captivating storyline.

IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Bodenplatte

Experience actual aerial engagements that took place in World War II with this sim. Image Credit: Il2-Sturmovik

Platform: PC

Price: $49.99 Standard Edition, $79.99 Premium Addition

Another World War era flight simulator, Battle of Bodenplatte is dedicated to late-war aerial engagements between the U.S. Army Air Force, Royal Air Force, and the Luftwaffe in the skies over western Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium during the winter of 1944 and early 1945.

The game offers 8 standard aircraft to choose from, custom single-player missions, and a multiplayer mode to challenge your friends.

Rise of Flight

Curious what it was like to be a fighter pilot in World War I? Then you’ll love Rise of Flight. Image Credit: Rise of Flight

Platform: PC

Price: Free

Rise of Flight is the ultimate World War I combat flight simulator.

The game features advanced flight models, flexible difficulty settings, real-world physics, a progressive damage system, impressive visual effects, and detailed 3D models.

The game plays especially close attention to being authentic to the era, and features different gameplay modes, including custom scenarios, multiplayer battles, and a campaign that recreates several historic battles.

War Thunder

Want to challenge your flying skills against your friends? Battle it out in War Thunder! Image Credit: War Thunder

Platform: PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox One

Price: Free

War Thunder is the most comprehensive free-to-play, cross-platform, multiplayer online military game on the market.

Choose from dozens of different aircraft options, over 100 maps that represent historical battles, full-scale combat missions, and intense player vs player experiences with gamers from all over the world.

Better yet, even though War Thunder was released almost several years ago, the game is continually updated with new aircraft, maps, and missions.

World of Warplanes

History buffs and aviation fanatics will love World of Warplanes. Image Credit: World of Warplanes

Platform: PC, Mac

Price: Free with premium add-ons

World of Warplanes is a combat simulator that puts players in large battles against each other, allowing them to pilot everything from the wooden biplanes of WWI to modern jets.

The controls are a bit more barebones and not as involved as other options on this list, but this does make the learning curve quite a bit easier for those just looking for a fun airplane combat experience.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there is a flight simulation out there that is perfect for you no matter your budget or what type of experience you’re looking for. From stunt aerobatics to war combat to flying games, there’s a flight simulator that fits every taste and style.

So while we might not all be able to hop on a plane right now, you can boot up your computer or video game console and jet off to new destinations all over the world.

And, until it is safe for all of us to travel again, these simulated flying experiences will have to do.

Frequently Asked Questions

A flight simulator is a type of simulation video game that attempts to mimic the real experience of piloting and aviation. Players can take over the cockpit of their favorite aircraft to practice aerial maneuvers or partake in combat exercises, all while experiencing incredibly realistic graphics with genuine cockpit interfaces and aerial terrain.

Generally speaking, the games themselves can cost anywhere from $0 to $80. The price is mostly determined by the level of authenticity and expansiveness that the game provides.

With that said, there are some other costs outside of the game alone that aviation enthusiasts opt to purchase to provide more realism while gaming. These devices include things like joysticks, virtual reality headsets, and home-built cockpits.

It really depends on what type of experience you’re looking for and the price you’re willing to pay for it. Many aviation and flight simulator enthusiasts tout X-Plane 11 as the best all-in-1 flight simulation experience, but the game does not offer combat experiences. If that’s something you’re looking for, you might prefer a simulation like War Thunder, or one of the other combat sims we have listed.

Flight simulators can be played on a number of different devices. Depending on which platform that game is supported on, you’ll either need a video game console like the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, or a PC/Mac computer with a strong enough graphics card and processor (depending on how intricate the simulation is).

About Jarrod West

Boasting a portfolio of over 20 cards, Jarrod has been an expert in the points and miles space for over 6 years. He earns and redeems over 1 million points per year and his work has been featured in outlets like The New York Times.


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August 21, 2020

There’s also the little combat flight sim going by the name of DCS World which you haven’t included under the combat flight sims.


November 18, 2020

Yes, small thing easy to forget 🙂


May 17, 2022

I think he deliberately didn’t add the most realistic flight simulator


May 17, 2022

He forgot the most realistic VR flight sim!
I think he likes unrealistic arcades like ace combat


March 02, 2023

Falcon BMS is up there too!


September 05, 2020

Actually, the age of really good flight sims seems to have past.
I’m old enough to remember Red Baron and Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe, now ancient DOS games that required one to fiddle with creative ways of using that precious 640K of conventional RAM.
They were primitive but fun.
The first real breakthrough game in the combat flight sim, in my opinion, was IL2 Sturmovik. No doubt a good bit of its appeal relied on it’s introducing the hitherto unknown realm of Soviet aircraft, but apart from that, it was for the time stunning.
But, alas, things fall apart.
I remember getting what I thought to be a descendant of IL2 with Cliffs of Dover, but I never was able to get the game to play adequately on any computer (and my systems, even now, are robust enough to handle the system requirements). Maybe in my younger days I would have been willing to devote the 1,000s of hours of research to tweak my system to get the program to run, but time, as one grows older, becomes more precious. I held out hope that subsequent iterations might prove better buy purchasing CLoD Blitz, but even there I found it didn’t easily support a joystick.
Simply put, the whole flight sim thing became more burdensome than it should. And subsequent games such as War Thunder and World of Warplanes just come off as cheap arcade versions.
I’d trade all the great graphics for the raw fun of the DOS version of SWOTL anyday.

Ian Scott

August 17, 2021

SWOTL is a true benchmark. The cartoonish graphics were awesome! The way you could change positions in B17 to fight off enemy interceptors was genius! The sounds were done well. The gameplay alone, set the bar (for me) insofar as air combat sims. You’re the first and only that I have seen speak about SWOTL. I was 14 at the time. Remember the wheel decoder? I lost mine and rode my bike to Office Depot, fully prepared to fork over $20. The sales clerk actually opened the box and gave me the code wheel for free. Funny thing is, my dad suspected I stole it. He found it hard to believe a stranger, who was an employee, would crack open a game and give me just the decoder, free of charge.
Today I am 44 and a father to two boys. They are good, but if they came in with a story about opened merchandise and a sales clerk who defaced product just to be helpful…ya, I understand my dads disposition…
Sorry to drone on. You got me going with that shout out. Feel fortunate in knowing that story, as I never spoke of it until now.
F.Y.I. GUNSHIP III on playstore and GUNSHIP SEQUAL WW2 developed by PHANOTEK is right up your alley.


June 17, 2023

Ahh swotl! Yes priceless


December 26, 2020

I remember hanging out in RS. I was awestruck when I saw a DOS based Flight Sim FS1. I bought it immediately even though I didn’t have a computer to run it, I eventually got the PC And enjoyed that wire frame simulator for many hours. I was bit to say the least and bought so many flight sims after that with many purchases of newer and faster PCs. I love this hobby.

Aaron Rivas

January 03, 2021

I have played janes f18 which was, in my opinion, the best flight sim back in the late 90s after playing others but DCS world takes the great detail from Janes f18 and brings the hornet to a whole other level of detail, graphics, and realism. I cannot get enough of DCS world. Best of the Best and probably by a good margin. Keep up the excellent work Eagle Dynamics. I believe I speak for a good majority of flight sim enthusiasts.


August 20, 2021

So we’re just not gonna talk about the single best combat flight sim ever: DCS World?

Okay then.


September 10, 2021

-TLDR: is there anything like the AW gameplay and community?

Probably because of my age, Air Warrior III was the only game into which I ever invested many hours of play. I admit that I haven’t tried any of the games mentioned in the comments here. I’m also surprised at there being no mention of AW. If it wasn’t that good, I certainly wouldn’t know it. AW had a lot more going for it beyond just the gameplay. The community was pure fun. I was in a squadron with 20+ other players and we had a squad night (Thursday) that a bunch of us would work together on missions directed by our CO (Cobra Eye). The dogfighting was always a blast. On days/nights other than our squad nights, you could find a couple of other squadmates to fly with and it was fun to work together to help other squads hold a base or whatever their mission was. Sometimes, it was just fun to get up and get into a furball just to get better at it. I made some pretty good virtual friends along the way
The community was the key to taking the game beyond merely turn-n-burn, which was still a great time. I’ve looked around from time to time for more than just nostalgic reminiscences of the peak of AW’s play, but haven’t found the “This is it!” game that draws the old AW pilots like myself into the arena. I’m sure there are plenty of old guys like me out there playing something, but I have been unable to find the one that’s “it”. Two of my sons have been playing War Thunder a little. I’ve tried it and, to be honest, not enough to determine whether it’s community is anything like AW’s. Of course, my time isn’t as available as it once was either, which is why I look for a commented “flare” that says this is the one.

Lynette smith

September 15, 2021

I’m looking for the most realistic simulator with a headset, joystick, and all the Bells and whistles on, for my 12 year old that wants to be a pilot. He joined RAF cadets and navy cadets but as a mom I have no idea what to look for or even where to go. I would be so grateful if you can point me in the right direction. He has top-end gamer pc at the moment built by my dad so can always update that too. Thanks in advance.

Carl D'Souza

September 20, 2021

Hi Lynette,

It all comes down to what kind of aviation your son is into, civil, combat, helicopters?
It may seem confusing at first but I’ve got you covered:

When talking about realism (at a study level):

For Civil aviation, it’s a bit tricky but the best simulators out there are MSFS, X-Plane 11, and Prepar3D.
If you have a top-of-the-line pc then I suggest MSFS because it’s the newest and a lot of projects and addons are set to come out for it.

For Military and Helicopters, hands down it’s DCS World!
I can’t believe it’s not even mentioned on this list! DCS is the MOST realistic and study-level combat simulator ever!
It’s also free and comes with 2 planes. After that, each aircraft in the sim has to be purchased individually and it has a very steep learning curve at first, especially for a 12-year-old, but don’t worry there’s a pack of low fidelity aircraft that are excellent for beginners.

But that’s not all, flight simming is a very expensive hobby and requires many other peripherals such as a good Track IR, Joystick, Throttles, and rudder pedals.


November 21, 2021

How can any list of 2021 combat flight sims seriously not mention DCS?


December 01, 2021

I don’t really care about airplanes or flying, I’m interested in landscapes and travel. I don’t mind if it’s walking or driving a car or boat or bicycle or flying or simply hovering. Which simulation experience provides the most detail and accuracy? I tried a couple “HD” versions, but they were unsatisfactory. Any recommendations?


December 18, 2021

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is a beautiful simulator.


December 18, 2021

Condorsoaring is the best glider simulator. The weather is created for gliding with slope, thermals and waves. There are a lot of glider models available, old gliders, modern gliders. Flights Multiplayer races are very exciting and the flights are very realistic.


January 19, 2022

if you don’t know DCS, then you know nothing about sims 😀

Jarrod West

January 19, 2022

Hi Pete,

Thanks for your feedback!


February 11, 2022

Yes, DCS is marvelous, and it was a surprise for me that Eagle Dynamics is a Russian company. This game is admirable. It has pros and cons are including AAA graphics
* so expensive system requirements and expensive official mods (some of the free community mods are good but rarely)
* excellent real simulation for the gameplay and graphics (google about the DCS supercarrier though it’s not free but there is also a German free version too)
* it’s not supporting mouse for maneuverability and you have to have almost a real stick or a joystick simulator with its latency (yes it is a simulation but even ETS2 provides a little more flexibility(actually a lot more))
* DCS missions/QuickActios/training are a little bug-prone and tricky, if you have a little technical knowledge you will have no problem to make a debug log in the Lua scripts without trouble and making missions working
* Its mods are opensource in Lua with a lot of third-party mods and a big community, as far as I remember BF2 which had a similar situation made a big successful story at that time.
* Before I start e DCS I checked a lot of videos about the comparison between DCS and MSFS and I can say DCS was better if you want a battle flight simulator but if you are looking to take off in a big airplane MSFS is the good one but without any battle.


October 13, 2022

I also like DCS, but Pete this guy doesn’t know Digital Combat Simulator exists so this guy knows nothing about flight sims


April 16, 2022

Any of you old-timer Flight Sims jockeys remember Sierra’s STUNT FLYER game? 1983 – Commodore 64 platform. Legend had it that once you thought your were great enough, you could select the Pro Mode and if you crashed your stunt plane, the consequences were real and painful. You crash your plane; you crash your disk. The game had to be played from the disk and if you crashed your stunt plane, the game would self erase from the floppy disk. Maybe it was all urban legend.


October 13, 2022

DCS is the most realistic military flight sim/ it has almost all fighter jets by mods or the default planes(i was gonna say this)


July 16, 2023

LOL, the “Flight Simulator X” title has a “MSFS 2020” picture. What clickbait. FSX does not look like that.

Keri Stooksbury

July 16, 2023

Thanks g, that’s been adjusted!

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