Virtual flight simulators are a popular activity or hobby that many aviation enthusiasts look forward to utilizing in their spare time. It is not uncommon to see advanced flight simulator controls and joysticks that mirror the real life experience of flying in an airplane cockpit.
In the next section, five high profile flight sim joysticks will be reviewed and analyzed so that you can see what options that you have if you are looking to enhance your virtual flying experience.
Top 5: Flight Sim Joysticks Review
Product Image & Rating (Out Of 10)
This particular joystick is extremely focused on enhancing your virtual flight sim experience. The precision that is achieved with this product is outstanding and the level of quality and performance is truly worth the higher price range.
A throttle handle is included as well as several rotary buttons and switches. If you are looking for a premium joystick with extensive control features, then you will probably want to strongly consider this Logitech G Saitek X52 Flight Control System.
It is time to take a look at the Thrustmaster T.Flight Hotas 4 Flight Stick for PS4 and PC which has earned the fifth position on this countdown of the best flight sim joysticks that are currently listed on the market.
There are several unique features including a high quality flight stick with throttle controls and five additional axis options. There is also a rapid fire trigger and ten buttons that can be mapped to certain controls. This particular item is compatible for both PS4 and PC platforms.
This well balanced flight sim is configured and designed from an extremely reliable and reputable brand known as Thrustmaster. They have a long term existence within the industry and has consistently received positive remarks from customers for their products.
If you are looking for a professionally designed joystick yoke for a virtual flight simulator, it would be extremely difficult to not recommend this outstanding Logitech G Saitek PRO Flight Yoke Joystick System. This particular product is extremely popular among customers and has even received a specific endorsement and recommendation from Amazon.
A high quality flight yoke is integrated with an LCD display as well as several mechanical switches that can be specifically button mapped to certain controls. There is also a separate throttle lever system that adds an additional level of immersion and control that could otherwise not be achieved. These two main parts can be clamped or mounted with the integrated position clamps underneath the device.
If you are looking for a solid gaming joystick that is particularly useful for virtual aviation, then you are probably going to be interested in purchasing this YF2009 USB Gaming Joystick with Vibration Feedback and Throttle Wired Flight Stick. This is a great addition to any flight simulator gaming setups that are in need of a state of the art joystick.
One of the higher quality features that is popular with customers is the vibration force feedback that increases immersion and reaction when flying. The design of the joystick is efficient and comfortable. There are four quad suction cups that lock the device in place during gaming sessions so that it doesn't slide around the surface.
A one year customer warranty is included to all customers that purchase this product. It is definitely a great mid range flight joystick for a PC gaming setup. The customer reviews are also extremely positive which should serve as a positive factor for considering a purchase.
The final product that we are going to take a look at in this review is the extremely popular Logitech Extreme 3D Pro Joystick for Windows. This is certainly one of the most popular joystick devices that currently exists on the market. It is extremely affordable and offers all of the basic features that customers are looking for. There are several buttons integrated on this device as well as a miniature throttle switch that can be rotated like a dial.
One of the reasons that it is so popular in the flight sim industry is because of the fact that it is among the most affordable flight joysticks that currently exists. It comes from a reliable brand and has also received an endorsement from Amazon for receiving outstanding customer feedback.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a flight simulator?
Flight simulators are designed to mimic the experience pilots face when in the cockpit of an aircraft. They can be used for training pilots to help them prepare for flying an actual plane.
There are also many video games that are designed to help players feel like they are the pilot of the aircraft. These games can deliver a very realistic experience that can let players enjoy themselves and engage in a variety of aircraft related tasks, such as building an airplane, creating an airport, planning a flight course, and, of course, flying the plane.
Do I need a flight sim joystick?
While you can control a plane or spacecraft in a flight simulation game without a joystick, using the joystick will help you have a more enjoyable experience. It can help you achieve better control over your aircraft and make you feel like a pilot controlling your plane from the cockpit.
What are the best flight sim games?
If you enjoy flight simulators, here is a list of video games you'll want to check out!
- Microsoft Flight Simulator
- Ace Combat
- X-Plane 11 Global Flight Simulator
- Arma 3
- IL-2 Sturmovik
- FlightGear Flight Simulator
- War Thunder
- Digital Combat Simulator
- Rogue Sky
- Bomber Crew
Can a flight simulator teach you to fly?
No, you won't be able to actually learn how to fly a plane solely by using a flight simulator. However, if you've been taking some flying lessons, a flight simulator can be very useful in helping you practice the skills you learned from your instructor.
What should I do if my joystick doesn't seem to be responding properly?
If your flight sim joystick isn't responding as it should, it may just mean that it needs to be recalibrated. Calibrating your joystick before using it for the first time can also make sure it is set up properly. If your computer uses Microsoft Windows, you can find the calibration settings in the Control Panel.
Look for the section titled Joysticks or Gaming Controllers. You can follow the menus and directions that will displayed to help you get your joystick calibrated and ready to use.
Is it easy to use a joystick to control a plane in a simulator?
Some of this is a matter of opinion. Some players prefer using a mouse and keyboard because they feel it is easier to keep stabilized, while others prefer the feel and response of a joystick. Learning to use a joystick may take you some time, since you're likely much more familiar with how a mouse and keyboard work. However, once you've had time to get used to how the joystick controls the plane, you'll likely feel that it delivers a more authentic flying experience.
Plus, with a joystick, all of your controls are right in the same place, and you won't have to switch back between the mouse and keyboard. Joysticks also allow you to control the throttle; simply pressing or pulling the joystick forward will help your aircraft slow down or speed up. Without a joystick, you'd have to rely on multiple buttons on the mouse and keyboard to perform these acts.
Which joystick setup should I choose?
There are a number of different setup configurations that you can consider. The one you choose will likely depend on your personal preferences, and may vary depending on the game you are playing. The four setup options are: Hands on Throttle and Stick, Hands on Stick and Keyboard, Hands on Stick and Mouse, Hands on Stick and Stick.
Depending on your preferences and the capabilities of your joystick, you may also want to add pedals to your set up. Pedals allow you to move your aircraft sideways, forward, or backward. Some joysticks include a Z-Axis functionality, which would allow you to perform all of these motions with the joystick, so you wouldn't need pedals.
How many buttons does a joystick need?
You'll likely find a lot of variability in the number of buttons on different joysticks you're looking at. You will want to find a product with a minimum of five buttons: a hat-switch on the top of the joystick and four buttons around the stick.
Some flight sim games will require you to use more buttons than this, so you may find it helpful to purchase a joystick with more buttons. However, if you ever run into a problem where you don't have enough buttons on your joystick, you can always use the buttons on your keyboard to supplement what is on the joystick.
Are more expensive joysticks better than cheaper options?
Yes, typically a more expensive joystick will perform better. Cheaper options tend to have more problems and will not deliver the same experience and level of control as you'd receive with a more expensive joystick. Here are a few issues that are commonly associated with cheaper products:
- Precision: Cheaper sticks will not be calibrated as well as more expensive options. This means they won't be as precise and may cause you to miss shots or for your aircraft to moves in ways you don't want it to.
- Quality: The cheaper sticks won't last as long as more expensive options either. They are not as durable and are much more likely to break after a few months or a year, depending on game play. On the other hand, if you invest in a more expensive product, it could easily last for multiple years.
- Dead zones: High-end sticks on the market will not have any dead zones, or areas around the center where there is no reaction from the stick. This is not the case with many cheaper models, and can definitely have a negative impact on game play.
- Software: Cheaper sticks have cheaper software. This can limit your ability to set up your joystick how you want it and assign keymaps for different games.
How Expensive Is an Average Gaming Joystick?
The average gaming joystick ranged from around thirty dollars up to about two hundred dollars. The higher quality joysticks typically have professionally designed features which can greatly increase the price. The casual gaming joysticks that focus on value are usually closer to the lower portion of the pricing spectrum.
If you are looking for an affordable joystick because you are on a tight budget, then you can't go wrong with the cheap Logitech Extreme 3D Pro Joystick which is popular for its outstanding value within the industry.
What Is the Best Joystick for Flight Simulation?
If you are looking for a high quality and immersive simulation experience, then you should definitely consider one of the professionally designed products on this listing. The ideal choice for you might be this Logitech G Saitek PRO Flight Yoke Joystick System which has integrated a high level of performance in order to simulate as many aspects of flying as possible.
It clocks in at an expensive price range, but it includes a full flight system yoke as well as a throttle adjuster. This is an extremely popular flight joystick from Logitech that has earned an outstanding reputation.
How Do I Use My Joystick on My PC?
Many on the common joysticks within the industry are simply designed to be plug and play. Occasionally, a joystick device might require specific drivers in order to function properly on a specific game or platform. These can usually be found online at the manufacturers website or through a disc that is included with the packaging.
Most joystick controllers are equipped with a USB wired cable that can be plugged into one of the USB ports on your computer. Many of the industry's most popular flight games will automatically detect the joystick when it is plugged in.
How flight sim joysticks can make gaming more funWhen Top Gun first came out, many people wanted to be Maverick and being able to fly the skies in daring feats of action against rival pilots. Flight sims allow people to be able to live this fantasy in the form of games like Microsoft’s Flight Simulator series and Digital Combat Simulator (also known as DCS World) from Eagle Dynamics, a free-to-play flight simulator with a limited number of aircraft, with premium content available through purchase.
Iconic aircraft such as the U.S. Navy’s F-14 Tomcat, F/A-18 Hornet, and the Soviet/Russian Federation MiG-29 are realistically simulated through the game. Everything is duplicated down to the smallest detail, from the exterior air frame of the plane down to the interior cockpit controls. When flying these in-game, they operate as close to real-life as possible.
On top of realistic flight sims, the gaming market is bracing for the release of Star Wars Squadrons, a new game that harkens back to the days of LucasArts’ X-Wing and Tie Fighter series. The title is another example where players will be able to experience the excitement of flying Rebel and Imperial spaceships and engage in exciting dogfights as part of large squadrons within the Star Wars universe.
Joysticks vs Controller vs Mouse and Keyboard
Gaming joysticks are nothing new, but provide a realistic means of controlling your aircraft in-game vice using a mouse and keyboard or controller in aircraft arcade games like the Ace Combat series. Mouse and keyboards along with gaming controllers don’t replicate the same feeling of having a joystick in your hand. You wouldn’t feel like Luke Skywalker if you were piloting an X-Wing fighter with a mouse and keyboard, would you?
Operation Desert Storm would be the first real-world campaign in which you could see laser-guided bombs drop on targets from the safety of your TV screen, long before YouTube came about and invaded the internet. Imagine flying an F-18 over hostile territory, ready to drop a bomb against an enemy tank column or dogfight against a rival aircraft. Flight sim joysticks are meant to simulate the realism of the cockpit, whereas in the olden days the buttons you would normally see would be on the base of the joystick, not the joystick itself.
Technology progressed steadily since the days of early flight sims. Instead of cheap-looking plastic joysticks, you’ll find that the joysticks of today have a little bit of extra weight along with additional controls based on their constructions. While these new joysticks for PCs aren’t cheap per se, the price of admission when it comes to experiencing flight is worth the price of admission.
Flight Sim Rig Tips
Building up a flight rig is an expensive endeavor that requires a lot of investment. Before you start, you should gauge how much real estate is available on your desk and in your room before purchasing the necessary equipment for your flight simulator experience. You’ll need to start with the joystick first before you move on to anything else.
They don’t necessarily have to be expensive, but you will need to get one that’s responsive to your inputs whenever you pitch and roll your aircraft. There are two types of joystick designs available on the market today: realistic and universal.
What makes them different, you ask? Universal joysticks are ergonomic controllers with a modern appearance. They also come with programmable buttons and switches that can be tailored to your personal preferences. This program-ability are these joysticks’ primary advantage.
Realistic joysticks are exactly what their names suggest: realistic. They are built and designed to mirror the controls of real-life aircraft. A case example of this is Thrustmasters’ HOTAS Warthog, which is based on the U.S. Air Force’s A-10 aircraft.
In addition to these two different types of controls, other factors that you need to consider include:
- The type of chair you’ll be sitting in. You won’t be sitting on a chair with wheels that roll around when you’re piloting real-world aircraft, would you?
- Yaw: an essential part of aircraft control where you’re utilizing a pair of petals to steer your plane via the Y-axis. While it’s possible to use the Y-axis through your joystick, it takes away the realism of maneuvering your aircraft.
- VR headsets like the Oculus are nice to have if you want to push the realism boundaries to the limit. Or, you can stick with your monitor screen if the VR goggles are too dizzying for you to use. If you opt with the monitor option, there are monitor rigs to aid in the immersion of the flight sim experience with the inclusion of interior and exterior view control panels.
- Be prepared to log in lots of hours to learn your aircraft. In real-life, military and commercial pilots do this to develop the competency and proficiency necessary to operate the complex instruments of their aircraft.
Joysticks Used for Flight Sims
We included some flight sim joysticks that can be used for gaming. While there are plenty to choose from, these three are among the most popular used by flight sim enthusiasts:
1. Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog
When it comes to the Warthog, you would think it came from the A-10 Thunderbolt itself. In fact, its appearance is derived directly from the famous aircraft and comes with industrial-grade strength that gives it a good weight to it, which helps to keep it firmly down on your desk whenever you’re flying your aircraft.
The Warthog is a sturdy joystick consisting mainly of the industrial-grade metal casing. Thrustmaster’s Warthog comes with buttons adorned all over the stick, along with extra hat switches covering the throttle. There is also one particular hat switch that can change into two if you need to be discrete in the control of your craft.
Flick and toggle switches accompany the throttle to aid in discrete control. There’s a certain level of satisfaction when it comes to experimenting with the different levers and buttons that are available on this controller. If you’re curious, you can mess around to see what different controls best suit your preferences.
One outstanding flaw that sticks out is the lack of a Z-axis control to help provide rudder control for your aircraft. This can be compensated through the use of extra analog joysticks or hat switches. Aside from that, this joystick is an excellent one, with a great number of customization features suited for any aspiring flight sim pilot.
Pros & Cons
+ Durable base construction
+ Responsive controls
- Lacks Z-axis control
2. Thrustmaster T.Flight HOTAS X
A cheaper alternative to the Warthog, the HOTAS X comes at a much more affordable price compared to its cousin. The caveat to that is that the HOTAS X is designed more cheaply compared to the Warthog platform and lacks the numerous controls that accompany the latter.
The lack of controls and hat switches can be compensated through the use of your keyboard. Compared to the Warthog, it comes with a Z-axis to aid in controlling your rudder. You can activate this feature in front of the throttle grip via a rocker switch.
There are plenty of buttons that you can use on this joystick, but they are not in great abundance compared to other joysticks on the market. The HOTAS is ideal to purchase if you’re on a tight budget.
Pros & Cons
+ Offers great value for the price
+ Comes with a detachable thrust
- Fewer controls and hats compared to the Warthog
- Action isn’t too responsive
3. Logitech G X56 HOTAS RGB
Logitech is among the finest makers of game controllers, and their X56 HOTAS RGB is no exception. The X56 is a successor of the company’s X55 joystick, improving on legacy Saitek joystick controllers while still offering the same core features that made the older models so good. You can unlock the throttle to provide inputs for your right and left engines, either one at a time or both simultaneously. The throttle panel of the controller offers
On top of the vast array of controls already available, there are holes at the base of the controller that allows the X56 to be permanently affixed to any desk surface. The suction cups included in the package helps to provide stability for the base of the joystick.
If these weren’t mounted at the bottom, the joystick would often flop around, making it easy to slip from the desk. Aside from the size and weight issues, the X56 is a good quality joystick to have.
Despite its heavy-looking appearance, the X56 is a light platform.
Pros & Cons
+ Light setup
+ Durable construction
- Can take up too much space due to its size
- Needs extra weight to keep it in place
The virtual aviation industry is filled with high quality flight yokes and joysticks that mirror the real life experience. There are popular game titles like Microsoft Flight Simulator X and X-Plane that present players with an unmatched simulation of aviation.
If you are participating in this activity as a hobby, you will have a great time looking for high quality control props like joysticks and throttle panels and possible even cockpit gauges. There are so many neat things to look for when browsing through the gaming world. Flight simulation technology is always developing new ideas so that users can experience virtual aviation in an entirely new way.
Now that we have had an opportunity to look at five of the highest rated gaming joysticks for flight simulation, you might want to begin narrowing down your options so that you can ultimately select a high quality product for your flight sim rig.
All of these products have impressive specifications and outstanding customer reviews. The hardest part about this choice is actually determining which item will suit your personal preferences the best.