A great deal has been accomplished in recent years to make flight simulators more accessible to all. In the past, you would have to read a 500-page manual before you could even take off, but one thing hasn’t changed much – it’s still a pain to play with them if all you have are keyboards and mice.
Microsoft has had to put a lot of effort into its mega-sim in order to make it controller-compatible for Flight Simulator 2020.
A lot of players will use a controller, but you cannot fully appreciate the feeling of flying through the virtual skies until you have played a flight simulator (or even space sim, like Elite Dangerous with a Yoke (and you can find the best ones here) or a HOTAS.
Here are our top picks:
Here’s how we chose
It should be obvious from our intro that flight simulators don’t actually require joysticks, but to play them the way they were intended, you kinda do! With additional buttons, knobs, and switches, you get a lot more control over the games. Yes, you can use a controller, but no, if you don’t have a controller, you shouldn’t.
The thing is that most accessories and peripherals such as joysticks, yokes, rudder pedals, and the like tend to cost quite a bit. And, unlike purchasing a new controller, you can’t really use it for other games. As such, it’s a niche purchase and you need to be sure you’re going to use it long term, and b) that you’re spending the correct amount of money upfront.
Here are the best five joysticks available today across a wide range of budgets and features. There really is something for everyone out there – well anyone looking to buy a joystick, anyway.
Best Flight Sim Joystick Reviews
1. Thrustmaster T16000M HOTAS – Joystick and Throttle
There will be a lot of references to Thrustmaster on this page. The company has been around for many, many years and is still not at the top of the flight scene. Apart from its clumsily named name, the Thrustmaster T16000M HOTAS is an excellent starter stick in every way.
In Flight Simulator 2020 and DCS World as well as Elite Dangerous and Star Citizen, the HOTAS will work equally well. Due to a combination of sudden popularity and general shortages of just about everything across the board, gamers have found it hard to buy flight simulator peripherals.
It’s possible to buy the joystick alone, which is in theory a useful peripheral, but it’s also possible to buy it without the throttle, which raises the price, but well, you’ll also have a throttle for your flight simulator.
Despite the ergonomic design, the orange plastic seems like an odd choice, but it doesn’t make any real difference, other than giving the stick a more gamey look.
You won’t need to upgrade any time soon with the Thrustmaster T16000M, which is a great entry-level stick for a reasonable price.
- Great starter stick
- Reasonably priced for what you get
- you won’t feel the need up upgrade it quickly
- Only easily availble in more expensive flavor (with the throttle)
- Orange detailing spoils the look a bit
2. ThrustMaster TCA Officer Pack – Airbus Edition
A licensed Airbus controller is Thrustmaster’s latest entry into flight sticks. In 2020, it announced a partnership to bring branded products to the flight sim marketplace, and this great stick is the first offering modeled after the stick from the Airbus 320 and 320neo.
This game features 17 assignable buttons, hats, and switches, making it a worthy competitor to the above, especially if you intend to fly jetliners in Flight Simulator 2020 rather than fighter jets in DCS World. This unique feature and a great touch is that you can customize the stick with a screwdriver to suit either left or right-hand use. It can be paired with the matching Airbus throttle.
This Officer Pack bundles both together and offers you the best chance to get your hands on one at the moment.
- Modern design
- Modular for both left and right handers
- Difficult to find in stock
- Great for airliners, not so much for fighters
3. Thrustmaster Warthog HOTAS Joystick
When the Warthog was released, I was really into Elite Dangerous and looking for a stick, but I could not justify its premium price to play just one game. My admiration for it has always been based on its metal construction and the fact that it comes without a base and can be screwed down into your own setup. This obviously risks taking a niche product and making it even nicher. That should be a word.
A-10 has a lot to offer, including 19 action buttons, two POV hats, as well as plenty more. Make sure it covers every aspect of your needs before you buy.
- Sturdy as the real thing
- All-metal construction
- Plenty of inputs
- Designed to be incorporated into a larger setup
4. Thrustmaster T.Flight Stick X
The T.Flight Stick X from Thrustmaster is the baby sibling to our first choice item here and can be picked up for around $40, a huge deal when you consider how much a standard game controller costs these days. You do not need to spend hundreds of dollars at the outset if you are unsure if you will get the right amount of use from it. This console does not have the durability of something like the Warthog above, but you wouldn’t really expect it to. It has plenty of plastic buttons and the throttle is a slider on the bottom.
There is a serious deadzone in the center of the stick that can be modded to make it better, but if you can live with it, it is still about a million times better than not using any joystick at all.
You should consider it if you aren’t sure how hard the flight sim bug will bite you.
- Cheap and cheerful
- Rudimentary throttle control
- Lots of buttons
- You aren’t saving the planet with this much plastic
- Won’t survive a lot of bashing around
What other accessories do you need to play a flight sim?
To get your flight airborne, you do not need any accessories if you want to play Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. However, as previously mentioned, you simply won’t get the full experience if you do not utilize the plethora of accessories on the market such as yokes and joysticks. In order to get a feel for what flying is like without spending hundreds of dollars, we recommend at least picking up a joystick at a minimum.
What is the best flight simulator?
Wow, that’s quite the question and the answer all depends on whether, for your gaming experience, you want to be a civilian-style pilot or buzz around in military jets. It is undoubtedly Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 that is the most popular game for the former at the moment, although X-Plane 11 is also highly regarded.
Interested in everything military? Check out DCS World. It’s free to join, but it can get expensive if you want to fly the good stuff.
How much is a flight simulator?
If you really want to get into flight simulations, many of them offer free tiers, such as DCS World or War Thunder (though some would argue those aren’t flight simulations at all). For example, if you have an Xbox Game Pass (Ultimate for the PC version) or regular for the newly released Xbox version, you can play games like Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 for ‘free’. In the best of times, Xbox Game Pass is a great deal, but if you want to try a flight simulator, well, it’s already paid for itself, right?
In the end, the Thrustmaster won out over the Airbus joysticks because while the Airbus joystick feels right for airlines, the Thrustmaster feels right no matter which aircraft you choose. The biggest deal is finding one to buy, but if you see one available, you’ll snap it up right away. It’s a modern stick that has a loyal following and the cost isn’t so high as to be off-putting.