While commercial flight simulators are best suited to yokes, a joystick is what you’ll need for combat-based flight sims. When choosing a joystick, the three factors to consider are precision, customization, and build quality. Based on this, we’ve found the top joysticks for flight sim.
The Top-Rated Joysticks for Flight Sim
|Best Overall||Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog PC||90%|
|Runner-Up||Logitech G X56 H.O.T.A.S. RGB||90%|
|VR Ready||Logitech G Saitek X52 Pro Flight Control System||88%|
|Also Great||Thrustmaster T.16000M FCS HOTAS Controller||87%|
|Budget Pick||Thrustmaster T.16000M FCS HOTAS Controller||80%|
|Multi-Purpose||Logitech Extreme 3D Pro||82%|
Best Overall: Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog PC
The Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog PC immediately gives off a military look. It’s made almost entirely of metal, is a beautiful black color, and will feel incredible to use. Coupled with the fantastic build quality is the fact that it’s modelled after the controls on the A-10. Not only from a purely aesthetic perspective, but from a realism one as well. You will have to apply the same pressure as if you were flying the real thing.
Regarding the meat of the issue: the precision of it is nigh unparalleled thanks to the use of magnetic sensors. It has 20 remappable buttons, switches, and hats, as well as a separate throttle.
There are two major drawbacks we should mention. The first is a lack of z-axis rotation, meaning you will have to purchase rudder pedals (see our guide here). The second is the price. It’s steep. But if you’re willing to spend a lot, then the HOTAS Warthog will have you feeling like an ace in no time.
Runner-Up: Logitech G X56 H.O.T.A.S. RGB
- Military-grade Space and Flight Sim Precision. Customizable options including all the control surface options required to achieve the exact level of performance that aspiring combat pilots demand
- New Mini Analog Stick Control Surfaces: Control pitch, roll, yaw, backwards, forwards, up, down, left and right as well as gimballed weapons that are controlled separately from the space craft
- RGB Backlighting: Many PC peripherals now feature RGB backlighting and the X-56 is no exception. Use the software to set the color of the lighting to match the rest of your gaming rig
- Ideal for VR: The X-56 places controls perfectly under your fingers where subtle distinctions in button feel and shape help you navigate the control set with ease
- Fully Featured HOTAS: Accurate 16-bit aileron and elevator axis with hall-effect sensors. Adjustable Stick Force via Advanced 4-Spring System. Twin Throttles with Friction Adjuster and Throttle Lock
The Logitech G X56 H.O.T.A.S. RGB is perhaps the smarter choice for many buyers. Logitech has created an incredibly accurate, hyper-authentic joystick. This one even has more customizable buttons and switches (30) compared to its counterpart and a total of close to 190 programmable modes. Once again magnetic sensors give you centimeter perfect precision. The G X56 HOTAS also comes with z-axis support and a separate throttle.
Where it falls slightly short with regards to the Warthog is the build quality. It’s not bad, but going to plastic after having tried the hefty metal body of the Warthog is difficult. Nevertheless, for a vast variety of users this will be the better choice, as it allows for more custom options and a lower price-point.
VR Ready: Logitech G Saitek X52 Pro Flight Control System
- Illuminated buttons and enhanced gameplay through intuitive LCD multi-function display
- Progressive throttle with resistance adjustment and detents for Afterburner and Idle
- Precision centering mechanism; No contact Technology on x and Y axes and constant spring force improve control
- Program your controller for each game using the powerful smart technology software. System requirements: Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 7, 2-usb 2.0 port, internet connection for optional software download
- 5 position handle adjustment system to suit all hand sizes with soft-touch, contoured grip for maximum gaming comfort
The Logitech G Saitek X52 Pro Flight Control System is a tried and tested line of excellent joysticks for flight simulators. The first thing that is clearly noticeable is the emphasis that Logitech placed on advanced settings for VR, making this one of, if not the top pick for those who plan on flying with a VR headset.
Adding to this is the high levels of customization available, though it should be noted that there are occasional software issues that might hamper with controller configuration.
Nevertheless, this joystick is super precise, well-built, has plenty of buttons and a multi-function LCD display, a progressive throttle with resistance adjustment, and can be adjusted for 5 different hand sizes and grasps.
As a final nail in the (positive) coffin: the price isn’t too egregious. It can often be found discounted too, so definitely worth keeping an eye out for.
Also Great: Thrustmaster T.16000M FCS HOTAS Controller
- The T.16000M FCS HOTAS is compatible with PC via USB in Windows 10, 8, 7 and Vista (32-bit and 64-bit)
- 16 action buttons with braille - style physical button identification
- Exclusive precision:Hall Effect accurate technology 3D (Hall Effect) magnetic sensors located on the Stick (us patent: Us08471815)
- 4 independent axes, including twist rudder (controlled by rotating the Stick)
- 14 action buttons + 8-way POV hat: two 4-Way switches + 3 buttons + one 2-position Slider + 1 push mini-stick + one 8-way point of view hat switch
Let’s start with the few things we aren’t a fan of with the Thrustmaster T.16000M FCS HOTAS Controller: it has only 17 buttons, certain users have reported issues with yaw pickup. That’s it. Really.
The joystick is an absolute pleasure to use. It has impeccable weight distribution, is one of the few joysticks that supports four independent axes, syncs with VR with close to no issues, is a fully ambidextrous joystick (excellent for the lefties out there) and uses magnetic sensors for pinpoint precision. Moreover, it’s quite cheap! It’s slightly more expensive than our budget picks but is so much better. Even at this affordable price tag, you can often find it discounted. All this makes it our favourite joystick for space sim, and a strong contender for flight sim!
Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, we will always recommend you take this joystick into consideration.
Budget Pick: Thrustmaster T.Flight HOTAS X
- Wide hand-rest for optimal comfort
- Programmable: The 12 buttons and 5 axles are entirely programmable
- Dual-system, aerodynamic control: By rotating handle (with integrated blocking system) or by progressive tilting lever
- Internal memory: To save all of your programming, even with the joystick disconnected
- High-precision joystick with adjustable resistance
Admittedly this won’t be heralded as the most realistic experience by professional pilots. That being said, the Thrustmaster T.16000M FCS HOTAS Controller a surprisingly solid pick.
The build quality can’t but be in plastic, but it doesn’t feel cheap or toy-like. The throttle assembly itself is fully detachable, allowing you to rewire it to either side of the keyboard. As a final feature it has the ability to store multiple mapping profiles on the on-board memory, which you can easily switch between without having to run any software.
There aren’t a plethora of buttons (17) but they are more than enough for beginners, this joystick’s target audience. For its price-tag, it’s a steal.
Multi-Purpose: Logitech Extreme 3D Pro
- 12 action buttons, an eight-way hat switch, and a rapid-fire trigger
Even just when first touching the Logitech Extreme 3D Pro you can tell it has a few tricks up its sleeve. It’s heavier than many so-called “non-budget” picks, meaning that it won’t tip even after long simulator sessions. The build quality remains excellent, and the precision is better than we would have thought for this price-tag.
It doesn’t have a huge amount of buttons, but all 12 are intelligently placed, allowing for easy access during gameplay. What isn’t as ideal are the throttle controls, which can be jittery on occasion. This final consideration can be either a positive or a negative: the stick is stiffer than others. This gives it a great feel, and it fun to use, but can cause fatigue if you plan on playing for long spans of time. Personally, we like this joystick for X-Plane 11.
Last Updated on April 12, 2021 by Thomas Bush