Want to see what virtual reality headsets were made for, then buy a flight simulator. Seriously, prior to the first wave of consumer devices arriving in 2016 VR existed for decades before, quite often used by militaries around the world for flight training. With VR so accessible now, stepping into a cockpit of a Boeing or a Harrier Jumpjet has never been easier, or more immersive. So here is XR Source’s selection of the best VR flight simulators.
The Best VR Flight Simulators
There’s a good selection of VR flight sims to choose from out there. Whether you’re after a pure simulator to enjoy the realism of flying. Or toning down the hyper-realistic controls to add some arcade action into the mix.
Below you’ll find titles (in no particular order) highlighting VR flight simulators from across the board. Playable across a variety of VR headsets including PC VR, PSVR/PSVR 2 and Meta Quest 2.
Microsoft Flight Simulator
We have to start with Microsoft Flight Simulator as the latest edition from Asobo Studio is a joy to behold. From classic planes to modern jets and helicopters as well as gliders, this has it all. Full sim controls are in place and the game uses real-world map data, photogrammetry, and satellite imagery to provide unbelievable location accuracy and detail. Even the weather is simulated to mirror where you’re flying in real time.
There are tons of customisation options with a huge range of included planes and airports available, with more added with each update. You can also purchase more aircraft, airports and liveries at the marketplace. Furthermore, Microsoft Flight Simulator caters for all control methods, whether that’s a gamepad or a full HOTAS set-up. For the most immersive experience possible in VR, the latter is the most desirable option.
You’ll need a beefy PC to run all of this in VR, but it’s worth it. Microsoft Flight Simulator is hard to beat.
The first Ultrawings from Bit Planet Games was a good arcade-style flight game. Its sequel enhanced many of the original’s features, offering a bigger, brighter game with more fun stuff to do. Ultrawings 2 is part flight sim and part zany sky racer. Where you can finesse your skills on the manual controls or go head-to-head in competitive multiplayer.
Featuring five aircraft including a classic fighter plane and a helicopter, Ultrawings 2 has a range of islands to discover all with day, night, dusk, and overcast conditions. Physically grab the stick and throttle to head skyward or use your controller’s stick and buttons for an arcade feel. There are hundreds of missions to keep you busy from dogfighting enemy bogies to popping balloons with a dart pistol. You do still need to practice your landings afterwards though!
Warplanes: Battles over Pacific
Another flight game with that mix of arcade action and flight sim designs, Warplanes: Battles over Pacific takes place during World War 2. Just like Ultrawings 2, Warplanes: Battles over Pacific provides fully customizable flight models, with full controller support to simulation, or somewhere in between.
With a single-player campaign based on the Pacific battles between the Americans and Japanese, there are 15 accurate planes to fly from both countries. The most recent update even includes a Spitfire Mk.V, flown by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). Players can also team up with friends in the co-op mode or get competitive in the PvP multiplayer.
You might also want to check out its predecessor, Warplanes: WW1 Fighters, which, as the name indicates features classic WW1-era aircraft.
If all you’re after is huge multiplayer battles in realistic military vehicles then give War Thunder a look. It’s not a flight sim per se, as there are a range of aerial, ground-based and navel craft to step into. However, War Thunder is completely free to download and start playing, with a bunch of additional DLC packs like the AH-64A Apache addon to purchase.
There are quite literally thousands of vehicles to take into battle, all of which are highly detailed and historically accurate. With dozens and dozens of maps that take players across historical campaigns as well as solo missions, War Thunder has a wealth of content available.
DCS World Steam Edition
Time to get really serious flight sim enthusiasts. If Microsoft Flight Simulator doesn’t do it for you then maybe Digital Combat Simulator World (DCS World) will. Part of an elite group of ultra-realistic flight simulators, DCS World offers meticulously recreated military planes and helicopters with the ability to test them in combat.
DCS World has seven regions to wage war in including the Black Sea, Persian Gulf, English Channel, and Normandy in 1944. Planes like the TF-51 Mustang and Su-25T attack jet give players a taste of what it is like to fly these amazing planes when being attacked by other pilots. Be aware that because of the astonishing graphical fidelity, DCS World is a very demanding PC game. It does look awesome though!
Oh, and DCS World is free to download and try! But there are over 100 DLC packs to buy when you want to enhance your aircraft and map selection.
Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown
The Ace Combat series has been going for a while and this latest iteration thankfully included VR support. One of the few on this list that supports PSVR, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is about wall-to-wall action. Like the film Top Gun but where you get to play Maverick and be that awesome pilot you’ve always thought you were.
There’s a single-player campaign as well as a multiplayer mode. However, the VR support is limited to a specific ‘VR mode’ featuring three exclusive missions, an airshow mode, Free Flight, and the hangar. Whilst not as VR inclusive as the other games on this list, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown still provides enough raw, photorealistic excitement to make it a worthy addition.
Time to bring VR and realistic flight sims into one native package, VTOL VR. Built specifically for virtual reality, this is another combat flight game where you pilot advanced multi-role jets. While VTOL VR doesn’t feature the same graphical fidelity as Microsoft Flight Simulator or DCS World, because it was developed with VR first and foremost, all the buttons and switches work. Which as we all know is important in any VR game.
This makes VTOL VR a satisfying experience to play whilst sitting in an F/A-26 fighter jet or an AV-42C Tilt-jet VTOL attack/transport vehicle. There’s even an ejector seat handle when things have really gone wrong. Get up to speed in the single-player missions then try your luck in the PvP mode.
And there you have it. That wraps up our picks of the seven best VR flight simulators! What are your thoughts? Which ones did we miss? Let us know in the comments below!
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