The 8 Best Air Combat Games with Fighter Jets in 2024
24 August 2022 | Updated on November 14, 2023
Air combat games provide armchair pilots with a real-life experience of being at the controls of an actual fighter jet. They allow you to experience the adrenaline rush delivered by the thrills and whirls of dogfights, but without the dangers. Realistic air combat games are a popular gaming niche, and many offer high-quality graphics with legendary fighter jets from the cold war era and several modern fighter aircraft.
Skip this review if what you love is performing a ton of flight and fuel level checks while flying around all day in a flight simulator, because this is a list of the best air combat games that let you get right into the action.
The following list includes free-to-play or paid air combat games which you can get on video game consoles, PC, or arcades with fighter jets from several countries, accurate cockpit depictions, and natural terrain of real cities, including prominent landmarks.
The Best Air Combat Games with Fighter Jets
Now without further ado, here are the 8 best air combat games you can play in 2023!
8. Lock On: Modern Air Combat
Introduced in 2003, Lock On: Modern Air Combat is a single/multirole air combat game for flight simulator fans and aggressive air combat players. It features impressive gameplay modes, which perhaps is a reason for its massive popularity despite its limited collection of fighter aircraft. Players can choose any U.S and Russian fighter jets for a diverse storyline of air-to-air combat or air-to-ground combat game modes, including anti-ship strikes, aerobatics, and pinpoint/anti-radiation strikes. And if your preference is leisurely flight gaming, then its flight simulator offers land-based take-off and landings, carrier-based take-off and landings, aerial refueling, and AWACS. Lock On: Modern Air Combat’s Dynamic Battle Generator perfectly balances a player’s desire to integrate combat and non-combat gameplay within a single storyline, which, in our opinion, makes the game worthy of inclusion in our list of the best air combat games with fighter jets.
7. Strike Fighters: Project 1
First released in 2002 with a throwback plot that progresses through the decades, Strike Fighters: Project 1 provides players with an immersive air combat experience flying venerable cold war fighter jets of yesteryear on combat missions prompted by an age-long conflict over the world’s most contentious and valuable natural resource; crude oil. The storyline centers on the conflict between Dhimar and Paran, two fictional Middle Eastern Kingdoms fighting for the control of strategic crude oil fields and its evolution into a wider war involving the two world superpowers.
Strike Fighters: Project 1 offers traditional combat simulation in a multi-faceted flight simulation platform. Players take the controls of the legendary U.S McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II fighter jet as a career air force pilot or mercenary pilot. In the traditional gameplay style, more weapons and aircraft become available as you progress through the simulation. You can accumulate resources, buy or build a bigger plane, buy ammo, and improve your flying abilities by earning cash for target destruction and mission achievements. The new-generation DirectX 8.1 graphic software renders scenes in 32-bit color, with each player aircraft having a graphics detail of over 5,000 polygons. Other impressive features include colored point light sourcing, multi-layer textures, bump mapping, reflective environment mapping, and an advanced terrain engine with a digital elevation map to provide excellent effects at high and low-level action. Strike Fighters: Project 1 may be a couple of decades old, but it offers a great plot and awesome aircraft, graphics, and a fully customizable game mode deserving of a place on our list of the best air combat games with fighter jets.
6. Jane’s Advance Strike Fighters
Set in both the Middle East and Central Asia, Jane’s Advance Strike Fighters is an impressive flight combat simulation with modern fighter jets and excellent graphics depicting more than 65,000 miles of continuous terrain and multiple gameplay modes. Players assume the critical role of squadron leader Razor of the fictional Central Asian country of Azbaristan and take on several enemies in a quest to protect the country’s interests. Jane’s Advance Strike Fighters is an air combat game that does not try to do too much or outshine in any particular area. Its recipe for success is the well-proven formula of putting new aircraft, weapons, maps, and storylines, including better graphics on an existing flight simulation platform. Among the many real-world jets featured in the game are the F-22A Raptor, F-35 Lightning II, and the Russian Su-35 Super Flanker.
5. Warbirds Extreme: Warriors in the Sky
If you want to experience the thrill of an F-16 barrel roll on your computer screen, or the power of an A-10 Warthog’s tank bursting cannon without being a United States Air Force pilot. We recommend Abacus’s Warbirds Extreme: Warriors in the Sky air combat video game. It is a fast-paced video game designed to fast fighter jets like the Boeing/McDonnell-Douglas F-15E and Lockheed Martin F-16C Falcon into a visually unique non-violent flight simulator environment. The game does not offer many options, with eleven aircraft to choose from. However, its low price, medium quality graphics, and compatibility with Combat Flight Simulator 2 and Flight Simulator 2002 are enough to make our best air combat games with fighter jets list.
4. Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X
Anyone familiar with Tom Clancy’s spy novels won’t be disappointed with Tom Clancy’s HAWX arcade-style air combat video game. It offers players access to over fifty iconic military aircraft, including modern fighter jets and advanced storylines designed to keep you hooked to your game console for hours. Proving your abilities as a top-rated air force pilot against numerous foes is the backdrop for all the game modes in Tom Clancy’s HAWX air video game. You start the game as an ex-U.S Air Force pilot who flies various missions in a high-stakes, fast-evolving landscape where loyalties constantly shift. The gameplay offers several rewards, and each successful mission unlocks additional planes and weapons, earning you more cash and experience points. The Enhanced Reality System provides a faster grasp of the game for new players, including a special assistance mode that warns you of incoming missiles or an imminent crash. You can turn off the system if you feel adventurous or confident enough to perform advanced evasive maneuvers.
Few air combat video games possess Tom Clancy’s HAWX cutting-edge realism, which includes 3D generated multiple viewpoints and life-like terrain created using satellite data. The multiplayer mode has a seamless jump in/jump out functionality with PVP mode one-on-one dogfight challenges. Although it is showing its age, Tom Clancy’s HAWX is still ahead of the game with its massive aircraft collection, a gripping storyline, high-quality graphics, compatibility with an impressive number of platforms, and countless hours of guaranteed fun. We consider it worthy of a spot on our list of the best air combat games with fighter jets.
3. AirFighters Pro
Microsoft AirFighters Pro allows you to fulfill your boyhood dreams of becoming a supersonic test pilot, land fighter jets on aircraft carriers, shoot down enemy fighter jets during intense dogfights, and above all, celebrate your numerous victories by drawing stars representing your kills on your aircraft fuselage. What more can an air combat game player ask?
But there is more, AirFighter Pro air combat game has over five hundred real-life airports with over a thousand runways you can take off and land in real-time weather conditions. Partake in unending adventures flying famous fighter jets with unprecedented realism and performance like the F/A-18 Super Hornet, F-14 Super Tomcat, MiG-29K Fulcrum, AV-8B Harrier II, and the F-22 Raptor. Its immersive gameplay allows you to experience realistic flight procedures and test your game-playing capabilities in the “world campaign.” Microsoft Air Fighter Pro has something for everyone regardless of their playing level. It delivers the look and feels of an advanced flight simulation program at a fraction of its cost and is truly one of the best air combat games with fighter jets on our list.
2. Ace Combat: Assault Horizon
Watch your enemies become flaming debris of metal and burning oil as you become the king of the skies in The Ace Combat: Assault Horizon action flight simulation. Players get to enjoy flying over real-world locations while escalating combat actions in this next installment of the hugely successful air combat game franchise. You’ve got to play the game to experience its fantastic single/multiplayer combat sequences with meticulous attention to the tiniest detail. Immerse yourself in stunning graphics as you chase fighter jets through New York or Los Angeles, dodging skyscrapers and missiles. And when an airplane does blow up in a carnage worthy of Hollywood action films, you realize you are holding the controls of one of the best air combat games with fighter jets ever created.
1. Ace Combat 7
Ace Combat 7 is a thrilling arcade combat game and the first in the Ace Combat series. Featuring slick graphics and fast-paced action, Ace Combat 7 is a new type of virtual flight simulator designed for responsive action and immersive visual interaction between your console and the aircraft. And speaking of aircraft, there are over twenty-eight types ranging from early fighter jets to modern stealth versions.
The gameplay is a slow progression from older, basic fighter jets to more advanced aircraft with the opportunity of winning several rewards as you unlock new stages. Although campaign missions can be overwhelming initially, they get easier to understand as you progress. The game’s quirks are quickly forgotten as you pilot your fighter plane through intense dogfights and chase enemy planes through heavy storms, narrow canyons, and city skyscrapers. Ace Combat 7 is definitely one of the most advanced and best air combat games with fighter jets out there, and it is available on multiple platforms, including Windows, PS 4, and Xbox One.
What Makes a Good Air Combat Game?
Picture this: you’ve just strapped into the cockpit of a cutting-edge fighter jet. The engines roar to life, and you’re seconds away from a high-octane dogfight. But wait! It’s not a real jet, but a video game. Now, what exactly makes one game stand out from the rest and give you that adrenaline rush?
- Immersive Graphics: Let’s be real, who doesn’t want to feel like they’re actually soaring through the skies? Crisp visuals, detailed cockpits, and realistic weather effects can make or break the experience. It’s all about that “wow” moment when you first take off.
- Intuitive Controls: Ever had that moment when you’re shouting “Roll left! No, LEFT!” at the screen? Fluid, responsive controls are a must. Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned pilot in the virtual skies, you shouldn’t need a real pilot’s license to nail that perfect maneuver (we’ve included some more info about controls and hardware below).
- Engaging Storyline: Sure, dogfights are thrilling, but a gripping story keeps you coming back for more. It’s like your favorite action movie, but you’re the star.
- Realism and Detail: The sound of the afterburner, the feel of turbulence, the way the sun glints off your wingman’s jet – it’s these small touches that transport you from your couch to 30,000 feet up.
- Multiplayer Madness: Going solo can be fun, but there’s nothing quite like teaming up with—or taking on—your pals in aerial combat. A smooth multiplayer experience can make an air combat game truly legendary.
Best Hardware for Air Combat Games
So you’re all set on the software front, with a top-tier air combat game ready to roll. But what about the gear? It’s a universal truth among flight sim enthusiasts: the right hardware can catapult your virtual piloting experience to stratospheric levels.
Now, let’s talk about a game-changer we’ve been tinkering with and that many of our readers have been raving about: the Thrustmaster HOTAS products. This isn’t just any flight control system: it’s a detailed replica of the joystick, dual throttle system, and dual throttle control panel found in the iconic U.S. Air Force A-10C attack aircraft.
But the beauty of Thrustmaster’s approach doesn’t stop at the initial purchase. For those of you who’ve gotten your hands on the Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog Flight Stick, you’re in for a treat. The brand offers upgrade options, letting you modify the grip to resemble the controls of other legendary jets like the F-16C Viper or F/A 18. It’s this kind of customization and attention to detail that really stands out for us.
To be clear, we’re not here to make a sales pitch. We’re all about sharing our own experiences and the feedback from our community. And the consensus? If you’re seeking that extra layer of realism and immersion in your aerial adventures, the Thrustmaster HOTAS lineup might just be your ticket to the virtual skies. It’s been a game-changer for many, and it’s worth considering for any serious flight sim enthusiast. Happy flying!
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Bottom line? A great air combat game is more than just flashy graphics and speedy jets. It’s about feeling the thrill, mastering the skies, and sometimes, just having a blast with friends. So next time you’re itching for some aerial action, remember what to look out for!