The 5 Best Flight Simulator Joysticks to Buy in 2024
25 May 2023 | Updated on December 03, 2023 | 0 comments
Commanding an aircraft, gliding through the clouds or diving into intense aerial combats, is an exhilarating experience. But to truly get the feel of it, you need the right flight simulator gear. For some, the flight simulator yoke is the go-to hardware, offering an authentic taste of what it’s like to command larger commercial aircraft. However, for those who prefer the swift and precise response of a fighter jet, or those simply constrained by space, joysticks make an excellent choice.
As flight simulator software grows increasingly realistic, having the right joystick not only enhances immersion but also refines your control and execution. Joysticks offer an attractive alternative for both space-conscious users and those who predominantly fly aircraft controlled by sticks.
Flight Simulator Joystick vs Yoke
When it comes to flying virtually, the type of hardware you use significantly impacts your experience. Two of the most common control devices used by flight sim enthusiasts are joysticks and yokes. But which one is right for you? That often depends on the type of aircraft you’re interested in flying and the level of realism you’re looking for.
Yokes are generally found in larger commercial aircraft, such as Boeing planes, or small aircraft like the popular Cessna and Piper aircraft, and they function much like a steering wheel in a car. They offer a highly realistic control scheme for those virtual pilots who prefer simulating commercial aviation or these popular 4-seater airplanes. Yokes control pitch and roll of the aircraft through pushing, pulling, and turning motions, mimicking the controls of actual airplanes. If you’re a fan of the Boeing fleet or enjoy the experience of flying larger passenger jets, a yoke might be your best bet, just like when you’re flying a Cessna 172 or Piper Arrow in real life.
For my own flight training, where I flew a yoke-equipped Piper Tomahawk, so a yoke was the better option for me. A few years later, however, the yoke started to take too much space in my home office, which is why I replaced it with a more space-friendly joystick.
On the other hand, joysticks, also known as flight sticks, are typically found in fighter jets and smaller, single-engine planes. They provide quick, precise input and are generally more intuitive for beginners. Joysticks are held in one hand, with movements in all directions controlling the plane’s pitch and roll, and twisting actions controlling yaw. Many joysticks also come with throttle controls and a multitude of buttons that can be programmed for various functions. If you’re keen on fighter jets, acrobatic planes, or even spacecraft, a joystick could be the right choice for you.
Both yokes and joysticks have their place in the world of flight simulation. The decision ultimately comes down to your preferences, your simulation goals, and the space you have available for your setup. Rest assured, with the range of excellent products available in 2023, whether you opt for a yoke or a joystick, you’re in for a fantastic flying experience.
The 5 Best Flight Simulator Joysticks in 2023
Now, let’s dive in with 5 popular and top-rated flight simulator joysticks you can buy today.
1. Thrustmaster T-Flight X
Perfect for those just starting their journey into the world of flight simulation, the Thrustmaster T-Flight Stick X is a fantastic beginner-friendly joystick that combines ease of use with value for money. This entry-level joystick proves that simplicity and performance can go hand in hand, providing an ideal stepping stone for new flight sim enthusiasts.
While the T-Flight Stick X may not have the high-end build quality or the level of customization found in more expensive models, it offers reliable performance that can significantly enhance your enjoyment of flight sims. If you’re new to flight simulators or on a tight budget, the Thrustmaster T-Flight Stick X is a worthy choice that offers good value for your money.
2. Thrustmaster HOTAS 4
The Thrustmaster T.Flight HOTAS 4 takes flight simulation a notch higher by bringing together simplicity, versatility, and an attractive price point. Sharing many similarities with its sibling, the T-Flight Stick X, this model adds a detachable throttle quadrant, providing a more comprehensive and realistic flight experience.
Although not as high-end or as customizable as some of the more premium models, the Thrustmaster T.Flight HOTAS 4 brings a robust feature set that offers fantastic value for beginners and budget-conscious flight sim enthusiasts. It serves as an excellent bridge for those looking to move from a basic joystick to a more sophisticated HOTAS setup without breaking the bank.
3. Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog Flight Stick
When it comes to precision and immersion, it’s tough to beat the Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog. This joystick, inspired by the controls found in U.S. Air Force aircraft, offers a highly realistic experience. With a dual throttle system and a multitude of programmable buttons, it’s perfect for any virtual pilot looking to take their experience to the next level.
This flight stick is part of the Thrustmaster HOTAS products: a replica set of the joystick, dual throttle system and dual throttle control panel of the U.S. Air Force A-10C attack aircraft. With an average Amazon rating of 4.5/5 (460+ reviews!), this flight stick is one of the top-rated flight simulator joysticks available at the moment.
The dual-throttle system and control panel can be purchased separately here.
4. Thrustmaster TCA Sidestick Airbus Edition
The Thrustmaster TCA Sidestick Airbus Edition is an ergonomic 1:1 scale replica inspired by the iconic Airbus sidestick, the TCA Sidestick Airbus Edition ensures unique handling. From the ergonomic design to the button layout, this flight stick does an impressive job of immersing you in the role of an Airbus pilot.
This flight stick is part of Thrustmaster’s TCA (Thrustmaster Civil Aviation) line, designed with an emphasis on realism and immersion for civil aviation simulation enthusiasts.
The Airbus sidestick can also be bought together with the matching throttle quadrant in the Thrustmaster TCA Officer Pack Airbus Edition.
5. Logitech G X56 HOTAS RGB Throttle and Stick
The Logitech G X56 HOTAS RGB Throttle and Stick provides complete control featuring analog thumbsticks, RGB lighting, 16-bit aileron and elevator axis, 189 programmable controls, and an updated stealthy black and gray finish.
Offering a multitude of customizable options and remarkable precision, the X56 enhances the flight sim experience by leaps and bounds.
What to Look for When Buying a Flight Simulator Joystick in 2023
When buying a (new) flight simulator joystick, there are a few things you should consider and look out for:
- Comfort and Ergonomics: The design of the joystick plays a significant role in your overall experience. It should comfortably fit in your hand and be easy to use for extended periods. Look for joysticks with adjustable components, such as stick tension or throttle resistance, to customize the feel to your liking.
- Precision and Responsiveness: The joystick’s responsiveness is key to an immersive experience. Precision becomes especially crucial when executing complex maneuvers. Higher-end models use Hall Effect sensors or optical sensors to ensure maximum precision and longevity.
- Programmable Buttons and Features: Having a variety of buttons, triggers, and switches that you can program for different functions adds to the realism and can improve your efficiency in the cockpit. Some joysticks also come with additional features like a twist axis for rudder control or mini analog sticks for more granular control.
- Build Quality: The construction of the joystick should be sturdy and durable. Metal joysticks generally offer better durability than their plastic counterparts, but a well-built plastic model can still provide a long service life.
- Compatibility: Check that the joystick is compatible with your computer system (Windows, Mac, Linux) and the flight sim software you’re using. Some joysticks are also compatible with gaming consoles.
- Price: Flight simulator joysticks range in price from budget-friendly to high-end. While more expensive models usually offer more features and better build quality, there are plenty of affordable options that provide excellent performance for their price.
- Reviews and Recommendations: Look for reviews and recommendations from other users, particularly those who have the same flight sim software and similar requirements to yours. This can give you a good sense of the joystick’s performance in real-world conditions.
Whether you’re just starting your flight simulation journey or you’re an experienced pilot looking to upgrade your setup, there’s a joystick in this list to meet your needs. Each one offers unique strengths that can enhance your flight sim experience, making every virtual flight a memorable one.
We personally used and love the Thrustmaster T Flight Stick X, so we can assure you this is a great, fairly inexpensive option if you want to buy a quality flight simulator joystick. However, if you have just a tiny bit more money to spend, the Thrustmaster T-Flight Hotas 4 offers by far the best value for money on the market today, as it’s compact yet includes a simple throttle lever and some additional buttons.
Happy (virtual) flying!