6 Free Flight Simulators to Experience Virtual Flying
The flight simulator genre of video games has reached quite a wide audience since its inception. It’s easy to see why, as the thought of soaring through the sky while controlling an intricately complex vehicle will give anyone an adrenaline rush. Sadly, the best of the best flight simulation games are pricey and demand expensive hardware to run properly.
However, if you just want to scratch that aviation itch for cheap, there are a handful of free flight simulators out there that you can try. We tried the dozens of options available and were able to narrow the list down to six of the best free flight simulators.
FlightGear is an open-source flight simulation game that was released nearly two decades ago. Originally, it was developed for Linux machines and welcomed community modifications. Since then, the game has earned a lot of support in the form of updates from the community surrounding it.
The game provides you access to a diverse fleet of aircraft, from small single-engine planes to large commercial airliners. It uses detailed and accurate flight models, allowing it to replicate realistic flight dynamics and aircraft behaviors. This game features a wide variety of airports, terrain, equipment, and add-ons from the community.
FlightGear is the type of game you will enjoy if setting up a flight simulator rig on your PC sounds interesting to you. There’s a lot to explore, and there’s a lot of depth to it thanks to the community add-ons.
Download: FlightGear for Windows | Mac (Free)
2. Microsoft Flight Simulator
Technically, Microsoft Flight Simulator is not entirely free. You can buy and download the game on Steam, but if you’re subscribed to the Xbox Game Pass free trial, then you can try the game for no extra cost. It’s hard to talk about flight simulators without mentioning this one, as it is the gold standard in the genre.
Even if you’re not the biggest aviation enthusiast, this is the type of game that you can pick up and immediately enjoy. The graphical fidelity is great, and the mechanics feel well-implemented and realistic. Furthermore, the game takes real-life data and procedurally generates a map based on that. This allows you to visit various parts of the world.
On top of all that, Microsoft Flight Simulator has an excellent selection of planes, and the realism on display here is second to none. The game was so popular that flight sticks quickly sold out after Microsoft Flight Simulator’s release.
Download: Microsoft Flight Simulator (Free trial with Xbox Game Pass)
3. Google Earth Flight Simulator
There’s a lot you can do with Google Earth, such as getting a satellite view of your house from the app. However, Google Earth also includes a flight simulator built into the desktop app. It is more of a mini-game than a complete simulator. The graphics are not that great, but it is in real-time, meaning you can fly over a virtual map of the Earth.
The mechanics are pretty simple and the controls are very intuitive. It feels more like flying an FPV drone around the globe. There is not much to say about it, as it is a simple game to burn some time. Since the maps are generated from real data from Google satellites, you can fly over different parts of the world and explore.
While it’s not as in-depth as others on this list, it is by far the most accessible. It’s the easiest way of virtually flying around the globe, all for free.
Download: Google Earth (Free)
4. Digital Combat Simulator World
If you are a fan of fighter jets and air combat, this is the game for you. The latest version of the game, DCS World 2.8, offers a realistic simulation of military jets, ground vehicles, and even ships. There are several missions spread across the Black Sea and Caucasus region.
Though it can be quite complicated for newer players, it has great in-depth tutorials for beginners, covering each plane and its mechanics in depth. DCS does a great job of mixing action-packed situations with tight mechanics and controls. The attention to detail from every switch/button to the physics is utterly impressive.
Although the game is free to download, there are additional aircraft, ground vehicles, and weapons available for purchase. You can also try the open beta of the game if you’re looking for a multiplayer experience.
Download: Digital Combat Simulator for Windows (Free, in-app purchases)
GeoFS is the only flight simulator on this list that can run on your browser. It is a simple flight simulator that lets you explore the world how you want. There aren’t really any in-depth missions or challenges with this one. However, considering it’s playable with most browsers, the graphics are quite good.
The mechanics are realistic and refined, something you would not expect from a free browser game. Furthermore, the controls are simple and easy to get a hold of after two or three flights. Additionally, the game also has controller support. The game features navigation charts, 30 available aircraft, and a multiplayer experience.
It even shows off real-time weather with a dynamic day/night cycle and global satellite imagery. There’s a paid version as well that can remove ads, but ads are not that intrusive in the base game either.
Play Online: GeoFS (Free, paid version available)
6. Aces High III
Aces High III is a free-to-play simulator that features vintage WW1 and WW2 combat. You battle it out with hundreds of players in a multiplayer setting. Furthermore, this game also has tanks, boats, and other vehicles for you to fight in.
Although the flight mechanics themselves are quite good, the game does have a few bugs and glitches given it’s an older title. However, the planes are well-designed and resemble vintage aircraft from the previous century. The gameplay itself is quite simple; you could either just fly around peacefully or engage in battle with others online.
In addition, you have bombs and missiles at your disposal to wreak havoc with. To sum it up, Aces High III is an interesting mix of flight simulation and war combat set in a vintage era, and that is what makes the game so appealing and fun. It includes a free trial, but you’ll have to pay a subscription fee to play online after that expires.
Download: Aces High III for Windows on Steam (Free, paid version available)
Soar to New Heights With These Free Flight Simulators
All the flight simulators in this list are entirely unique from one another. While games such as X-Plane might provide a more in-depth experience to aviation enthusiasts, these free games do a good job of bringing the flight simulation experience to the general audience.
If you want the same experience but don’t want to leave your couch, you can also explore the App Store for flight simulators available on iPhone or iPad. While some of those games might not be the best graphically, you’ll be surprised to see how much of an in-depth experience some of them can offer.