The best joysticks, flight sticks, yokes, and more peripherals for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 on console and PC.
- PXN 0082 USB Arcade Fight Stick, PC Street Fighter Arcade Game Fighting Joystick Controller for PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Window PC 6/10 We have selected this product as being #9 in Best Flight Simulator Joystick For Mac of 2020.
- With Microsoft Flight Simulator newly-launched on PC, many of the best joysticks and flight sticks remain hard to come by with instances of price gouging in August 2020. We continue to hunt down.
- Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog Joystick. The Best Joystick for Flight Simulators.
The best joysticks and flight sticks are ready for take-off when Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 lands this week, and if you're planning on boarding for its release on August 18 then you might also be considering an upgrade to your cabin instrumentation.
There are a number of different flight controllers (at any number of different budgets) for the game, which will release on PC and Xbox One, with a Steam release for those not picking it up through Game Pass on launch day. And given the different platforms, controller types and costs involved it can feel like you're actually attending flight school trying to understand all the options available to you.
So to help you out, we've broken down the best flight sticks into their categories (explaining what each is best for) and offering a spread of price ranges for you to pick the stick for you from. So here are the best joysticks, flight sticks and other peripherals for Flight Simulator 2020.
X-Plane is the most powerful and accurate flight simulator available for personal computers, but it doesn’t just run on Windows; the version of X-Plane sold here at X-Plane.com runs on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. In fact, X-Plane is developed primarily on Macs. In the past, we’ve called the Mac our secret weapon.
The best joystick for Flight Simulator 2020 on PC
Joysticks on their own are the best starting point for the amateur sim-pilot. With few bells and whistles you can get a feel for the cockpit and, in some cases, not even break the bank. Here's what we consider to be the best (and the best affordable) joysticks for Flight Simulator 2020.
The best joystick: Thrustmaster TCA Sidestick Airbus Edition (in September)
If you aren't planning on picking Flight Simulator 2020 up on launch, then you might want to wait for this beauty. Modeled on the tiny sidesticks in Airbus's latest A320 cockpits, this single stick provides all-axis control (with a rudder twist-lock), two utility triggers, the POV look hatswitch and two more buttons on the top of the stick (which can be swapped around and customized with extra modules). Then, around the base, there are 12 programmable buttons for all the ILS and flaps and other controls you'll need in regular flight. There's also a small throttle slider to get you started, and if you want to upgrade to a full HOTAS (hands on throttle and stick) setup in the future, there's a separate throttle quadrant you can pick up for it. Given the close relationship Thrustmaster has with Flight Simulator developers, and this being the latest release, there will be considerable support for this stick in the game. However, the Thrustmaster TCA Sidestick Airbus Edition will release later this year, so if you want one right now we suggest...
The best joystick you can get right now: Thrustmaster T16000M FCS
Essentially this is the same basic unit as the TCA Sidestick, though with a slightly older control precision system. The Thrustmaster T16000M FCS button layouts are almost identical, but you can't swap out the top button placements. There is also a throttle unit to turn this into a HOTAS setup as well, if you eventually want to, but unlike the TCA's it doesn't have split throttles for separate engines or afterburners. It's just slightly less authentic than the one modeled on an actual aircraft control system, that's it. A good starter stick and converting to HOTAS gives you more buttons to play with. Can be hard to find in stick-only SKU at the moment, thanks to the mad rush for flight peripherals, so it might be worth diving straight into a HOTAS. Or, if you still want to pinch pennies or dip your toe in first, try our budget pick:
The best budget joystick: Logitech Extreme 3D Pro Precision
If you don't want to shell out $70 to get going, then for half the price you can pick up the old stalwart of beginner enthusiasts. The design of the Logitech Extreme 3D Pro Precision hasn't changed for over a decade, with a comfortable grip for longhaul flights and six buttons around the base. Unlike some other starter sticks, this one has full axis control, giving you rudder twist as well as pitch and roll. No ready-made options for converting to a HOTAS setup, but good to get started and decide if you want to go all in. It is not flashy, but it is pretty much everything you need if you don't mind the other half of your Cessna cockpit keybinds being on the keyboard in front of you.
The best HOTAS for Flight Simulator 2020 on PC
The best HOTAS: Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog
This is the daddy. The apex predator of flight stick setups. Modeled exactly on the cockpit of an A-10 Warthog tankbuster, this double-handed setup has the comforting feel of cold steel. The Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog is made entirely of metal, with flight-quality flick switches, adjustable weight and pressure on the stick and throttle and Hall Effect sensors for minutely accurate control input readings. Every single advancement in computer flight stick technology has been thrown into this. However, it isn't without its downsides. Because the A-10C's cockpit controlled its dual tail rudders with pedals, there's no twist axis control in the HOTAS stick. It's that accurate. This isn't a problem if you're planning on picking up the matching TPR Pendular Rudder to complete your cockpit, but if you want a HOTAS solution that stops short of $1,000 then you might want to keep reading.
Runner-up HOTAS: Logitech G X56 Rhino
Pretty much all the same bells and whistles (split-afterburner throttle lever, plenty of chunky flick switches, full-axis stick) but not all-metal. As a result, the Logitech G X56 Rhino is significantly cheaper than the Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog and still very, very good at its job. You can get an even cheaper version if you opt for a factory-refurbished option on Amazon. Lots of customization options make this the better pick over its smaller brother, the Saitek X52 Pro, which is definitely not to be sniffed at either – and actually might be a better pick if you're not as interested in physical toggle switches. The X52 also has a screen for selecting multiple different programmable configs on the fly, letting you swap between essential functions needed for different phases of flight. If you aren't into that much complexity, then our budget pick is probably the Goldilocks option for you.
The best budget HOTAS: Thrustmaster T.Flight HOTAS
Ok, it's not photorealistic, but it is still a well-made HOTAS. From the rest of the picks above it should be quite clear that Thrustmaster know what they're doing. The T.Flight is no exception, and thanks to its wide support for previous titles in the Flight Simulator family, will almost certainly have a preconfigured keybind once Flight Simulator 2020 arrives. Buttons are well placed, with six on the throttle head and a rocker switch for your lesser fingers to use, great for moving between options in a menu with the trigger to select them. The throttle base and joystick assembly can be detached from each other, so you can place them wherever's most comfortable in your setup for those long haul flights.
The best flight stick for Flight Simulator 2020 on Xbox One
Of course, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 isn't just on PC, it's also available on Xbox One. However, many peripherals aren't compatible with the console, so you'll need a flight stick that's going to work on Xbox One as well. Luckily (or unluckily) there's really only one option to go for here, so if you want to use a flight stick with Flight Simulator 2020 on Xbox One you're going to want to pick up the Thrustmaster T-Flight HOTAS One. It's a specific variation of the PC's best budget HOTAS, so you get the same detachable full-size throttle and a 5-axis flight stick. The One version also works with PC, in case you ever want to make use of your Game Pass benefits on a Windows 10 gaming PC as well.
The best flight yoke for Flight Simulator 2020 on PC
There are fewer options for flight yokes, which is weird considering almost all civil aviation is flown with these half-steering-wheel-half-joystick things. They're one step further along the simulation enthusiast path to accuracy, eventually reaching the point of no return: building a cockpit in your shed. If you're not quite ready to go that far, the Honeycomb Aeronautical Alpha Flight Controls is a great yoke with plenty of flick switches on the dash. There are others, including simulator veterans CH Products' Flight Sim Yoke, which has most of the same controls but without some of the attention to detail. Then, if you want to take one step further along that path...
The best full cockpit controller for Flight Simulator 2020 on PC
This is a tentative recommendation, but it's the best option right now. While you can start off with just a yoke, the Logitech Saitek Pro range also offers a number of instrument panels and switch banks for you to upgrade your setup over the years until it's 2025 and you're surrounded by peripherals and you've been flying transatlantic redeyes in real-time all night with a pot of coffee next to you. The full range includes instrument, radio, switch and multi panels to give you pretty much every possible mid-flight control without having to touch your keyboard.
However owners of the more complex Logitech G Saitek Pro Flight modules report they are currently non-functioning in Flight Simulator 2020. Many in the sim community have begun requesting support and patches for these units, but as of right now the components of this range that are functioning are the Yoke, Throttle Quadrant and Multi Panel. There are workarounds using Lorby's 'AxisAndOhs' app to manually assign inputs and supports up to three Flight Information Panels.
Right now there has been no word from Asobo, Microsoft or Logitech about incoming support patches for the full Logitech G Saitek Pro Flight range of panels to be added. However mod and community support could expand on Lorby's early work to get everything going if there's no native solution soon.
Of course, there are even more complex flight simulator setups out there, so if you want to alert us to your particular simulation controller, let us know in the comments. We hope from this you can find the best joystick, HOTAS, flight stick or yoke controller for Flight Simulator 2020 and take to the skies in style.
Don't Skip A Beat
It wasn’t too long ago that flight simulation joysticks were simple: Right, Left. Forward, Backward. But just like the advances in flight simulation software, joysticks have come a long way.
Now you can choose between a basic joystick with simple buttons to full-blown flightsticks that have multiple configurable buttons, read-out displays and designs that look like they just came off an intergalactic battle cruiser. Here are 5 different joysticks that will help you get more out of Microsoft FSX, X-Plane, and other top flight simulators.
Saitek X52 Pro Flight System Controller
The Saitek X52 Pro is a significant improvement over the original X52; better quality, better spring tension in the stick (due to dual springs), more metallic parts, and more sensors. The improvements bring this model in about $60 more.
With a HOTAS controller, users do not have to take their hands off the throttle or stick. The X52 Pro looks a little overwhelming to newbies, but they quickly adapt to it.
It can take a while to set up the buttons with a particular flight sim, but once it's done it is comfortable and familiar. Profiles can be created for different programs and users. Macros can also be programmed. These are useful because one button can be used for many effects, handy when a maneuver has several facets that follow one right after another.
The stick may seem loose--too loose. But this is because it is very precise. Cheaper models are too stiff and require too much effort. The X52 Pro has a lot of touch and maneuverability. The initial setup is like a fighter plane, with the throttle on the left and the stick on the right. Users can switch it around like a general aircraft, with the stick on the left.
The controller uses a PS2 connection. One warning: The connection comes loose easily. If it comes out completely, it might reset the calibration settings, or even restart the game.
The multi-function display on the throttle (MFD) shows important game play information in real time. Buttons, switches and controls can be programmed although the documentation on how to do it properly is a little thin.
The throttle is well designed for both maximum comfort on long flights and speedy response for sport or combat flying. There are two buttons set aside for MFD as well as two rotary dials with buttons that can be set to control game functions.
The data for the MFD comes directly from the game itself (including the Radio Stack in Flight Simulator 9 and 10). Want to create a custom program? Don’t worry--gearheads can use the Software Development Kit to create their own programs that communicate with the MFD.
Smooth and Tight
The joystick has a centering mechanism complete with non-contact construction on both the X-axis and Y-axis. The constant spring force keeps the action smooth and tight, providing accurate control and a longer life—no more watching the joystick droop over after a few months of hard flying.
The joystick has four fire buttons. There is also a missile launcher that comes complete with a spring-loaded safety cover which makes it easy to access quickly. A pinky switch allows the user to utilize twice the number of programmable commands.
In addition, there are two 8-way hat switches, a rotary mode selector with LED indicators, three base-mounted toggles with up to six programmable commands, a handle adjustment that fits all different hand sizes and a 3-D rudder twist. There is a 2-stage metal trigger on the joystick as well as easy access to two primary buttons.
The throttle tension can be adjusted to individual settings, and has detents for idle and afterburner as well as two fire buttons. There is a scroll wheel with a button built-in, eight way hat switch, slider control, a mouse controller/hat switch with left mouse button functionality, and two rotary controls.
There is also a clutch button that allows the user to enter in 'safe mode,' which allows profile selection in flight, or to figure out which button does what without actually activating any of them.
The Saitek X52 Pro is approved for Windows versions including XP, XP64, all versions of Vista and Windows 7. It is a great blend of ergonomics, technology, aesthetics and value pricing. It will provide lots of flying fun for many years.
Mad Catz V.1 Stick
The Mad Catz V.1 Stick is a great-looking basic joystick that provides plenty of control at a reasonable price. The ergonomic stick has a trigger and five buttons that are positioned for rapid access. It can be handled with either hand with equal effectiveness.
Users can change cockpit views to keep track of enemy combatants with a quick flick of the POV switch. Control of the engine is smooth and easy with the throttle lever. Rudder control is handled with a simple twist action.
While much lighter than many of its competitors, its rubber pads effectively keep it stuck in place. The legs can be removed from the unit and store easily.
The unit is very lightweight, has precise controls and a rapid-fire trigger. The rudder (Z-axis) works by rotating the stick to each side. You cannot configure the twist action, but the other controls are easy to adjust. The spring is a little stiff but becomes less so over time.
With plenty of buttons, it performs exceptionally. There are seven buttons across the top, with access to 13 using the pinky button as a shift control. There is no extra clutter and users have convenient access to the buttons.
The throttle lever is on the base. It is very sensitive and does not take much effort to regulate. There is a hat switch in the middle and buttons positioned out around the thumb. This layout will not appeal to those who prefer the buttons on the base. Also, the pinky button is a little too easy to bump accidentally.
The unit is compatible with all Windows configurations including XP, XP 64, Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8. It comes complete with Saitek SST software, which allows extensive array of programming options.
While there are more expensive options, the Mad Catz V.1 Stick is an excellent basic joystick for flight simulation. It is durable; made with tough plastic and good quality construction.
This is the perfect introductory-level stick for flight simulation like Microsoft FSX and X-Plane--it works with many popular flight simulation titles. With a comfortable grip, useful software, sleek design and great price, the Mad Catz V.1 Stick should be on every flight simmer’s short list.
CH Products FlightStick Pro USB
The CH Products FlightStick Pro USB is great for flight simmers looking for something a little better than an entry level product, but without breaking the bank. This is high-quality mid-range joystick that offers maximum value.
It has four push buttons and one 8-way POV hat switch. The control manager software provides 22 different programmable functions. The grip can be used effectively with either left or right hands, and works right away as soon as is it is unpackaged. Users do not need to download drivers or add any other software.
It is a plug-and-play system. Unlike other flight sticks, the base is heavy enough that the unit will not move around on the table or desk. At the same time it is small enough that it can be set aside without taking up too much room.
With an exact amount of spring load, it fits perfectly in the hand, and is very tactile and precise. The buttons are responsive and within easy reach of fingers. One drawback for some users may be that there is not a twist access for rudder.
CH Products flight sticks are very stable. They do not need a lot of calibration and do not lose their settings. It takes almost no effort to get response along both the X and Y axes. With simple, solid quality, this is one of the few mid-range joysticks that is equally comfortable in either hand.
The CH Products Flight Stick Pro USB is made of quality construction, tough material and is compatible with Windows versions 98, and ME, 2000, XP, Vista and Windows 7 on the PC as well as Mac OS 8.6 with Input Sprockets 1.7 X for Mac.
Thrustmaster Hotas Warthog
How is this for user involvement in product development? Thrustmaster teamed up with some of their loyal customers, working with their suggestions and feedback to create the Hotas Warthog, a replica of the A10C, an attack plane in the U.S. Air Force. The result is a top-of-the-line flightstick for serious flight simmers that want the best.
Unlike most gaming joysticks, the Warthog is heavy. Tipping the scales at more than 14 pounds, the throttle handles, base and joystick are all made of metal. There are two four-direction hat switches and 55 action buttons that are completely programmable by the user.
The joystick itself has 19 action buttons, as well as a hat dedicated to POV. The magnetic sensor system provides extreme touch and precision. It is designed to reflect the actual pressure a pilot would use on the buttons, switches and triggers in the actual aircraft.
The joystick handle is completely detachable. This allows users to place it on the base of the HOTAS Cougar, another Thrustmaster product. The base also comes off the unit as well, making it simple to drop the joystick in a cockpit.
The dual throttle has a locking system that allows the user to keep the throttles together or work them independently. Magnetic sensors on each throttle provide unparalleled precision. The afterburner can be disengaged. This lets the user adapt the throttle to each different aircraft. The throttles are packed with 17 action buttons, a 'mouse hat/slew control' and a POV hat.
The control panel has a wide variety of controls including a friction wheel, back lighting for functions and five programmable LED lights which are very useful in lowlight operating conditions. The base of the unit has 15 action buttons and the trim wheel.
One of the most powerful features of the warthog is the TARGET (Thrustmaster Advanced Programming Graphical Editor) software. It lets users configure each Thrustmaster controller, primarily the Warthog but also the HOTAS Cougar, MFD Cougar and the T.16000. Three distinct programming configurations include Basic Advanced and Script, a scripting language that provides unlimited functionality.
This flightstick was designed by simmers, for simmers. For users that have cut their teeth and are ready to move up, the Warthog is ready and waiting.
Mad Catz F.L.Y 5 Flight Stick
A significant upgrade from earlier models, the F.L.Y 5 Flight Stick provides even more functionality, configurability and performance. The high-quality, three-toned matte plastic and stainless steel is an indication of the commitment to excellence behind its construction.
It features twin throttles with fully programmable controls. The length and tilt of both the joystick and head can be manipulated to help find the perfect setting for different seating positions and hand size.
Light and Smooth
The base has pads for gripping; however the unit is very light. The joystick centers itself smoothly every time thanks to a shallow disk located inside a central cone, which provides even movement on both the X and Y axes. The joystick handle can be removed which makes it easier to store the unit.
The twin throttle lets users assign different engines to each throttle, or program the unit so that one throttle lever manipulates a function such as flap control or elevator trim. The POV hat switches are completely adjustable as is the joystick handle height, which can be raised or lowered to fit different and sizes. The handle angle can be adjusted for players that prefer it stands straight up during play, or leans forward.
There are 12 buttons readily available which include all the central combat and flying commands, and a rotating trim wheel located near the weapon switches. Rudders are controlled by twisting the stick itself.
Using the Saitek SST software, users can increase the number of programmable buttons. The buttons can be used to configure throttling, brakes, lights, view switching, flap adjustments, landing gear and more.
The trigger and four thumb buttons are configured at the top of the stick, as are a scroll wheel and hat switch. There are four additional buttons on the base which are manipulated by the left thumb. The Shift button, located directly behind the stick, is a little harder to get to. It allows users to alter layouts and assign additional commands to buttons.
The joystick itself has forward, backward and twist axes. The thick spring takes a little effort to put into position, which may take a little getting used to for some users. A strong screw collar keeps the whole spring unit in place.
Microsoft Flight Simulator Joystick Controls
There are four adjustments that can be made to adapt the joystick to that. This high level of customization helps the F.L.Y 5 stand out from its competition. Users can change the overall angle up to 40° forward. The joystick length can be increased 20 cm. The head tilt can be adjusted 30° backwards.
In addition, the buttons on the head unit slide forwards and backwards, and can be locked down with a screw once the optimal position is located. The adjustments are made with a small adjustment tool that is essentially a hex screwdriver with a special pin on one end. It stores right in the base of the unit.
It is unusual to see dual throttles on a joystick of this price range. Two throttles are handy in many situations--in helicopter flying where one of the throttles can be used instead of foot pedals, for example.
The F.L.Y 5 Flight Stick works extremely well with FSX. System requirements include USB 1.1/2.0 ports on Windows XP, XP 64, Vista or Windows 7 platforms.
An Extra Addition: Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback 2
Following several comments on this article and another, I have chosen to list the famous Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback 2 joystick in this list too. So there are now actually 6 controllers on this list, not 5. I didn't list this joystick initially because I only wanted to focus on controllers currently in production (which the Sidewinder isn't as Microsoft no longer manufactures it).
The Sidewinder Force Feedback 2 was lucky enough to have USB connectivity in its last model, which is so much more improved over COM port or GAME PORT interfaces. At least with USB connectivity, it has support for modern machines as I don't believe many are built with COM or GAME PORT these days - however you'll always find a USB port on your machine.
The Sidewinder Force Feedback 2 was a very popular joystick among flight simulation fans as it was reasonably priced and had great functionality - and it was one of the first force feedback joysticks of its time, which also lead to its popularity.
From what I've read, I'm pretty sure this joystick will run from Windows as early as '98 all the way up to Windows 8 of current day. In fact, anything above XP and I don't think you'll need the drivers disk either. It is fully supported in FS2002/FS2004/FSX with force feedback (rumble) mode activated. It's quite a nice feeling rolling down the runway, you can 'feel' the ground beneath you. It also features a twistable grip - which is perfect for rudder use (although you can assign it to other things).
In total there are 16 programmable buttons, albeit 8 of them are in the hat switch (which is great for using as a view changing switch) although you can assign each of the hat directions to any function you desire. The joystick is well made and rugged and the new version (2) doesn't include the most annoying 'power brick' that previous versions came with (correct me if I'm wrong in the comments below).
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As they are no longer being manufactured, it's becoming increasingly hard to get hold of this particular joystick. They sometimes pop up on eBay, but I've had most luck finding them on Amazon. For some reason, when I looked I found a new one available for $599... this may have been a typing mistake or perhaps new ones are really that expensive to purchase as they are as rare as rocking horse poop. However, you can usually pick up a second hand one for anywhere between $80 and $150.
The right joystick adds a lot of fun and excitement to flight simulation. At the same time, it helps users improve their flying skills by providing fast access to common functions, macro functions to speed up critical events, and incredible feedback to enhance feel and control. Whatever the price range, one of the joysticks in our list will make everyone a better pilot.
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These are a few (6) of my favorite sticks, however there are many more available.
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Comments below please people! Let me know what stick you have, what stick you'd dream of having and reviews of the sticks above if you own them!