3 Best Free Flight Simulators To Pretend You Know How To Fly

flight sim intro   3 Best Free Flight Simulators To Pretend You Know How To FlyFor me, there are only two kinds of simulator games which actually get me interested – city management games and free flight simulators. However, anyone who’s looked at getting a simulation game will have quickly discovered that they are not cheap. In fact, SimCity currently goes for $60, or $80 if you consider the Deluxe Edition. Good flight simulation software isn’t much different.

So which flight simulators are both free and good enough to use? While free flight simulators are rare to find, especially good ones, here are your best options.

FlightGear

FlightGear is the absolute number one free flight simulation software. Usually whenever people compare both free and paid simulators, they include one of Microsoft’s flight simulators, X-Plane, and FlightGear. FlightGear is fantastic because it’s not just free but also open source, meaning anyone can submit their own code to make the software even better. Others can even fork the code and continue development on their own terms.

The very open nature of the simulator also allows people to create and test their own plane models. The simulation engine places a strong amount of emphasis on a plane’s design and how well it flies because of that. Add-ons can also be easily created.

flightgear   3 Best Free Flight Simulators To Pretend You Know How To Fly

Although FlightGear isn’t quite as good as Microsoft’s offerings or X-Plane, it still packs an impressive punch with worldwide scenery textures, a large amount of included planes (with the ability to add more), and realistic graphics. As such, you’ll also need a decent computer to run the software if you want good performance and acceptable graphics.

The free flight simulator recently got new 3D cloud and water effects included, and improvements will continue to roll in with each release. Long story short, this is by far the best-looking, most accurate flight simulator you can get for free. It’s even cross platform, allowing you to enjoy it on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

Google Earth

flight sim google earth   3 Best Free Flight Simulators To Pretend You Know How To Fly

If you’re looking for something that is less taxing on your system, you may also want to take a look at the included flight simulator found in Google Earth. While it isn’t nearly as accurate or extensible as FlightGear, it offers a fun way to fly around the earth. The cockpit controls include the basics such as speed and altitude, and they are presented in a way which reminds you of a fighter jet. Plus, the amount of scenery included in Google Earth isn’t an issue because Google has satellite images of the entire planet anyway.

At least with Google Earth, when you want to fly over your house, you’ll actually be able to see and identify it, rather than seeing a more traditional flight simulator’s random house generator. As Google Earth is also available on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, you should be able to get the software and use it.

When you launch the program, go to Tools –> Flight Simulator. If you want to do more cool things with Google Earth, check out this article.

Vega Strike

flight sim vega strike   3 Best Free Flight Simulators To Pretend You Know How To Fly

Finally, if you’re looking for a free flight simulator that’s more geared towards fun, fast-paced gaming rather than simulation, take a look at Vega Strike. This game is completely open source and available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux (click here to check out more great Linux games), and uses 3D OpenGL for its graphics.

Another thing that sets Vega Strike apart from the other two is that it is based in space, where you start out life in a cargo ship and then work your way up. You can also do things like trade and bounty hunt, so this game really focuses less on the simulation and more on gameplay.

Conclusion

Overall, these are three good choices which should satisfy different tastes when it comes to such simulators. Of course, these solutions won’t be the best simulators out there as I still believe Microsoft’s offerings and X-Plane are the top choices. However, if you like being frugal – and there’s nothing wrong with that – then these are good too. Otherwise, the only other suggestion I can offer is to try X-Plane’s demo mode as it includes one and Microsoft’s offerings do not. However, be ready to deal with X-Plane’s methods of tampering with your gameplay in order to get you to buy the game.

Do you enjoy playing flight simulators? What could be improved in FlightGear? As I’m sure there are others out there, what other free flight simulators can you recommend that I didn’t include? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credits: f2g2, Mollenborg, Vega Strike developers

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15 Comments -

0 votes

Jean-Michel A

I still stiick to flight sim X too invested as it is and accustomed

0 votes

Danny Stieben

I like FSX as well — it’s just a little pricey. I’m sad that Microsoft killed the Flight Sim team, because I definitely don’t like Flight.

0 votes

Luka Prebil Grintal

nice list. since you went into less simulation waters with vega strike, ill shoot out orbiter for the space simulation and kerbal space program for the arcade space simulator genre too :)

0 votes

Jay Maynard

I second the vote for Orbiter. http://orbit.medphys.ucl.ac.uk/ Large community with lots of add-ons (all free, of course). You can do anything from recreating the Apollo moon landings, launch with the Space Shuttle and dock with the ISS, then undock and land, to creating your own version of the Star Trek or Star Wars universe.

Also if you go with a paid version of a MS simulator (FS9 or FSX) there are sites like http://flightsim.com/ where there are literally tens of thousands of freeware add-ons, everything from aircraft to scenery, where the quality will rival that of payware.

0 votes

Danny Stieben

Great add-on site!

0 votes

Danny Stieben

Thanks for the suggestions! :)

1 votes

Curtis Seligson

You mention “Microsoft’s offerings” referring to the old Microsoft Flight Simulators. But what about the new Microsoft Flight? It’s free to play, has a detailed flight course with a fantastic voice actor instructing you, and is (of course) very polished. You only get a few planes and areas to fly over for free (more can be unlocked with a single DLC bundle), but if you just like being behind the controls of a realistic, modern aircraft touring an exotic island, it’s certainly “frugal” enough to be on this list!

0 votes

Danny Stieben

I suppose so, but I don’t like the new Flight very much. Plus, all the simulators I included are entirely free. Otherwise I could have added Flight and X-Plane.

0 votes

Matt

another decent and free flight simulator is YS Flight. Not the greatest for graphics but it’s got a ton of different models and you can create custom servers for you and your friends to play on

0 votes

Danny Stieben

I’ve never heard of it. Thanks for the suggestion!

0 votes

Matt

No problem, you can also install mods for Army Jeeps n shit if you’re into that hahaha

0 votes

Humpster Sameasabove

thanks for the info. nothing bets free lol

0 votes

Daniel Joshua

I never knew Google Earth had a flight simulator in it. Thanks for letting us know!

0 votes

Nevzat A

Great compilation. I remember playing “Retailator” for hours, years ago. Flying is a joy, even on simulators!

0 votes

Cretinopolis

Google Earth, but no YSFlight? What a joke. If you don’t know about YSFlight already (which I suppose you evidently don’t,) check it out. It kicks ass.