Flight simulators can be great fun to play, but you don’t really hear of any others besides the main three options: Microsoft Flight Simulator, X-Plane, and FlightGear (which I wrote about a while back). While these three are certainly great, they’re far from the only ones you should consider when looking at the flight simulation genre. Here are four other flight sims that are sure to get your attention.
Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator
Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator is unlike the famous Flight Simulator series in that MCFS revolves around the warfare among airplanes rather than peaceful flight simulation. It was originally released in 1998 for the PC, so it should be playable on any Windows machine with compatibility settings enabled. After the original game, a second and third release followed, with the last release occurring in 2002. The most recent one is most interesting to me personally as it is all about the “Battle for Europe” where you can play as the US Air Force, the Royal Air Force, or the Luftwaffe, and try to win the war with one of those three air forces. In MCFS 3, the list of playable aircraft includes:
- North American P-51 Mustang
- Republic P-47 Thunderbolt
- Lockheed P-38 Lightning
- Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star
- Boeing B-29 Superfortress
- Curtiss XP-55 Ascender
- Hawker Typhoon
- Hawker Tempest
- Supermarine Spitfire
- de Havilland Mosquito
- de Havilland Vampire
- Messerschmitt Bf-109
- Focke-Wulf Fw-190
- Messerschmitt Me-262
- Dornier Do-335
- Gotha Go-229
Compared to Battlefield (which I’ll get to later), MCFS is designed so that it allows additional aircraft to be installed via third-party add-ons much in the same way as the Microsoft Flight Simulator series allowed. Battlefield, on the other hand, may feature a handful of various aircraft, but that’s it, and you can’t add new ones or modify the existing ones.
F-15 Strike Eagle III
F-15 Strike Eagle III was made by MPS Labs in 1992, and offered some of the most advanced graphics at the time of release. It was primarily available for DOS, which means that you can use emulation software such as DOSBox to run it.
As the game revolves around a single plane, you’ll be flying — you guessed it — the F-15 Strike Eagle. It’s armed with a M61 Vulcan cannon, guided missile, and laser guided bombs. In the game, you will have to succeed in 3 campaigns: Iraq, Korea and Panama. Theses campaigns include several missions, each mission has a primary goal and a secondary optional one. While it’s not a very long game nor does it display accurate flight characteristics (remember, it’s a DOS game!), it’s a good one to play occasionally. Best of all, you can get it for free!
Night Hawk: F-117A Stealth Fighter 2.0 is a game similar to F-15 Strike Eagle III, but this one revolves around the F-117A! In this game, you fly the Stealth Bomber to two different targets per mission and either destroy them or photograph them. As you progress, those missions become harder. It was also made for DOS, which makes it playable with the DOSBox emulator.
As you may have noticed, this game ends with 2.0 — it is actually based on the F-19 Stealth Fighter game first released by Micropose, so it is technically just an update to that game featuring a different plane rather than a complete remake. Essentially, this update offers improved graphics, but similar gameplay.
Again, remember that because this is a DOS game, it won’t be very long, flight characteristics will be far from accurate, and the graphics will not be great by today’s standards. However, it’s a nice little game that you can occasionally play, and the best part is that you can grab this one for free!
Battlefield 1942 isn’t known for being a flight simulator, but rather a game of all out warfare. However, it was one of the first war games that offered planes and helicopters in a rather enjoyable manner. With BF1942, you could launch into the sky with an old Russian WWII fighter and circle the map, bombing strategic points as well as shooting down other pilots in the sky. Future Battlefield games would keep air warfare in them, so you’ll be able to do the same with the more recent Battlefield 3 or Battlefield 4 (provided that you can get BF4 to work on your system).
They’re definitely not known for being highly realistic flight simulators, though — not even the newer versions. While the flight dynamics are acceptable, these aircraft are simply “get in and go”. In more realistic flight simulators, you’d have to consider wind, weight, fuel (and its realistic usage rate), and more. However, those realistic simulators take many painstaking hours to get a an accurate model in place, while Battlefield developers make one that is roughly close while providing lots of excitement.
While all of these games are very fun to play, they don’t take realism nearby as seriously as Microsoft Flight Simulator, X-Plane, and FlightGear. If life-like simulation of flight mechanics is what you’re after, those three options are still your best bets. However, if you’d like a flight sim with more action (where you can actually shoot bullets and missiles), then these games are more what you’re after.
What other flight simulator games do you enjoy? Which one of the major three is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!