Microsoft Flight Simulator is all about immersion. That's reflected in everything from the intricately detailed model of the world to the meticulously authentic flight controls for each plane, but it can be hard to immerse yourself tactilely when your only source of input is a mouse and keyboard. Fortunately, there are a number of different accessories that can help you really make the most of what Microsoft Flight Simulator has to offer.
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If you prefer to get in the cockpit of smaller and nimbler planes, a joystick is going to be the way to go. The flight controls of planes with one or two seats often use joysticks in the real world, so they can provide the most authentic experience for leisure planes. But a joystick will work well regardless of your preferred aircraft.
Thrustmaster T-Flight Hotas One Ace Combat 7 Limited Edition | Credit: thrustmaster.com
As the name might suggest, this slick take on the venerable Thrustmaster Hotas One series is designed for use with Ace Combat 7 in mind. And while you won't find yourself getting into any dogfights in Microsoft Flight Simulator, the strong fundamentals still translate very well. The accessible and easy to read buttons make this a great introduction for new players who might be turned off by the imposing controls of a traditional flight stick.
Even cooler, both components of this stick come apart, so you can use them as two separate pieces or one. In terms of quality, the price here is exceptional. It's not exactly in the budget price range, but it offers some tremendous bang for your buck. It's also one of the best looking flight sticks we've ever seen, and the naturally responsive smoothness of the stick can even be adjusted to suit your preferred flight style.
Thrustmaster T.Flight Hotas 4 | Credit: thrustmaster.com
With a retail price of less than a hundred bucks, you won't find a cheaper joystick than the Hotas 4 - or at least not one worth your time. This joystick was built with the Playstation 4 in mind, and while it retains the cool, blue, and black curved design aesthetics Sony is fond of, it shouldn't have any compatibility issues with PC gaming either.
But don't let the budget price tag fool you. This Hotas 4 is a little light on features, but it's absolutely covered in buttons. Properly mapped, it can provide you with versatile performance on every aircraft included in Microsoft Flight Simulator. This joystick is generally well built too. The somewhat bulky design comes with the added advantage of being suitably sturdy for even more intense flight sessions, and subtle adjustments of angle or elevation register nicely. Like the Hotas One, it can split into two component parts.
Thrustmaster TCA Sidestick Airbus Edition | Credit: thrustmaster.com
There's no lack of joysticks fashioned for the needs of flight combat sims but disappointingly few for less action-oriented flight sims. Fortunately, there's at least one reliably solid model. The TCA Sidestick is a loving recreation of the interior of the Airbus, and it retails at a price comparable to that of Thrustmaster's Hotas 4. The authenticity extends beyond simple aesthetics too. Rudder functionality is very smartly designed, and magnetic sensors manage a highly satisfying tactile response.
But if you don't want to play things by the books, there are plenty of ways to customize your flight experience. The head is modular, so you can get as minimalistic or complicated as you like, and there are four different head modules to choose from. Among the 17 different buttons, 12 can be fully remapped to specific actions. It's also ambidextrous - a disappointing rarity in the world of joystick design.
Microsoft Flight Simulator offers the possibility to take to the cockpit of some very big - and very expensive - commercial aircraft. If you want to experience what it's really like to be a commercial pilot, you should definitely take a look at yokes. They can provide you with the most authentic recreation possible.
*Logitech G Pro Flight Yoke System | Credit: logitechg.com
The Logitech G-Series is legendary in the world of gaming mice designs, but it has a worthy - if more specialized - new entry in the G Pro yoke system. The utilitarian design will definitely appeal to the sort of gamer that likes their real-world accessories to match the simulation, but the fundamentals here aren't tough to learn. Logitech has done a sensible job of streamlining the complexity of commercial flight, and pertinent information is prominently displayed on the LED display.
Beginners will find more than enough to work with using the basic controls, but more experienced users have some staggering tools at their disposal. The total of 25 buttons can be customized to supports 75 different commands using the included drivers and software. Its also designed to be modular. Users can always start with the core yoke system and start adding on modular components to suit the array of different aircraft in Microsoft Flight Simulator.
Honeycomb Alpha Flight Controls Yoke & Switch Panel | Credit: flyhoneycomb.com
The Honeycomb Alpha doesn't come cheap. It will set you back about a quarter grand, but it's a worthy consideration for simulator pros who know what they're willing to invest. And what you get here is unparalleled. There's a level of responsiveness and weight that you won't find even in Logitech's flight yoke counterpart, and it feels highly comfortable in your grip. That's no small feat given how much weight and how many buttons a serious yoke like this needs to account for.
And while this flight yoke's great looks translate reasonably well in photos, pictures can't express the satisfaction of flipping a switch or twisting a knob on the Honeycomb Alpha. While many flight sticks can just feel like weirdly shaped gaming controllers, the tactile response on the Honeycomb Alpha's inputs create the sense of really being in the cockpit of a passenger airplane.
Pedals aren't going to do you much good on your own, but they're the next logical step if you've already bought a yoke or a joystick and are looking to build out an authentic flight cockpit. The amount of additional control they offer over the rudder can really kick up the experience.
Thrustmaster T. Flight Rudder Pedals | Credit: thrustmaster.com
Since they're designed by Thrustmaster, the T.Flight rudder pedals are a perfect complement to all of the joysticks on our list - but they can mix and match well with any joystick or yoke you have laying around. For the asking price, they offer more than what you would expect. There might not be a lot of features here, but the two most important things - durability and responsiveness - are well accounted for. If you already have a T.Flight peripheral to connect them to, there's a port for that. But there's also the option to connect to your console or PC with a simple USB cord.
Thrustmaster TPR Pendular Rudder | Credit: thrustmaster.com
If the T. Flight is the ideal budget choice for flight rudders, the TPR is its luxury counterpart. Its MSRP of roughly $500 is steep, but it's actually warranted. The pendular design at work here requires more meticulous craftsmanship, but it produces more accurate results and reduces the risk of detritus clogging up its inner workings. The 16-bit resolution is the real deal, and these rudders operate on three axes to provide you with more delicate and accurate navigation. And if the default settings aren't to your tastes, the well-designed and in-depth software can help you fine-tune the movement tracking.