Ever since I was a kid, I have wanted to fly. As an adult, I have flown all over this planet and even jumped out of a few planes along the way. From helicopters to jumbo jets, I have been in a lot of aircraft. But every once in a while, I want to sit down on my couch and feel the rush of screaming through the sky in an experimental fighter jet –or maybe even pilot a space shuttle into orbit. To that end, I am bringing you the top ten flight games that I have ever played. Now, I am sure that you’ll have your faves that aren’t listed here, so be sure to hit me up in the comments section and put it out there if I left your favorite flight game out.
It was inevitable that in the wake of the shock-and-awe campaign in Baghdad, Iraq the year before , a video game where you controlled a fighter jet operating over a nondescript desert nation would emerge. And emerge it did. Desert Strike was a blast. It covered pretty much everything that a solid fighter pilot could ask for. From strafing enemy troops, tanks and even scud missiles to providing cover for escaping hostages, there was no shortage of fun to be had in this classic title.
Okay, there may not be a lot of you who remember this game, but I do. It was released on the Commodore 64 way back in 1985. And I, a wide-eyed boy with dreams of space flight, was able to achieve a small piece of my dream as I played Space Shuttle . I had seen one launch the year before getting this game, so the prospect of being able to put an astronaut in space, orbit the Earth, and then return him safely on my computer at home was just an awesome thing. If you are looking for an absolute classic, look no further.
Microsoft Flight Simulator
This game, if you can call it that, hit the shelves back in 1982. Now, I personally didn’t get on board until the early 2000’s with this one. The coolest thing about it is that it’s a legit simulation, not just a game. It makes you learn the ins and outs of real flight. At one point, a friend of mine even told me that the flight school he attended allowed this game to count for credit towards his simulated flight hours. So that, in itself, says something about how intense Microsoft Flight Simulator was. Production for this particular series stopped in 2012, but it had a solid run.
I was in college when this game came out and I remember my roommate being hopelessly addicted to it. He told me that he’d had an unhealthy fixation on the Red Baron legend since he was a child. So after countless hours of watching him chase after the elusive Baron, I decided to get in on the action. I found myself quickly engrossed in a pre-World War II dogfighting game that looked incredible for that time. Upon my eventual destruction of the Red Baron himself, my roommate and I went out for beers. Yep, it was that good.
Star Wars Tie-Fighter
Being the insane Star Wars junkie that I am, I have purchased nearly every video game that has ever been made with the Star Wars name in the title. Sadly, and more often than not, I was completely disappointed by what I got. But on rare occasion, the game was actually fun and one that I would continue to play. Such is the case with Tie-Fighter . They mixed in tons of cool missions where you take your Tie-Fighter and strafe rebel bases as well as dogfighting with X and Y-wing fighters. Then you add in the videos from the original three films and you have the recipe for fun.
Ace Combat 4
Though highly stylized, Ace Combat 4 is a seriously cool flight game. It rides the line between flight sim and Michael Bay movie, but it definitely bring the intensity of a flight sim to the arcade, flight-shooter genre. There are tons of different styles of missions to fly, like protecting a shuttle launch from enemy fighters, shooting down long range missiles mid-flight, and piloting your plane inside a giant enemy stronghold. Then there’s the notion that you can collect and customize your planes and even hunt down some truly legendary aircraft during your missions like the SR-71 Blackbird and the XB-70 Valkyrie. It’s a blast.
This Nintendo gem is often forgotten when people are asked about golden age Nintendo titles. But honestly, this was one of the first console-based flight games that didn’t feel stiff, clunky and stupid. Actually, I recall this game being one of my personal favorites back in the day. You had tasks to complete like a successful takeoff and landing, flying through hoops in the sky and even executing a few aerial tricks mid-flight. All in all, this game was just awesome. Granted, flight games have come a long way since, but this is one of the titles that helped get them there.
The Super Nintendo Entertainment System has long been one of my favorites, and one of the major reasons for that is this game. Essentially, what put it ahead of other games of that time was the fact that the developer had cleverly stuck a small, and very stripped-down graphics card inside the game cartridge. This little addition gave the player the illusion of 3D graphics. When the whole world was still playing in 2D, Fox and his gang battled Andross’ legions in 3D in one of the most badass flight games ever.
Normally I am not a PC gamer at all. But let’s face it, some of the best games in the flight realm are not found on comsoles. In fact, there are more flight games on PC than anywhere else. But after playing this one, I don’t really feel like even mentioning the others. Sure, there are good ones out there, but this one seriously trumps the rest. The graphics are top-notch and the game is nothing short of a brilliant simulator. You can fly a huge selection of aircraft from older fighter jets like the F4 Phantom, all the way to jumbo jets and seaplanes. If you are looking for a serious flight simulator for your PC, this is the one for you.
This is my personal, all-time favorite flight game. Make no mistake, this game is tough. Takeoffs are not easy, nor are the landings—especially when you have had to fly for long spans of time to even get to your objective. Then you have to complete it, and often fight your way out after the run. But even after the battle is complete, you still have to fly home, in whatever condition your plane is in, and still manage to land it. It can be frustrating at times, but I promise you that if you are looking for a solid game that gives you the overall experience of being a fighter pilot, this game is for you.