(Pocket-lint) – Games like Microsoft Flight Simulator have been a revelation in recent years, allowing the travel-starved to immerse themselves in a different world.
However, as much as these titles are a superb way to see locales far from your home, they’re also, at their core, pretty darn realistic simulations. As such, playing with a mouse and keyboard can be a little challenging, while a normal game controller isn’t a whole heap better.
So you can get a snapshot of some of the joysticks that can take your gaming experience to the next level, we’ve gathered some of the very best around.
What is the best joystick for gaming? Currently, our top recommendation is the Turtle Beach VelocityOne Flight. However, we also think it’s worth checking out the Thrustmaster TCA Sidestick, Saitek G X56 Hotas, Thrustmaster T.Flight Hotas X, and Logitech Extreme 3D Pro Precision Joystick.
Our Top Pick: Best Joystick
Turtle Beach VelocityOne Flight
- Comprehensive and accurate control set
- The built-in screen makes for easy configuration
- Versatile mounting options
- The status indicator panel doesn’t work yet (to be added in future firmware)
- Only designed for planes
The Turtle Beach VelocityOne Flight control system is just about as realistic as Flight Simulator peripherals get. It’s a breeze to set up and the handy built-in screen can be set to remind you what all of the various buttons, levers and dials control.
It’s tailored specifically to plane flying, so might not be as versatile as some of our other choices, but when it comes to Flight Simulator this is the crème de la crème.
The yoke operates smoothly on all axes, the buttons are plentiful and easy to remap and we especially liked the inclusion of a trim-wheel. As an added bonus, the RGB illuminated buttons make it look particularly swish in a dimly lit room.
Flight sticks we also recommend
The Turtle Beach VelocityOne is a truly fantastic controller, but, it won’t be the right pick for everyone – particularly if you’d like to fly spaceships, as well as planes. That’s why we also recommend checking out the four other options below.
Thrustmaster TCA Sidestick
- 1:1 scale replica of the real Airbus sidestick
- Clever modular design
- Well priced
- Mode 2 throttle operation isn’t great
- Can get pricey if you add more components to the TCA ecosystem
As joysticks go, this is simply one of the best choices when it comes to flight simulators – you get amazing directional control to play with, as well as some handy shortcut buttons.
The best part is a little throttle control right below the stick – that makes it a great all-in-one solution since you can control all the key functions without the need for more peripherals.
Saitek G X56 Hotas
- Optimised for 6 degrees of freedom
- Dual throttle control and loads of switches
- RGB lighting and metal accents
- Deadzone is fairly large
- Only works with PC
If you fancy a bit more of an involved setup, this deck from Saitek has more controls and its own dedicated twin-throttle control. That means it can be a full two-handed situation that’ll feel like piloting for real.
It’s a good deal pricier, as a result, but you get superb build-quality to go with it. This one is perfect in combination with a keyboard, the throttle can sit on the left and the joystick on the right, leaving the keyboard accessible for anything that can’t be mapped to the buttons.
Thrustmaster T.Flight Hotas X
- Detachable throttle for ergonomic flights
- Twist rudder with locking function
- Trigger for combat simulation
- Not as well finished as other options
- No illumination
If you want a throttle and joystick control in one package but don’t want to break the bank, Thrustmaster’s got a neat solution in the form of this deck.
It’s got the essentials taken care of without splashing out too much, and while there aren’t countless extra buttons to choose from, you’ll still be upgrading your flight experience a bunch.
Logitech Extreme 3D Pro Precision Joystick
- Affordable and well made
- 8-way hat switch
- Plug and play on Windows
- The thumb throttle isn’t the most comfortable
- No console version
This joystick is the most affordable on our list, but it’s still nicely made, well designed and will get the job done for most people.
It’s nice to use, and a decent selection of buttons and a throttle control mean that you do have access to the main essentials you’ll need.
Other products we considered
When trying to decide what we believe are the best joysticks currently available for gaming, we spent hours testing and researching. We consider a number of factors when it comes to recommending these joysticks – and apply the same criteria when a new device is being considered for inclusion. It’s not all judged on our testing, either – we also try to factor in consumer reviews, brand quality and value.
In all of our roundups, there are also many products we test that don’t make the final cut. Since they may be the right fit for some people, however, we’ve listed them below.
How to choose a flight stick
Narrowing down the best flight stick for you is no easy task. So, with that in mind, we’ve put together a quick list of things to consider before making your next joystick purchase.
What will you be flying?
While we have focused largely on Flight Simulator for this guide, there are numerous titles that can take advantage of a good joystick. Particularly, space combat games like Elite Dangerous or Star Citizen. If you’ll be likely to want to play one of these games too, then a solid multi-purpose joystick might be the best choice rather than something Flight Simulator specific.
Even if you’ll only be playing Flight Simulator, it’s important to think about which planes you prefer to fly. Different joysticks attempt to replicate the controls of different aircraft, for example, the Turtle Beach VelocityOne controller has a similar layout to a Cessna cockpit whereas the Thrustmaster TCA series replicates the controls from an Airbus.
Where is your sim rig?
If you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated space in which to build out your simulator setup, then you can get away with giant bulky peripherals; but if like most of us you’re working with limited space, then you’ll want to think carefully about the peripherals you choose and where they’re going to live.
A simple flight stick can easily be popped into a drawer when not in use but something more substantial, like a flight yoke, can be harder to live with. It all depends on your space and how you intend to use it, far be it from us to tell you that you cant have a full sim rig built around the living room TV.
Buttons, switches, levers and more
While most Flight Simulator setups still make use of the keyboard and mouse to some degree, it’s important to think of your most-used functions and how you would like to map them on your chosen controller.
A throttle lever is a high priority for many virtual pilots, but everyone’s needs are different. Flight Simulator makes it really easy to remap controls so you can make any button on your flight stick control anything you like. So, take a good long look at the buttons on offer, and think about how best they can work for you and whether you’d need them to be toggles, sliders, dials or switches.
More about this story
Every product in this list has been assessed thoroughly to ensure it will perform exactly as a recommended pick should.
There are tonnes of flight sticks on the market, but not all offer the right mix of design, specs and performance, or, indeed, offer a price tag that represents good value.
While it’s impossible to account for every scenario, we aim to provide a list of recommendations that suit a wide range of digital pilots that are searching for the perfect flight companion.
As with any roundup, though, it’s not possible to deliver a list that works for everybody, which is why we lean on the experiences and opinions of the wider Pocket-lint team – as well as thoroughly assessing the areas above – in order to do our best in this regard.
What we always tend to avoid when compiling these picks are needless spec comparisons and marketing lines; we just want to provide an easy to understand summary that gives you an idea of what each charging station is like to use. Our verdicts are concise, but this is purely in the interest of brevity.
Writing by Max Freeman-Mills. Editing by Conor Allison.