The Top 10 plane games to play in 2023: virtual aviation experience

Cabine of helicopter simulator

In the fast-paced world of gaming, virtual experiences are becoming more realistic and captivating than ever before. For aviation enthusiasts, aviation games offer a unique opportunity to soar through the skies, piloting various aircraft in adrenaline-pumping missions. Whether you dream of becoming a fighter pilot or flying commercial jets, these Top 10 plane games for 2023 deliver an unparalleled virtual aviation experience. 

Our list includes the best fighter jet games, World War I and II aviation games, air traffic control games, general aviation, naval, and commercial aircraft simulation games

Let’s buckle up and start with the 10th place, moving up towards the Top 1 winner. Get ready for an adrenaline-pumping adventure! 

10. FlightGear  

  • Platforms: Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, IRIX and Solaris 
  • Release date: 1997 (initial release) 
  • Company: FlightGear development team (open-source community-driven project) 

In FlightGear, the player steps into the shoes of a virtual pilot, immersing themselves in a realistic and open-world flight simulation. This open-source project suits aviation enthusiasts, gamers, and developers alike. The game’s accessibility means that it caters to a broad audience, from beginners to seasoned flight simulators

One of the key highlights of FlightGear is its ever-evolving nature. 26 years after its initial release, the game continues to receive updates and improvements, ensuring a cutting-edge experience for players. New aircraft models, detailed landscapes and improved features regularly enhance the overall gameplay. 

The variety of aircraft available in FlightGear covers a wide range of planes from historic models to modern commercial jets and military aircraft. Each aircraft comes with realistic flight physics, cockpit controls, and unique characteristics, providing a true-to-life piloting experience. 

Exploration is a central aspect of FlightGear. The game features a vast, open-world environment that allows players to fly over detailed and accurate terrain, spanning various continents and regions. From soaring over cities and picturesque landscapes to navigating through challenging weather conditions. 

It also offers the flexibility for players to choose between flying solo in a single-player mode or engaging with other pilots in a multiplayer environment. 

Curtis L. Olson / Wikimedia 

9. RealFlight Evolution 

  • Platform: Microsoft Windows  
  • Release date: 2022  
  • Company: Horizon Hobby 

In RealFlight Evolution, players get to pilot over 300 aircraft. It provides a risk-free environment for users to practice their radio-control (RC) flying skills and experiment with different aircraft. RealFlight Evolution offers a vast array of aircraft options, from small RC drones to large-scale jets.  

The physics engine is designed to replicate the intricacies of RC flight, including factors like wind, turbulence, and aerodynamics. Also, you can change aircraft, airports, weather conditions, and even create your own flying scenarios. This flexibility ensures that every session can be tailored to your preferences and skill level. 

To enhance the authenticity of the experience, RealFlight Evolution supports a wide range of RC transmitter controllers, but the InterLink DX is recommended. If you already have a controller, you can use it to further immerse yourself in the game. Also, it supports virtual reality (VR). 

Knife Edge Software, the game’s developer, has a track record of providing regular updates and expansions to keep the game fresh and up-to-date. 

RealFlight Evolution includes both single and multiplayer modes, allowing users to fly with friends or other players from around the world. 

8. IL-2 Sturmovik: Great Battles 

  • Platform: Microsoft Windows 
  • Release date: 2013 
  • Company: 1C Game Studios 

In IL-2 Sturmovik: Great Battles, players are transported to the intense and historically accurate world of World War I and II aerial combat. This flight simulation game focuses on delivering an experience centered around iconic aircraft from that era. 

Players have the opportunity to pilot various aircraft, ranging from legendary fighters like the Spitfire and Messerschmitt Bf 109 to iconic bombers such as the B-17 Flying Fortress and the Ju 88. Each aircraft has its own unique flight characteristics, weaponry, and handling. 

The game offers an extensive campaign mode where players can participate in historically inspired missions and pivotal battles that took place during World War I and II. Whether it’s dogfighting with enemy fighters in the skies, conducting ground attack missions, or defending strategic targets, each mission is designed to offer a challenging, and experience. 

Furthermore, the game’s attention to detail extends to its recreated landscapes and historical locations. Players can fly over authentic terrains, including detailed cities, vast countryside, and wartime landmarks. 

Apart from the single-player campaign, the game offers multiplayer modes, allowing players to engage in dogfights and cooperative missions with other virtual pilots from around the world.  

7. Airport CEO 

  • Platforms: Microsoft Windows and MacOS 
  • Release date: 2017 (early access) 
  • Companies: Apog Labs 

Airport CEO is a simulation game that allows players to step into the role of an airport manager. The heart of the game is building and customizing your airport from the ground up. You have control over every aspect, from runway placement and terminal design to security checkpoints and baggage handling systems. 

Airport CEO incorporates the movement of passengers, baggage, aircraft, and airport staff. Real-world challenges such as managing delays, handling emergencies, and optimizing airport flow are also part of the experience. 

The game features a wide range of aircraft, from small regional planes to massive jumbo jets. Each type has specific requirements, and you must provide suitable infrastructure, including runways, gates, and taxiways, to accommodate them. 

As the airport CEO, you’ll need to make strategic decisions. These include setting airline contracts, managing budgets, hiring and training staff, and ensuring customer satisfaction. Balancing finances, efficiency, and passenger experience is crucial to your airport’s success. The game also presents real-time challenges, such as weather disruptions, equipment breakdowns, and unexpected emergencies. 

Airport CEO offers modding support, allowing players to create and share custom content, including new aircraft, buildings, and gameplay mechanics. 

In addition to the single-player experience, Airport CEO offers a multiplayer mode where you can collaborate or compete with other players in managing airports. 

6. X-Plane 11 

  • Platforms: Microsoft Windows, macOS, and Linux 
  • Release date: 2016 
  • Company: Laminar Research 

In X-Plane 11, players are thrust into the world of flight simulation, where they take on the role of virtual pilots with the freedom to explore and master various aircraft. This game offers an incredibly realistic and detailed flight experience, making it a popular choice for aviation enthusiasts, aspiring pilots, and gamers alike. 

As a pilot in X-Plane 11, you have access to a wide range of aircraft, from small general aviation planes to large commercial airliners and military jets. Each aircraft is modeled with accurate flight physics and systems, providing an authentic and immersive flying experience. 

The game offers a diverse selection of scenic locations and airports worldwide, allowing players to embark on flights across continents and explore famous landmarks and geographical features. The immersive landscapes, realistic weather conditions, and day-night cycles further enhance the sense of realism. 

The multiplayer component of X-Plane 11 allows pilots to interact with others online, flying in the same virtual skies, and even collaborating on shared missions or flight events. You can also play as a single player. 

5. War Thunder 

  • Platforms: Microsoft Windows, macOS, PlayStation 4, 5, GeForceNow, Linux,  Xbox One, and Xbox Series S and X 
  • Release date: 2013 
  • Company: Gaijin Entertainment 

In War Thunder, players are thrust into the heart of World War I and II battles and beyond, taking on the roles of tank commanders, aircraft pilots, and naval captains. This game offers a multiplayer online experience where players from around the world engage in intense and immersive combat scenarios. 

The game features various game modes tailored to different types of warfare. In the ground forces mode, players take command of armored vehicles, battling it out in tank warfare on detailed and historically inspired maps. 

As aircraft pilots, players can engage in high-flying dogfights in the air forces mode. The game features an extensive roster of World War II-era planes and later aircraft from various nations. Players can perform daring aerial maneuvers and participate in intense air battles across vast skies. 

To further enhance the experience, the game offers a progression system where players can research and unlock new vehicles and upgrades as they progress through battles.  

4. Arma 3 

  • Platforms: Microsoft Windows and MacOS  
  • Release date: 2013  
  • Company: Bohemia Interactive 

Arma 3 offers players a realistic portrayal of modern military warfare. From infantry combat and vehicular warfare to aerial operations, the game covers a wide spectrum of military activities. 

In Arma 3, players have the opportunity to pilot a wide array of military aircraft, including helicopters, fixed-wing planes, and even drones. The game’s terrain features diverse landscapes that range from dense forests to urban areas. 

Aerial combat in Arma 3 is not limited to dogfights and airstrikes. Players can also engage in transport missions, medical evacuations, and troop insertions by air, contributing to the game’s sense of versatility and realism. The vast open-world environment and the interplay between air and ground units create a dynamic and challenging experience, allowing players to fully immerse themselves in the role of a military pilot or air support specialist. 

The Arma series has a dedicated modding community that produces a wealth of additional content, including new maps, vehicles, and missions. 

3. Digital Combat Simulator World (DCS World) 

  • Platform: Microsoft Windows 
  • Release date: Initial release – 2008 (DCS World as a platform, various modules released over time) 
  • Company: Eagle Dynamics 

In Digital Combat Simulator World (DCS World), players are in the world of realistic combat flight simulation. 

DCS World offers a variety of modules, each focusing on a specific aircraft or theater of operations. Players can choose from a vast selection of modules, including popular modern fighters like the F/A-18C Hornet, F-16C Viper, and A-10C Warthog, as well as historical aircraft like the P-51D Mustang, Spitfire, and MiG-21bis. Each aircraft is recreated with fully clickable cockpits, complex avionics systems, and authentic flight physics. 

Players can also fly over recreated terrains, including various regions and historical battlefields, adding an extra layer of authenticity to the experience. 

DCS World caters to different levels of players, with its “Flaming Cliffs” series offering simplified flight models for those seeking a more accessible and arcade-like experience, while its more complex modules cater to hardcore simulation enthusiasts. 

The game’s single-player experience includes various campaigns, dynamic missions, and instant action scenarios. Players can test their piloting skills in diverse combat situations, engaging in dogfights, ground attacks, and anti-ship missions. 

In addition to the single-player content, DCS World offers a vibrant multiplayer community. Players can team up with friends or join large-scale multiplayer servers, participating in coordinated missions, air battles, and combined arms operations. 

Players can also create and share custom missions, campaigns, aircraft skins, and additional modules. 

2. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown 

  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows 
  • Release date: 2019 
  • Company: Bandai Namco Entertainment 

In Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, players embark on an adventure as skilled fighter pilots, engaging in aerial combat and missions set in a fictional world. 

The game features a storyline, following the conflict between two nations vying for control over the skies. As the protagonist, players become part of an elite fighter squadron and find themselves at the center of a gripping narrative filled with twists and turns. 

Ace Combat 7 offers a selection of modern and futuristic fighter jets, each equipped with weapons and capabilities. Players can customize their aircraft with various upgrades, tailoring them to their preferred playstyle and mission requirements. 

The heart of the game lies in its aerial battles. Players engage in intense dogfights against enemy aircraft, requiring sharp reflexes, precision aiming, and tactical maneuvering. The game’s flight controls are accessible yet responsive. 

Beyond dogfights, Ace Combat 7 presents a diverse range of mission types. Players can undertake air-to-ground strikes, targeting enemy installations and ground forces, as well as air-to-sea missions where they engage enemy naval vessels. 

The game’s graphics and dynamic weather system further enhance the experience. Players may find themselves flying through turbulent storms, dense clouds, and beautiful sunsets. 

Ace Combat 7 also introduces a multiplayer mode, where players can compete in team-based matches or free-for-all battles against other pilots from around the world. It also features a single-player mode.  

Throughout the game, players earn in-game currency and experience points, which can be used to unlock new aircraft and upgrades, fostering a sense achievement as they advance through the campaign and multiplayer modes. 

Top 1 – Microsoft Flight Simulator X 

  • Platform: Microsoft Windows  
  • Release date: 2006 
  • Company: Microsoft Game Studios 

What makes Microsoft Flight Simulator X a number one game? In Microsoft Flight Simulator X, players assume the role of a virtual pilot, gaining access to a vast and immersive world of aviation. The game provides a wide array of aircraft, from small propeller-driven planes to modern passenger jets, allowing players to experience the thrill of flying in different aviation scenarios. 

As a pilot in Microsoft Flight Simulator X, you can choose various modes of play. In the “Free Flight” mode, you can explore the open-world environment without specific objectives, enabling you to fly anywhere on the globe. 

The game also offers missions and challenges. These missions include tasks such as flight training, emergency response, search and rescue operations, and piloting historic aircraft in significant historical events. 

Microsoft Flight Simulator X also allows players to take on the role of air traffic controllers in “Air Traffic Control” mode. Here, you manage the flow of air traffic, providing instructions and guidance to pilots for safe takeoffs, landings, and flight paths. 

One of the best strengths this game possesses is its attention to detail and realism. Aircraft are accurately modeled, featuring functioning cockpit controls, realistic flight physics, and authentic engine sounds. The game also incorporates real-world weather data, including real-time weather conditions. 

For those interested in multiplayer experiences, Microsoft Flight Simulator X offers online multiplayer support. 

Additionally, the game supports a vibrant community of modders who create and share custom aircraft, liveries, scenery, and missions, enhancing the game’s content and replayability. 

Watch a new trailer video for the 2024 Microsoft Flight Simulator game:


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