Flight Simulator controller recommendations: Our picks for budget, mid-tier and high end joystick setups

Technology

14 years on from the last entry, Microsoft Flight Simulator is finally back – and its return sees a whole wave of lapsed or new players taking to the skies.

And if it’s your first time up there in a while, it can all be a bit bewildering – even before you’ve sat at the controls of a Cessna or a more complex beast like a Boeing 747, there’s all sorts of options and extras to consider. Like, for example, what controls you might consider using.

This page offers an overview of the many Flight Simulator hardware setups you can consider, according to your budget – from using an Xbox controller through to instrument panels and pedals.

On this page:

  • Can you use an Xbox controller in Microsoft Flight Simulator?
  • The budget Microsoft Flight Simulator hardware and joystick setup
  • The mid-tier Microsoft Flight Simulator hardware and joystick setup
  • The high-end Microsoft Flight Simulator hardware and joystick setup

Can you use an Xbox controller in Microsoft Flight Simulator?
Microsoft Flight Simulator is a flexible thing, catering to casual players who just want to tour the world from the comfort of their own sofa to wannabe pilots who want to role-play all 6 hours of a transatlantic flight.

As such, it caters to all sorts of control options – from mouse and keyboard through to a fully modular cockpit with multiple screens and button boxes.

You can play Microsoft Flight Simulator with an Xbox controller and have a perfectly satisfying experience – though you might need a keyboard close by for some specific commands, such as changing sim rate and autopilot shortcuts.

If you’re looking to invest in one of these, remember there’s a refresh later this year with the arrival of the Xbox Series X controller, if you can wait a couple of months.

However, if you’re looking for a bit more immersion there’s more than one option when it comes to flight-specific hardware.