Choosing the best joystick for flight simulators to buy for your set-up isn't an easy task. The joystick market is somewhat niche compared to a lot of gaming accessories and only a few brands offer products here, but it's important to know you're getting the best bang for your buck. Whether you're a newbie looking to test the waters of the joystick world or you want to upgrade your existing one, let us help with this guide to the best joysticks.
These all provide another element to games like Star Wars Squadrons and Microsoft Flight Simulator that either a controller or keyboard and mouse cannot offer. All of these products are HOTAS — Hands-On Throttle and Stick, if you're unfamiliar with the pilot lingo — which is the industry standard. Stock has been hard to come by lately, but hopefully, we'll get some discounts in the Prime Day laptop deals.
We have five models on this list, three of which are from Thrustmaster, who are the flagship manufacturer in this department. Both the HOTAS X and HOTAS 4 are entry-level flight sticks with minor differences, which we'll get onto below, while the HOTAS Warthog on the other hand is an absolute monster that'll set you back a pretty penny.
Then we have one from Logitech. If you've been living under a rock and are unfamiliar with the brand, Logitech is one of the most well-renowned names out there when it comes to gaming peripherals, so you can be sure you're getting a quality product. Finally, the Hori HOTAS we have here is a competitive product that is arguably the best looking of the lot if you like a matte black finish.
So without further ado, let's take a look at the best joysticks and best flight sticks for gaming on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. It's worth noting that stock for most joysticks on PC is incredibly scarce right now, due in part to a certain flight sim's popularity. Speaking of which, be sure to check out the latest Microsoft Flight Simulator prices if you're after the best game to go with your new joystick.
We're starting off with the biggest and the best. As mentioned above, if you're a newbie when it comes to the world of flight sticks, chances are you want to skip over the Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog because this is a replica of military-grade equipment that will set you back around $380/£400. Yikes.
That's where the drawbacks stop though, because if you know you'll get enough use out of this bad boy, then it's the absolute best on the market. A warning needs to be had though: Don't drop this on your toe, or you'll end up crippled because it weighs over 15lbs in total.
If you've no experience with this type of peripheral before then it'll take some getting used to, but boy oh boy does it excel when it feels natural. It has 55 reprogrammable buttons and switches, which is an astounding amount when you consider the fact a standard controller has what, less than 20?
The HOTAS Warthog adds so much realism to whichever game you're playing, whether you're hurtling through the skies in Ace Combat, shooting TIE Fighters in Star Wars Squadrons, or piloting a jumbo jet airliner in Microsoft Flight Simulator. Thanks to the TARGET software it comes bundled with, you can install optimized and custom profiles too, for games like War Thunder, Star Citizen, Elite Dangerous... there's a long list. Unfortunately, this impressive bit of kit is only compatible with PC, so console players will need to carry on reading.
Logitech's premier offering in the flight stick department comes in the form of the X56 HOTAS, a direct successor to the now-defunct X55. A gorgeous looking piece of kit, as Logitech's G range tends to be, with a matte black finish and stainless steel switches and knobs.
This HOTAS is nowhere near as pricey as the Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog, but it will still set you back over $200/£200. Again, it's a steep cost for any newcomers to the scene, but the X56 is second on our list for a reason. The extent of the controls and ease-of-use make it a solid choice for any budding pilot.
Having three separate triggers is a huge benefit for the X56 over a lot of other flight sticks. When combined with the plethora of other controls like the thumb slider, numerous dials and switches, buttons... chances are you won't need to use all of them, but you can remap them at your leisure so you only have the most suitable controls for you at your fingertips.
A few customer reviews have stated that the build quality here is a little lackluster though and that the lightweight nature means it can easily move on your desk when in use. These incidents seem to be few and far between, but it's worth bearing in mind. Overall, the Logitech G X56 HOTAS is a fantastic choice for those who want to go all out, but can't afford the astronomically priced Thrustmaster Warthog.
Console flight sticks are much harder to come by than their PC counterparts, largely because on console, you can't reprogram any controls. With that said, there are a couple of options, and if you want the best possible flying experience, the Hori HOTAS Flight Stick is the way forward. You can either pick up the base version if you're on PS4 or the one modified Ace Combat 7 one if you're on Xbox One, but both are equally as good and will work with most games including recent releases like Star Wars Squadrons.
You're usually looking at just under $200/£200 for the Hori HOTAS, so it's a steep investment for a console peripheral, but more than worth it if you don't have a gaming-compatible PC and want to experience everything you can from a HOTAS. The Hori is a weighty, all-black device that will seriously up the realism compared to playing with a DualShock 4 or Xbox One controller. Even though you need different versions depending on if you're on PS4 or Xbox One.
Unlike a lot of other flight sticks, the Hori HOTAS does support the rumble function, which is a huge plus. Thanks to the weight, it doesn't move around when you're in the middle of a dogfight pulling sharply on the throttle either like you often find with lighter HOTAS devices. Some reviews mention a deadzone in the middle of the stick which makes small movements difficult, but there is a switch you can toggle on the front to adjust it if needs be. If you've got the cash to splash on a console HOTAS, this should be the one.
At the other end of the scale, we have the Thrustmaster T.Flight HOTAS 4. This is the perfect flight stick for anyone who wants to test waters of the HOTAS ocean and see if picking up a flight stick is the right thing to do. The HOTAS 4 is compatible with both PC and PS4 — unfortunately, Xbox players are resigned to just the Xbox version of the Hori one above — and while it's somewhat feature-light, it does the job of providing a flight sim experience.
It's as easy as they come to set-up; all you need to do is attach the throttle and stick (or leave them apart if you prefer) with two screws. It's lightweight, which is great if you need to move it frequently or take it anywhere, but it does also mean that it sometimes lifts off the table with violent or sudden movements.
Since it's a console compatible stick, the number of buttons is limited compared to other HOTAS options if you're using this on PC, but the budget price should make up for it. It also doesn't support rumble features like the above Hori, which is a disappointment for those on PS4. This is a solid option for those looking to dip their toes in the waters of HOTAS, but you definitely get what you pay for as this will only set you back under $100/£100.
Finally, we have the Thrustmaster T.Flight HOTAS X. You may notice this looks somewhat similar to the Thrustmaster T.Flight HOTAS 4 and well, that's right. The HOTAS X is the predecessor, which means it's only compatible with PS3 and PC, but for some reason, Thrustmaster is still producing it and it's often easier to find stock of. This means that if you're a PC gamer looking for a budget HOTAS, this is the way forward because the lack of current gen console compatibility won't be an issue, plus it should be slightly cheaper.
All the above aspects of the HOTAS 4 apply here too; same number of buttons, same design, same weight, etc. The HOTAS X has a red accent compared to the blue on the HOTAS 4, but it's purely an aesthetic choice. It's also worth noting that the HOTAS X does have a somewhat notable deadzone on both the stick and the throttle that can be a pain to work with when it comes to small movements, but it's unconfirmed whether this has been fixed in the HOTAS 4 or not. At the end of the day, you'll be able to grab a HOTAS X for prices cheaper than most other joysticks, so it's a solid choice if you want to simply see what it's like to use a flight stick.
Looking for a substantial upgrade to your gaming setup? Be sure to take a look at our picks for the best gaming PC, or best gaming laptops. We've also got you covered for the best gaming mouse or best gaming keyboard. And if you're treating your eyes, then you'll be needing our best gaming monitors guide.