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The best joysticks for PC 2022

best joysticks
(Image credit: Future)

Choosing the best joystick for PC flight simulators 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, there are plenty of devices on the shelves right now. 

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. While some cheaper options consist of a PC joystick by itself, spending a little more will open up the world of HOTAS (hands on throttle and stick). However, these full setups can rack up quite the price tag. That's why we're bringing you all the best joysticks for PC across the full budget range - so you know you're getting great value for money whatever you're spending. 

We have five models on this list, three of which are from Thrustmaster, which is the top-dog manufacturer in this department. Joysticks can set you back quite a bit of money but that's what you have to do sometimes in the search for one of the best flying-shaped PC controllers money can buy.

1. Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog

The best joystick for PC overall

Specifications

Connection: USB
Buttons/switches: 55
Weight (Stick/Throttle): 3.4kg/4.2kg (15lbs+ total)
Platforms: PC

Reasons to buy

+
Impeccable build quality
+
Countless inputs
+
Top choice for serious enthusiasts

Reasons to avoid

-
Really just for the specialists

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.

2. Logitech G Extreme Pro 3D

The best joystick for PC under $40 / £40

Specifications

Connection: USB
Buttons/switches: 12
Weight (Stick/Throttle): 1.2kg (2.7lb)
Platforms: PC

Reasons to buy

+
Super low price point
+
Everything you need for entry level
+
Easier to store

Reasons to avoid

-
Underpowered compared to more expensive options

If you're not quite ready to commit to the price point of something like the Warthog, the Logitech G Extreme Pro 3D has a much more digestable cost. We regularly see this stick available for well under $40 / £40 and it's got everything you need to get started in the world of flight sims. 

A one-handed rudder twisting control keeps a small footprint for your setup as a whole, and there's still plenty of programmable buttons to fiddle with as well. An 8-way hat switch, throttle control, and three-axis movement, there's an impressive array of features baked in for the price here. Not only that, but it comes with a solid build quality and a smaller footprint - perfect if you don't want to keep your setup on the desk all the time. 

The G Extreme Pro 3D certainly won't see more experienced fliers through a long session, but if you're just testing the waters this is a solid place to start with a taster of everything to come without the much larger price tags. 

3. Thrustmaster TCA Sidestick Airbus Edition

The best joystick for Flight Simulator

Specifications

Connection: USB
Programmable Controls: 12
Weight (Stick/Throttle): 920g (2lb)
Platforms: PC

Reasons to buy

+
Great price for a single game's use
+
Flight Simulator-specific features
+
Realistic Airbus design

Reasons to avoid

-
Fewer programmable buttons

If you're just looking for a joystick to see you through Flight Simulator with a little more realism, you don't need to spend much. For single-game purposes, the Thrustmaster TCA Sidestick Airbus Edition is all you need - and you're getting FS-specific features and a classy authentic Airbus design to boot. With four swappable heads and a few programmable buttons for good measure, this is a solid piece of kit considering it won't run you past $70 / £65 on a good day. 

Originally launched as part of the brand's collaboration with Airbus, the TCA line has gone on to become one of the more popular affordable joystick options on PC. Of course, you can fully kit it out with Quadrant peripherals for an all-ecompassing experience, but the beauty here is you can build to this over time. You'll have everything you need to take to the skies from day one here, with more impressive add-ons always waiting if you feel you need them. 

What's more, this stick is a plug and play affair for Flight Simulator. That means you won't have to exhaust all your excitement simply setting it up - you can dive straight in and get going. 

4. Logitech G X56 HOTAS

The best joystick for customization

Specifications

Connection: USB
Programmable Controls: 189
Weight (Stick/Throttle): 1.1kg/1.2kg (5lbs total)
Platforms: PC

Reasons to buy

+
Clean, sleek finish
+
189(!) programmable controls
+
Middle-of-the-park price

Reasons to avoid

-
Build quality could be better

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.

The best PC joystick for beginners

Specifications

Connection: USB
Weight: 1.8kg (3.9lbs)
Platforms: PS3/PC

Reasons to buy

+
Cheap option for those on a budget
+
Suitable for newbies
+
Lightweight and portable

Reasons to avoid

-
Significant deadzone

Here 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.

If you're set on getting yourself a flight stick and want to see if they're a good fit, the Thrustmaster T.Flight HOTAS X is a great choice

Thrustmaster T.Flight HOTAS X review

All the above aspects of the HOTAS 4 apply here too; we were impressed by the fact that it has 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. When testing the HOTAS X we found that it 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 for PC.

Read more: Thrustmaster T.Flight HOTAS X

Which joystick is best for PC?

In our opinion we found that the best controller is the Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog - it is a replica of military-grade equipment and much more tailored towards seasoned players. For the best budget option we found that the Thrustmaster T.Flight HOTAS X is better suited, it is only compatible with PS3 and PC as it is an older model but works very well on PC. The best option for people who want in-depth gameplay with a lot of customisation is the Logitech G X56 HOTAS as it has over 180 programmable controls. 

Do I need a joystick for Microsoft Flight Simulator?

A joystick is not needed in order to play Microsoft Flight Simulator however it definitely elevates the experience. Having a joystick allows for another level of immersion whether you are an entry level flier or a seasoned pilot. 

What joysticks are compatible with Microsoft Flight Simulator?

Microsoft Flight Simulator devs have stated that all joysticks should be compatible with their game. They have a list of top recommendations which can be found on their website but have stated that any joystick should work after some customisation. 

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.

Tabitha Baker
Managing Editor - Hardware

Managing Editor of Hardware at GamesRadar+, I originally landed in hardware at our sister site TechRadar before moving over to GamesRadar. In between, I've written for Tom’s Guide, Wireframe, The Indie Game Website and That Video Game Blog, covering everything from the PS5 launch to the Apple Pencil. Now, i'm focused on Nintendo Switch, gaming laptops (and the keyboards and mice that come with them), and tracking everything that suggests VR is about to take over our lives.

With contributions from