There are a ton of flight simulators available but sometimes you don’t want to just simply fly around aimlessly. In this list, we’re going over the very best air combat video game titles to have ever released. From classic titles, free-to-play games, along VR, check out our picks down below.
#20 Jane’s Combat Simulations
Jane’s Combat Simulations is a collection of flight and air combat video games that got started in the late 1990s. The slew of titles released put players in different wars and a wide variety of planes. These were more hardcore combat simulation-style video games and over the years we’ve had a pretty solid collection of titles released under Jane’s banner and while they are older titles compared to some of the other games on this list, they may very well be worth trying out today if you’d like the old school air combat kind of gameplay.
With that said, most would agree to stick with the games released before 2002. Jane’s Advanced Strike Fighters is the latest installment that came out in 2011, but it’s a title that most found to be pretty lacking compared to the installments released prior.
#19 Heliborne Collection
Helicopters don’t get the same praise and attention as the big jet fighters and massive military planes in video air combat games. Fortunately, there’s Heliborne Collection, a game developed with players taking control of a wide variety of helicopters. You’ll find helicopters from the 1950s up to the 21st century here.
This is still an air combat game so you’ll still have a wide variety of missions throughout the years as you battle against tanks, anti-aircraft artillery, ground troops, and other hostile aircraft. There’s also multiplayer here as well with the game offering players the chance to go through some co-op missions, or battle against each other in different skirmish-style modes.
#18 Iron Conflict
Iron Conflict is a new game that just came out in January of 2021. With that said, it’s an early access title so if you jump into this game you’ll likely see some changes and tweaks made as the development team continues to work on the project. This is an RTS game where players will be commanding different troops into battle so it’s not necessarily solely focused on air combat.
Instead, you’ll have ground troops, tanks, to of course aircraft that can be used to lay down some aerial fire from above. Players are essentially commanding these aircraft, among other troops, to take out the opposing side in a series of battles. Meanwhile, the vehicles used within this game are based around World War II to the present day so you could have a pretty diverse arsenal set at your disposal.
#17 Warplanes: WWI Fighters
Those of you who have a compatible VR headset may want to give Warplanes: WW1 Fighters a try. It’s a game that puts players into different missions set during the First World War and as a result, you have a variety of aircraft that were used during the war. Players will get to not only fly these planes around during battle, but you’ll also have the ability to use the different weapons attached to the aircraft.
That can be anything from machine guns attached to the plane, aside from pistol, to even some bombs that you can physically grab and drop on targets below. Furthermore, this game does offer multiplayer so if you jump online you can go against other players in PvP matches or complete cooperative game missions.
#16 I1-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad
This IL-2 Sturmovik series is a PC air combat flight simulator with Battle of Stalingrad just one of the installments players can dive into. This is a WWII air combat game that has players going through different aircraft in a series of missions including bombers to fighters. There’s also VR support so players could get even more immersed in the chaotic gameplay.
With that said, it’s well worth pointing out that there is a ton of DLC available for this game as well. You could add in additional aircraft and campaigns, but you’ll have to pay a pretty penny for everything. If you were to get all the extra planes and campaigns released for this game then you’re looking at nearly $700.
#15 Air Brawl
Air Brawl is a significantly different style of video game compared to the titles mentioned so far. This is an arcade multiplayer game with players taking on futuristic-style aircraft flying at intense speeds on a maze-like map. Players are going through the game in an attempt to take out all the other players using either long-range weaponry or even melee-style attachments when they get close enough to another player.
It’s a simple game to understand and easy to get into with the controls. Best of all, Air Brawl is a completely free-to-play video game that you can pick up right now on Steam.
#14 Guns of Icarus Online
Guns of Icarus Online is a game based around steampunk-style airship combat. As a result, these are not realistic ships, but instead more arcade team-based combat titles. Players are roaming around on these massive ships that fly around a map with players constantly battling against each other. If you’re familiar with Sea of Thieves, Guns of Icarus is quite a bit like that game. Instead of a team working with each other on a pirate ship, you’re doing the same thing with an aircraft.
You’ll have to keep your aircraft safe while also using the various mounted guns to take out the competition. With that said, ships can be customized up to give it a bit more character while you’ll also be able to group up with a team of four players to act as the ship’s crew. Meanwhile, game matches can be varied online with simple deathmatches to more objective-based modes such as King of the Hill.
#13 Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X
Most players are likely more familiar with Tom Clancy’s video games being based on the tactical shooters and it’s a series of games that typically does well. But did you know that Tom Clancy delivered a combat flight simulator game called Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X which is a game that tosses players into a jet as you participate in different missions.
The gameplay is a bit like the Ace Combat series which we’ll get into a bit later in this list. With only two installments for the H.A.W.X series, it looks like Ubisoft is just sticking with the tactical strategy FPS games. Perhaps we’ll see Ubisoft give this series another chance with the latest-generation platforms but only time will tell.
#12 VTOL VR
Another solid VR game that’s based around air combat is Vtol VR. If you have a compatible VR headset then chances are you’ve seen this game before. It’s more a realistic air combat game, where you’ll take the pilot seat of a few different jet aircraft. Sitting in the pilot’s seat players will have a pretty interactive cockpit so you’re not only just grabbing the control stick but having to press various buttons and flip switches.
Not to mention, there’s a digital screen to give you more information and insight into either your mission targets or aircraft stats. If you’re wanting more of an arcade gameplay experience then this is a game you’ll probably want to skip out on but for those that are after more simulated gameplay in VR then you can’t go wrong here.
#11 Arma 3
The Arma series got its start back in 2006 and currently, the latest installment available is Arma 3 which launched back in 2013. This is a series of tactical military combat games which in the case of Arma 3 takes place in the mid-2030s. Fans have enjoyed the game for its big open-world style environment, but it’s worth making a note right away that this is not strictly an air combat video game. Instead, players will have a few vehicles to make use of when they are not actively on the ground firing away at enemies.
With that said, this game has DLC available that specifically adds more content into the game including different helicopters and jets for players to use. You can still find quite an active community today with Arma 3 as the developers had supported the title with a series of DLC releases. Now fans are waiting on the fabled Arma 4 announcement.
#10 Bomber Crew
Bomber Crew is a strategic air combat title that has players managing a crew onboard a bomber. Going through a series of missions, players will need to keep an eye on a ton of different aspects of their aircraft. You’ll have members going through navigation, operating the different guns to defend your aircraft, giving medical aid to downed members, and providing repairs when needed.
There can be a good bit of trial-and-error here as you attempt to complete some lengthy missions. Fortunately, when you progress players are rewarded with new upgrades to further tweak their aircraft and crew. With all that said, this is a single-player game so you won’t be able to join in with friends to either face against each other or provide aid in cooperative missions.
#9 Project Wingman
Project Wingman is all about taking control of fighter jets and compete in a variety of missions. Players will be battling against other jets in intense dogfights, destroying bases, naval ships, to ground control. Overall, this is an arcade-style game that, again this is a game that plays similar to the Ace Combat franchise. With the different jets, the gameplay looks like you’re barreling through the skies at intense speeds.
Likewise, if you’re wanting to get a bit more into the action then there’s a VR mode that would allow players to connect a compatible VR headset to go through the game with a bit more immersion. Although, the VR mode is just an option as the game is completely playable as a standard title. Unfortunately, this is a single-player game so you’re not able to join into matches with any friends or compete against other players online.
#8 Warplanes: WW2 Dogfighter
Warplanes: WW2 Dogfighter comes from the same development team behind Warplane: WWI Fighters, Home Net Games. While the gameplay is more or less the same here, players will find that the developers did not release this title with VR capabilities in mind. Instead, this is a standard title that has players taking control of various aircraft during World War II. Meanwhile, the game will put players in different campaigns which means you’re not strictly stuck with any one nation but instead taking on piloted campaign missions for the likes of the USA, USSR, Japan, Germany, and Great Britain.
Players are also stepping into the role of a squadron leader as you train up other pilots and take them with you through some dangerous missions. This is another single-player video game title so you won’t get access to multiplayer here, but you can start this game up completely for free right now on Steam.
#7 Sky Rogue
Sky Rouge is a bright and colorful retro-style arcade air combat game. Here players are given a procedurally generated set of missions. As you start up the game, players will be given the ability to pick through their aircraft and equip some useful weapons. Afterward, you take off and set off to complete whatever it is the mission has placed for you. It could be taking out a specific base or destroying enemy aircraft.
Fortunately, players can wander about freely and continue to target other enemy forces that are not necessarily attached to your missions. Doing so will allow players to rack up some more points that can later be used to purchase new equipment and unlock for your aircraft. Fans of classic arcade-style games will probably get lost sinking in countless hours into the gameplay.
#6 Lock On: Modern Air Combat
Lock On: Modern Air Combat is a pretty old title compared to some of these games listed. Coming out in 2003, this was a modern combat flight simulator released by developers Eagle Dynamics who went on to create Digital Combat Simulator, a game we’re going to be highlighting as well later in this list.
Overall, the game featured a handful of aircraft’s that players could control as they take to the skies to battle against other aircraft in dogfights or attempted to take out the ground control. It can feel a bit dated today but this is a game that allowed the developers to move on to one of the more popular air combat games to release.
#5 Rise of Flight United
Rise of Flight United is another WW1 air combat title that has players taking on different missions as either a fighter plane, recon, bombers, or even artillery spotting. As a result, there are over thirty different aircraft to take control of and that’s not including the different DLC packs that give players more airplanes along with additional weapons and field modifications. Being set in World War I, you can expect the aircraft to be a bit rough around the edges to what you would see today.
After getting the hang of the physics and controls, you’ll soon be up and running when battling against other pilots in the skies or ground troops. Best of all, you can get started with this game completely for free. It may be a bit limited in terms of what all you’re able to get access to but nothing is stopping you from trying this game out for yourself.
#4 War Thunder
War Thunder brings a ton of fun into combat flight simulation games and if you haven’t played a decent air combat game in a good several years because let’s be honest here, the genre has become a bit niche, then give War Thunder a try. It’s a free-to-play video game and it shouldn’t take you very long to get hooked on this MMO. Outside of the different campaign missions, the online arcade is just a chaotic blast. There are hundreds of planes, a ton of modifications available, realistic sounds, and a ton of destruction.
If your plane doesn’t get blown to smithereens then you might be able to take that hunk of metal down in an open field. With that said, this is far more than just planes here, you’ll have other armored vehicles and naval ships to mess around with, so you’re not only focusing on players within the air to battle with but those below on the ground as well.
#3 Crimson Skies: High Road To Revenge
Crimson Skies; High Road To Revenge was a 2003 arcade flight combat game that launched exclusively for the Microsoft Xbox. The game took place in an alternate timeline in which air travel became mainstream rather than automobiles or railways. Here players take the role of a mercenary of sorts taking on different jobs to earn a living whereas the missions will have players taking control of some rather unique planes.
This is not a simulation game, it’s very much an arcade-like experience as the planes would be easy to pick up and maneuver around the map along with firing weapons or using some dodge mechanics to get around hostile enemies trailing behind. While we haven’t seen this game remade yet, players can still enjoy this game today through the Microsoft Xbox storefront. Unfortunately, online multiplayer is no longer available but you can still enjoy local multiplayer.
#2 DCS World
Digital Combat Simulator World, or better known as simply DCS, is one of the most popular realistic flight simulators available right now. Similar to War Thunder, this is a battlefield game that offers a more wide range of vehicles. For instance, players not only have access to military planes but the game will also feature tanks, naval ships, among other ground control vehicles. DCS World is a bit interesting because there’s the ability to tweak the kind of mission you’d like to take on. There are some already crafted up missions, but from there you’ll have a window that can select different tasks to give you whatever kind of challenge you’d like to take on.
With that said there is online PvP as an online co-op. Now while this is a free-to-play game, it’s only free for the first two aircraft and one map. From there you’ll have to buy the different aircraft, maps, and campaigns. You probably won’t be getting every DLC available since, at the time of writing this description, all the DLC will put you over $2,500, so it’s certainly an investment to tackle everything DCS World has to offer.
#1 Ace Combat Series
Ace Combat is one of the most popular air combat video games available. After first getting its start back in 1995, and while the game had a bit of break, we were able to pick back up with the IP once again in 2019. That’s not to say there weren’t any misses with the game franchise, as there are titles that most fans would say to skip over. However, rather than pick any particular title from the list or flood this list with several Ace Combat games, I thought it best to just make it a series pick much like how we started this list with Jane’s Combat Simulations.
Overall, this is an arcade air combat game where players are piloting a variety of aircraft as they progress through the campaign narrative. Likewise, the missions are usually just action-packed where you’re firing away with different dogfights to ground bases. If you’ve never played an Ace Combat game then you can easily get right into the mix with the latest installment available right now, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, you’ll get a thrilling arcade combat game and a story to pull you in.