For flight simulator fans, there is not experience that beats using a HOTAS Joytick for playing. As you will know, HOTAS is an abbreviation for Hands On Throttle and Stick and aims to accurately represent the correct aircraft controls.
When playing flight simulators, one hand needs to be placed on the throttle while the other needs to be placed on the joystick for the best results. With various design characteristics such as removable handles, a large number of buttons and materials from plastic to metal, there are a lot of options and choices to consider when choosing one for your play style.
Luckily, we have spent countless hours (50+) reviewing all the best options that are currently on the market and have put together this indepth guide for you. Below we have picked our top 10 options to suit all budgets and reviewed them in detail as well as listing all the pros and cons for each one.
If you scroll to the bottom of the guide you will see we have also put together an extensive buyer’s guide and a FAQ section for any queries you might have.
If you don’t have time to read through everything, we have also picked out top 4 Joysticks for Flight sims and split them into different categories, as follows….
- 1 Top Picks
- 2 Thrustmaster T-Flight Hotas X Flight Stick
- 3 Thrustmaster Hotas Warthog PC
- 4 Extreme 3D Pro Joystick for Windows
- 5 Thrustmaster T16000M FCS HOTAS
- 6 Mad Catz V.1 Stick for PC
- 7 Logitech G Saitek X52 Flight Control System
- 8 Logitech G Pro Flight X56 Rhino HOTAS
- 9 HORI Ace Combat 7 HOTAS
- 10 CH Products Flightstick Pro
- 11 VKB SIM Gladiator Joystick
- 12 Conclusion
- Best overall – the Thrustmaster Hotas Warthog PC is the often the first on the list of flight enthusiasts and its performance does not disappoint.
- Best budget – the Logitech Extreme 3D Pro Joystick for Windows might be an older release, but it is appreciated both by beginners and by experienced players.
- Best premium – with a modern military-inspired layout, the Logitech G Saitek X52 Flight Control System has proven results in various flight games.
- Best value – the Thrustmaster T-Flight Hotas X Flight Stick offers the best value and return on investment.
Thrustmaster T-Flight Hotas X Flight Stick
As one of the most popular HOTAS, the Thrustmaster T-Flight Hotas X Flight Stick is known for its precision. Its design is practical as well. For example, the throttle comes with an ergonomic design which means that even landing ships or flying planes for hours is still comfortable on the wrists. Of course, the throttle is detachable for added practicality. There are a few controls which recommend the throttle for various types of flight simulators. For example, it comes with a hand rest to offer some lower pressure on the hands. But most importantly, it uses controls for civil and military flights. It comes with a trigger for the brakes and rapid-fire controls for military-based flights.
Unlike other systems, the joystick actually comes with high precision. Furthermore, its resistance is adjustable. Instead of simply offering linear resistance, gamers can have a more tailored experience suited for each game.
In terms of actual physical quality, the HOTAS is recommended for its weighted base. With a premium feel, it increases the quality of every game. A controls’ mapping function is also added to allow the same premium approach. As gamers already know, this function allows for the controls to be user-defined. They can be easily switched between them to offer a more custom gaming approach. Such configurations were only saved in-game before, but the HOTAS allows the settings to be saved in the internal memory. In total, there are 12 buttons and 5 axles which can be programmed by individual users.
For those seeking an ergonomic design with plenty of versatility, the joystick with the throttle offers plenty in return. However, some players have noted a few changes could improve it even further. Extra buttons or added lights in the buttons could take gameplay to the next level.
- Based on a weighted based
- Comes with adjustable resistance
- 12 buttons and 5 configurable axles
- Comes with internal memory
- Could include more buttons
Thrustmaster Hotas Warthog PC
The special feeling gamers get when playing with the Thrustmaster Hotas Warthog PC is hard to match. From the start, they see that the retro-inspired design is different from today’s HOTAS. This is due to the fact its design is actually based on the US Airforce’s A-10C aircraft.
Flight enthusiasts know that the A-10 made history. First launched in the early ‘70s, it came to replace the popular Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. The A-10 went on to become its own hero supporting ground troops. Its main missions involved supporting friendly ground troops by attacking enemy vehicles. It also provided quick support behind enemy lines against ground troops. In the military, the plane got the Warthog nickname based on the USAF pilots who flew with it.
With an all-metal design, the HOTAS is an odyssey to the popular A-10 aircraft. It comes with a removable metal joystick which sits on a metal base. Gamers can use the HOTAS for precision results. These results are based on 19 buttons with an extra point of view hat. With a magnetic sensor system, the joystick is similar to what was used in the actual plane through the ‘70s. Even the pressure required to activate its controls is similar to what was used in the actual plane.
But not only the joystick has been made with attention. Even the throttle reminds of the A-10 US aircraft. Its performance is based on two motors with a locking system which can work with one or two throttles. With two throttles, players can choose individual functions or make them work together as one. A pull and push system is in use for the idle and Afterburner detents. Interestingly, the detents can be set by the user to allow a more realistic experience. This customization can be based on the requirements of different airplanes.
But even the control panel is mechanical. Mechanics are also used to adjust the resistance of the throttles. This is actually done by using a small friction wheel. Gamers will also benefit from the 5 included LEDs which show their true value in the dark. For most players, its higher price might be worth its premium feel. With a heavy stick and throttle with no play, the construction and the capabilities of the Warthog see it as one of the affordable top quality products.
- Inspired by the US A-10 aircraft
- Based on mechanical designs
- Allows the use of two throttles
- Magnetic joystick with 16 buttons
- Friction wheel for resistance adjustments
- No twist to control the Z axis
Extreme 3D Pro Joystick for Windows
For almost ten years, the Extreme 3D Pro Joystick was a reference for those who wanted reliability at a good price. Most similar joysticks were priced considerably higher. Alternatives such as the Saitek failed to provide such durability and practicality.
Even today, the joystick is still worth the investment. With 12 programmable buttons and an 8-way rubber hat switch, the joystick is known for its total control. Dropping bombs or using rapid fire techniques are still realistic with the product.
Its construction impresses as well. The twist stick comes with a rubber finish which is a top material for those who want better precision and a tight grip. Ergonomically designed, the joystick has been known to power its way through hours of battle. Of course, flying planes for hours requires precision and comfort. The weighted base can help in this perspective. Many entry-level sticks simply slide all over distracting players and ensuring poor performance. A custom twist handle rudder also helps this performance. It has been added with the role of improving natural one-hand airplane control.
Players like that the rudder reacts appropriately in every situation. However, it does come with a considerable learning curve. In arcade games, this is not a huge deal, but in a combat situation, it can be problematic. It is why the rudder can simply spin a plane out of control with a realistic model. But with proper discipline and practice, this can be avoided even in battle situations.
So where does it fit best? The stick is perfect for casual flight games. Playing a normal flight simulator can also benefit from its large number of buttons. Of course, its main use is within Windows. But unlike many similar sticks, it actually comes with the no-hassle installation. There is no need for updated drivers as the stick stays true to its plug-and-play strategy.
- Old-school performance
- Known for its durability
- Made with precision twist rudder control
- Placed on a stable weighted base
- Includes a rapid-fire trigger
- Mainly targets beginners
Thrustmaster T16000M FCS HOTAS
A must-buy for so many pilots, this HOTAS joystick has already gathered its legions of fans. Of course, with the manufacturer’s decades of research, it’s no wonder the HOTAS has so many fans. Compatible with all PCs, the joystick works on all versions of Windows which is where its lauders are based.
So what makes the joystick so precise? Or is it just the fans’ that have it all wrong? In fact, the fans are right and the joystick comes with top precision. To be precise, it shares the same platform with the Warthog HOTAS which goes to show what new gamers can expect. The patented technology behind this precision is HallEffect AccuRate Technology. It comes with its famous 16 action buttons, just as the Warthog series. The smooth tension inside the stick is based on the 0.1mm helical spring.
The throttle holds its ground as well. It is positioned lower compared to its alternatives and as a result, it actually delivers more comfortable control. It is perfect for spaceships or fighter jets. This fit is also based on its 14 buttons with an 8-way hat switch. It must be said these buttons are unique and they are not to be confused with the stick’s buttons. Together, there are a number of 30 buttons with 5 axes players can rely on. Those who want to take these controls to the next level can also purchase the TFRP rudder. It adds 3 additional axes but it is sold separately.
When it comes to unique technologies, the throttle also has its own advantages. Its smooth performance is based on a unique rail system. Part of the Sliding Motion Advanced Rail Tracks, the slide rails offer precise and smooth slide within 3.2inch of travel distance.
Of course, fans of the brand know there are other methods of taking gameplay further. The HOTAS is part of a larger ecosystem. This ecosystem includes the FCS flight stick, the TWCS throttle, the TFRP rudder pedals, and a Multi-Functional Display for cockpit panels. All of them can work together under the TARGET software’s umbrella. All Thrustmaster controllers can work as a single USB device with different mappings for different games.
So the HOTAS has its own reasons to be considered a fan favorite. Those who already own a Warthog love it as well. But why is this the case when the Warthog is considered superior? There are two main reasons for the FCS flight stick to being considered at times. With the advantage of affordability and twist axis, the FCS is a solid choice. At the same time, the lighter springs can also have its own fans. Precise and fast movements are its results which prove especially useful in combat situations.
- 4 independent axes with 16 buttons
- 16-bit resolution accuracy similarly to the Warthog
- Ambidextrous design
- Helical spring precision
- Compatible with the TARGET software
- Not as solidly built as the Warthog
Mad Catz V.1 Stick for PCThe Mad Catz V.1 Stick is one of the affordable options gamers can consider. It only comes with the joystick but it offers an affordable alternative to the expensive HOTAS on the market. As soon as it is taken out of the box, the joystick impresses with its long USB cable connector.
In terms of design, the joystick uses straight lines with a futuristic outlook. The same design approach is used both for its base and for the actual stick. Its customizable buttons maintain the same futuristic design. The top buttons of the joystick are customizable. There is a directional switch as a 5th control in the center of the futuristic buttons. Two triggers are also added on the front of the stick. These are customizable. However, since they are located separately from the rest of the buttons, they can be used to switch gears. The top trigger can be used to switch gears up while the bottom trigger can be assigned to gear switch down functions. Furthermore, another trigger at the back of the base can be customized as well.
As a 3-axis joystick, the Mad Catz V.1 comes with forwards and backwards movement. Turning or twisting movements are then accompanied by side to side movements. However, for the price, it comes with a few shortcomings as well. First of all, the chosen materials are not high end. This is one of the ways the product actually manages to stay affordable. But one of the issues gamers tend to have is with its blue built-in light situated at the top of the stick. It is pointed towards the monitor. This creates reflection during game time and it can be a real distraction. With an aggressive look and distinct affordability, the joystick can be used for flight simulators or any other games. It is also a recommended first purchase.
- Available at an affordable price
- Comes with customizable buttons
- Works on Windows
- POV switch to view immediate enemies
- Ergonomic ambidextrous design
- Not the most durable spring
Logitech G Saitek X52 Flight Control System
The ultimate cockpit can be reconstructed with theLogitech G Saitek X54 Flight Control System. It comes with everything needed for the ultimate control. One of the supporting proofs for this claim comes with the 105 programmable commands. One of its most interesting design characteristics comes with the illuminated buttons on the top of the stick. Gamers know where to press and how to make the most of limit battle situations as a result.
Of course, the throttle is a major asset as well. It comes with an ergonomic design which means the old days of wrist pain after hours of flight are long gone. The design of the throttle is very futuristic. Unlike the classic design of the Warthog, the throttle comes with a more modern design. Among the distinctive features of the throttle, it’s worth having a quick look at the two wheels it comes with. These controller wheels can be used for navigation or any other function. A digital display is also added on the throttle. It can show time or it can also come with a time-lapse function. The back of the throttle has a vertical switch which can also be programmed. But the switch can be even used for vertical thrusters.
The same impressive and original controls’ design is kept for the joystick. Starting from the bottom, users can find three switches. From T1 to T6, the switches can be configured as desired. Of course, the buttons require a bit more pressure to active compared to the ones on the top of the joystick, which mainly recommends them for flight simulators. A pinky switch and a top joystick switch are also added to the front of the stick. From gear shift to a second combination button, both of them can be mapped as desired.
After using the HOTAS for a long period of time, it still holds up well as users can attest. This can be seen in the throttle with its detents which hold up well. But the HOTAS durability can also be seen in the joystick, where the spring is usable even after years. On occasion, it gets into dead zones, but generally speaking, even after years of use it still handles well. Another possible issue to consider comes with blue light LEDs. While they look great, they can certainly get distracting after a while. Furthermore, they can be among the few elements which get additional reflections on the screen in some positions.
Some users have noted that the pinky button is not working at all. In this situation, it can be fixed from the original software. In order to do this, users need to go to the profile editor, given it is up to date. All the default profiles can be deleted followed by a new custom profile. The pinky switch or the bottom switch at the front of the stick is then set with no programming. The clutch mode then needs to be disabled in order for the switch to work. As the HOTAS itself, these configurations only work on Windows XP, 7, 8.1, and Windows 10.
- Based on a futuristic design
- 2 MFD buttons and 2 rotary dials
- Tension adjustment function on the throttle
- A built-in digital display on the throttle
- Pinky switch might need to be configured
Logitech G Pro Flight X56 Rhino HOTASThis military-grade controller is recommended as the ultimate battle tool. Made specifically for VR gaming and space simulators, the HOTAS impresses with its design and with its functionality. Since it is made for spacecraft, the physics are also different from airplanes and their atmosphere reactions. It is why Logitech markets the HOTAS as the ‘Six Degrees to Freedom’. This nickname is the result of a pitch, roll, yaw, forward, backward, up, down, left and right freedom of movement.
However, the most interesting characteristic of the HOTAS comes with its mirroring of the on-screen controls. Practically, this is what actually recommends the HOTAS joystick for VR and HMD play. With an immersive experience, it can be one of the best controllers for this type of gaming.
The quality of the precision is impressive, as many gamers expect at this price range. Similarly to other top designs, the joystick comes with 16-bit aileron and elevator axis. Together with a reliable adjustable spring tensioning system, the stick offers great results. There are 4 springs to choose from and the controller can work even with no spring at all.
In the box, gamers get the joystick with its USB cable, the spring system with 4 springs and throttle with a USB connector. The throttle’s base comes with unique RGB lights. The full spectrum of lights can be adjusted according to each user’s preferences. Most importantly, there are two throttles which can be used independently or together. But who would use two throttles? Two engines can be controlled with the throttle although they can also be actioned together. This can be particularly useful in battle situations when one of the engines is disabled. Of course, the friction on the rail system can also be adjusted for a tailored experience.
In total, the joystick and the throttle offer an impressive number of 189 controls. Each of these controls is actually programmable. All 13 axes can be programmed. 5 HATS can be programmed together with 31 buttons in over three modes. Some of the adjustments and programming can serve purposes such as target lock or weapon group firing. Those who want to take their experience even further can also program the keyboard or the PC’s mouse to timed commands or other smaller commands. As far as possible drawbacks go, there are not too many of them. As any controller with built-in LEDs, it is surely going to be distracting at times, but most users actually find the lights to be generally appealing.
- Made with two throttles
- Ships with 4 springs
- All controls are customizable
- Great performance on VR
- Lights can be disturbing at times
HORI Ace Combat 7 HOTAS
Since HOTAS are mainly made from two parts, the HORI Ace is no different. It comes with a joystick and throttle which are controlled by each hand. They are used together to steer an airplane or aircraft as well as to control weapons in combat situations.
Both controllers are actually heavier than they look. With added weight to their base, they can remain stable on the desk which means they can serve for good gameplay precision. Although they are made from plastic, it is actually a type of durable plastic which is used across the gaming industry. It is even seen is some of the popular controllers for PC, Xbox or PlayStation. From the start, gamers can notice just how ergonomic both controllers are. Even at a lower price, they still manage to offer a reliable solution for those who simply want to play for hours and hours without putting too much pressure on their wrists.
Analyzing the controllers separately only confirms the attention to design. Button configuration on the joystick is quite standard for what is seen in the gaming industry. Its buttons can easily be assigned to various tasks such as missile deployment or rapid fire. There is good feedback from the stick for navigation as well. Of course, all of these controls are an evolution over the previous HORI release. While in the previous release the buttons were actually labeled, this is not the case anymore. So it will take some practice to learn what each button is assigned to do.
Even if the adjustability of the controllers is best on PCs, HORI allows some customization on consoles as well. Most importantly, the customization options are impressive for such levels of affordability. Gamers can adjust joystick sensitivity as well as throttle resistance. These type of adjustments are fairly seen in more expensive alternatives.
The controllers might also impress new players as there are designed according to what is seen in an actual cockpit. At the same time, they offer haptic feedback which is king when it comes to game immersion as it shakes during various in-play events. Although they are primarily made to offer the best experience on PlayStation and Xbox consoles, they can also be adapted for PC use.
- Realistic cockpit design
- Adjustable throttle resistance
- Adjustable joystick sensitivity
- Made from ABS plastic
- Not made for PC use
CH Products Flightstick ProCH’S Flightstick Pro is one of the affordable and versatile controllers for flight-based games. It comes with 3-axis controls and 12 buttons. Up to 22 functions can be programmed on the joystick. With plenty of manufacturing experience, CH products have made the joystick to serve ambidextrous needs. It even comes with a minimalistic side throttle. The wheel on the base is used for the rudder.
For a complete experience, all gamers are encouraged to use the Advanced Programming Software. This software works in Windows operating systems and it allows full controller customization. At the same time, it is also the place where all CH Products come together. This includes the Eclipse Yoke and the Throttle Quadrant.
New gamers also need to consider a few limitations which come with the Flightstick Pro. For example, there is no rotation function on the joystick as in other premium designs. Only X, Y movements are available which can be a limiting factor for gameplay experience. Some users have also noted that the PC can act differently while the controller is plugged in via the USB. For example, some computers might not enter their sleep modes with the HOTAS connected.
- Made from durable plastic
- Ambidextrous design
- 22 programmable functions
- Only X, Y movements with no rotation
VKB SIM Gladiator JoystickThis Joystick is one of the possible alternatives to the premium designs on the market. At the same time, it is not there yet in terms of functionality. However, it can be considered by a large number of users. It must be said the joystick is much heavier than most gamers actually expect. At 4.2 pounds, it packs a lot of weight which can only translate into a robust gaming experience without unpleasant surprises. The extra weight is actually added with a metal plate, compared to its cheaper little brother. But with the help of silicone feet, it will not damage wooden desks.
With an old-school gimbal and ball bearings, the Gladiator joystick can feel like a professional design compared to entry-level designs. Similarly to the Logitech X56, it allows users to change springs. This can also be considered its main strength as it offers such degrees of customization.
When it comes to ease of installation, not much is expected from VKB SIM. But things are easier than most users can expect. With plug-and-play design, the joystick needs no drivers. Of course, it is always worth installing the official software where all essential controls can be mapped according to preference. All upgrades are also made through the official software. The good news is that all of these settings can also be saved so that they are not lost from game to game. It is possible based on the built-in memory. However, one limitation to consider comes with the fact that the joystick is used together with rudder pedals. Another problem to consider comes with the limited buttons on the top of the switch. The joystick only comes with a trigger, a pickle, and a hat switch.
- Heavy at 4.2 pounds
- Made with an aluminum gimbal
- Internal memory
- Included VKB SIM software updates
- Rudder pedals sold separately
Having to choose between the leading HOTAS on the market is not an easy task. Of course, they look different on paper. But battles are not won on paper and this is why each gamer has personal preferences to consider.
The good news in this process is the fact that there are solutions to suit most needs. From classic designs which made history to modern controllers packed with LEDs, there are plenty of good options to consider.
One aspect which often gets overlooked is the actual long-term compatibility. With added third-party controllers, gamers often need to think of how they are going to integrate their HOTAS. Furthermore, extra attention is also needed in the budget area. Pricing is very different. While all players want the best HOTAS, it is often believed that beginners should go with the affordable option. At the same time, after they gain some gameplay experience, they can start looking towards the premium designs.