Sometimes it feels as though YSFlight has not evolved much from its humble beginnings, but that is not such a bad thing. The software is incredibly light on system resources — that is no surprise given the simulator’s basic design and less-than-impressive visuals — yet it still offers a robust set of built-in features. And for just a few megabytes, who can really complain?
The Best Real Flight Sim Controllers For Mac; The Best VR Headsets For Mac; Best eGPUs For macOS; Here is our selection of the top flight sims for Mac in order of ranking. X-Plane is designed by an ex-professional pilot is and is easily the most realistic flight sim available for both Mac and PC. X-Plane is an incredible piece of work with highly detailed graphics, cockpits, airports, plane handling and weather conditions. Page 1 of 2 - Combat Flight Simulators for mac - posted in Mac Simulators: Hi all! I am ew of this forum and Mac familiy! Are there some detailed and 'serious' (that is, not arcade) combat flight simulators for mac? Something like the microsoft combat flight simulator series for pc? Thanks in advance and the best regards Herger.
The sim provides more than 70 aircraft to choose from, spanning everything from the Blue Angels F-18 Hornet to an Apache helicopter, along with a wide array of maps that encompass a host of well-known regions from around the globe. Additional features, such as wind variables and a day-night component, can also be tweaked with relative ease.
It’s a very customizable piece of software, allowing you to do anything from flying in Delta formation with artificial intelligence wingmates to engaging in aerial dogfights with your friends. While you do so, the Atari-esque HUB delivers details on in-flight speeds, elevation, direction, and other essential information. Gameplay footage can also be recorded and replayed directly within the program and YSFlight also includes joystick support as well as standard controls for your mouse and keyboard.
The most incredible aspect of the game, however, is its homespun history. Soji Yamakawa, aka Captain YS, created the simulator on his own as a university project in 1999. He continued to develop the project as a hobby over the ensuing years, though the software hasn’t received a substantial update in quite some time. There are far more beautiful flight sims out there, but YSFlight keeps it simple and is still welcoming.
FlightGear (Windows, MacOS)
FlightGear is the undisputed champ when it comes to advanced settings and pure, unrestricted customization. The open-source software’s roots date back to 1997, but the developers and the rabid community of users have been expanding and tweaking the freemium title’s extensive map and feature-set ever since. More recent updates have brought the program up to current computing standards. However, quality and customization come at a price: The software is the most resource-intensive option on our list.
Once installed, a process that can be a hassle if you’re unused to the barebones nature of open-source software documentation, users can navigate the beautiful, 3D-rendered environments in a Cessna 172 or choose from a deep variety of virtual aircraft that includes a Boeing 777, an A6M20 Zero, and even a Zeppelin NT07 airship.
The software makes use of a limited amount of built-in scenery, but you can download various regions of the globe and more than 20,000 airports directly through FlightGear‘s website, via BitTorrent, or by purchasing an optional Blu-ray disc. The daunting installation process and interface are also easier to deal with if you’re willing to spend some time using the FlightGear wiki, which walks you through the setup process and helps you with taking off, landing, and other basic flight procedures.
FlightGear is consistently praised for its ongoing dedication on the part of the development community and its realism, earning high marks for everything from the overall flight controls to minute details such as lighting. And while it may be big, bulky, and full of high-flying muscle, the abundance of user-curated documentation and stellar support functions are enough to keep any newcomer afloat.
X-Plane 11 (Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iOS)
Laminar Research’s X-Plane 11 is not for the faint of heart. The game features more than 3,000 different airports, all meticulously detailed with hangers and terminal buildings. X-Plane takes itself seriously, so much so that the developers claim that it’s “… not a game, but an engineering tool that can be used to predict the flying qualities of fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft with incredible accuracy.”
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This accuracy is achieved, in theory at least, through a unique aerodynamic model known as “blade element theory.” This theory simulates flight by modeling forces on each component of the aircraft simultaneously, rather than using the predefined lookup tables that have become the standard for simulating aviation. The blade element theory is often used to pre-compute aerodynamic forces for simulations that have not been run. This affords X-Plane users more freedom when designing potential aircraft to add to the game, though it can be more finicky (and less accurate) when piloting existing aircraft.
X-Plane is incredibly detailed, with little touches such as detailed weather modeling and the potential for system failures. Nearly every component of a plane can fail randomly, which, while frustrating, helps create a more realistic simulation experience and goes to show just how much work was put into the program. Users can also pilot anything from a B-2 Bomber to a space shuttle, and there are hundreds of additional aircraft available via both freemium and premium add-ons. X-Plane can be a bear at first, but you will be doing barrel rolls with a little practice. And a plane that can do barrel rolls.
Though the full version of X-Plane 11 is not free, a demo is available to download on the game’s website. If you prefer to play on the go, X-Plane 10 is available on iOS and Android, and older versions of the software are available to purchase as downloads or USB sticks.
Flight sims with a side of combat
War Thunder (Windows, MacOS, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One)
No war stirs as much fascination in the public consciousness as World War II — blame it on the memorable battles and the stirring narratives of good and evil. However, for as much suffering as the war caused, WWII fiction tends to lean toward romanticism.
For flight enthusiasts, the war is notable for bringing air superiority to the forefront, with aircraft carriers extending the reach of air forces across entire oceans. Set during this period of aerial innovation, War Thunder offers a more action-oriented flight experience, allowing players to fly any of hundreds of different planes for the five great powers (United States, Germany, Britain, U.S.S.R., and Japan). The game features a few different modes, too, allowing for both hardcore simulation and relaxed, arcade-style gameplay. As such, newcomers and veteran aces will feel at home.
War Thunder is also an online multiplayer game, with most battles pitting two sides of 16 players against one another. These battles often emphasize dogfighting, with the goal being to reduce the enemy numbers, or incorporate ground-based objectives. Players can also participate using land vehicles, including tanks and anti-aircraft vehicles. War Thunder operates under a “freemium” model, too. There is no cost to start playing, however, not all of the content is available to begin with. The game also supports cross-play, with the PC players able to compete against those on Xbox One or PlayStation — though not both at the same time.
Players gain points that they can then use to increase their pilot’s stats as they complete objectives and win battles, thus allowing them to unlock new planes and adjust components such as vision range and G-force tolerance. Of course, dedicated players can also spend money to acquire these in-game perks faster, though they won’t have any inherent advantage over those who unlocked them through sheer persistence.
The game’s planes come in three broad archetypes: Fighters, agile warbirds good at dogfighting; attackers, somewhat slower planes with huge weapons designed to take down armored targets; and bombers, heavily armored planes with huge payloads that can wipe out clusters of ground forces. These categories all have their own strengths and weaknesses, and victory will depend on teams using a healthy mix of the three.
Rise of Flight (Windows)
Despite the ongoing success of EA’s Battlefield 1, the first World War tends to live in the shadow of its successor. Perhaps this is because the war took place 31 years prior, or perhaps because Kaiser Wilhelm doesn’t make for as nefarious a villain as Adolf Hitler. Whatever the reason, the Great War tends to be overlooked outside of the occasional Ernest Hemingway novel. That’s a shame because WWI is strewn with iconic technological advancements, particularly when you consider that it was the first major war in which planes were used.
The ace pilots of the era — like the Red Baron — were international celebrities, fighting aerial duels that became the stuff of legend. Recognizing the gallantry of old-school dogfights, Rise of Flight puts players in the pilot seat of classic WWI planes, including the iconic Fokker DR.1 triplane.
The first thing players might notice about Rise of Flight is its exceptional commitment to authenticity. The planes are depicted in meticulous detail, from the chassis down to the gauges lining the cockpit. This attention to lush detailing extends to the title’s various levels, too, which function as massive re-creations of actual locations on the Western Front. While combat is the main draw, it’s tempting to simply fly around and take in the view of Verdun.
The game also features a few different modes, including custom scenarios, multiplayer battles, and a campaign that re-creates several historic battles. In addition, there are numerous ways to customize the controls, so whether you prefer mouse and keyboard or the tactile authenticity of a flight stick, you can play Rise of Flight the way that feels most comfortable to you.
World of Warplanes (Windows, MacOS)
An aerial spinoff of World of Tanks, the aptly titled World of Warplanes puts players in large battles against one another, allowing them to pilot everything from the wooden biplanes of WWI to modern jets. Like World of Tanks, Warplanes follows a “freemium” model — you can start playing for free, but a number of the planes require players to purchase them with real money or in-game currency.
In the beginning, players only have access to the primitive warbirds of the Great War. Players can earn currency through winning, and they can later spend this currency to unlock more advanced aircraft. Earning enough to buy a new plane can take a while, however, and there are scores of vehicles to unlock.
Warplanes is probably the most arcade-focused game on our list. The controls are streamlined down to the essentials, so there’s no need to fiddle with dozens of gauges. While this makes it easier for rookies to learn, it removes a good deal of the depth and authenticity that many people value in flight sims. It is easy to start dogfighting, but the combat lacks the hallmark nuances of more realistic simulators.
The game’s various locales — all of which will be familiar to history buffs — are splendid to look at, so players will be able to enjoy the view even if they aren’t blown away by the title’s inherent lack of depth. The hearty selection of planes, and the progression system used to unlock them, will keep many players striving to unlock new tools. For those who want a more casual combat game, especially one they can play with friends, World of Warplanes is an accessible option.
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Before you take your new drone out for its maiden flight, it’s a good idea to use a simulator to get a feel for its handling to avoid embarrassing and potentially expensive crashes. You could pay hundreds of pounds for a realistic drone sim, but the strong community spirit of drone pilots means there’s also a growing collection of superb free simulators to help you master your props.
There are two main types of drone simulator: those designed to help you practise first-person view (FPV) racing, and those for refining handling of camera drones to help you achieve better video and photos.
The best sims offer a variety of courses, variable weather conditions, and realistic physics so you’re fully prepared and know how your drone will respond in different situations. Real licensed drone models are also a boon, as is scope for future development.
All of the free drone simulators here let you use your own RC transmitter, which you’ll need to connect using a device like the PCTx (a quick Google search should reveal whether there are any alternative ways to link your specific controller to your PC). Most simulators support game controllers as well, and some even let you fly with a keyboard and mouse, though you’d need three hands to control a quadcopter with any success.
1. DRL Drone Racing Simulator
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Blast through neon mazes in dizzying first-person
The official simulator of the professional Drone Racing League, DRL Drone Racing Simulator is the most polished of the free drone simulators here. It’s currently in beta, but the League was confident enough to use it for pre-qualifying for the 2017 world championships.
DRL Drone Racing Simulator features courses from the real competition, and is scored in the same way, with points earned from a combination of checkpoints and completion times.
Real-life DRL racing drones are fully customizable, and so are their simulated counterparts. Outdoor maps are fairly realistic, but the simulator really comes into its own indoors, where LED-clad drones hurtle through a Bladerunner-style tangle of neon.
DRL Drone Racing Simulator is compatible with both console and RC controllers. There’s a menu option for keyboard controls, but in our tests the sim failed to detect any hardware; something of a moot point, because the fine-control necessary for navigating the complex courses at high speed would be almost impossible with key-hammering.
Download here: DRL Drone Racing Simulator
A stylish sim for amateur drone racers who want full control over handling
Hotprops is also in active beta, available to download and enjoy with no restrictions. Like DRL Drone Racing Simulator, the goal of this great-looking sim is to reproduce the experience of FPV drone-racing as accurately as possible, with advanced physics courtesy of the Unity game engine. Hotprops offers fully adjustable parameters to replicate the behavior of your own drone as closely as possible. The settings offer a very impressive degree of granularity, and the impact of each slider and radio button is clearly explained.
Hotprops’ developers are constantly adding, removing and adjusting features in response to testing and user feedback. As a result, there can be considerable wait-times while the sim is updated automatically at launch – sometimes up to half an hour. There’s more loading mid-sim too; even if you don’t intend to pit your skills against friends or strangers in the game’s multiplayer mode, you’ll need an internet connection to download courses before you can fly them.
The simulation itself is superb, with realistic flight physics and smooth, good-looking graphics. There’s a great choice of maps to test your skills, and they’re fun and varied enough to enjoy as a racing game in their own right (albeit one that requires an RC controller).
We don’t yet know whether the Hotprops release candidate will be free-to-play or carry a subscription fee, but the active beta is very promising. One to keep an eye on.
Download here: Hotprops
3. Real Drone Simulator
Real licensed drones and real fun, with lots of extra features still to come
Real Drone Simulator is in pre-alpha (an early testable release), so it’s still a little rough around the edges and doesn’t yet have a full complement of courses and features. It’s very promising though, and the developers are planning to keep it free to play, with optional donations to support the project.
Real Drone Simulator offers two types of environment to practise your skills: ‘virtual reality’ (realistic but computer-generated) and real-world (based on Google Earth). Each level has a difficulty profile, area size and wind strength, so you know what to expect before starting your props. The physics and handling are realistic, and adjust to the weather conditions, but Real Drone Simulator is designed for fun, first and foremost. The final release will gamify the experience with a career mode that lets you earn virtual currency to upgrade your drone, and race it against other pilots locally or online. You can control your quadcopter with a transmitter connected via USB, with a gamepad, or with a keyboard and mouse if you’re just playing for fun and have an extra arm.
Real Drone Simulator’s developer (the Real-Team) has some other ambitious plans up its sleeve, including the addition of photography and aerial filming missions, and international championships in the style of DRL: the sim already contains some licensed racing drones, and the Real-Team intend to contact all the major drone manufacturers when they hit beta to request permission to license their craft.
Download here: Real Drone Simulator
4. Heli-X Flight Simulator
A serious sim for photographers, though mostly designed for RC helicopters
As its name suggests, Heli-X Flight Simulator is primarily an RC helicopter sim, but the free version also includes one quadcopter – the DJI Phantom. This prosumer drone is designed for aerial photography and filmmaking, and Heli-X is designed to help you refine your handling before you send £500 of hardware skyward.
Heli-X offers a great selection of training modes to test your dexterity, though there’s little mileage if you’re looking for a simulator that doubles as a game; the tasks are challenging, but there are no rewards beyond the satisfaction of beating your own high-scores. The free version only offers two airports and one training course, though this can be populated with various obstacles.
The handling settings are highly customizable, but the defaults have been set by a professional pilot to provide a realistic experience, so there’s little to be gained from tweaking them in you’re training to operate a real Phantom.
If you have trouble running Heli-X, make sure you have the latest version of Java installed, then try the Java-based version instead.
Download here: Heli-X Flight Simulator
Drone flight safety
Practising with a free drone simulator is a great way to get used to the way your drone handles, but it's never going to be exactly the same as the real thing.
Before your real maiden flight, check our guide to essential drone safety and maintenance to avoid any accidents or near-misses.