The best joystick for PC – take flight with these top sticks

Our roundup of the best joysticks on PC in 2021

Looking to sink your teeth into some of the best flying games on PC? It’s not a genre that’s exactly loaded with regular triple-A releases, but new plane games like Microsoft Flight Simulator keep the torch lit. So if your idea of a relaxing evening is a short haul flight from Fort Worth to San Francisco then you really owe it to yourself to own a joystick.

Of course, commercial flights are just one use – you could use a joystick for shooting down hostiles from your starfighter in Star Wars Squadrons, so picking up a dedicated joystick rather than using the best PC controller (you weren’t trying to use the best gaming keyboard, right?) is a great way to improve your accuracy and immersion.

There are a lot of gaming joysticks to choose from. You could grab a simple all-in-one HOTAS controller which combines both the throttle and the flight stick, or you could go for a dedicated flight wheel with multiple instrument panels and a triplet of the best gaming monitors to create the ultimate flight simulator setup. The amount of cash you’re spending on a flight sim setup can vary massively, so to ensure you’ve got all of the options we’ve rounded up the best pick for every price point and use.

These are the best joysticks for PC:

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Logitech G X56

The best HOTAS controller is the Logitech G X56.

Logitech’s G X56 HOTAS model is the best overall option for a HOTAS controller. It doesn’t come cheap, but it’s a worthwhile investment if you’re a hardcore flight game fan, with superb build quality, 13 different axes, five hat switches, and 31 programmable buttons. This makes it the most versatile joystick on this list – there isn’t a single flight game where you’ll run out of buttons to reprogram here.

Just like the best gaming mouse, the G X56 has fully customisable RGB lighting throughout for that extra bit of flair. There are four springs included in the box, which you can swap out to change the resistance of the joystick itself, which is a nice touch.

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Thrustmaster USB Joystick

The best cheap joystick is the Thrustmaster USB Joystick.

Thrustmaster’s budget option has all you need for a great experience in flight games without breaking the bank. It combines the joystick and throttle into one unit, with a dedicated button for changing your point of view. For war games and dogfighting, there’s a trigger on the rear that’s perfect for machine gunners, plus four programmable buttons that you can map to change camera views or extend flaps and brakes.

While the thumb-sized throttle isn’t the /most/ immersive experience, it’s still much more accurate than using a keyboard to adjust the throttle. Despite its plastic construction, a weighted base and non-slip rubber pads on the bottom means it won’t go far on the best gaming desk.

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Logitech Saitek Pro Flight Yoke System

The best flight sim yoke is the Logitech Saitek Pro Flight Yoke System.

This hefty kit from Logitech is a cut above a HOTAS system, yet it’s still great value – less than $200 / £200 – if you’re looking for a more realistic setup. The Saitek Pro Flight Yoke System consists of a full size flight yoke, along with a separate three-lever throttle quadrant, which allows you to easily vary thrust between multiple engines on your plane and adjust flaps.

The yoke itself sits on a stainless steel shaft for smooth movement and a high-quality feel. There’s also a built-in stopwatch screen to help you time your approaches if you want to perfect your landings. There are a bunch of optional add-ons that plug into the yoke via USB, such as dedicated rudder pedals, instrument panels, and flight switches.

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Thrustmaster T-Flight Hotas One

The best budget HOTAS controller is the Thrustmaster T-Flight HOTAS One.

Thrustmaster’s T-Flight HOTAS One is a serious piece of kit, perfectly suited for space games like Elite Dangerous. There are 14 programmable buttons, as well as a trigger and hat switch button for moving the camera around. The throttle is detachable too, letting you space it out from the joystick for comfort. If you’re looking to upgrade from a joystick but aren’t looking to go all out for a realistic setup, then this is a superb option

It’s the only joystick on this list that’s also compatible with Xbox consoles, perfect if you’re a multi-platform gamer. Like the Logitech Saitek Pro, Thrustmaster sells rudder pedals separately, which can be added to give a more immersive experience.

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Thrustmaster TCA Officer Pack Airbus Edition

The best joystick for Flight Simulator is the Thrustmaster TCA Officer Pack Airbus Edition.

This model from Thrustmaster is modelled on the controls you’ll find inside an actual Airbus plane, so if that’s your airliner of choice in Microsoft Flight Simulator, this model is worth considering. There are 12 reprogrammable buttons, and even though this is supposed to replicate a passenger jet, Thrustmaster snuck a trigger on the rear – handy if you want to use the TCA in free MMOs like War Thunder, too.

It’s remarkably solid for the price, so don’t worry about this sliding of your desk when you hit turbulence. The rudder can be adjusted by twisting the joystick left and right, which is a little unusual, but you can buy standalone rudder pedals to pair with the TCA if that’s a deal-breaker.

PC joystick buying guide

Grabbing the best joystick for PC entirely depends what games you like to play. Thrustmaster’s T-Flight HOTAS One is ideal if you’re crusing among the stars, while its TCA Officer Pack Airbus Edition caters more to simulators. Logitech’s G X56 strikes a great middle-ground, however, and should suit most gamers wanting to take flight.

If you’re a sim veteran but haven’t tried your hand at dogfighting yet, or vice versa, then it might be worth subscribing to Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass for PC. The addition of EA Play means Star Wars Squadrons joins Microsoft Flight Simulator and Bomber Crew, all in one package.